February 24, 2008

Breaking habits & The Firebird

This is the first Sunday in more years than I care to admit to that I'm not planning to watch the Oscars. Nope, no open-faced sandwiches and lemon tea in front of the TV and a break in a tradition that began back in the days when Robert Redford, still young and hot, was fodder for my teenage fantasies. Through all these past years, some with sandwiches & tea and some with pizza and beer, the Oscars have remained a ritual.

Somehow, this year, the pull is gone. Too many commercials, too many formula films, too many insincere speeches. Or maybe it's because we haven't seen any of the big movies this year. Whatever the reason, time seems too precious to waste now and I plan to be at my work desk, carving (maybe) my next block: The Firebird. I didn't print today, three days and two nights of working in Whistler last week ate into my carving time and I didn't have a block ready. Instead, I worked out the colours although it'll be a while before I get to that stage; I'll be doing a key block for this print first and that'll probably take a week or two.

The Firebird is a Russian fairytale, one of those wonderfully long and adventuresome ones, that begins with a firebird coming in the middle of the night to steal some golden apples. The Czechs had their own version of it, of course, and it used to be a favourite when I was little.

The above is actually second version of the colour sketch, the first one is here:

This first one doesn't have that night time feel as much even though both are mere approximations. I expect the hues in the printed version to be much richer.

February 17, 2008

The number of completion

It seems that by this stage in the game, I'm always ready to finish the active print and move on. It must be because I have a lot of time, while working on each print, to think about what I want to do next and to begin developing it mentally, so I reach a point where I just want to get started on it. Not very Zen I know; I should be living fully in the moment I'm in. Nonetheless, I'm hoping that when the weather gets better, and the garage is a more welcoming place. and R builds me the new space efficient drying rack I want in the kitchen, I'll be able to work on two prints at a time: a reduction and a black/white one. We'll see.

Today I printed the last two colours for the Tree Spirit, bringing the total to the lovely number 9. Appropriate really, given that 9, in the Tarot, represents a physical completion of some kind. And no, I didn't actually consider any esoteric meanings when I first began planning out the colours; it just fell into place that way.

This is the finished piece:

7" x 8"

It's definitely been my turning point print: the first I've ever worked on that turned out close to what I'd envisioned, without the edition size decimated as a result of mishaps, and one I actually felt like I had a handle on re: what I was doing. I breathe a sigh of relief and thanks.

On a different note, I've begun sketching again, trying for a sketch per night though I missed a couple last week. My goal is to loosen my hand and eye; I'm striving for a more immediate and less cerebral process, kind of like the quick gesture drawings we did in life drawing class years ago. Only I'm not drawing nudes this time but am using randomly chosen photos from my Czech photo books. I'm allowing myself only a few minutes for each one - trying for around 15 minutes or so.

I started out using pencil but didn't like the way the sketches were turning out so I switched to drawing pen. The pen seems to force me to be looser.

February 13, 2008


Today was/is my boss's birthday and, since he happens to be a good guy as well as a good boss, since he's admired my prints (adorning my workstation) more than once, and since I never did get around to giving him one of my cards this past Christmas, I turned it into his birthday present.

The original matrix was done in SafetyKut so it's essentially a large rubber stamp. I used acid free, black permanent dye stamping ink to print it onto my favourite, BFK Rives 180 gm paper, embossed a border around it, and then matted and framed it. I had a bit of a dilemma about numbering: to number or not to number? In the end I decided that because the paper size (6" x 8") is larger than the original cards were and because I actually named the print and included my chop mark (for the very first time ever) in my signature, it's really a monoprint. As such, it doesn't need a number. The chances of me ever reproducing it in the same way again are virtually nil.

This is what it looked like; my boss seemed very pleased with it and said he felt "honoured" to have it:

The finished framed size is 8.5" x 11".

February 10, 2008

Tree Spirit: Lucky Seven?

Another week another colour. Now the spirit is emerging and becoming visible and I'm not sure, although I originally planned for another brown tone, that I'll put one in anymore. I think this may be it. I'll know better after next Sunday I figure.

Here's the latest colour on it's own but the scan isn't great; the brown tone gets grayed out here.

And this is what the block looks like now. Still lots of area left.

February 03, 2008

Tree Spirit : Week 6

This week's layer is quite subtle and will need the next colour, a dark chocolate brown, for contrast and full effect.

Here's the new layer just by itself. Funnily, as enamored as I've been with printing in colour and even as my next project (also a colour reduction) is already taking shape in my head and on my sketchpad, the simple contrast between a single colour positive space to the white negative one really appeals to me. Plus, from a compositional perspective, it's probably more difficult to do a two-tone image; colour can at times provide a "wow" factor and distract the viewer from noticing flaws in the composition that would have been more apparent in a black and white rendering.

I initially abandoned the black and white and turned to colour because, since most of my blocks are fairly small, I couldn't get the fine detail lines to print as I wanted them in lino. I think a black and white image needs to rely more on detail. But I'm finding that the shina plywood is much better for detail than lino: the lines in what will be the "spirit's" horns in the above image are actually quite fine yet printed just fine. It's probably time I challenged myself and planned to do a few black and white studies.