Sunday, October 31, 2010


These are my first two proofs of a drypoint print I started a few weeks ago. I hoped to have a finished work in time for Halloween but I had to content myself with two quick proofs pulled off my first ever copper drypoint.

The plate was a thin 6" X 9" copper sheet on which I first roughly sketched and then scratched into the surface with a sharp metal tip scratching and cutting lines in the smooth surface. The plate was then wiped with AKUA color intaglio black ink and wiped off leaving ink in the scratches and some on the surface. Printed using BIG BLUE, my etching press, onto Arches white printmaking paper.

This is my first go at drypoint and the first time using these inks. I had a hard time wiping the ink--I couldn't find where I had put my tarlatans and ended up using an old cotton rag--(old kids underpants) that were too soft and absorbent.

The First pull was much too pale due to overwiping and so became a candidate for some watercolor tip in to rescue what was just a pale ghost.

I'll go back in to try to give some more emphasis on the hand/fingers and try to deepen the shadows over the whole pelvis area then try another round of printing/wiping.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Toggle Bolt

Toggle Bolt, the first Figure in the imaginary and now out-of-print classic handbook of European and American Fasteners. A guide for those who often choose the wrong tool for the wrong job.

moku-hanga, Japanese-style, polychrome woodblock print
6" X 8"

When we were looking for a house in Santa Cruz, this one was exactly what B was looking for. The previous owner is a photographer and the walls had beautiful black and white photographs perfectly placed on all the walls in a house that was neat and ordered and lovely.

Imagine my surprise when we moved in to discover that the owner, not wanting, I suppose, to force his own aesthetic choices on the new tenants had pulled out every nail, stuccoed and painted over every hole and left the house spotless and new.

I am not particularly handy. And living in a lathe-and-stucco house means to put anything on the wall you have to hunt for the studs that the walls are hanging on. The walls themselves are just 1-2cm of brittle plaster and any brad or nail you just hammer in will just wiggle out, leaving a small pile of plaster dust and holes in the walls.
B, long since having given up on me ever hanging anything on the walls has hammered nails and brads, where-ever-you-please and has hung up all sorts of second hand/goodwill frames and art and posters and mirrors and shelves.

A Toggle Bolt is a fastener designed to be used to hang light to medium weight objects on hollow walls when a stud isn't available; on sheetrock, lathe and plaster, etc. The metal parts are spring loaded--A fairly large hole is drilled in the wall, the two flexible, spring loaded flaps are pulled against the screw and the whole thing is passed into the hole. Once past the wall, the flaps open up and by turning the screw are pulled up against the inside face of the wall holding the other, outside part fast. IF you make a mistake and have to unscrew it, the folding part just falls off behind the wall and you have to use a new one.

That's the idea anyway. I've bought a few but never actually gotten around to putting one in the wall.

There are holes all over my walls.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Inching towards completion.
Printing is done.
I briefly shuffled all of them out on the table to get out some of the major dampness--the rains have stopped and the humidity is less so they quickly feel less soft and cool--that means they're drying.
Then I cart them off to press between an old hardwood cheeseboard with several sheets of paper interleaved and another used hardwood board on top. Over this sandwich goes the old lithography stone I found in a Miami second hand shop thirty years ago. This whole stack then enjoys the living room bookcase next to the forced air heating vent. I'll undo the pile a few times to shuffle through the prints to even out the pressure and drying and with the last shuffle they felt dry and crisp.
Tomorrow they'll be trimmed, gone over for rejects and then signed. I said I wanted to be done by the end of October and I think I did it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

All that printmaking makes me hungry!

Two leftover pears in the fridge, a mostly eaten bag of semisweet chocolate chips and a lack of anything sweet and baked to munch on....what to do.

Alexander and I whipped out a mostly invented recipe for upside-down pear cake but added chocolate chips and left out the maple syrup. Bar Petrarca in Florence makes a killer pear and chocolate butter cake but we're just too far away.
Hope this will fill the void.

