Monday, September 30, 2013

Here they all are!

I've made 4 new prints since I finished the 29 Faces challenge, and just now I have decided that I'm done.  I'm going to print the best ones together in a block, kindof like this, in a very limited edition, and call my beginner lessons over.  Now to move on to my intermediate lessons.  I'm not sure what those will be, but I really think I'm done with these little faces....

Friday, September 27, 2013

29 Faces in September--finished!

Okay...this is 29.  Last year I only got to 15, so I'm rather pleased with myself to finish the challenge.  Of course this is a process that takes a whole lot less time than what I did last year (gouache resist and then pen and ink over--there were two long drying periods for each piece)..... So, these are all tiny--3X5.....

This one is #27.  

All three are a bit rough.  And I'm not really done, because what I have decided to do is print them all together on one big block.  For the 3X5s, it will be a block five wide and four high (for a total of 20 faces), and I don't think I have quite 20.  I've sortof lost count.  I'll make an edition of....maybe 10..... 

This one is #28.

And then for the other ones, the 4X6s, it will be a block of 9--3 wide and 3 high.  And again, I'm not sure exactly how many I have, but I think I might need to make a couple more.

This one is #29.

But I'm really looking forward to "cleaning" all of these up.  I've had them all taped up on my kitchen wall, and I've been looking at them all month, and thinking about what I need to do to each of them to make them better.  A few of them I will want to recut (but that's okay, and that's easy, like I did with #23, because I still have the drawings, and it's super-easy to retransfer that to a new linoleum black, and since these are so small, cutting really doesn't take all that long.  But most of them just need some tweaking.  #28 will need to be recut, since I made a big cut in the middle of a space that was supposed to be black, and though I tried to work that in, it really doesn't do it.  #29 here can just use some cleaning up of edges, and filling out of the beard.

I'm very excited to see what these will look like all printed together.

Monday, September 23, 2013

29 Faces in September--#24 - #26

This is #23 again.  I just had to recut it since part of the last one bugged me so much.  I think, though, that I am cutting too deep.  All the little squarish parts seem too fragile, but I'm cutting really deep.

This is #24, and I did it the same day that I did #23 (on Saturday).  It's an experimental image for the color-reduction block that I'm going to do for my print-making class.  I really kindof like this and have a good idea in my head what I will do with it for the color-reduction (which you can see in a week or so....).

This is #25, a much simpler image that the others have been.  I'm getting close to being done for my major project (20 small ones that I will print all together, and 12 larger ones that I will print all together) that I am really eager to finish.

This is #26, which I tried not to cut so deep.  It's much easier to do the grays when you only cut lightly.  It still needs some cleaning up.

I went to a print fair at the Arts Center on Saturday, and saw a whole bunch of absolutely stunning work from local and not-so-local printmakers.  I even bought a print.  But one of the things that struck me was how detailed some of the linocuts were.  They weren't making huge deep gouges to get all that detail.  So I tried that, and it works!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

29 Faces in September #23

Nope.  I changed my mind.  I'm not going to count the color-reduction prints as my 29 faces.  The rules (MY rules for this particular project) say black and white, and black and white they will be--and oh, how refreshing it is to be back to that.  This one is 4" X 6", and I think I'm going to cut it again to fix some of the things I don't like here.

And this is the third color-reduction print, but I don't like how little and fussy everything is.  It IS little--3X5", but it's the fussiness.  I need bigger, broader shapes.  I also need a better registration system, which I think I'll deal with in my class, and not here at home.  I've learned enough from doing these, I think, to be ready to do the bigger block.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reduction Blocks?

I'm not done with the black and white prints at all, but I'm taking a print-making class.  The class I signed up for (Experimental Print Media) was cancelled because not enough people signed up for it, so after long deliberation I decided to take Beginning Printmaking instead.  It's the same price as just doing open studio, so instead of just having access to the print studio any time, you get a class too--and get to meet people and learn some new things, which I figured I'd do, since there's a lot of stuff about these relief prints I just don't know yet.

