Friday, September 24, 2010

Using a Commercial Steamroller to Print

The Cryptogram, 2010 woodcut 16"x 28"
It is that time of the year again at the(SFCB) San Francisco Center for the Book's annual Roadworks:Steamroller Prints street fair. I have participated for the past 3 years as an artist, and this year I was invited to be one of 18 contributing artists to produce a linocut for a portfolio of special prints with the theme of La Loteria. I am excited to be chosen, but the theme does not immediately appeal to me, so it will take some time to develop the right image. I must consider using a number as part of the SFCB requirements, and how it will look on the final piece. Coming off several new works of art, I decide I am going to enlarge a portion of the artwork titled "The Cryptogram" as inspiration.

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

My artwork has to conform to La Loteria, but I still have artistic license to work within my style. I have chosen “The Moon” as my title and the number 0(zero) to make use of the natural circle a punch makes. This way I can concede to the guidelines without destroying my artwork. I really like the idea that “The Moon” can be translated in many ways as the punches produce moon shapes, and the subject matter is a butt, otherwise know as a moon in slang terms. 

While working on the linoleum, I am aware that this block will only be printed in one color, so the punches are used to the best of their ability to show a direct light source. I do this by overlapping patterns the punches make. This work is very loud, with the hammer striking the metal punch, and the work moves slow, as my ears begin to ring after an hours worth of work. After 3 days i have something to print.
State 1: The Moon, 2010, 12"x12"
I am a little unhappy with the results; one, I made a punch at the very bottom between legs that I did not intend on doing, and two, I am uncertain an actual butt can be clearly deciphered. I continue to work for 3 more days adding small punch marks here and there until it looks like the butt is covered in diamond dust and glowing from the light of a full moon. It is RTP, or ready to print.

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.

Discovering new creative inspiration by revisiting and updating earlier works

Beagle in the House!

Introducing Gilly, our new beagle. She was rescued by way of and I am printing/bloging with a new partner now.

I have been stuck in the creative process for new material and new ideas for content as well as developing my woodcutting technique further. This past week I found both. I looked at some 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.

In the past, I thought some of my older artwork had lost its relevance because my focus on printmaking had changed, my style had changed, and my subject matter changed. These so called relics of my past are perceived in 2 different ways, either junk from your past or still loved but where is the present connection to your current artwork? By recommitting myself to some older images, I can build a connection to my past through my present artworks. I am going to do a number of new artworks based on older pieces. I have decided to take only small sections, mostly portraits from previous artworks, enlarge them, and see what images will inspire me to create whole new artworks in my current working style. For subject matter, I choose the Van Gogh Self Portrait again. I made several paintings in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

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 
My printmaking process is all painting. I am mixing colors with a brush and palette, and I am printing with my trusty old wooden spoon to use as a baren. I am focused on making sure there is a strong light source present, how to add contrast where some colors will be overlapping, and how the patterns that are carved will produce different visual effects. I am concerned with how opaque and transparent colors will play out on the final piece.

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 1

Stage 2

Stage 3, Plate 1 is printed, time to start printing the second.

Detail after first plate is printed

Stage 4

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!