Friday, October 1, 2010
When I first started woodcut printmaking back in 1990, I did not consider much of woodcutting, nor did I think this would become my primary printmaking medium. I was in love with etching at the time as it was all that I was trained to do. When I graduated college I realized the toxic etching chemicals and press I needed to set up a home studio was expensive and unrealistic. I switched to linocut and woodcut printmaking to satisfy craving for printing in a non-toxic manner. I purchased what a lot of beginners choose,..the basic, plastic, interchangeable cutting heads made by Speedball Co. Early on, these worked fine for a while. I found them clunky, not very sharp since they were made so children could not injure themselves. As an adult, I needed better materials and I finally began to change my perception when I found there is something better.
I found woodcut to be a medium that was very compact initially. I could work on carving a print on my lunch breaks at work, and hand printed on the weekends. The only material I needed was the woodcutting surface and the cutting tool. My early woodcut works tend to be very small, and filled with lots of detail. I soon noticed that my cutting materials were setting me back. I would have skips with the cutting knives that sometimes destroyed part of the design. (My early woodcut tools have been buried in the local dump for years)
On a unrelated visit to my local retail store dedicated to Japanese tools, I was searching for some garden knives. I noticed several groups of printmaking chisels, and I decided to purchase a few to give them a try. These tools made a world of difference and centered my focus on woodcut printmaking. The tools had so much more to offer that it changed the way I carved, it changed the images in the artwork, and it changed my whole look at printmaking. These tools gave me the immediate ability to make more advanced prints, and combine printmaking techniques. These woodcutting tools have harder steel, a finer and sharper point, a wider variety of sizes and are even more comfortable and balanced in the hand.
Paper has also played an important role in how I print. I was taught to use 100% rag papers, and typically French or Italian. These papers are fine quality, and heavily sized....perfect for running through a press. But these papers also have a drawback for me. Because they are so thick and heavily sized, I could not print using the white line technique. I once again gravitated towards Japanese papers. Like most fine papers in the world, The Japanese papers are made by a rich family tradition with the techniques being handed down through generations. The Japanese papers are also made of rice or mulberry paper pulp, and the natural properties of these pulps make a stronger paper, and a much thinner paper. The thin quality allows me to print without pre-soaking the paper which has lead to more inventive ways of printmaking. This paper also has its drawbacks, sometimes wrinkles will form in the printing process that I do not like. This typically happens when a lot of medium is used the ink gets sticky, or when I work on a hot day the ink remains tacky on the printing plate and pulls the paper fibers and sometimes rips.
Inks are different from one brand to another too. I have found Dick Blick inks work fine, but if you would like a more rich and concentrated ink I suggest Daniel Smith. I use both and combine them when mixing colors. Dick Blick inks are ready to go straight out of the tube, while Daniel Smith inks are tacky/sticky and need to be cut with medium to get the desired texture to roll it out.
Experimenting with different tools also helps. Forget your local art store and you may find something that works great for you, the way the product was never intended. Here are a few tools in my studio that I have adopted to continue my printmkaing process. I found chopstick rests to be the perfect tool for resting a wet brush, common hardware clamps to secure large printmaking plates when cutting and printing, a wooden spoon has doubled as a baren since I began woodcut printing. Nails, screws, punches, awls, routers, and dremel have all been used to create unique works of art.
Find your own materials, learn how to use them, and use them in a creative manner to the best of your ability.
What is the difference of inspired and uninspired art? When I look back at the number of artworks I see every week, I can not help but see one similar hand in many different artists work. How does this happen? They are clearly the work of different artists, but they look and feel as created by one. One abstract monoprint looks the same as another sometimes, because it is employing the same technical use of printmaking, and almost similar ideas when creating it. What do I mean? In the monoprinting process. Paint is applied to a printmaking plate and run through a press. Now this process can be done in a very artistic manner where the artist has explored numerous ways of going about printing, developed a strong idea, and a strong image to back up a simple, conceptual or expressive statement. On the flip side (and I am not trying to be negative here, just a bit analytical, so forgive the criticism as this is venturing into opinion) I have seen several monoprint works that start in the same manner, and finish in the same manner. This focus, or lack of focus, makes their artwork look and feel similar. What I have seen is a lot of works that follow one method: throw paint on the plate, run it through the press, see what happens, repeat this process until the artist is satisfied and calls it finished. Is this art? Yes it is, but is it good art, or is it creative art? Each year I see several artists that follow this same method of printmaking, and even in their artist statements they have employed some of the very same ideas as I have just described. Does it matter that several artists use the same technique, process, statement? I think so, as with art, these artists are not making an art of their artwork. Realizing it or not, they are essentially doing what everyone else is doing. My guess is that they are continuing what they were taught, they do not push the boundaries of technical skill, or they are not exposed to the numbers of artwork I am to see their works, ideas, process, and statement resemble several others.
I have discussed Mastering your craft several times on this blog. Why is that so important? It is important to master your craft weather it is sculpture, painting, printmaking, movie making, dancing, acting,..etc, etc. This mastery will lead to more expressive, exaggerated, and creative ideas. This mastery will allow you to carry through every creative idea you have. It allows you to change direction in the middle of your work when needed. This is part of the process in any art. When I create a work of art, I am creating an idea, I am experimenting, I am using my mind to thoughtfully carry out the concept or expression, and I am working with my hands. Without the dexterity to carry out my ideas, I may never achieve the unique look of an independent hand.
