Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inspiration from mastering your craft

I recently experimented with a variety of hardware store punches, and awls to produce a woodcut plate. I have printed several copies of the finished piece and provide photos below in the order they were printed in: #1 Yellow, #2 orange, and #3 orange-gold.(note: a total of 2 plates were used to print each image, the first plate or background color=woodcut plate made with punches/awls. The second plate is done using the white line method)
impression #1

impression #2

impression #3

With the initial results being promising, I have decided to produce a new image for an upcoming exhibition. Inspired by the basic awls and punches, my mind has constructed a number of different possibilities for the surface to be cut. One element from the first experiment remains. I have decided to continue dividing up the initial cutting space into a grid so I can produce the desired pattern in the proper space intended. It does not take a lot of effort to use a punch or an awl. I am simply lining up the awl or punch like a chisel in my left hand, and striking it down with a hammer. This motion creates a dot for the awls, and circles for the punches. I am using 3 different sizes of punches: 1/4, 3/8, & 1/2. The awls have very similar looks, I have a variety of 3, and my favorite has become a solid steel piece that has a graduated point. The graduated point is especially nice since I can strike the awl hard and produce a large hole, or alter the strength and get a smaller hole. These holes do effect how the final print will look.

Here are a few close ups of the actual plate(after cutting), prior to sanding down the complete block in order to show how varied the surface can get using a variety of different size punches, and awls. The emphasis is on variety as the results of the first printings has shown this detail to be a great success.
almost full view of plate

close up of bottom center

close up of top center

You can see I am able to add definition of shape and space by means of creating a unique pattern for each intended space. These unique patterns play a great role in where light and dark will be when the second plate is printed over the top of this one.

When you are working with something experimental a great lesson can be learned from mastering your craft. No matter what your craft may be, if you feel inspiration to change your craft as the thought occurs to you, and you are able to carry out the idea successfully, then you are on the path to creating something unique. The point is this, as artists, we must experiment a lot to get our artwork perfected. Even without a clear vision for a completed work, the means of mastering your materials will provide you with the skill needed.

For the woodcut plate (3 photo details shown above), I threw out a lot of conventional concerns about creating this work. A punch or an awl has no intended purpose for creative use in printmaking. It is however, a woodworkers tool and fortunately I saw an alternate and creative means for their intended use. I followed my most immediate impression of what punch or awl strike mark would look good next to each other and the space around it. I used a combination of both tools in areas that will receive more light in the final print. This way of working has allowed me to relax during the final printing phase because I have noticed that each plate acts as a counter balance to one another.

I will be very eager to print this once I have the time and energy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Little Procrastination, Fear of Results, Produces a Good Print

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.

For a few weeks I have been delaying the printing process due to some technical factors, primarily registration. I decided to use one registration method for 2 blocks so I can be consistent on my allignment. I decided to use the White Line printmaking method of registration by securing a "tape hinge" from the printing paper to the printing surface. So, after I worked out some of the details in my head for the printing process, I was ready to start. I am making a woodcut print from 2 different plates. The first plate, I already described in an earlier post, was created with a variety of hardware store punches, and awls that gave me a variety of different marks on the wood. This plate was printed using a regular brayer to ink the surface, and I altered the color after each printing. This process was quick and took no more than an hour to produce 4 prints in yellow, orange, gold-orange, and gold-red. (photo of yellow orange, plate #1 )
After printing the first plate the real time consuming challenge sets in, as I have far more color options with the second printing plate. I have a basic idea where I want some of the lights and darks to generally exist, but because there is so much printing to do and my color choices change quickly, a true finished work is almost impossible to conceive.

I begin by printing some of the light colors first and immediately notice how the texture of both wood surfaces from each plate are sometimes fighting each other as well as blending with each other in various places. This wood grain texture changed the printing style and direction with the inks. I experimented with the opacity of the inks, allowing some of the first plate to show through with very thin inked areas, or condense the ink and made very opaque
(Left=photo of printed image after a few areas are completed)

The process for printing the second plate is very slow. Each space is hand inked, the paper is registered, and then it is hand printed with the back of an old wooden spoon. This step is repeated for each and every color. Development of the final print moves very slow, similar to a painting, and then there is a tipping point where more than 60% of the second plate is printed and the "final image" begins to take on a look. Like developing a photograph, the print begins to reveal itself. withe each new printed color and space. As the print get close to completion, I am more focused on sharpening up dark colors. This plate took about 5-6 hours to complete the printing of woodcut plate #2 and below is a progression how the print developed from this point. (left photo=full view of woodcut printing plate #2)

(photos stages 4,5 &6)


(Close up photos)
After each hour or so, I stopped to take a look how the print was developing to correct any areas that looked out of place. I took a few close up photos of the plate and the print to show the details of the paper and the wood plate as it was being worked upon.

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.