Friday, November 27, 2015

The Scottsville Supply Company logo project

Here's a look at a recent commission I completed for the Scottsville Supply Company!

I really had a blast with this project and I'm excited that there will be a local shop for beekeeping supplies and other goodies in Scottsville now.  Beekeeping has really taken off in our area.  Nelson is the perfect place for small farming, beer and wine brewing, and beekeeping.  We're so blessed to be able to cultivate such a rich diversity here!

I would be lost without my sketchbook.  Virtually everything in my creative process starts here.  I learned the valuable lesson at the Corcoran that if you don't like a particular piece when you finish, you could always do it again.  I don't know why that never occurred to me in high school.  That concept seemed to go against my grain early on.  Now, I'll slice and dice, and redo, and redo again if need be.  I probably got used to it after running through proof after proof in printmaking. At any rate, I started drawing the goat for the goat cart logo and realized the perspective was wrong.  Rather than get rid of the drawing that I actually kind of liked, I just tore it down the middle and started the revised version underneath.

I worked on the logo font with some tracing vellum on the other blank half.  This kept all the work together and I didn't have to sacrifice any of the pages of my sketch book.

Above is the image transfer onto the block, awaiting to be cut.

Here's the finished bee skep block.  Black marker helped me see the contrast as I carved.  It looks pretty now but once we ink it up and clean it a few times it will get muddled.

Loaded the finished goat cart design onto the VABC's Vandercook letterpress for a few proofs.

They look nice and crisp coming on the cylinder of the Vandercook.

Here are the blocks drying after being proofed and cleaned.  I'll be pulling a few for a limited print run after I decide on colors. In the meantime, check out the Scottsville Supply Company website or better yet, visit them in Scottsville, VA for a delightful time!  You can pick up some of my letterpress cards and gift tags while you're there!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A little plein air

I did a little field study at my family's farm property.  There were many wild flowers in bloom and it was a beautiful day.  I took the back road that follows the Rockfish River to get there because it makes you slow down and enjoy the scenery.  The air was thick with the fragrance of passion flower.  The sumac were in bloom and the Queen Anne's Lace was nodding in the pasture.  I stopped to draw a particular specimen that caught my eye.  I did not know that NeoColor water soluable crayons will melt in the sun but now I do!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Nanny Goat

Little miss Nanny Goat has been a long time coming.  The original six Farm People were carved towards the end of 2008.  I knew I was going to expand on the series but for some reason I ran out of steam.  After printing the Billy Goat, I had the sketch finished for the Nanny Goat but she sat tucked away in a drawer for seven years (!) until I finally got the inspiration to revisit the series.

Maybe it is my bias because I have goats but both the Billy Goat and the Nanny Goat are illustrated with their mouths open because I always hear my guys talking and if you call to them you are guaranteed a response.  I think one text book referred to it as the "noble call of the Nubian." Uh-huh.  Anyway, I'm sure that dead people two states over can hear Odin carry on sometimes.  Much of what is typically kept by hobbyists out here in Nelson county can be what are referred to as "trash goats". This means they are not "pure bred" and don't really go for much money.  The most popular breed that most "trash goats" usually come from are Nubians.  You can usually spot it in the speckled floppy ears and the a tendency to be on the big and tall side. In my humble opinion, I have the most beautiful "trash goats" around.  So, little Nanny is dear to my heart as she is a portrait of my little goat, Vada.

Vada is all white, save for a spot on her belly and under her arm and her black striped mask.  She's a spunky weasel with a bright eye and an eager gate and I thought she would be the perfect model for the Nanny Goat.  Here I've caught her stuffing her face.  

After committing to carving, it felt nice to be opening the series again.  I had already snuck a portrait of Odin into the Poison Sisters book.  I'm glad to have a picture of Vada now too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Happy Heifer

I posted a teaser about this little lady earlier.  Heifer's just like to have fun! As foretold, she likes to dance so hard her earrings jingle and the wine flies out of her glass. I really enjoyed carving the texture of her fur and her intricately beaded dress. She's a festive reminder that sometimes you just have to cut loose, put on your best flapper dress, and dance like you mean it!