Just how strong is the hand that creates? This is the difference that will matter the most in all creative works. Several artists have mastered their independent look to separate their ideas from other artists. This independent vision and mastery of materials, will always be the basis for a strong and unique work of art.
Here are a few of some famous quotes by popular artists:
"Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it." Jasper Johns
"The art won't mind." William T. Wiley
"It is not hard work, it just takes time." John Buck
Friday, September 24, 2010
|The Cryptogram, 2010 woodcut 16"x 28"|
Since I am developing an image for a theme, I have to be creative in the way I can apply my techniques, maintain consistency in the portfolio, and comply with the requirements. I have several new punches that I am continuing to use, and I am working on linoleum as wood will not support the weight of a commercial steamroller when printed.
The SFCB Roadworks: Steamroller prints is exactly what it sounds like. A commercial steamroller is used as a press to print hundreds of artists work in the middle of the street. These prints are sold to benefit the SFCB. So just how do they do it? Well, here is a simple demo.....
|9 lino plates are inked at one time|
|The lino plates are arranged in the middle of the street on a wood bed, and mylar with predetermined spaces for both plates and paper|
|close up of: San Francisco|
|The artworks are covered with paper|
|Blankets are used, just like a normal printing press to protect the paper|
|Finally, they fire up the steamroller and drive right over|
|The artwork is revealed to the onlooking public,..oohs and aahs follow...|
|The prints are left to dry and sold.|
|Thousands of people attend each year to watch|
|Prints for Loteria on the top row, and other various artists works on the bottom|
|State 1: The Moon, 2010, 12"x12"|
|State 3 printed in dark blue: the finished image|
It is time to turn in the lino-plate so it can be editioned, and sold with the portfolio or as an individual piece at the SFCB.
Each year I look forward to participating in this event as an artist, that brings relief printmaking to the public right on street.
Beagle in the House!
Introducing Gilly, our new beagle. She was rescued by way of http://www.norcalbeagles.com/ and I am printing/bloging with a new partner now.
older artworks as potential subject manner due to the fact my carving techniques are producing different looking images than previous artworks. The difference is made by a number of reasons: I am using 2 plates to print one image which allows for a richer and deeper look because the layered inks can provide opaqueness or transparencies as intuition dictates. I am also using 4 different sized circle punches, and 3 different awls, which provide an infinite number of patterns.
I found a great new inspiration from looking back at my sketchbook from the late 1980’s, when I used Van Gogh’s Self Portraits as subject matter. I thought of the ways that Chuck Close has used the same image presented in a different manner each decade, and the way that artists build a body of work. Several artists have changed their painting style as their inspiration grows, but several make this change by using the images of artworks from their past to update them with new style, or technique.
I started my drawing dissecting the image and allowing my present mind to forget all the previous times I used the same subject manner. I convinced myself that any new approach to an older image will produce a completely different piece, because stylistically and artistically, I have grown.
|This is my printing area, to the right is my drawing.|
In this new print I have expanded my carving in one different way. I am no longer isolating the type of cuts on each plate (previous work included isolating white line cuts to one plate and the second one, a punched plate). I am now combining both cutting marks on both cutting plates. I have reduced my printing to hand painting each space for each plate printed. In order to achieve a final look, I have printed several spaces overlapping each other, and left some blank on each plate in order to emphasize depth, texture, and color.
|Detail of print showing how color is layered|
|Detail of print in progress|
|detail of plate #1|
On this print I left both plates UN gesso-ed/un-fixed and this may have been a mistake, because the ink is adsorbs into the plate which means I have to paint a smaller area to print, and adds time. However, the un-fixed plate also produces a softer look, and I can still get a real hard edge by applying the ink while it is still pretty stiff.
|Stage 3, Plate 1 is printed, time to start printing the second.|
|Detail after first plate is printed|
|Stage 5, and completed|
My excitement is contained by the number of hours to finalize one print. So far I have printed 3 in a 3 day period working about 6-8 hours on each piece. The slow process allows me to take an analytical look as the print begins to develop. This slow and time consuming practice appeals to me more than creating an edition of several exact copies. I am now producing much larger and more technical, more concentrated works and producing a smaller number of unique prints from each plate.
BTW: Gilly slept the whole time at my feet, what a good girl!
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Experimenting with a new creative process can sometimes delay your natural thought process to see/comprehend all artistic, and technical details to be "finished" work of art in your mind. The idea of the "unknown" can be a positive influence as the level of expectations or even seeing a good result after many attempts, can be naturally lowered.The range of defining a good result is often undetermined. This openness also allows me to modify the "typical" technical printing method on the fly to some thing that is immediatly "workable" with sometimes imaginative and unforseen results. This print worked as a double positive as the artistic process and the technical process were being developed as the artwork was being completed simultaneously.
Eventually, I could do no more, so…now this print is off to the drying rack. I am now actively thinking of the second print with the general idea that the color scheme can not be the same. The challenge will be working with the color from each printed proof of the woodcut plate #1......and I need to find another 6 hours.