So I go on Monday night, the second meeting of the class (because I missed the first one not having decided to take the class yet), and find that the first project is a three-color reduction linocut.  What?????  This is a beginning class.  There are a couple of people in there who have never done any printmaking before, and instead of giving them little blocks and having them experiment with cutting (which I did on several little blocks back in August--, everyone is given a 6X8 block, mounted on wood, to make a three-color-reduction print. Today they were all to start cutting for printing the first color (which would be the lightest color, with white where you've cut away), and the mix inks for printing these three colors.

All I have to say is "Whoa!  Aren't we jumping the gun here a little?"

If I were teaching the class, I'd have everyone practicing cutting and making marks first--which we did spend about two minutes each doing on a practice block for the whole class.  But I'd have everyone practice a lot.  And then practice printing those little experimental blocks.  And then I'd have folks design an image for a one-color linocut.  That takes quite a bit of thinking.  I did 22 of those little ones, and though I feel a lot more confident and comfortable with the process now, there are still many design problems to be solved.

This reduction color-block seems a pretty advanced technique to me.  I couldn't go to sleep for hours after the class, trying in my head to imagine what kind of design would work for this, HOW it would work, barely getting to wrap my head around it.

So I took the day off work yesterday to make some practice ones (actually, I took the day off work because my son had just returned from Paris late the night before and it was his birthday, but in between driving him around and making birthday cake, all I did was work on prints).  I went to the local hobby store and bought some different colors of ink, so I'd have something to practice with (and yes, I could have gone to the studio and used the inks there, but sine it was my son's first day home, I wanted to be home).It was only after having made the first one (Face #23, above) that I started to be able to see what I could possibly do.  And I could only make the first one after looking at a lot of examples in books and online.

I'm still going to go to the studio this weekend and print a lot of little tiny things to see how the inks there interact with each other.  It makes a different in what kind of cutting I'll do, and what kind of colors I'll use, and ALL of it is information I need before I'm ready to cut this mounted block I've been given.  I don't want that block to be a disaster, which I'm afraid the other people's will be unless they've done some kind of prep work as well.

Am I crazy, or right?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Working on Grays--Face #22

Okay--I'm working on grays.  And it's tough.

I have to say, too, that there's a print in the Walker book that I absolutely love, and I would so like to be able to make images like that.  And it's all about the lines--the white lines--building up the figure.  So.....I'll study it more, and we'll see.

This is #22, and it's 4" X 6".

Saturday, September 14, 2013

29 Faces in September-- #20 and #21

Straight black and straight white is so much simpler, once you get the hang of it.  I rather like these two.  I enjoyed drawing them, and I enjoyed cutting them, and I enjoyed printing them.  But it is perfectly clear that I'm afraid of grays--I don't know how to do it.  And having said that, it's obvious that that's what I need to work on....I don't want to, though, because I know the results will be icky--like #18, which I actually recut.  And I'll have to post them anyway, because I'm doing this 29 Faces challenge (which does not say 29 GOOD Faces).

So this is #20.  It's 3" X 5".  I'd like for the white line on the left to be tapered off into black, but the one thing about making linocuts is that you can make more white, but not more black.

And this is #21, also 3" X 5".  Another smiling face for whoever wanted smiling faces.  Actually, I like him a lot, and it makes me smile to see his smile.

And here, definitely NOT for anyone's viewing pleasure, is #18 again--recut on a new piece of lino, but still not working.  This is so that if anyone mistakenly believed I could only make GOOD prints, that notion can be dispelled.  Alas.  I really liked the drawing, but it is just not working out in the block.

But next up will be tonal work.  We'll see how that goes.  I'm supposed to be grading essays because progress report grades are due Sunday night.  But it's my weekend, and I don't want to grade essays.....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

29 Faces in September # 18 and #19

Okay--I'm really tired of these now.  Really really tired of them.  But I think that's because some things aren't working.  Like those darn grays.

So I'm putting #19 first, because it has no grays, and I have no problem with that.  It is 3" X 5".  It's another laughing picture, but I think this fellow looks a little demonic.

And then #18.  These little tiny lines don't work to make a gray.  It's also 3" X 5".

So I cut some more.  I have no problems making marks.  Unfortunately, I did some weird cutting around the eye, and well....maybe she's an alien from another galaxy.

