Friday, November 28, 2014

A Drawing for Black Friday

This is Friday and not Thursady, I know I have promised a new post every Monday and Thursday. Please write me for a full refund of you subscription fees and I'll make sure to get those right to you.

In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of TUBEMAN! The Coelasapien. I would explain, but I'm sure you are more than capable of deciphering my subtle, subtle criticism of rampant materialism.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Misheard Lyrics

I need some sleep. 
My 3rd grade son really enjoys looking through my drawing books. He has his favorites and likes to tell me about them. He told me that his absolute favorite was the drawing above, My Drawing Books Preserve Me because, well, I guess he found the title funny. How can a book "preserve" you? Now this is funny because, as you will notice, the text actually says My Drawing Books Pursue Me and Intrude Upon My Dreams. (I had made this drawing because of an anxiety-laden dream I had about my books being destroyed in a fire no matter if I kept them at home or on my bookshelf at work. Either way I had to run into the burning building to save them. This idea of a burning book gave rise to another drawing that I will talk about on Thursday.)

So of course I started to turn that phrase over and over in my mind. What does it mean that my drawing books "preserve" me? How could I show that? I decided to further a theme that I've had going in this book for some time – that of things coming out of my head. On a yellow background. So I went with that and came up with this image.

Wherein books spring, fully formed from my head.
I showed it to my boy; he laughed a little and then went about his business of playing. Oh well, perhaps I thought it a more profound question than my 8 year old did.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


"So I says to 'im, I says..."
These are a couple of one-sided conversations. It seems the male humilobite on top is trying to have a conversation with an unwilling diplocaulus. He's having none of it. And the acanthostega is similarly rebuffed by the demure female humilobite on the bottom. Of course, the question to ask is, "What would a couple of humilobites have in common with some ancient amphibians anyway?".

Monday, November 17, 2014

On the Printing of Fish

I am a beautiful print and a delicious dish!
I have continued with my gyotaku experiments. This tilapia is probably my most successful attempt at making one of these prints to date. It’s pretty big at about 14 or 15 inches and the scales are really prominent. That has been a problem for me with the smaller fish like bluegills because the scales are so small that I have had trouble getting them to register as scales. This is only a problem with my technique as I have seen plenty of examples of other artists getting very fine scales to print beautifully. I’m getting better! 

I used water based relief printing ink on this one for a couple of reasons. Number one, it was done in-class and I wanted easy clean up. Number two, water based ink is very easy to dilute with water. I mixed a little Daniel Smith water based burt umber relief ink (which takes forEVER to dry) with some speedball water based black relief ink and went to town using a 1 inch flat brush to apply the ink. It all went very quickly, the ink was easy to apply and clean-up was a breeze. And that’s really saying something for any printmaking project.

There is a very large plecostaomus in my freezer right now that is begging to be printed. I tried to print it over the summer but failed miserably! I’m not sure why it was such a disaster, but I have a few guesses. First of all, I was using an oil based relief ink that was undiluted. It did not want to adhere to the fish at all and I think it was too thick – not juicy enough – to really get in between the scales. The scales are the other issue. The pleco has skin like sandpaper. Very, very coarse sandpaper. (In fact, I caught the fish with my bare hands in a little stream by my house. It was so rough that I had no difficulty just grabbing hold and dropping it in a bucket. A very large bucket.) I think these scales somehow repelled the ink; or maybe they held on to the ink. Whatever, the actual prints were terrible and even I, the man who keeps everything, threw them out in disgust. This was a shame since I had even set up the camera and was shooting a time-lapse video of inking and printing this monster. I deleted the movie because I was so disappointed with the prints. 

I think the success of the tilapia print has encouraged me to give the pleco another shot. Look for more gyotaku in the coming weeks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ha ha HA!

All this time you thought I was only working on my giant chicken linocut! But no! I was working on a clandestine print. It was all on the down low and very secretive. I needed some sort of a respite from all those ferns, so I switched it up to a different kind of leaf. Now, for the first time I reveal that I have been working on a linocut of sweet potato leaves!

This is an image of a common checkered skipper butterfly visiting some sweet potato blooms in my front yard. I was out tending to the ducks and chickens when I saw a few flowers on my sweet potatoes. They were a very lovely purple and white set against all the greens of the leaves. Add in a skipper butterfly and you have all the ingredients to a good linocut.

I actually made this piece for my wife who has long lamented that I don't make enough pictures with backgrounds. This is, of course, a matter of taste, but I can see her point and easily accommodate her wishes here. I enjoyed drawing and cutting this block and I look forward to watercoloring a few of them.

Look out for this print in my Etsy store in the next couple of days!

Here is the completed drawing on the block. I like a very finished drawing before I begin cutting.
After the drawing I put a very thin layer of ink over the image so I can get a clear sense of where I have already cut. 
This is the rather artfully posed block just before being readied for printing.
It needs a little cleaning up here and there, but I am well satisfied with this one.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Big Linocut Progress

It's been two weeks since I showed you my Big Linocut as I have it drawn on the block, so I thought I would give an update as to its progress so far. I made a couple of stop motion videos of my cutting process. It's a slow and tedious one – especially in the ferns.

This first video is a little choppy since I only took a picture every 5 or 10 seconds. I think it represents about a half an hour of cutting.

This one is better. I think it is smoother and it has some more fun animation aspects to it. Again, this is probably a half an hour of cutting (not including all the silly animations at the beginning).

So I have probably found five or six hours to carve on this block total. That's not a lot and as you can see, it's going to take me a while to get it cut!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

White on Black

This project that we gave our high schoolers gave them all sorts of troubles! Most folks are used to thinking in terms of black on white - you draw a black line on a white paper and then add value if you want to give volume to the form. But this assignment was to draw white on black. The darkest value was already there; the student's job was to draw in the lights without drawing a bunch of white lines. This proved to be almost impossible as I saw a lot of white line skulls. Sheesh.

On another note, this is one more point in my don't-ever-throw-anything-away-ever column. The surface I am drawing on here is the remnants of a black mat. There's a stack of these sitting in the art room just waiting for some good drawings!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prints in Need of Redemption

Very often prints of mine turn out pretty good. Sometimes, they are good prints that got marred somehow and sometimes they turn out to be... lacking. Whatever the case, I rarely throw them away. I keep them for experiments. 

There are a lot of my old prints that have been reworked like this. In fact, I made an entire drawing book - Concerning Religious Affections - out of failed woodcuts and etchings. They provided a wonderful texture and backdrop to the atmosphere of the entire book.

The following images were taken from the drawing books Concerning Religious Affections and Family Resemblances.

Woodcut with collage and gold leaf 
Left: Relief printed etching and linocuts with gold leaf
Right: Woodcut with collage and gold leaf

Left: A mess
Right: Woodcut with collage, gouache, and gold leaf