November 25, 2007

Lessons Learned

I’m closing the door on several weeks of frustration today. Since mid October, I’ve been working on a new reduction woodblock print, Gargoyle, inspired by a stone gargoyle somewhere in Prague. The image is 6" x 8". These are the results as per the grand finish today:

Actually, I don't have a photo of the last print; it's too wet to scan and N. has the camera on her trip to Seattle. But it's represented by the block, printed in a lighter gray than print number 2.

Once the prints come down from the line, I'll most likely chuck them. Somehow, even though I had a sure idea of where I wanted to go with this and how, I didn’t enjoy working on it and I’m sure that affected things. As did having to stop half-way through when it dawned on me that I needed to get moving on my Christmas card print for this year. On the plus side, between this block and the one I carved for my Christmas card, I learned a hell of a lot as far as actual carving technique goes. I keep being reminded of how different working with wood is from lino. It’s been a learning curve but one I think and hope I’ve climbed now. The bummer is that neither the Gargoyle print nor my Christmas card one turned out to be keepers.

This is the Christmas card as it turned out and yes, it really is lumpy and textured like that though clearly not in a good way.

I still like the idea, I wanted something simple, but troubles with execution have resulted in what looks like a potato print. The cards are in fact hideous and certainly nothing I want to put my name to and send out to people. I’m guessing it’s ink issues I’m dealing with here: I tried to get more transparency in the blue and rose inkings and added transparent medium to my ink. Very weird stuff, rubbery and oddly sinuous, it rolled out very thick, printed so thickly that I had to daub off the excess with newsprint (resulting in a fuzzy edged print), and dried lumpy. After that, the yellow and green both went on wrong and ended up lumpy. In ultimate irony, neither of the inks I added the transparent medium to came out noticably more transparent. Grrrr.

Last week, trying to endure a three-day long mind-numbingly boring exercise at work in a sub-temperature room, I kept myself conscious by thinking about my prints and, specifically the disastrous Christmas cards. I hate the idea of store-bought after so many years of making my own. That’s when I came up with plan B. I sketched out the image on Friday, carved out the matrix yesterday afternoon, and printed it last night – enough for 40-plus cards. The image is roughly 3” x 3” and will be pasted on some nice card stock to set it off properly.

It’s done in the Opus house brand of Mastercarve – I forgot how easy it is to work with and how fast it goes. Roughly two hours to carve the image and an hour to print 50 copies; I used permanent rubber-stamping ink. Can’t beat that, or the pleasure of working with this stuff, though it really isn’t suited for larger work and wouldn’t make a good print going through Max (yup, finally named the press). Thank God there’ll be Christmas cards afterall.

November 19, 2007

Looking for Printmakers

Yesterday afternoon R and I took advantage of the weather and went to check out the East Side Culture Crawl. I'd only heard about it last year, after it was over, and this time I didn't want to miss it. I was hoping to find some printmakers out there.

We started off in the East Pender/Hawks area, visiting the different artist's studios marked on the map, then took in the studio lofts in the Alexander/Railway area, and ended on Powell and Commercial at the ARC. What a glorious way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon! And what a great way some of these people live: living their art every day in surroundings designed to encourage creative expression. Of course, it takes more than just creating to maintain the lifestyle (the studios in the ARC run from $1200 to $2600 a month) so the idea is to sell enough work to pay that rent. One way or another, it always comes down to money.

Anyway, I was on the hunt for printmakers.
One specifically: Richard Tetrault,

Yellow Door

The above is one of his woodcuts. I love the vital energy in his work and really hoped to see one or two of his blocks in person, to see how he carves them. But, though we went to the address in the brochure, we found different artists there. Maybe there were more suites in the building and we missed them. It was one of our first stops so maybe we didn't look hard enough.

Later on, sort of by fluke, we found John Steil:


He, like Richard Tetrault, does paintings as well as prints. He works with lino and, amazingly, Speedball inks -- he gets fine results with them. Obviously his style is much simpler yet I kind of liked his work too, in a different way.

Finally, on our very last stop, we found Chris Blades. He doesn't have a website so I can't attach a sample, but his lithographs called out to me from the hallway walls on one of the floors at the ARC. He himself was on another floor entirely, making music. It was actually the music that drew us to his studio, both of us unaware that the musician was the guy who's work I'd been admiring earlier. He was playing a tango on a hollow guitar (I think) accompanied by an accordion, a mandolin, and an electric guitar. Incredible musicians each and every one of them, they were so totally in synch, like they'd been playing together for a hundred years.

The music literally flowed from them, through their instruments and around the room, around dozens of glowing art lamps Chris makes, around a collection of odd and intriguing objects like, for example, a football morphed into a puffer fish. We stood in total awe, through three pieces of music, and at some point noticed the artwork on the walls and realized whose place we were in. Ironically, we actually have a couple of Chris's older prints; we got them from Thor, almost 20 years ago, in exchange for house-sitting the gallery our first summer in Squamish.

We ended up talking to the musicians a little bit then, trying to articulate the joy their playing made us feel. R asked them if they had any of the music recorded and they don't. They don't even have a name as a group!!! Sad, sad, sad, sad. Nonetheless, we left there uplifted and managed to hang on to the feeling through the rest of the night. Sometimes, you go out looking for one thing and find another, better thing altogether.