January 31, 2010

Mandala Print Variations

Sometimes, an idea that seems so great in theory doesn't turn out that way in reality.  The Mandala print I've been working on is definitely a case in point, at least as far the whole embossing powder idea goes.  I really thought it would be a cool thing to do.  I really did.  I got it all ready: ink, a selection of embossing powders, heat gun, and I pulled a series of prints I was going to emboss.  
I then sprinkled some powder onto the damp ink, carefully shook the print around to distribute the powder to where I wanted it (just in the very center of the print) and heated it.  It worked like a charm, the powder melted beautifully, but it looked awful.  Totally disappointing.  At first I thought this might be because I chose the wrong colour of embossing powder so I tested a few more prints, with different colours.  But, no matter what, the results were still awful.  Sort of like a beautiful woman with way too much make up on, the natural appeal of the print was overpowered by the embossing.  
At that point, I was just about ready to trash what I'd done and call it a loss but in a last attempt at some kind of save I sprinkled contrasting colours of embossing powder over the rest of the inked areas and heated that too.  Nah, still nothing special.  The photo below shows the best of the bunch, there were six in total, and I'm keeping them just to turn into cards maybe though they'll have to be BIG cards.  Each print is 6" x 6".  
Luckily, I also printed this print as a two colour reduction, three if you count the background, and I'm very happy with the results.  I almost didn't add the second colour in and toyed with the idea of keeping just the dark brown ink and adding in some water colour.  But the block's now been carved away to almost nothing and it's in the trash so there's no going back. 

Before I reduced it for the second colour though, I did an embossed version of this print also.  Clearly, there's something that really appealed to me with this block and I wanted to try all the options.  I used BFK Rives heavy weight paper and dampened it so it would conform to the relief as much as possible and then used the press to get the version below:
I've added a very light wash of gray-blue watercolour in some parts to emphasize the shadows.  Plus, I really pressed the hell out of it and ended up with indents from the edges of the block so I had to take a spoon and, with the paper still damp, rub most of them out.  It worked well but by the time I was finished with the teaspoon rubbing I was pretty glad I only pulled six prints in this version.  My arm felt like it would drop off.  Really made me appreciate the folks who print by hand and with a barren.  I wonder if they develop "print-wrist" after a while. 

Anyway, not bad for a couple of weeks work even with the failed experiments.  Just as well, since who knows when I'll be printing next.  I don't image I'll be doing much beyond focusing on the bare necessities of life until the end of February anyway.  After three years of trying to get mentally psyched up for it, this coming month will be a heady mix of 12 hour work days and 12 hour graveyard shifts.  The 2010 Winter Olympics are here: Sleep deprivation here I come...

January 30, 2010

New Reduction Print Article Finished

I finally finished an article on my reduction print method.  It's been ages in the making because I never seemed to be able to collect as many pictures as I told myself I'd want for it. Now, at last, this is another thing I can cross of the to-do list.  

I've uploaded it, along with some other changes and a revised "links" page, to my website.  You can check it out here.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll have some pictures of some variations of the mandala print.

January 17, 2010

Printmaking Meets Rubber Stamping?

About six years ago, before I ever gave thought to being a printmaker (before I even knew what a printmaker was!) I was looking for ways to make personalized greeting cards and, by fluke, landed in the rubber stamping universe.  I spent a few months there, messing around with store-bought stamps, reading technique books and on-line tutorials, collecting specialized supplies, and making cards like crazy.  After I got disillusioned with the generic nature of store-bought stamps, I spent some more months carving my own stamps, collecting yet more specialized supplies, and making more cards like crazy.  And then, one day, a girl in the art store introduced me to battleship gray linoleum...
A big fast forward: this weekend I'm working on the print I'm calling, for lack of a better name for now, Garden Mandala .  The inspiration is this summer's photo of a purple daisy in the garden; I did the sketch for it a few months ago. 
I finished carving the block last night and was sitting around, trying to figure out if I should print it all one colour, as per original concept, or if it would work better with another colour added.  This is one of the drawbacks of not having a dedicated studio space; even something as simple as pulling a proof involves a lot of prep work which, at 10:00 on a Saturday night, seems like too much hassle.  
That was when I remembered all those rubber stamping supplies I still have. This print is small, only 5.5 x 5.5 inches, so pulling a proof using a brayer and a black stamping pad instead of ink was a reasonable way to go and was, using Masa paper, pretty easy to do.  I used an IKEA glass tea-light holder as a barren and managed to get several good proofs:

But, as I was digging out the stamping pad, I came across my embossing powders and remembered how much fun they used to be.  Suddenly it really wasn't much of a leap to toss them into the mix as well.  Essentially, embossing powder is resin, ground up into a fine dust that will adhere to anything damp and will, subjected to a few seconds of heat from a heat gun, harden and become glossy (or textured in other interesting ways).  There are literally dozens of colours and colour combinations for almost infinite possibilities and it's very cool to watch the transformation.  Actually, if it weren't for embossing powder, I probably wouldn't have stuck with rubber stamping for even as long as I did. 
Anyway, last night I experimented with a few different colours and added a very light sprinkling.  The colour I liked most was this one: 

It's hard to see all the detail in the embossing here but, in person, it adds an interesting element to this print.  

I find it intriguing enough to have decided to print two versions of this block: one traditional, two-colour reduction and one in an ink/embossing powder combination.  Just for the hell of it.  I'm doing both over a coloured background and got that part ready today.  Of course, I can see only a limited use for the embossing; it certainly wouldn't work with any of my other prints.  But, for a simple graphic image like this one, it may just end up being something cool.

January 07, 2010

Printmaking for The Year of the Tiger

I did it, I did it! Two days ago, I sent off prints for my first, ever, print exhibition/exchange for: The Year of Tiger.

 Passage: Linocut - 8" x 8"
You may remember I began working on this print back at the end of summer already when I first started pulling together some research and doing sketches. Since then, while I’ve been focusing mostly on other prints, I’ve been tweaking this one around too. I had the main idea, to incorporate the Chinese characters into the tiger’s face, early on. 


The rest of the image, though, went through several phases. The main obstacle to my design was the size the finished print had to conform to. I originally wanted the girl running and chasing the ox, not riding on his back, but no matter how I placed them within the frame of the drawing, it didn’t look right. I wanted some distance between them and, to get it, I would have needed to make them much smaller. That would have then made them harder to carve (specially the girl) without having my lines break away.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that the option of making the girl the rider occurred to me. It perhaps doesn’t have the same impact as if the ox were actually running from her and the balloon but, so be it. I’m hoping the concept of “out with the old and in with the new” will still translate.
I printed the image from multiple impressions and used a bit of trickery with Scratchfoam. I’ve come to rely on the stuff for just times like this and will for ever be grateful to Brian Holden who first introduced it on Wetcanvas.
Anyway, I was only doing a very small edition of five prints and I really didn’t want to spend time carving away EVERYTHING except the red for the symbol on a separate block. The same goes for the yellow background. So I traced the symbol onto a sheet of Sratchfoam, cut it out with an X-acto knife, and pasted it to the block with double-sided tape. I also cut out the shape for the background and pasted that to my block.

I used an embossing stylus, leftover from my card-making days, to impress lines into the foam. Yes, I used a ruler. The foam created a raised surface for printing and it printed beautifully. 

In the end, I misregistered one print and ended up with an edition of 3 plus my AP.  I sent all three away so now the only angst is, will they get there on time.