Still steaming from the oven. Hope it cools soon enough to eat some.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Toggle emerging

Raining today and for the first time I'm having trouble keeping my paper dry enough.

Two more impressions on my Toggle print.

The first a pale gray solid shape to give mass tone to the bolt, then a roughly carved shadow block--I've learned that this doesn't have to be carved as neatly or detailed as the detail will be carried by my keyblock that will print over it.

I tried to post shots of each stage but my scanner isn't picking up the pale blue-grey of the thin wash-like colors at all so this one image shows those two impressions over the light blue-green background.

Tomorrow I hope to print the keyblock over the previous three impressions...It may be so damp in my studio I'll have to move into the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Printing again

Starting on my Toggle print.
I managed to get one block printed today. A simple, single-color even wash.
It's a mixture of pthalo blue green and pthalo blue mixed with lots of rice paste to make a very transparent wash.
I usually would have started with the keyblock--the black and white block that outlines most of the color areas and in this case carries all the details, but I tried printing that first but my good printing paper is slightly uneven textured and was picking up some of the ink from the carved out areas from the shallowly carved letters.

SO I switched the order and am printing this block first--the pressure of printing the paper against the hardwood block will smooth out the paper and make getting a clean impression easier down the line. The line of very small print will end up printing over the bottom of the blue square later.

Here's the block I printed from and here's a very bad photo of the print pulled from it.

Sorry about the quality of the second photo--I'll replace it with a better one once I get my scanner back up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A brief pause from our sponsors...

In the wee hours I decided to put the cat in the garage--she has started waking us all up at 4-5am when she decides it's a good time to be fed and that's getting old really fast.
But I had opened the garage door earlier in the evening and forgotten to close it.
There's water, a litter box and usually some food in a dish for her nights there.

So, walking in with the reluctant cat in my arms when I stepped on the threshold there was a lot of noise/crashing/bustle and first one large dark shape rushed past my legs and as I jumped back, cat scratching, two more furry dark shapes rushed past, climbed the fig tree and jumped onto the shed.

SO here they are.
They're called "orso lavatore" in Italian, (washing bears).

They've been turning over my garbage pail, eating/stealing all the figs, raiding the cat dish and more or less being quite a late night nuisance.

I hope they are at least fans of my work.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper.

Well, one of the perks of the medical environment are single use, disposable scalpels. I borrowed one to see if it would work; this one came loaded with an #11 blade--a long pointed blade slightly beveled on both edges. The point is very tiny and very flexible and with a pair of 3X drugstore reading glasses and a LOT of patience to flip or clear the little bits around the letters I managed to finish all the letters last night. Fruit of a late night espresso.

Proofed today. All the letters are legible. Now to whip out the color blocks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hard at Work

There was not much to look at in the last post. Today, with the kids in school, Bene back at work in Italy for the next few months and my mom, visiting this month, off at a duplicate bridge game, I could actually disappear into the studio for a block of several hours.

I managed to get the keyblock almost completely carved even if this photo shows it only about 1/3rd done. It will be a fairly simple print with a fairly detailed keyblock but just a few color blocks.

The big hurdle will be some very small type at the bottom. I'm not sure the kiln-dried cherry or my big fat fingers are up to the task and I'm thinking about alternatives if I lose too many letters. Rubber stamp? Acetate drypoint? Handwriting?( I don't have access or any experience with letterpress...).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Wood

I haven't been carving in a while and while I have a few works that still need a day or two of work to be completed, those unfinished prints are still almost a year old in concept and I feel the urge to do something new again.

I hope to have this little print done by the end of October.
While the subject is still cloaked in secrecy, I will say that I pulled out, then sawed off an end piece of my big cherry plank.

Here is that piece cut again lengthwise into two 7" X 10" pieces.
And again with the hanshita, my preparatory sketches/xeroxes glued on face down.

More to come.....