15 October 2017

White Line Printmaking

Blue & Gold by Constance Brewer  7" x 7" White line print on Stonehenge paper. Daniel Smith watercolors.

Updates have been thin on the ground of late because I was pushing to get my latest print done. The Blue & Gold Macaw pictured above. It's a bit different from my usual relief printmaking in that it's a white line print. What is that, you ask? How is it different from the usual lino or wood cut block?

The following from Jeanne Norman Chase as written in 1999 on the Baren Forum.

"White-line woodblock printmaking began in 1915, the first woodblock printmaking unique to the United States. Western artists admired the Eastern traditional type of woodblock printing made by the Japanese artists. The Eastern art form required several blocks of wood to produce a finished print. The Western printmakers of 1915 created their own style of woodblock printing using only one block of wood.

The method started with a group of six artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts and this new form of woodblock printmaking became known as the Provincetown print, or white-line woodcut. Their work has been exhibited worldwide, and recently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

The registration was uniquely different since only one print at a time would be printed. The side of the paper was tacked to the board and folded back, in the same way that a book would open. This would keep the registration lined up at all times and the print could be left while other prints were inked.

The paper is attached to the left edge of the block with thumbtacks, then gently folded back. This makes the register. The paper is repeatedly lifted and printed so this method keeps the paper in constant register.

The lines are cut into the block with a V-shaped cut of the knife. The lines remain white in the finished print, as only the raised areas which are left receive any color. It is a relief print in reverse.

To print a color, mix it alone on a palette. Apply the paint to the area (or areas) that you intend to print. Fold the paper down on top of the block and rub very gently over the inked area with the wooden spoon."

This method takes a while. I started working on the prints in August, figuring I would have plenty of time to do 20 prints before the Oct. 31 deadline. Here it is the 15th and I'm just getting done. I had to learn on the first few prints to put enough color on first time. My prints were coming out too light otherwise. I also found that I couldn't do more than two prints in a sitting, because the woodblock would retain the wetness and cause some areas to spread. I also decided next time I did this I would a) cut the lines deeper  b) use a bigger woodblock,  and c) only make 4 or 5 prints.

Since this was for a Baren Forum Exchange, I needed to make 20 prints to exchange with the other participants. I'm going to get 19 other white line prints in the exchange, how cool is that? The extra print goes to Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA) in Portland, Oregon to be archived.

I love these print exchanges because I get so many prints from artists around the world. I study and learn from them. If you'd like to see some of the exchanges, go to the Baren Exchange Gallery and click on any of the active links. Some outstanding work there. Now, onwards to more prints, and some 'Underground' work for the Gyroscope Review cover. Art never rests.

24 September 2017

Reflections in Bronze

Finished bronze Native American at the foundry.
Last week I was lucky enough to tour the Eagle Bronze foundry in Lander, WY. "Eagle Bronze, Inc. has been a worldwide leader in the creation and manufacturing of high quality bronze sculptures and stainless steel fine art sculptures since 1985. We specialize in custom bronze sculpture, outdoor bronze sculpture for your garden or front of your facility, sculpture restoration, repair, casting etc".(from the website)

We got to see all aspects of what it takes to cast a bronze, from taking the maquette, turning it into a plaster mould with an inner silicone or latex liner that captures all the detail, pouring in liquid wax, removing the solidified hollow wax model, removing any mould marks and seams on the wax. Even fingerprints will be duplicated in bronze if they are there.

Then a ceramic shell is built up around the wax model, it is placed in a kiln and the wax is melted out. The ceramic shell is placed on a bed of sand and filled with liquid metal, in this case, bronze. Once the shells are cooled, the ceramic shell is broken away and the bronze sculpture is revealed. Then it is just a matter of chasing the seam lines and polishing. Eagle Bronze can also cast in stainless steel. Casting a big project can take a year or more.

Some of the sculptures are so big, they have to be assembled, cleaned up and coated with a patina, then cut apart in order to ship, to be reassembled where it is going to be placed. They also make bronzes down to the small tabletop size. Artists come from all over the world to supervise the process of casting their artwork, including Arturo Di Modica, who did the famous Wall Street Bull. Eagle Bronze also did the cattle drive sculpture in Pioneer Plaza in Dallas, TX, that consists of 49 bronze cattle and three bronze trail riders. 65 bronze cattle are planned.

Rather large horse. (Photo snitched from Eagle Bronze website)

Another huge horse being assembled and polished.
Horse parts waiting to be assembled. That leg part is about 6 feet long.

Stainless steel shark being polished to a mirror finish.

Lion broken out of his mould and being finished.

Large sculpture of a bear chastising a little Native American boy. What you can't see is the little arrow sticking out of the bear's backside. Love the expression on the bear's face.


10 September 2017

Printmaking Progress

So part of my vacation included taking a printmaking class. This one focused on relief printmaking but used a Vandercook Proofing Press instead of an etching press or a baren. I've never used a proofing press, so it was an adventure. First we used different kinds of alphabet type to run prints, then they became the backgrounds for other prints. In setting the type we learned the odd terminology of typesetting and using a Vandercook press - placing 'furniture', quoins, keys, lock-up, platen, cylinders, packing, pressure, ink distribution and proofing. Whew!

The next day we brought our lino blocks and locked them in the press bed using the 'furniture'. We then ran prints using plain paper of different weights, and also used some of the pre-printed type images we made the day before. I used Tinman, a linoblock I carved in class. You'll see some of the variants below, along with another print I did cutting pieces out of a flexible medium that had a sticky backing. We stuck them down on an acrylic block positioned on the press. And locked in with furniture, of course. (Furniture is blocks of wood in various lengths and thicknesses that are used to position the block on the press and keep it from moving. Quoins are small metal rods that can be expanded with a Key to help make the whole thing immobile.)

