Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Carving Blood

Well, I decided to step away from my big Jajim print for a little pause. I haven't done any carving since early this year and I wanted to make some chips fly.

SO I went back into my unfinished projects file and pulled out a little print that never got farther than a preparatory sketch. While brainstorming ideas for one of the Baren Forum exchanges I posted this as one of the ideas that got nixed. Several followers--well, most of them actually since I have so few--said that it was too bad as they liked the idea.
So did I. So I went back to my preparatory sketch--it was on old mat board and I looked it over--I added some type for the title and drove over to Kinko's and made a xerox to serve as my Hanshita. Glued it down that night and spent most of yesterday carving the keyblock. This morning I recut a few spot repairs I made on some slips. It looks mostly ok but it's carved pretty shallowly so printing will tell if it's deep enough.

Now I'm back into a stretch of shifts for work until next week but hope to get in to test print and see how much cleaning up I need to do on this block. And how many other blocks I'll need.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wrinkled corners/Jajim continued

I've made decent progress on my Jajim/Kelim pieces. I printed 13 strips; 6 on Echizen Kozo and 7 on Nishinouchi. I took the better ones--those printed on the whiter and heavier E.K. and started playing with how they would look. Then I spent a day printing the background sheets. These are printed by hand off a sheet of uncarved exterior plywood and were printed in multiple layers and colors.
As I worried, I had a bit of trouble laying down and registering the background damp sheets of paper. My paper was slightly larger than my printing plate/board so the unprinted edge formed a frame all around the work. Unfortunately, as the printed portion became thinner from rubbing firmly with the baren, this portion became damper and thinner. The corners sort of dried a bit/ the printed parts got wetter and the corners buckled pretty badly. I let them dry and then re-wet the paper and let it sit overnight. Then I ironed them again as I printed an additional color or two over the background. They flattened out nicely but once they dried (under plywood sheets/some pressure) they wrinkled up again.
I'll have to figure out how to correct/avoid this before I try to print on a larger sheet.
I suspect I'll have to dampen them again, Flatten them with my baren to iron out the wrinkles and try a longer and heavier weighting to flatten them until they are fully dry.
But of the 3 big backgound sheets I prepped I got 2 acceptable versions.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Poppy 2

Well, salvage time. Mom's birthday and I didn't send flowers. (I didn't forget, she was in Norway! Cruising her way around the fjords).
This was the first pull off of Big Blue; it printed very spotty, the red was all wrong and the green dried on the plate and didn't print onto the dry paper.
So, watercolor to the rescue.
Daniel Smith artist color and some pure pigment brushed into the petals to get that vibrant red I wanted. Lots of greens mixed both on the paper and palette.
It's a little overworked and the drawing's a bit off. But it's way better than it was before. Hope I can get it dry and in the mail before the ship returns to port.

Monday, July 19, 2010


POPPY, detail, monotype print 10" X 12" (ghost)

I finally decided it was time to stop putting it off and break in Big Blue--my 30 year-old, homemade etching press. I have over the last few weeks picked up a couple of plexiglass sheets from the hardware store; some sample bottles of Akua Color monoprint/water-based inks/one inexpensive brayer and dug around my cupboards for some stray printmaking papers.

I have lots of flowers blooming in the garden beds so a quick sketch on a sheet of paper and I covered the drawing with the sheet of plexiglass and using mostly brushes, painted the colors on the plate. It happened in stages: first the red petals; then the black flag of the center and some of the green buds/seedpods/then back in again with more color here or there, finishing with tracing my drawing in black ink with a brush on the plate.

I ran the plate each time face up on the bed of the press, laying down the paper on top; covering it with blankets and running it through the rollers. I had three sheets. Rives BFK Dry; Rives LW dry; rives LW damp. The last two sheets are ghost prints--printed after most of the ink was taken up by the first sheet.

Akua color is supposed to work better on dry paper but I got uneven coverage and very splotchy color instead. My best print is the third run on damp paper. The colors are too soft and faded--this should be a vermillion poppy that should stand out from 100yds instead of being so soft/muted. I will probably have to play with papers and pressure/blankets to get the right pressure.

I wanted a painterly approach. But I'd have ended up with something more lively and with more vibrant color if I had just stuck to watercolor and painted it. It will take me a while to get a hang of these new colors--they're honey-like in consistency--and didn't like to be brushed onto plexi.

Top to bottom: 1st Impression (dry paper); ghost print on damp paper;ghost print on dry paper.

So while I'm not really happy with how these turned out (I'll probably overpaint them in watercolor to see if I can salvage anything) but I'm really happy to have used the press, broken the ice and gotten some studio time in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Jajim--a woodblock/collage work in progress

Well, I'm back at work on another "textile" project prompted by a lovely, large Persian weaving I saw in a gallery last year. As I alluded to in my previous post, I am working off a long thin board to print a 4" X 24" image. This is an experiment as the idea is to use these long narrow strips to constitute a larger print by attaching them side by side to make a larger piece. The idea for this comes from a common practice among tribal weavers throughout much of Persia and the East where the frequent migrations required small, narrow, easily portable looms. Working on the ground, horizontally, the width of the piece generated was often only the width of warp strands that could be picked up by the weaver with one hand as she moved the shuttle across and was often measured in finger breadths. The length of the warps was not limited however so long strips would be woven, then cut into lengths and sewn together to make covers, room dividers, carpets, horse blankets etc.
The different tribes and regions led to very different looks; some are monochrome, some have multicolored stripes decorated by alternating the color of the warps to add talismanic symbols and decorations.

I chose a deliberately sober palate of alternating black and white stripes accented by thin red banding--this is very similar to a stunning antique piece I found here:

What I like so much about these is as they were woven in long strips, during the course of weaving the subtle differences in how tightly packed were the wefts--the horizontal strands--that the actual width varies slightly and rather randomly. When sewn side-by-side this irregularity leads to a wonderful, chaotic rhythm of the alternating bands that I find both beautiful and evocative.

I am not the only one. Here's a painting, "Cite'", by Elsworth Kelly from 1951 and painted on multiple blocks of wood--probably not influenced by Kurdish flatweaves but still the focus and interest and jazzy rhythm of the results are similar.

Like most of my experiments the results have been mixed. These were quickly printed on machine-made paper to try out the idea--I've subsequently printed more onto good paper but I've noticed from the trials that the nature of printing off one block--a template-- means that wonderful variability gets lost as each of my images/portions is the same. I've alleviated it a bit by inverting the central image but I can see the difference.

I still need to try and get some more texture and richness to the white/pale yellow stripes and when I print my background colors I'll try too to get some more depth and shadow to add visual interest and complexity/depth. I'm also planning on trying to go to 5 or seven strips to see how it works as they get bigger.