I really explored a couple of poses with little heifer before deciding on one.  She kind of has the skinny cow look going on.  Someone actually mistook her for a deer.  In my head I went, "Uh,oh." but then I shrugged it off.  I kind of went back and forth as to wether or not I should give her udders.  First, those things would be flapping all over the place in that dress (yeehaw!) and second if she's a heifer, she's not going to have huge mondo knockers anyway.  Take the lovely examples from the Avonteur livestock people:

Above is an example of a Jersey Heifer.

Above is an example of a Jersey Cow.  
Good lord, woman! How do you walk around with those things!
At any rate, I didn't want her udders to be the focus of attention.  (Hello, my eyes are up here!) I felt like it would read as typical clumsy cow image and that's not what I was going for.  I was interested in how her earrings seemed natural.  They probably read the same as those plastic tags you see in their ears.

She printed up rather nicely and I enjoy the detail of her fur and her beaded dress.  I like that she's a lighter brighter character against the dark angus bull.  Who doesn't like a saucy little bovine willing to cut a rug?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One Tipsy Piggy

After I had initially carved and printed the first six Farm People, I sat back and looked at the collection as a whole.  Something seemed wrong and I realized it was because the Broodie Hen was the only female in the bunch.  Not only did this turn me off but also the fact that the single representation of female in the group was matronly.  Now, there is nothing wrong with matronly and it's very important that a broodie hen BE matronly but, I felt that this being the sole statement was a gross underrepresentation to all us ladies.

So, one of the ladies to join the group was this cute little piggy!  She is the tipsy counterpart to the Fat Hog.  I wanted to illustrate her in such a way that you could almost hear her giggle and this in turn would make you smile and maybe make YOU giggle. See? I see you smiling already.

As with the other girls, this little piggy started out as a sketch.  The first sketch was okay but didn't quite get what I was going for.  Once I gave her little "Charleston" knees, it fit.  You can also see that she started out with a bow instead of a head band but I didn't think that was fancy enough.

I looked up flapper dresses online to check out some examples of design and a ran into a lot of geometric deco patterns.  I saw lots of rhinestone and glitter and that's when I decided to give her dress a little geometric "bedazzlement" and give her a sparkly head band.  I also had to scan in text and flip it in photoshop.  I could do that tracing paper trick but I'm getting lazy like that.
After much chipping, plucking, and markering, Mrs. Sow is revealed.  I was a bit nervous about the teeny tiny rhinestone accents on her dress. They are VERY shallow and fill in VERY easily on the press.  Fine detail and small letterpress font is easily flooded and that's a huge pain because you have to take out the chase, clean everything off, and guestimate how much ink to wipe off the inking disc without overdoing it.  

Well, this little piggy went to the VABC and came off without a hitch. We now have 100 tipsy little sows to join the ranks of Farm People.  That's a lot of bacon!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Poppy Pilot Event

This past Pilot Event went really well!  I had planned to make cards that day using a block I had already carved for a previous card.  It's a poppy and I was excited to see how it would print this time.  The original design was to use this image as background while the text quote in the foreground commanded attention.  This time around my design would get center stage!

Here is poppy block looking mysterious and sexy in the moody lighting.

Here is poppy block facing the camera looking fierce. Your a tiger! Okay, lemme stop messing with you guys.

I picked a bright bold color because . . . well. . . come on, it's a poppy!  

Wow! Am I ever glad I went with this color!  It came off so bold, bright, and clear that I was taken by surprise when the first print came out.  As you can see below, the first run of quote cards really put this image on the back burner.  I like the way it came out but I'm glad I did a run with the image by itself too because I put a lot of time into that design!

The white card stock really helped this image too.  The cream colored paper and golden image of the original poppy is very soft and dreamy with the C.S. Lewis quote over it.

