slightly wonky

For the love of process
July 29, 2011, 9:50 am
Filed under: Fleeting thoughts..., printmaking

Not surprisingly…I’ve been doing some pondering on my work, as of late.  My classes have almost come to an end.  I know that this sounds odd…but that’s kind of a relief for me.  Classes are intense, as you work all week to prepare for them, then you have the class…then you’re back into prep. mode.  Just like any class, really…there’s homework.  I’m looking forward to a break from homework.  The good think about classes is what you learn and the regular schedule of doing work.  The bad thing is that it sets of a certain rhythm to what you do.  I need out of that rhythm for a while.

In this break between classes…I think that I’m going to really try to focus on the process behind my work, and relinquish all of my goals of product.  I know.  Why do that?  I think that my concern for making a good product is inhibiting, or taking some of the joy out of, the process.  Embrace failure.  This is not easy for me to do.  I’m kind of failure-phobic.  Not that I haven’t failed much…of course I have.  Lots of times.  I just don’t like it.  Well…now I’m going to try to get more comfortable with it.  Any suggestions on how best to do this…LET ME KNOW!

This week’s print class in Cambridge was a bit deflating.  I was running late, which already sets one up for stress.  Then, my prints just weren’t coming together.  It’s one of those cases where I probably should have just skipped class in order to provide some sanity, but I didn’t.  I went anyway.  I only managed to print three things before I ran out of steam.  I need to refill the energy stores.

That print above was not what I wanted.  I was also adjusting the pressure on the press, which didn’t help.

These colors are better…but the pressure the press was seriously off.  Final one:

Much better.  The pressure on the press was finally working for me.  See the fine lines in this one?  They were lost on the last one.  It’s a bit dark, but I was happy enough with it.

I recently went to the Danforth Museum to see their current exhibit.  This is a juried show, and there are lots of local artists in it.  I think that I knew at least 5 of the artists who’s work was on exhibit.  I loved it.  I think that the Danforth is my new, favorite museum.  If you live in Massachusetts…I highly recommend going now.  Such great stuff.  I think that I wrote down the names of around 20 artists who’s work I loved.  Here is a short list:

Philip Gerstein (loved it)

Gene Mackles

C B Forsythe

Mary Tinker Hatch

Rachel Hellmann

Suzanne Hodes

Ilana Manolson

Beverly Rippel

Kathy Soles

Zsuzanna Szegedi

Gerri Rachins

I intentionally didn’t include any names of the people that I know!  I thought that might be too biased…right?  Well, forget that, actually…  Catherine Kernan, Christiane Corcelle-Lippevald, Prilla Smith Brackett, Jill Hoy, Louise Kohrman, Adria Arch, Nancy Diessner, Elizabeth Flemings, Anita Hunt, Debra Olin, Iris Osterman, Julia Talcott.  Some of those people I actually know…some of them I am just familiar with their work.  Go see the show!


Woodblock finale and a bunch of other thoughts

Before I start rambling on about woodblock printing…I bought my son some big containers of tempera paint, and a long roll of paper this past week.  This is one of those purchases that is mostly for my son, but partly for me too.  I love the idea of splotching big blobs of paint on a huge paper.  Here is part of our creation:

I think that he had a good time with it.  He seems to like to just mix colors together to make “outer space”.  He’s not so concerned about making marks.  He also found large stones and a brick, which he brought over to paint.  So, even when you think you can imagine how a play activity is going to go…kids always surprise you.  It just might be that my son is not as into making art as I am.  Or maybe he is…but in less obvious ways.  Either way, it was messy and fun.

So, last night I had my last woodblock printing class!  It was such a fun class.  I love the bold, graphic quality of woodblocks.  Yes, some people can do subtle things with woodblock…but not me!  Here is my last block in process:

I realized, while carving this block, that I’m not such a fan of carving.  My teacher mentioned that she often listens to books on tape while she carves.  Good idea!!!  That might help.  Also, I think that the pressure of having to design and carve a block on a schedule makes it a little stressful and less fun for me.  I mean, I like to have a new block for each class.  But if I wasn’t constrained by my weekly class, perhaps carving would be more meditative, and less like a chore.  I’m wondering if I’m not destined to be a relief printer, because I don’t LOVE to carve.  Hmmm.  BUT…I do like how woodblock prints turn out…so this is a bit of a conundrum for me.

Here are the prints from yesterday:

I was somewhat happy with this print.  It may need something dark in it.  I’m not sure.  Once again, I decided to just leave it and think about it more before doing anything else.  Here is a detail:

I love those colors together, and I’m happy with my new block.  The new block is the red part of the image.  Here is the second print:

A bit simple, but nice.  The orange looks more yellowish in reality.  Detail:

It’s always an exercise in restraint for me to not add MORE.  Here is just a print of the block that I made last week:

This took A LOT of restraint for me not to add more “stuff”.  Sorry about the odd lighting in the photos.  It’s the morning, and I don’t have great light to take pictures with.  Here is the detail:

Brace yourself…there’s more!