And here also is #17 again, cleaned up a little bit.  I realized that I'd forgotten to cut some out of the middle of his forehead.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

29 Faces in September # 16 and #17

So here we are, moving right along.  #16 and #17 are both very small, 3" X 5".  I did the drawings for them at school (in between grading notebooks), and they were both from pictures in the newspaper.  The sports pages are often good for extreme sorts of emotions.  A bunch of people wondered why I never did happy people in these prints, and really, there was no special reason.  But I looked for happy folks this time.

A number of people have been commenting on the expressions on these faces, and I just wanted to talk a little bit about that:  I'm always looking for interesting expressions--or rather, expressions that make interesting shapes in the face.  For these prints where it's just black and white, I'm looking for dramatic lighting--something that divides the face into dark and light.  Even if it's not as extreme as how it turns out in the prints, if you squint, it makes it gets rid of the midtones, and simplifies it for you.

But it's interesting.  Now that I'm getting this down (though they all need some cleaning up), I'm starting to think of other ways that I might cut for different effects....

Monday, September 9, 2013

29 Faces in September--#14 and #15 are the next two.  I really need to work on how to do patterns to make grays.  I just found a book I bought a couple years ago called The Woodcut Artists Handbook by George Walker.  It's a fabulous book, with a lot of information, most of which I skipped over when I bought the book, but which I am now studying. It's way way better than the book I bought recently, Learning Linocut by Susan Yeates. The Walker book has tons of fabulous pictures by all kinds of woodcut, wood engraving and linocut artists, so even without reading any of the text, one can get a lot of really good ideas for how to do things by studying the pictures.
This is #14--a second state print, with the gray areas cross-hatched instead of just hatched (and for those of you who've been looking at my work over the years, I can just hear you saying "Well, I was wondering when she'd get around to cross-hatching again.  I'm surprised she could hold out this long.")  I don't think it's the "solution", but it is an option.  I'll be exploring others on the next faces.  This one is 4" X 6".

This is #15, also 4" X 6" and also a second state print.  AND, I'm proud to say, I took the reference photo for this one myself.  But it was interesting.  I was trying to make a drawing from the reference photo, and it was turning out stiff stiff stiff.  The guy in the picture was quite dynamic, and the drawing wasn't capturing any of that.  That, I find, is the problem with using photographs for references.  I was trying so hard to get all the shapes and proportions right, and it just wasn't working.  I will not post that drawing here, so no one will be able to say, "Wow, she really doesn't know how to draw at all...."  So I tried again, and the second time, I treated it as a gesture drawing, much more loose, and sure enough, after only a couple of lines, it captured the feeling of it, and then I could be more precise about actual shapes, fitting those into the loose gesture.  The next problem was cutting, but I'll work on that some more later.  I started cutting away a big area that was supposed to be black--my brain isn't fully trained yet--and in one of the demonstrations in Walker's book, he shows inking the woodblock with black, so it's really really clear where to cut, whereas I just have lines traced onto my block, and I have to be smart enough to figure out (looking at my drawing for reference) which parts are to be cut and which parts aren't, and I'm kindof slow sometimes.  Also, I'm having gray issues.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

29 Faces in September--#10 through #13

Wow.  I've actually temporarily gotten tired of these.  I got up at 5:30 am (I would have liked to have slept longer, but was awake) and started cutting.  I cut for three and a half hours, printed the three new (little) plates, and now I'm done for the day.

#10--pretty rough.  I'll clean it up some later.  I've decided to keep forging ahead, and posting my initial proofs.  This one is 3" X 5".

This is #11.  I'm actually really pleased about it.  This is my second attempt at having a gray tone between the black and white, and while that is not wholly successful, it does give me some ideas, so I'll be doing more of that as I go along.  This one is 4' X 6", and I must say that I like the slightly broader proportions better.  The 3" X 5" is pretty darned skinny for faces.

#12 is 3" X 5", and though I have see another face on based off of this face on someone else's 29 Faces in September posting, I still really like it.  It's an interesting face.  One of my goals for the year is to take all of my own reference photos, rather than taking them from magazines, or the web, or a friend's photos.  I don't know how immediately recognizable any of them are, but still.....

#13 is also 3" X 5", and I kindof like this one too.  It needs more tweaking, which I will do once I complete this whole series, or at least once I decide it's time to start the tweaking process.

