Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Road Into Town

I don't know how many times over the past eight years that I've lived in my house I've pulled to the end of my street in the morning, stopped to turn right, and then wished I had a camera with me to take a picture of the view heading into downtown Bellbrook. I live at the top of a hill and downtown, with its one intersection, is at the bottom. It's different every morning, depending on the season and the time and the atmosphere. This morning was one of those mornings, but when I got home I pulled out my sketchbook and drew the view.

Suddenly, I have my next reduction print. It was not what I was planning, as I had already drawn out a beach on a piece of linoleum and cut out my paper. But I am feeling this one. The two lightest places, in the sky and in the road. The hills in the distance. The shadow on the road.

So I've decided that this will be the print I blog about start to finish. I've been meaning to do it for a while, but i get so caught up in the process that I don't want to stop to scan things in, or write about them. And I need to come up with a little postcard size visual documentary of what goes into these prints to help people understand as I try and sell them. Step No. 1 is the idea, and here it is.

Step No. 2 is already complete, as tonight I prepared my block. I'll be printing from a piece of birch faced plywood leftover from some panels I made for my built-in fridge. I like this stuff. It is relatively easy to carve and not too grainy, and it doesn't seem to get saturated with ink like my previous wood carving attempts with leftover pine stair treads.

I am definitely getting quicker and more efficient with this first step. Because I already had the 18 sheets of various papers ready to go for the other print I had in mind, I went with the same 7" x 11" size allowing for an inch of border surrounding the print. This is the registration system I've been using lately. I carve a right angle about an inch outside the image area to align the paper on the left and bottom edges.

It is getting to be a little late to move on to the next step tonight, which is likely the reason I am writing about it rather than doing it. I'll be drawing the sketch onto the block and then printing out the lightest ares, the sky and and road. I'm thinking it will take 2-3 impressions to get the gradient going, but that's one of those things that is subject to change once I actually start printing.

I have to add, especially after that previous post about reprinting, that starting something new holds a lot of promise. Who knows. This may be the One. The elusive print with which I am satisfied and happy with upon its completion.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


So, I am in the process of reprinting some things, for a few different reasons.

I've committed to taking part in Dayton Visual Arts Center's holiday ARTtoBUY event, where they turn part of the gallery into a shop filled with member's artwork for two months. I had to fill out an inventory sheet listing my prints and how many of each print I had available, and I think it is probably a good idea to have that many of each one available.

With the reduction prints, that's an easy number, because once you are done, there are no more prints to be made. The only decision to be made is how many I want to hold back. For many of my early linocuts, however, I only printed one or two that were successful, and several of those were done with oil paint and I don't trust their longevity. Since I switched to the Akua Kolor inks, I've been meaning to redo them when I could find the time.

Also, now since I have an Etsy shop and have had my first few sales, suddenly having a little bit of an inventory seems like a good idea.

The problem I'm having, however, is that I'm finding out that I don't really like to reprint things that I've already printed all that much. It feels a little bit like work, instead of fun. And I keep blowing prints. Since I print multiple, brushed on impressions, I know I am going to lose a couple here and there to bad registration, but I am losing them for careless reasons, like the baren slipping down into carved out areas or off the side. It gets a little frustrating when you are down to the last impression.

I don't know, maybe I'm just not in the right frame of mind. After printing off wood, suddenly linoleum doesn't hold my attention like it once did. It doesn't feel the same. The ink slides off compared to the pressure you exert on wood, and how you can vary that pressure for different effects. And I've noticed that when compared to wood, linoleum has this strange magnetic power to attract every piece of dust or dog hair floating around. Not good during shedding season.

Or maybe it is just that I have too many ideas for new prints, and rehashing the past doesn't seem to be holding my attention or my interest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Evolution of a Tree Print

So, this is a story of printmaking gone wrong, or just not tuning out as planned. I always have such high expectations when beginning a print. Thoughts of "Oh, this is the One, this One will be good and I'll be happy" fill my head after the first few impressions until I encounter some kind of obstacle during the process and end up with something different than what I had planned.

The first three images were carved on a leftover piece of pine stair tread I found in my garage. It was my second attempt at carving wood as opposed to linoleum, and I quickly discovered that I preferred printing off the wood. I was very happy with second impression (first image), but impatience got the best of me and I proceeded to carve into the slab of wood when it was still damp. I learned a new lesson. If carving grainy wood, let it dry out before going at it with your carving tools. I lost some huge chunks (by huge I just mean larger than the thin branches) along the grain, perfectly vertical. Suddenly, my efforts turned to making these errors less evident as opposed to focusing on the finished print. I abandoned my original plans and proceeded to create something that is so far removed from what I had envisioned that I even have trouble describing it. It is growing on me, though, as I look at all of them taped to my kitchen wall drying.

Before I made the final reduction (the black in the second image) I decided that now was the time to make the print in my head that used two separate blocks for the sky and tree. I then printed about 24 of the third image, and I knew this print was going to be good. I was sure of it. I made a print on some architectural vellum I had around the house and mounted it to a piece of birch faced plywood leftover from panels I had made a few years ago for my fridge.

I spent three or four days carefully carving it out, growing increasingly anxious to try out the newly carved leaves and branches on my sienna colored background. I knew there was a problem as soon as I started to make the first impression. Apparently the paper had stretched when I glued it to the wood panel and the image I had carefully carved was about 3/4" wider than it should have been. I would write my initial reaction, but I'm fairly sure my mom would give me a hard time about the expletives. Now I have a stack of prints of the third image that I haven't been able to come up with a way to finish. All I have left of the original block is the black shadow area in the second image above, which just looks wrong and out of proportion on this version. I may revisit it at some future point, once I'm sure that I have paper that won't stretch (suggestions?).

This brings me to the final image, which is where I'm at now, after carving out a rectangle to put some color in the background of my newly carved tree. This is going to be the One.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


So, I've finally started an Etsy shop. I've been putting it off for one reason or another for quite a while. Thoughts like "I need to make a chop first" and "I need to make more prints first" and "There is something wrong with every one of these" have continuously been a stumbling block.

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. I need to invent a way to support my printmaking habit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

2009 DVAC Member Show

This monotype print was recently in the 2009 Dayton Visual Arts Center Member Show. The theme of the show was "Green" and I decided to not take it too literally. That's after I had two other prints matted in the frame that are actually green. There was something about this one that I just really liked, so I went with it.

I liked it until the unimpressed friend I went with said something to the effect of, "You could have done something better." I was already second guessing my decision to submit this bamboo print after my mother had commented, "I thought you were going to use that Mist print."

Oh well. At least someone at DVAC must have thought it was decent. It was on the stand alone wall right when you walk into the gallery with two other pieces of artwork. I probably made a good decision afterall.