After we finished with the press, there was still cleaning it, a lengthy and smelly process involving dismantling the press rollers, cleaning them with rags and solvent, cleaning underneath where the rollers were, and reassembling the whole thing. So if you wanted to do multiple colors, you spent a lot of time cleaning. Or you printed in one color and did another the next as we did.

What I learned in that class can be applied to my etching press and home studio. I have various blocks I've carved and will be printing them in the next few months. I also am doing a white line print for a Baren woodblock printmaking group. It's a new process for me, a bit tedious, but I think I like it. Those prints coming soon.

What did you do on YOUR vacation?

Dachshund print that refused to play nice in the press and kept fading. Hand printing for the naughty doggy.

27 August 2017

In a Pickle

Last hurrah for autumn.

One thing I love about the coming of fall is the bounty of produce available. I start plotting what to can during the summer, subject to change with the whims of the Farmer's Market. Cabbage for sauerkraut, Bok Choy for kimchi, Carrots and Cauliflower for pickled vegetables, Lemons for preserved lemons, Onions for relish, Fruits for jams, and a big favorite around our house, Cucumbers for pickles.

We generally only make two kinds of pickles, Kosher Dills, and Bread and Butter pickles. This afternoon I put up 8 quarts of bread and butter pickles. That should last us the winter. I think. Something about the sweet and sour taste, and the crispness that makes them irresistible.

Fermented foods are supposed to be good for your digestive system. I have no reason to doubt it, besides, they just taste good. We make all the pickled vegetables including the ever potent kimchi, kombucha, beer, sourdough bread, yogurt. I haven't gotten into making kefir yet, but I think that is coming. Also on my hit list is pickled beets. Anyone have a good recipe?

So what are your favorite pickle-ized things?  Anyone make Lemon Curd?  What other foody things do you have to share?

Pickles in waiting.

And still waiting. These are very patient cucumbers. I recommend them.

Super secret pickling concoction swirling in the pan.

Before and after. Ready for transformation. 

14 August 2017

A Few Words on Revision

Hay bales in the pasture. 

There seems to be a common misconception that because poetry is often short, it’s easy. 

It’s not. 

Good poetry takes work, and part of the work is revision. You may get lucky, and create a poem that needs little tightening up or tidying, but those poems are rare exceptions rather than the rule. A lot of people say, “What ever comes out of my head, onto the paper, that’s it. It’s a poem.” The feeling is that it either works, or it doesn’t work, either way the implication is that further revision is unnecessary or a waste of time. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most novelists wouldn’t let their first draft see the light of day, why is it acceptable for poetry? It makes poetry seem like the ugly stepchild of writing, not worthy of the love and attention given to longer works. Raw emotion puked onto the page isn’t enjoyable for anyone. Is it the excitement of creation – the instant gratification- that attracts the non-revisionist? Or the fear of taking a hard, critical look at the writing? Why not make the poem be all it can be, instead of kicking it to the curb right after it’s born? 

Revision is hard, it’s unpleasant, and it makes us doubt and question. Being honest with your poetry is the toughest thing you’ll do. If you can’t critically evaluate what you’ve written, how are you going to take the criticisms of others once your poem is let loose in the big, bad world? And they will criticize. Poetry can be written for oneself, but really, what is the point? You know your truths. You want to share/inflict them on others, or else you wouldn’t put them down on paper. Good poems should leave your senses bruised and battered, and at the same time, awed. They should inspire you in some way – as writer, as reader, as human being.

The fear of revision often comes from the fear of change. Changing even one line of your poem can mean altering its intent and message. Perhaps it’s meant to change. Maybe what you meant to say slipped out, but not in the manner you intended. Maybe you shoehorned the poem into a form it’s uncomfortable with. Is the real, true intent of the poem lying somewhere beneath the surface? You won’t know unless you dig down and pry away all the extraneous dreck that creeps into poetry in the name of ‘art’. If you want people to see the nuggets of truth, you need to scrape off the surface dirt and let it shine on its own. 

Poetry can be one of the most painful writing processes in terms of procedure. You can hide the truths in a novel length work, sneak up on them, and approach them obliquely. Even with short stories the approach is more leisurely. Due to its sparse nature, poetry is pretty much a head-on collision. If you can’t stare down the fierce-eyed headlight of the poetry train, get off the tracks. Write something else. You’ll be doing yourself and others a kindness. Poetry is not for the transient, the dabbler, the weak of purpose, and those with timid heart. It may sound harsh, and it’s meant to. If you don’t want to work at writing it, I don’t want to read it.
“So although the goal is universality, the poem’s arena of achievement is necessarily constricted and the poet’s attitude one of precarious transparency. Good poetry thus produced is cleansed of dross, of falsehood, and everything extraneous to the representation of the poet’s primary subject, inevitably an affirmation to the ideals in question. “Good” applied to poetry in this sense points to its moral significance, which coordinates the poet’s psychological need with an aesthetic aim in the interest of creations that exceed a narrow construct of either. The cure of poetry is the achievement of the poem’s rescue from an accumulation of prosaic impulses that stanch the spring of feeling and idea.”
Kinzie, Mary. The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose: Moral Essays on the Poet's Calling. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1993.

*This essay is a reprint of one of my previous essays.