But I'm done for the day.  Now I'm making a birthday cake for my son, and then I'm going to spend the afternoon grading papers.  Oh boy.  But I got my art-making out of my system for the time being (or at least the cutting part of it).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

29 Faces in September--#9

So this is #9.  It is 4" X 6", and obviously it needs to be cleaned up and tweaked a little bit.  But the exciting thing about it is that I have learned some things about cutting.  When I ordered my lino cutting tools a couple weeks ago, five arrived.  I had only been using two of them, and now I've found a use for a third.  It's the very sharp little knife, and with it, I can cut the small and oddly shaped spaces that I was hacking at with the other tools.  So areas like the eyelids and the little spaces in the corners of the eyes, and the eyeball reflections--those are cut carefully with the knife, and lifted out with the pointy corner of it--amazing!  Part of what I wasn't liking before was how I couldn't get precise corners/edges like that.

So....on to #10 and #11....I designed them last night, and look forward to transferring and cutting them later today, after work.

My overall plan is to do all 29, and then go back and "clean up" any parts that I think can be fixed (and they all have things I think I can fix), and then mount them all together on some kind of block, and print them as one big collection of faces.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

29 Faces in September--# 6, # 7 and #8

Here are the next three.  They are are 3" X 5", and they really don't take very long to make because they're so small.  Designing them takes maybe 15 minutes, transferring takes maybe five, and then cutting them maybe another fifteen minutes. so it's pretty fast.  What's surprising me is how much I'm enjoying designing them, because usually, in all the other mediums I play in, what I enjoy the most is the execution, and I tend to rush through the design process.  But that clearly wasn't working here, so I've put more time into it, and have been liking it a lot.

I thought I'd also talk some about what I mean by "developing skills" in linocuts.  I have lots of skills in drawing and making pictures, but I am overwhelmed by the whole linocut process.  The skills I'm lacking:

1. Hand skills--how to make the kinds of marks I want to make.  It's still really rough.  I'm learning how to do curves, how to end marks, how not to make big ugly gouges when I don't mean to, etc.  Everyone needs hand skills.  I have hand skills in a lot of other things, but not this (yet--but I'm getting there).

2.  How to reduce everything to black and white.  It's tricky.  The dark darks are obviously black and the light lights are obviously white, but what about the stuff in the middle?  At what point do you assign a gray to white and a gray to black.  I'm working on that.  It's an exercise in simplification.

3.  How to "show" everything, reducing it to black and white.  This will be more for things more complex than a face, but it applies to faces too.  I'm thinking whole scenes.  You have to have everything show that needs to be shown, but how do you do that dark figure against a dark background.  I've been studying the prints of some of my favorite printmakers, and different people have different solutions, some of which I like and others of which I don't.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

29 Faces in September

This is a really cool challenge--make 29 faces in any medium, any style, any degree of finish during the month of September.  I did it last year, and came nowhere near to finishing (in September anyway--I did finally finish in December), but worked on some new techniques.

This year I'm doing it again, and am working on linocuts.  I LOVE linocuts (and woodcuts, and just about every other printmaking technique) and have some major projects I'd like to do with them, but I have no skills.  I actually cheated on this challenge and started early (only two days early), and boy, is there a learning curve.  But I figure there's no way to get the skills without making a LOT of them, so that's what I'm going to do--29 faces (because I do love faces).

This is #3.  It is 4" X 6", and it's the third  proof after small amounts of additional cutting for each.  The first thing I did after I had the image transferred to the linoleum, was start cutting in the middle of the hair--yikes!  We're so used to our marks being the dark things that I did that without thinking.  On this print, I touched my finger to the rolled out ink after I pulled the print, and dabbed it into those spaces, because it really looked awful.

This is #4.  It is 3" X 5", and it's the second proof.  For the first one, I was trying to have a mid-gray, with close together lines.  It didn't work.  It looked stupid.  I'm not sure this is any better, but alas.  I think I really need to be thinking in much simpler terms.  This is NOT pen and ink where you have lots of latitude for subtlety.

This is #5.  It is also 3" X 5", and it's the first proof.  I actually really like this.  It's much simpler than the others, and I like both the shapes of the guy's face and how the thinner lines make his beard.  It's more the kind of graphic I think one needs for linocuts.