Thursday, April 30, 2009

landscape - demonstration print for teaching relief block

Lake Superior shoreline study
five colour working proof print
speedball w/s ink on subi block paper
printed using hand burnishing

I am starting a classroom based printmaking project next week in a elementary school about an hour east of Thunder Bay. The students will learn to create several multiple colour relief block studies based on landscapes of the region.
The print pictured above is a piece that was created specially for this project. It is a study of rocky shore along Lake Superior. Will be using it as an example to show how to print a landscape using a combination of different types of relief surfaces (softoleum and scratchfoam in this case). It also illustrates how one can layer colours from different relief block surfaces to build an image.

Fig. 1 shows the initial pencil sketch which was scaled down to fit the softoleum block which became my master or "key" block.
fig. 1

fig. 2
Figure 2 shows the colour layout that I did in marker. This will serve as my guide for mixing my ink colours when the blocks are carved and ready for printing.
In figure 3 I have cut away the surface of a piece of softoleum with linocut knives. First I coated the surface using black permanent marker and then using my sketch as a reference I redrew the image on the black surface using a silver gel pen. The light silver colour lines and shaded areas were cut away to leave the surface areas that would determine the relief when it is printed using black ink. This material cuts very easily so I had to just lightly dig in with the tool tips to remove it. I wanted to create a bit of depth from the lower section so I went over that later with a larger U gouge blade to remove more of the rubber like material.

fig. 3

Fig. 4 is an example of a simple registration system for printing. One important observation I made is for exact registration the block height and horizontal level that the paper rests on the block should be about the same distance. Any variance in height can cause a slight misregistration when printing. To allow my paper to lay horizontally level on the 3/8 inch thick softoleum keyblock I found that a strip of 1/4 inch foamboard with a strip of matboard on top of this created a header bar to which I could pin my paper at the top of the registration board. What I did was tape this header bar to the top edge of a baseboard (cardboard). I also cut the baseboard to be the same size as that of the paper which is 23 x 30.5 cm (9 x 12 inches.) The paper was secured by applying four evenly spaced thumb tacks pushed through the paper into the foam strip underneath.

fig. 4

The blocks were secured in place for printing on the registration board by first centering the key block then taping strips of matboard around the sides and along the bottom edge. The additional blocks which were the same size as the key block fit into this U shaped brace. The paper was placed over top of the inked block, hand burnished and then carefully folded back and held down wiith one hand while I removed the block. Then you can remove the tacks and hang the print to dry until ready to print the next colour in which you match up the pin holes in the paper with the foam strip (the thumb tacks will fall into place easily when you find them.
A tip is to make a black dot by using a marker point around the pin hole on the foam strip. These dots can usually be seen through the paper. This helps to relocate the depressions in the foam where the tack points will depress when reattaching the paper to the board.

Fig. 5 illustrates several colours on the paper printed from the styrofoam (scratchfoam) sheets.
Sheets of scratchfoam were glued onto both sides of a piece of foamboard. First of all it made the block the same height as the softoleum block. The second benefit is that it also allows both sides of the block to be used.

fig. 5

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pukaskwa/Driftwood Beach - the finished print

Pukaskwa/driftwood beach
colour relief blockprint

Finally completed this study which started off as a single colour black and white print.
I wasn't satisfied with the hand colour application so made a decision to cut additional blocks and add in a majority of colour with ink. However a little hand tinting was still used in the driftwood and background foliage. It is hard to tell from the photo but the variations of the light washes of Payne's gray would have been too much work to try and capture printing off another block surface. It also simplified things to paint in the little area of green for the foliage as it is small and subtle. The ink printed a little darker than what was shown in the computer visualization, however the darker hues appear to add more drama which I don't mind at all.
The granular texture in the sand was created from the surface of a piece of wondercut linoleum which produced a grainy effect . This was intentional as the hint of texture added more interest into the image.
The two different colours of blue were printed from one block, the water section was cut away as a jigsaw insert, was inked seperately and then set back into place and printed along with the blue sky with one pass of the press roller.
In the process of printing an edition of 50.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pukaskwa National Park - driftwood beach

Continuing on with the blockprint series this is my most recent work. The above image is the first proof taken from the cut block which was printed in black ink onto Subi paper.
It is a landscape study featuring driftwood and washed up weather beaten logs that litter one of the many pristine white sand beaches located at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior.
I plan to apply watercolour to a few and then possibly a series of prints created with the addition of colour blocks. 