Here is a picture of what I embarrassingly call "rat rolls".  I usually try to be pretty fastidious with ink.  It is easy to waste and more often than not people mix up WAY too much of it.  If I have extra left over and I like the color, I will scoop it off onto some plastic and then roll it up like so.  I put them in a drawer and they look like a little pack rat's collection when you come upon them.  They last a surprisingly long time.  I'll definitely be revisiting this color.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Ewe

Meet one of the new ladies in the Farm People line up!  This is the fastidious little Ewe.  She has impeccable style and can be found in her boudoir primping and preening so that she'll be the talk of the soiree. She prides herself on being on the forefront of the farm fashionista movement. From her peacock feather down to her little satin frock, she's the perfect decor for your powder room.
I think it's important for people to see my process.  Pencil sketching comes easiest to me and that's where most of my work begins.  I've found that several small warm up sketches help me to get the general structure.  It helps me to get a better idea of what I want instead of blindly committing to a concept and then figuring out after several revisions that it's not going to work out that great.  I still really like the image of the fat little sheep stuffed into her dress and clutching a handbag as if she's waiting for the bus.  That's the nice thing about getting these little ideas out; I can always go revisit the concept at another time.
Next comes the carving job where the image is transferred down onto a block.  Although it appears to be a minor accent, I think the peacock feather is actually compositionally one of the most important parts of this piece.  I picked this as the starting point for the initially carving.  If I couldn't get the feather right then I'd bale then and find another design to suit the block.  Thankfully, the feather was a success and all carved well.  Note that the text is carved too and I had to do it backwards!

Here she is all finished.  I have found with linoleum carving that as of late I work with a permanent marker close by.  I used to carve without a contrast color and I think you can really see it in the work I had done before.  The contrast color allows me to carve better detail.  I had always done this with woodblock carving.  I don't know why I never adopted this sooner.  Ah, well.  Learn something new everyday!

Here's the army of Ewes coming hot off the press, literally.  As I've said before, it gets hot in this window but the heat is worth it because the little caste iron press gets warm.  This allows the grease in the joints to flow better and lubricate all the moving parts.  I'm printing in oil based ink and the warmth helps disperse the ink as well so even though the operator is drenched in sweat, the press is happy and the prints look great!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Show in a Box

Well, I'm bummed that we didn't get to do Fleaville this past weekend.  I was raining heavily and Lindsay and I decided that it was better to lose our slot fee than to risk losing our paper wares to humidity and water damage.  I am feeling pretty darn successful, though.  I tallied up all I had to prepare for Fleaville and for my showing at the Smokehouse Grille and I've figured out that I have framed no less than 38 pieces for this!  I scored that cool old trunk in the photo above from the Habitat Store in Charlottesville and it fits 28 framed prints wrapped in bubble wrap nicely.  Now I just have to score a venue to make up for not selling this weekend . . . 


Saturday, July 4, 2015

New Roller Box

This is the beginning of what I hope will be the unclogging of a logjam of ideas/goals/projects that have been a LONG time in coming.  I have finally mustered the courage to take the plunge and take a leave of my day job for the month of July to invest in myself a little.

These are the rollers for my Chandler & Price Pilot Press.  VABC's new space has seen a moving around of things and my little press can now be seen in the front window from the street.  I'm hoping to get people excited about printing with some free demonstrations called Pilot Events, but more on that in a different post!

Now that my press is in the window and open to a lot more street traffic, I had to make a few changes.  I like for people to be able to approach the press to see what a beautiful little machine it is but I get a bit nervous about the rollers.  There are a few factors: 1.) The wonderful sunshine that flows in through the front window heats everything up and I'm just not sure what that will mean over time. 2.) There will be much more traffic of people in and out, the rollers are soft and sensitive, and they also have a constant film of grease on them. 3.) The biggest sticking point of having them around without ME being around is . . . I paid $500 for them and just don't think it's a great idea to have them hanging around.

In the past when I was at McGuffey, I had the ugliest scrap wood contraption cobbled together to hold the rollers on the tabletop.  I only used it to let the rollers hang out when they were drying from being cleaned but then, I was only contending with myself because it was a private studio so it worked well.  At VABC, I left the rollers on the press because it was in the shop and only certain individuals who knew how to run the equipment properly had the ability to use them.  If those people wanted to use it when I was not there it was kosher.  Fast forward to the Pilot moving upstairs and the above photo is how my rollers were kept at home and brought in for use.  Yes, it worked but to me was the hottest of hot messes.

Well, I had all these grand plans for hand building a roller box and it was going to be awesome and cool and this and that.  Life has a way of happening, you know?  Here we are and I am currently in one of those states that all artists . . . scratch that, MOST artists know currently known as "poverty mode."  I'm broke as hell, folks.