I couldn’t leave that one alone, obviously…

I like this next one a lot:

It’s hard to tell, but the dark ink is a sort of plum color.  Very cool.  Detail:

The last one:


What do you think?  I’m happy with how this latest block came out.  It seems that no matter how many blocks one has…you need more!  That puts me back in the condundrum of carving…

So, I had a free hour yesterday, so I did a little gouache still life.  Now, bear with me…I don’t paint often.  BUT, I really enjoyed it.  So here is my bigger dilemma:  I love the way woodblock prints look…but I am not keen on carving.  I am not fond of my painting (see below)…but I enjoyed doing it!  So odd.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  I think that typially, people like to do what they are good at.  But in this case, I enjoyed doing what I wasn’t good at.  Very strange.  Here is the still life:

Yes, I know.  It needs help.  I am happy with how the silver rattle turned out…the other parts are so-so.  I think that if I had a nicer brush (one that didn’t have a fat, multipointed/ragged end), then I might have been able to do a bit more.  I know…excuses, excuses!

Woodblock printing = process:not fun / product:interesting

Gouache painting = process:fun / product:not interesting

What a dilemma! Does anyone out there have thoughts on this???

I’ve been reminded by a friend that I never followed up with comments on the Chihuly show at the MFA.  WELL…his work is pretty over the top and remarkable.  He’s definitely not of the “less is more” school of thought.  The pieces were really stunning.  I didn’t really like when they are all put together in a big, jumbled mass…like in his piece, Mille fiori.  It gets too chaotic for me, and the beauty in each piece gets lost to me.  It’s like a symphony where every musician is playing a difference piece.  Cacophony.  The individual pieces, however, are stunning.  The chandeliers that everyone knows well are really stunning.  He tends to use a single color for these, so while they are a bit chaotic looking, they have a unity that does not turn into cacophony, in my opinion.  My favorite part of the exhibit was the room with beautiful woven baskets, bright handmade blankets, and an enormous slab of wood.  The pieces in this room were subtle, delicate, and amazing.   I preferred these pieces over all of the others.  He had large, hollow glass blobs, almost like bubbles bursting, on that huge slab of wood.  They looked gorgeous.  So, I did like the Chihuly exhibit, and I think that his work is extraordinary.  I do feel that it can be a chaotic mess at times, and I prefer when it’s more subtle or unified in presentation.  Has anyone else seen it?  Thoughts?

Clouds collagraph
July 21, 2011, 9:56 am
Filed under: printmaking | Tags: , , , , ,

More collagraphs!  I’m continuing to work on collagraphs, which I find to be very fun.  This time, I decided that i would make prints with a full bleed.  What does that mean?  It means that the print runs to the edge of the paper, instead of floating like a rectangle within a larger sheet of paper.  I don’t often do full bleed prints…I’m not sure why.  They can be a bit messy, so perhaps that’s it.  (if you want to know more about collagraph, see an earler post this month)

Here is the first print:

I’m not sure why I’ve called it “clouds”.  I mean…it’s slightly obvious, but that wasn’t my intent while making the plate.  I think that there is something serene about these black and white prints.  They’re sort of cartoonish, in a way.  Comments?

In the next print, I incorporated some colored paper:

This feels very incomplete.  I will work on this more, but I’m leaving it for now.  It’s always good to leave something to ponder a bit before working on it more.  Two people in studio suggested, “red”.  Hmmm.

The last one is a bit odd!  Also very incomplete:

I layered in a very interesting paper that I have.  It’s very textured…almost like bark.  The texture does get flattened quite a bit in the press, but you can see the interesting edge to this paper in the detail:

See those curls at the edge?  So interesting!  I think that the rust colored paper is too long on top, and needs to be trimmed back a bit.  I like the overlap, but it may be a bit much.  Anyone out there have an opinion?

I am going to the MFA today to see the Chihuly exibit.  I’ve heard mixed reviews.  Because it’s so extreme, it seems that people either like it or hate it.  I’m not sure where I stand on it…as I’ve yet to see it in person!  Because his work often has “practical” applications…I been wondering if it doesn’t somewhat edge close to the world of “craft”.  I don’t mean gluestick and hello kitty scissors “craft”, of course…I mean Craft, with a capital “C”.  For example, there is a lovely museum called the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts.  I’ve only been a couple of times, and I’ve really loved the exhibits.  Anyway…it’s interesting that they had the work of a glass artist there, Josh Simpson.  His work is much more restrained than Chihuly’s…but I suppose that isn’t saying much.  Anyway, Simpson’s work is at the Craft Museum, not the MFA.  Why is that?  I wonder if that is purely a function of Chihuly’s international fame?  When does something move from “craft” to “art”?  I know…such a broad and hairy question.  Chihuly got me thinking about it…has anyone seen the exhibit?  Comments?


