Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moon Fall Out

And for my next trick, I will apparate!  (All the Harry Potter fan girls go squee!!)  I have been riding the year of the dragon hard this year and the month of September felt like the breaking point but we hung on tight and now we will show you in a few posts what I have been up to.

It is evident by now that I believe "Diligence is the Source of Empowerment" and thus I have been enormously diligent.  I have been taking graphic design classes to bring myself up to speed on all the volumes of graphic design knowledge I lack.  At the same time, I was just awarded an apprenticeship with VABC's shop heavy, Garrett Queen.  That has been SO much fun.  

All this AND I completed work on the VABC's group project, "Atlas of Vanishing Knowledge".  That felt like an incredible undertaking for a number of reasons and by the time it was over I felt as if I might need an undertaker.

So, this first post will cover the making of "Moon Gaze", a chapter of moku hanga and letterpress work by Bonnie Bernstein and I about moon gazing haiku's as they would apply to the Appalachian Mountain Range.  The project was not without its usual hair pulling but I think the results were very rewarding.

Bonnie provided the haikus and I worked with the layout we were given to come up with illustrations.  We wanted the project the read along with the cycles of the moon.  Because the paper we were working with was thin, I had to design to make the moons match up as close as possible to minimize bleed through.  I would have loved to have had the prints tipped into the book form but that would have created undo bulk so it wasn't an option.
The initial planning was done largely on the internet.  She emailed me her haikus.  I sketched out some ideas.  We hemmed and hawed and tightened up ideas about three or four times before we decided on the final arrangement.

Next, I got to chipping and holy cow was it an undertaking.  The blocks came out beautifully but the turn around was tight and I spent every spare moment carving and sharpening.  I've gotten worlds better at sharpening but it still takes time.  I delighted in taking this shot of all the blocks carved together.  It's one of my favorite things to see the ruby and tan blocks all finished before proofing.

After that, I held my breath prayed to the print devils that my kentos were right because it was time to pull proofs for the color blocks.  Notice that I also print up the kentos to site my registration on the next block.

My nose went straight to the grinding wheel after that . . . or rather my knives, because I had a second round of carving to do!  I had a deadline to meet.  I had to have surgery to see if a lymph node was cancerous or not.  Yeehaw!  It wasn't!  But, after a day of rest I propped myself up to begin printing.  I was SO tired from all of it but the beauty of the prints coming off were rewarding.  My kentos were lining up and I think Titivillus was finally taking pity on me.  Bonnie's letterpress work was on point as well.

We got everything done and now they are in the process of being bound.  I'll post an update of what the whole book looks like after I get my mitts on one.  *Whew!*  That was back breaking!  Ah, but this is just the beginning!  Surely, you didn't think I would carve 6 blocks (24 plates) for just one run, did you?  We are planning a reprint with some extra treats (bokashi, gilding maybe?).  In the meantime, please enjoy this image of all the key blocks carved before they got proofed in all their ruby glory:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Color Blocking a Curl Snout

Full steam ahead!  The Art Box is sort of like my Home Depot.  All I have to say is "Yeah, I'm thinking about doing some colors like     (blank)    ." and Amanda Johnson or another associate will say, "Oh.  Well, have you ever considered       (blank)      ?  They work really well for that." and suddenly I have no excuses for putting off advancement on a project.  I bought some Sennelier watercolors from them and really love the saturation of rich color.  I think they will translate well with this project.  You can't really go wrong with Sennelier anyway but I've never tried Cobalt Green or Phthalo Green Light.  They are exactly the shades I was looking for though.  I'm a little gun shy now around Cobalts and Cadmiums.  I am wary of heavy metals but I really love the colors that come from those categories.  I promised myself that I'd be very careful this time.

As you can see from the test proof above, I've tried them out on a piece of Masa and they color reads very nicely.  I colored the proof in yellow and red to act as a map for when I have to carve the color blocks.  I don't want to risk using the colors I am going to print with as they are too similar and I want to have a good contrast to go by.

