Friday, May 20, 2016

More naked (caution--drawings of naked women by REAL artists)

I cut a third block and printed a few copies for a color version of my nude woodblock print.
This is on a thin, home-sized kozo washi 40g/m2 and now mounted onto thicker paper so it lies flat.
I'll probably print a few more to have a small edition (e.v.) on good washi in this color version.

It's no longer abstract so harder to read as or mistake for a flower or tree.
I like to think I'm channeling Schiele more than Courbet but either way I'm 100-150 years too late and both did a better job with the subject.
Schiele's female nude with red stockings (1914)

Courbet's "origin of the universe" 1866

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


"mons Veneris", A/P. 2016;  watercolor wood block print (moku hanga).
Printed from 2 blocks on Magnani etching paper for the Baren Forum's 68th print exchange.
I scribbled this in the margin of a notebook with a felt-tip pen. But it could just as easily been sand or clay, or on a tile wall or the peeling paint of an old building.
Totem or magic? Symbol of desire or of power? Sex or the power of birth? But decidedly
NOT a metaphor of Art or Beauty nor an idealized form of the perfect body.
One squiggly and jagged line that becomes legs and pubis and vulva.
Nude as in naked, the person unclothed, without the personalities that wait in our closets to be put on mornings and we take off at night.

Elbows and pubic hair, callouses and wrinkles and surgical scars are all as worthy of my time as a vase of flowers, the view from my window,  or a bowl of fruit in the afternoon light.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Boxwood sandwich

I'm participating in the Baren Forum's next print exchange,  due May 1st.  The theme is "the nude" and the paper size is restricted to an 8"x8" square.
I've had a good idea all along what I was going to do, but haven't been able to get any chunks of work time in to make any progress.

I'll be doing a figurative piece, with mostly line work, and I'll need to be able to carve some thin lines.
For that I like cherry or maple...but the pieces I have of those woods were too big and I didn't want to cut them down to a smaller size.  So,  I pulled out the rest of the boxwood plank I've been saving.

But since it's pretty thin--7mm and will warp badly during water-based printing, I decided to laminate it to a piece of plywood to make a warp-resistent block that will allow for more detailed cutting.  In this case I used a piece of 3-ply Shina---you can only carve one side since it's so thin and I glued the side with the seam to the box so I'll be able to use the good side as a second plate.
The boxwood will be for the fine lines of my drawing and the Shina side will be used for a color beta ban impression (the water-based woodblock version of chine colle) that will flatten the paper to allow for cleaner printing while adding a base tone to the paper.

The box got scraped smooth with my metal scraper, and then finished with 1200 grit sandpaper.
Today I glued down my sketch and this weekend I'm hoping for a carving marathon....

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Leporello experiments. Prototype Artist Book-Card-Woodblock-Etagami-Thing.

I took a rather disappointing workshop a few weeks ago that was supposed to be (I thought) about constructing simple artist books. We didn't spend the day as I had hoped, but I saw enough in the first few minutes to be able to put into practice what had been my original idea--I wanted to try to make a simple artist book that would be relatively easy to put together, but not appear too crude or "craftsy".
The leporello, a small, unbound booklet is usually made accordian-style and it allows for all kinds of modifications in materials, style and final appearance. 


I threw this together as a sort of prototype of a book project that I've been thinking about that will combine moku hanga woodblock printed paper with text or type (think letterpress) as well as hand carved and printed words and images.  I had some proofs of my cypress tree print that I made during a recent demonstration and I cut some 3mm hardboard to a size that would approximate the front and back covers. These were covered with Maroon bookcloth and the carefully folded print was also glued down (PVA) to the front and back covers.
 I drew some text with sumi ink (written with a broom straw dipped in ink) in the manner of my English-language etagami and added my hand-carved chop/stamp.

(My apologies in advance to all my readers that are actual book binders or have skill and expertise in sewing book bindings and hand made artist books...this is a crude thing so please be kind).

It has a nice "object" feel. It's heavy enough and neat enough to look finished.
There is the risk that it has merely become a nice greeting card....(my simple phrase pushes it in that direction)...
But I think if the print is actually interesting enough--using the right paper and an image and handling that is a little spontaneous, the possibilities are intriguing enough to try something a little more important.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Year of the Monkey: My Mandrill is finished.

Here is the finished print and a variant.
With 60 copies in the stack, each color took about 2 hours to print--the simple color shapes went a little faster while those with two colors on the same block took longer.

I've also included below how each block printed alone in the sequence in which the print was put together.
Sumi keyblock. Lots of paste on the boxwood made for very visible brushstrokes.

A pretty hot-pink nose and face mask . Some viewers found this image provocative.

Cobalt Teal and a little Ultramarine Blue with enough paste to make it very transparent.
A Naples/Hansa Yellow Bokashi to the Mane

A "mix-colors-until-you-get-a-brown-you-like" Brown.

Transparent Sumi Batman mask and Hansa Yellow
Phthalo Blue and lots of paste--Bokashi graded printing.
The last color, this blue bokashi to the Mandrill's mask, really made all the difference.