Teal woodblock prints
July 20, 2011, 10:00 am
Filed under: printmaking | Tags: , , , , ,

Last night’s woodblock class was pretty good.  I had a new block to incorporate into the mix, luckily.  I also spent the whole time printing, which is what I like to do.  I ALSO got to choose the colors, which is good.  Sometimes, I just use the colors that have been put out.  Last night, however, I selected the colors, which made a big difference for me.  I prefer when the colors are more transparent.  It seems that many of the colors that we use (which are previously mixed colors) have some white in them, which makes them a bit opaque.  This isn’t the effect that I want.  Perhaps next week, I’ll ask to mix in some transparent medium.

Here is the first one that I did:

I have no idea why the picture has such an orange cast to it.  Anyway…this print started with the yellow layer, then I printed the dark brown block, and last I printed the teal block.  I was moderately happy with it. I felt that the white was too constrained, though, so I tried again:

I’m happier with the white in this print.  Here is a detail of it:

As I only have two carved blocks in this series and of this size, I sort of ran out of ideas of what to do (besides mixing more colors).  I tried to experiement a little, but I wasn’t happy with the outcome:

Ech.  Needs work.  In mulling over ideas with my super helpful teacher, I felt that adding some “chine colle” or collage would help.  So, I took another piece of paper, and just started randomly printing on it.   I plan to rip up this paper and layer it onto the print above, in an attempt to help it along.  Here is the sacrificial page:

Kind of interesting, in an off-kilter sort of way.  I ran out of time, and couldn’t do more layering.  I also ran out of the bright ochre color.  Too bad!  I’ll see if I can mix up more next week.  I do like these colors together, though.  I also hope that I can carve another block.

It’s going to be another sweltering day.  I can already feel my brain dulling with the pending heat.

Can anyone out there recommend some interesting woodblock artists to look at? 

Anyone out there also doing printmaking?  (Do you have a website that I can look at?) 

If any of you out there have either an ipad or an iphone…there is an app that I would LOVE to have.   It’s “Wreck this App” by Keri Smith.  She is that super cool, highly unconventional author.  It’s basically an app for making crazy, messy art.  So fun!!!!  If anyone out there gets it, let me know how it is.  I want it…but alas…no iphone!  Here is the link to her blog which has a video on it.  What do you think????  So fun, right?????  I want it!

What’s wrong with collage?
July 19, 2011, 5:18 pm
Filed under: Collage | Tags: , , , , ,

Okay.  I know that many of you appear to be lukewarm at best towards collage.  This makes me sad!  I guess because I like doing collages…I’d like everyone to think that they are as super fascinating as I think that they are.  What about Kurt Schwitters?  Who’s that?  Well…only a super talented artist who did COLLAGES.  Take a look.  See?  No?  It doesn’t grab you? What about this one?

I also love Robert Rauschenberg.  A lot.  If anyone has one of his works that they are tired of, I would happily swap almost anything that I have for one.  So, take a look at this.  Or what about this?  I really love that last one.  If you happen to own it, email me to see if we would work out some kind of swap.

I think that most people think of collage as just stuff that one’s kid does in school.  Here is a collage that my son did:

Very cute, right????  I love it.  I also love how the kite is “upside down”.  But why not?  This often happens when flying a kite, right?  But I think that most of us would have oriented it differently.  I love that it’s upside down.

So, while I love looove this collage by my son…I do think that there is a difference between his collage, and the collages of Rauschenberg and Schwitters.  No?  I remember that Picasso has that famous saying, “I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.”  Isn’t that brilliant?  Sigh.

Anyhoo, I have a woodblock class tonight.  Luckily, I have a new block to print!  I also did a collage today, which got me started on this whole topic again.  Comments anyone?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Likes?  Dislikes?  Are there any collage artists out there to add to this one-sided discussion?

Collagraph and book review

I made a new collagraph plate this week.  What is a collagraph,  you may ask?  I’ll give you the description provided by the book that I’m also going to review.

“Collagraph is essentially an experimental form of printmaking which involves adding layers of adhesive or solid material to the surface of a printing plate, making it possible to incorporate both relief and intaglio printmaking methods on a single plate.” – Brenda Harthill & Richard Clarke

While some types of printmaking, like engraving, require pricey copper plates…collagraph is about using whatever you’ve got to make a plate.  It is like making a collage.  In fact, the word “collagraph” is based on the Greek word “kollo”, which means “to glue”.