Kentos are carved.  Now it is time for the grunt work!  I was asked yesterday if I had trouble with tennis elbow due to the carving.  I have actually had trouble as of late but I think it is due to being out of shape and sleeping on one side.  I had a fair amount of popping and cracking when I initially started carving but once I flex and stretch things clear up.  Old age is whispering in my ear.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Proofing the Curl Snout

I had such grand intentions.  Tuesday I remembered to put some paper down to soak before I went to work so I could pull some proofs of my Chinese New Year Dragon.  Wednesday morning was literally a goat rodeo as we gathered Odin up to get neutered.  I had intended on packing up my supplies to go to the Virginia Artist Book Center and pull some proofs of the block.  I had such grand intentions.  I barely drug myself to the meeting at VABC but was glad I went.  So many exciting ideas and concepts were discussed.  I'm glad I didn't skip it.  Fast forward to Thursday and when I went upstairs to check my email my foot bumped against my paper humidor and I had one of those Oh, yeah. That's right. I was supposed to do that wasn't I. moments.  A flare of procrastination drifted over my mind but it was swiftly dispatched by the kraken mentioned in my last post.  I tossed my brush into my water basin and set to work. 

I've been trying to use up my bokuju.  It's great stuff but I have a whole other bottle to use after this one is gone so I might as well use it now.  It really has a richer color to it than regular sumi.  

Looks like a good impression so far.  It's hard to ink up a freshly carved block sometimes because it looks so pristine.  The kento needs to print up as well for accurate registration.  You can see the triangle and the trapezoid in the right hand side of the paper.

I stalled on using this piece of wood but I've been hanging onto it for years.  Kraken to the rescue!  Slather the nori on and ask questions later.

I really like this method because I don't have to deal with xeroxes or smelly chemicals for transfer.  There's no extra tools or supplies besides paper and nori that you already are using for printing.  Plus, it's like working from the original because it really is a copy of the block and registration.

I'm saving space by carving two colors and their registrations on one block.

I have an idea also for the concept of an "onion dragon" so I went ahead and made another two potential blocks.  Why not?  The resources are there.

Afterwards, we got all cleaned up . . . as clean as nori stained wood can get anyway.  I love my little dragon's expression.  I love his little curled snout.  It's like he's thinking "That was a good swim!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh, sketch heaven

It's funny how one can be caught up in circumstances that appear beyond one's control.  Practice delegates that one can be conscientious and remember that there is always a choice if we choose to acknowledge it.  The natural world is the best example of how multifaceted and diverse life can be.  It is in these ruminations that I realize, "Oh yeah.  That thing I do that no one else can do.  That place I go where no one else can follow.  Yes, let's go there and find some peace."  

After going through 6 years of art school, I am amused and comforted to find that my sketch book musings are still the source of what drives me.  Yes, I am thankful for the polish and infrastructure I had learned in school but in the end there was still something missing.  I missed that raw thrill of approaching my ideas with the power of abandon.  I had begun to heavily censor my own thought process.  When the spark of something new would erupt it would immediately go through the "Yes, but will it sell" filter and if it made it past that, over into the "Yes, but will it be cost effective" filter.

Don't get me wrong, being rational often helps head off more than a few disasters, but my working process was soon becoming a downer.  After experiencing my first ocular migraine last week, instead of filling the Compazine prescription I was given, I did a little spring cleaning in my head and loosed the Kraken known as Tohellwitheverything!  I like her.  We get along just fine.  After a good sleep, I started to work on sketching all the ideas I want to do but "haven't had time to do."

Harvey has been my aid for 17 years.  He's featured on my Facebook avatar and is a wonderful muse.  Seeing that he's 17, I should probably put together a bio.  In the sketch above, I was inspired by the 2012 Year of the Drago post card exchange project at Baren Forum.  There are a few other sources but as I continue with this piece, I'll go more in depth.

Here's a redraw of a tiny thumbnail in one of my sketch books that kept nagging at my mind.  I don't know why this image feels so potent in my mind.  It feels something like toiling to produce something with your life only to watch some asshole slither up and consume the fruits of your labor.  Smell like 99% to you? Oh, Lana, you little buzz kill faerie you!

But, in other updates, YAY!  My Dragon Postcard block is finished and now I can make color blocks! Yay!  Believe it or not, this block will not be used the postcard.  It's a key for the color blocks.  You'll see. :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Year of the Dragon

What better than a dragon to get me carving and printing again?  Here is a shot of the block I am carving for my year of the Dragon postcard exchange.  I've had this block of shina for a while and it seems appropriate for this occassion.  I can't lie about it:  Knife sharpening is one of my least favorite aspects of doing moku hanga. I finally made myself sit down and assess my knives and most of them now are back in good shape.  I've forgotten what a joy it is to sit and carve and watch my sketch appearing in a block of wood.  Later, I can write about what a joy it is to watch my drawing come to life as a print.