Suddenly, the mask and face really pops and gets an emphasis that it didn't have before.
I used the same block for the background, the blue bokashi overprinting the yellow to make a green.
But after 5 copies, I decided there were already enough colors and left that corner alone so most of the prints have a yellow "sky".
(It is the year of the FIRE monkey, and the original plan, scrapped for the same reason, was to overprint to make a sunset orange....).

I think I signed 50 prints today after trimming the paper and writing the titles.
A few are already gone and another 35 are destined for the BAREN Forum's Chinese Zodiac Exchange participants. I think that means that after a few more go to family, and a couple of loyal supporters and another handful of regular collectors that I won't have enough to go around.....and so I'm probably not finished with this thing after all.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

This is not a pipe.

I posted this teaser photo of my Year of the Monkey print. It's a proof of one of the color blocks and I  immediately started to get understandable comments about the fleshy pink color and suggestive nature of my image.  I just wanted to take a moment to assuage any fears about possible sexual content or phallic imagery.
I want people to know that if I decide to make something look like a penis, there won't be ANY doubt.
Guess which one of these is NOT a penis?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Boston Tiegel A5--a new tool enters the workshop.

Boston Tiegel (although unmarked); a hand-lever operated tabletop platen press.
I wasn't looking for another hobby or money sink but this followed me home a little over a week ago.  I took a letterpress workshop last year (with the charming and talented women of Betterpress Lab in Rome and where I later gave my moku hanga workshop). I had seen something similar to this in their printshop, so I had an idea of what it was when I saw it peeking out from behind an old armoir in the back of a local shop.
There is a business just down the street from my studio that empties out basements and attics in the neighborhood.  The bulk of the items end up for sale in a kind of used-goods shop where old clothes, books, framed posters, and all sorts of bric-a-brac come and go on a daily basis.  Florence is an old city and people might inhabit the same apartment for 50 years so sometimes there are some old and interesting things.  The other day I was walking by and I saw this WAY in the'll have to look hard to see it--look at the blue rungs of the ladder, then down....(sorry about the blurry foto).

I went back the next day and it was still buried but I could get a closer look.  The owner said he'd let me have it for a great price and he threw out a figure that was low enough to be worth investigating. (He knows I'm American, and that usually means higher prices than if I looked or spoke like a local). 
It was clearly a platen press with a curved lever for manual printing of moveable type.  The shopkeeper couldn't say much about it other than it came from a bookbinder's house, that it was working, and "had a german name..".
I made plans to come back the following day with a tape measure and I went online to try to figure out exactly what it was. This listing on Briarpress helped a lot: as it had a very similar press (but with a nameplate) and an asking price 10x greater than this was likely to cost. Further research confirmed that in the US prices for these hard-to-find, and portable machines were similar, and climbing.
So, the NEXT day, I went back (clues already that I was likely to be interested).
We pulled it out to the street and I looked it over. It was intact. The lever works and the rollers were in decent shape. No cracks in the cast iron, and linotype and spacers still locked in the chase from the last printing session.  It did indeed have the words "Boston" on it, but they were written on a piece of masking tape, with a magic marker--no other serial nos. or manufacturers identifications that I could see.  The deal was sealed when I measured the chase. It was a good 7"x10"...still pretty small, this will just print an A4 sheet folded in half, but as big as many of the prints I do and if I use it to add text to my woodblock prints I can print on a larger sheet than the chase would otherwise allow.
He wouldn't haggle, but I had already decided that the price was fair for a used machine, and he agreed to help me get it to my studio, and said he'd look through the other stuff that came out of the house for a quoin key or any type (but "no promises")--so we loaded it into the back of his APE and he drove around the block while I went to open the doors and move things out of the way.
For a tabletop press it was still VERY heavy.It took 3 of us to carry it down the narrow hall and it now sits on my carpenter's bench.
I cleaned off the worst of the dust and oiled the rollers and a few of the moving parts.
I inked the linotype locked in the chase and pulled a couple of rough impressions.
This says,  "Abruzzo--Hiking path from Block house leading to the fountain just before the Cavone cave/grotto. 2100m above sea level.  9 July 1977."

I'm not sure if the date indicates the date of the photo this was a caption to, or represents the date of the last time this was used. 

It has no label anywhere, but from my search of the web and letterpress sites, it's a German-made, Boston Tiegel (Boston refers to the clamshell-type mechanism).  It's a sturdy, well-made, machine and has an A5 chase with an opening about 19cm x 25cm (7"x10").  It's meant to be hand-fed, but has a system for self-inking and was designed for small print runs of items like business cards, postcards and small displays.

Now I need to find a Quoin key (for releasing what's locked in the chase), take it apart for a good cleaning and oiling, find some used letterpress, moveable type and additional spacers and then I have to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

As a friend in Rome said, "can you produce something that will have a value to justify the purchase of the machine and the supplies you'll need to set it up and use it?" Good Question.
I will probably use it to add type to my woodblock prints (which up to now I have been hand carving) and the small artist book I've been thinking about making will now have a greater likelihood of being made.
At the worst, it's a beautiful thing, like many machines of the early industrial age, and I know that once it's been cleaned and oiled, I could resell it and recover my financial investment easily.
But first, I need to find the WD-40 and a rag.
And then, I need to go find some type.
Oh, and while the shopkeeper wouldn't budge on the selling price, he did throw in this charming pair of toast caddies, that are now in my studio and being repurposed as small print displays.