For my birthday, I asked for a couple of books, one of them being, Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking by Brenda Harthill and Richard Clarke.  It is such a fascinating book.  It is not an in-depth, how-to guide.  There are only a few places where any steps to making and inking a collagraph plate are shown.  There are, however, many images of collagraph prints by various artists.  One thing that is particularly interesting about collagraphs is that it is often unclear how a print was made.  For example, a drypoint print is somewhat self-explanatory.  A hard plate (copper or plexi typically) is scratched with a sharp tool, and this is how the image is created.  But for a collagraph…who knows how the artist got the shapes and textures that they did on their print!  It’s suprising how very mundane things can be wonderful printing surfaces.  This is a great book if you already like collagraphs, but should not be your introductory book, as it mostly shows final products, not process.  Has anyone else out there read it?  Comments to add?

Here is my collagraph print this week:

and a detail:

I like this print.  It has a sort of surreal, Miro-esque quality to it.  What do you think?  This is a 9″x12″ plate.  Maybe I’ll make an even larger one!  I thinking about doing a large, full bleed print in this “series”.  Why not, right?  It’s just time, energy, sweat and tears, right?  Okay, that’s a little dramatic.  Maybe.

New woodblock prints
July 13, 2011, 9:40 am
Filed under: printmaking | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last night, I had my woodblock printing class.  I managed to get my act together and finish a block for printing.  I was initially sort of lukewarm about the block, as it seemed sort of flat and 2D to me.  But, after printing it, I think that it is interesting.  The first printing was with some chine colle, or additional handmade papers collaged into it.  My teacher provided the colored papers.  Here is that print:

It’s a bit of an overcast day, so it’s hard to get the colors right.  This image seems a little dark to me, even after I lightened it a bit!  The red paper is a scrap of beautiful handmade paper that my teacher had.  The small green piece is a scrap of paper that had been used in previous prints.  I’m really happy with this.

Then, I started layering this block with a small block.  I printed this small block at the last class.  It needed a lot of “cleaning up”, which means that there were parts of the block that were printing that I did not want to print.  So, I had to carve more to get rid of those stray marks.  Here it is:

I may try to print this one again, as I think that it would be better without the black, and with more white in it.  Here is a detail:

This last print begain with a ghost print of the large, blue block.  Then, I layered on some red with ripped paper stencils:

I think that my teacher liked this one.  I tend to overwork things, so I decided to just leave this one alone and not do anything further.  Here is a detail:

I like woodblock printing.  I think that having a class once a week is good, but it does add stress to the process.  I mean, you have to have something finished each week, or else you will waste your time at class carving.  I try to use class time to print, as that is a rare opportunity to use the press.  I can carve at home, but I can’t print with a press at home.  I think that the carving would be more meditative for me, if I wasn’t rushing to finish a block for class!  So, I can imagine that having one’s own press would help, even when carving.

Someone recently sent me this fabulous link to watch someone baking croissants.  Please watch, as it’s fascinating! It’s kind of scary how much butter in involved.  Anyway, I thought that if I ever get a press…and if I ever decide to stop printmaking, I could use my press for flattening out dough for pastries…who needs a rolling pin when you have a piece of precision equipment, right?

Hmmm…a pain du chocolat would be perfect right now.

Trip to Seattle!
July 11, 2011, 8:07 pm
Filed under: printmaking, travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

I just got back from a great trip to Seattle!  It’s such a fun city.  My brother, his wife and their two kids live out there.  We had a great time visiting with them.  We spent the 4th of July at the beach on Bainbridge Island.  I’m used to the weather being so hot that you HAVE to go swimming to survive.  Not so in Seattle…the weather was clear and warm, and the water was icy.  As a result, vegging out on the beach while the kids created general chaos was just fine for me.  Here’s the view we had at the beach:

Yes, that’s Mount Rainier.  I’m not used to being at the beach and seeing mountains in the distance.  Heck, I’m not used to seeing mountains at all.  Did I also mention that they don’t have mosquitoes?  I kid you not.

I have the usual array of tourist photos to show:



That’s a chocolate brioche from Fuji Bakery.  You must go if you’re in Seattle.  So divine.  I was directed to go there from the owner of Cullom Gallery.  I have wanted to see this gallery for ages, as it focuses on woodblock printmaking, especially Moku Hanga.  Moku Hanga is traditional Japanese woodblock printing.  Please go visit this gallery if you can.  The owner was so kind.  She took out all sorts of beautiful prints for me to look at.  I was thrilled!  In May, I took a Moku Hanga course with Annie Bissett.  Annie’s work is at Cullom Gallery, so it was great to see her work again.  If you can’t make it out to visit the gallery, definitely check out the website.

I have my own woodblock printing class tomorrow evening, which I have not prepared for.  I had dreams of working on carving one of my blocks in the evenings in Seattle, but no way.  I was completely beat by the end of the day.

Before I left on my trip, I did this collagraph print:

I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I plan on doing more like this.  Comments?

While it was a great trip, I’m happy to be home!

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