So, I'm sitting in my living room having a little pity party.  Just a little one, mind you.  I have scrap wood but don't want to use the table saw at work.  I'm being a bit lazy here but I'm prioritizing in my head and foreseeing a common theme in my life: I spend a lot of time and effort cobbling together scraps for a project and before you know it I've blown a huge amount of time on a project that I could have better used making art.  What to do?

Suddenly, I remember an old box I had.  I had gotten this piece of shit from an antique store for $15 probably 10 years ago and some people would've shot me then and there because it smelled of basement and had a chunk missing out of the bottom.  It was a nice shape, however, and had dovetailing.  I tried to use it to store my gouache but it wasn't very functional.

Turns out, it's just perfect for housing my rollers until I need to use them.
I popped some new brass drawer catches to the front of it.

It looks kind of Japanese when you open it. (That suits me just fine!)
I fashioned this inner lid out of wood scraps.  It fits exactly over the roller nesters to lock them down so they won't jump out of place should they accidentally get jarred.  The lid pulls on the top double as spacers that touch the top of the inside of the lid so the rollers are locked in place.

Pull the lid off and there are my rollers, ready to go and happy to see me!

While constructing this, I figured out that oops, there is space between stringers on the lid and if the box got jarred from side to side, the lid might fall down onto the rollers.  My heart first said, Oh, but I'm careful.  I'll just be really conscious not to let that happen.  My brain then chimed in, Whatever, ding dong, figure out how to fix it now while you have all the tools out or cry later about how you screwed up your $500 rollers.  So, I cut some scrap spacers and glued them in so the problem go fixed.

Note the daylight you can see under the rollers.  It's really important that the roller itself be suspended in mid air.  If the roller rests for an extended period of time on a flat surface, it will settle a flat line in your roller surface and ruin your $500 rollers.  We're in business now!  Now, to see what else needs to get done . . .

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How 'bout that

Here, have a happy heifer sketch.  She likes to dance so hard her earrings jingle and the wine flies out of her glass.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Candy Frames

I may be in a summer outdoor market this July and I'm customizing some frames for my Farm People series.  A pessimist would say, "You work at a frame shop all week and then you go home and your days off you still frame? What's wrong with you?" but an optimist would observe, "Look at all the pretty color!  What fun you get to have!!!"  

I haven't painted in a while and it was really fun to break out with these juicy colors and just have fun mixing and dabbing.  I just love this color pallet.  If you find it on a macaroon or jordan almond, I will want to paint with it.  I hope to post what they look like all finished soon.  Have to wait for the paint to dry first, though! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New Cards!

My long awaited printing of dragonfly cards is finally happening!  I've had about enough of the snow so these dragonflies are a welcome emblem of summer breezes.  I carved the block a while ago but haven't had the opportunity to print them up until now.

When I lay out all of my prints from an edition in the drying rack, I get this satisfying sensation of achievement.  Look at them all!  The process of printing can be and usually is a complicated one.  By using the term "make ready" printers sum up the laborious process of mixing ink, preparing paper, locking up a block or type, aligning gauge pins or guides, packing or unpacking a tympan, calibrating rollers or bed heights, etc.  The list has the potential to go on and on.  Even after "make ready" you can still (and usually do) run into printing issues that need troubleshooting throughout the run.  But when all of the prints are gathered there to dry, you can bask in the light of satisfaction at a job well done!

Here is a dragonfly freshly printed on the VABC's old C&P.  It's letting its wings dry before it takes flight to the drying rack to join its kin.

I'm also working on a line of cards involving a favorite quote from Charles Lamb.  Here's a worst case scenario for "make ready".  I thought my block image and text would play well together but the first proof proved me wrong.  The text lay in an awkward place on the image where horizontal lines obscured the text and made it difficult to read.  After all the other set up, I didn't have time to rearrange the type so I had to pull some proofs on tracing paper, go home, revise my design, and come back another day.  I did not leave the shop feeling particularly good that day.  

But, my hard work paid off because the new design worked well.  I was lucky enough that no one else needed the press and my registration wasn't disturbed.  I had saved my ink from that day so all I had to do was walk in, correct my type placement, lock up, and print!  It's a great feeling when you finally get it right and let the flywheel just go!

It will really be fun to see them all packaged and tidy.  Stay tuned!