The block was glued down onto a masonite panel substrate and then cut with a variety of linocut tools plus one or two spitsticker wood engraving tools for fine detailing.
I refined the image a bit more with some additional cutting of the block. There is now better definition of the background foliage and also the water to the left side of the print.
The image developed by referring to a couple of digital photos that were taken last fall when we visited the park. Once again I blackened the surface of a piece of linoleum (13 x 18 cm or 5 x 7 in.), however this time used a golden cut variety instead of battleship gray. This allowed me to see the block as it would print (only in reverse) as the lighter areas of the block material would appear as white on the paper.

Below is the freehand sketch on the linoleum surface made with white Sakura gel pen.
The attachment below that is of the block during the cutting stage.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wolf lake relief block with watercolour

Wolf Lake - North View

Here is my first attempt at the application of watercolour into the image. Since the paper is a slightly textured 250 gsm rag suited for printmaking it also accepts the washes of the watercolour very nicely. The print was secured to a birch board by fastening with butchers tape around the edges to keep it from developing a permament buckle from the wash application.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wolf lake - working proof

I have cut the block and decided to print a test proof. The block had black oil relief printing ink rolled on and was printed onto Subi white blockprinting paper. I spotted a couple of areas that will be refined a little more with cutting tools before the final print is made. My intention is to print this in a single colour (black) on ph neutral paper like Coventry rag or Somerset. Then watercolour will be painted into the image.

The block size is 13 x 18 cm (5 x & inches).

Below is an example of a print I did in 2007 titled Lake Marie Louise which incorporates this hand colouring technique into a single colour of ink printed on to watercolour paper.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Block relief landscape - Wolf Lake, Northwestern Ontario

Here is the start of a new study. It is a depiction of a place called Wolf Lake, which is found in a remote wilderness area about an hour and a half east of Thunder Bay (a bit of drive in off the trans Canada highway) near the small town of Dorion. It is accessible by a bumpy surface gravel bush road which follows the western shore of the lake for a good part. I had the opportunity to visit Wolf lake in August 2008 and from the many photos taken that day this sketch was derived. The shoreline on the eastern side of the lake is defined by escartment and cliff face giving one spectacular views from both above and below.

The area is part of the Ouimet Canyon geological system. The Wolf River flows out of the lower end of the lake and southward until it empties into Lake Superior.

The freehand sketch was made using Sakura gelly roll white and silver ink permanent marker onto a piece of battleship linoleum which has been darkened with a Sharpie Chisel point permanent black marker. The next stage is to mount the lino onto an equal size piece of masonite board to keep it flat for the cutting and printing stages.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cedar waxwing block print - mid stage developments

Continuing with the new block print I have now created a second block from which the colour ink that defines the background sky will be printed. However first I decided to mount the linoleum keyblock onto an equal size piece of masonite board to help keep it flat and also allow a better application of ink with the roller. I simply glued the two pieces together and set a weight on top until the adhesive had completely dried.

For the background sky block I am using a piece of easy to cut vinyl mounted on top of masonite. This keeps it the same height as the keyblock and will not create an offset on the print paper due to height variance. I traced an outline of the bird and stump shape with carbon paper onto the easy to cut vinyl and then cut it away with a U gouge knife blade. I also trimmed back the material around the perimeter of the block surface (about .3 cm or 1/8 inch). When I overprint my opaque black keyblock the black line will cover over this gap.

Easy to cut vinyl mounted on masonite board and inked using a roll blend from dark to light

My Japanese soft rubber brayer hanging on hook with blend roll of ink applied to the (24 cm or 9.5 inch long) cylinder awaiting application on the block surface

The background sky block is printed first (ink was applied using a blend roll where dark and light blue are blended together and applied by roller onto the block). Notice the white open areas that define the shape of the bird and the tree stump. These will remain white underneath the black key block outline and will allow me to apply watercolour to add the colouring in the bird.

The block ready to be printed using the press roller. I will set the paper over top and secure that usingthe three hole punch (the blue plastic and metal on the left hand side. A thin paper board is set over top of the print paper and it is passed under the press roller transferring the ink to the paper.

I have decided that the variation in colours in the bird itself would be a bit tricky to cut blocks to print due to the small area of colour needed, therefore I will apply watercolour into this area by hand. I have cut back all the line (aside from the perimeter border) on the key block to allow the bird to stand out. The colour blend in the background will act as the area of interest around the bird but not take away from the focus.

Next post will feature the key block printed over top of the blue and one of the first hand coloured finished prints.