Saturday, March 28, 2009

early stages - new block relief print

In continuing with a bird theme I decided to do a study from a photo I took last year of a cedar waxwing perched on top of a dead birch tree stump.

I put the photo in front of me and then by eye sketched freehand right onto a piece of gray battleship linoleum that was first coated in black ink from a broad tip waterproof Sharpie marker. The sketch was made on the black using a silver ink extra fine point gel marker. It dries quickly and won't smudge when the lines are dry. The contrast is great and allows me to use the lighter line as my cutting guide.

For this study my plan is to leave a thin line in the keyblock that will be around the print. I also want to add colour so may cut and print several more blocks or I may just apply hand colouring, haven't really decided yet.

I cut away at the block with a variety of gouge shapes but mostly a large U shape gouge for the broad areas that will define the sky. I then carefully added fine line detail in the bird using a wood engraving spitsticker tool.

Then it was time to roll ink across and take a test proof to determine how much more I still need to cut away. It is hard to tell in the background sky what lines will show up until ink is rolled across the surface. Here is the resulting proof produced on bond paper with w/s ink.

I think the sky is a little busy for my taste so will remove more line (but leave a hint here and there just to add a little interest.) Adding colour into the print will also give it a whole new dimension so may do a marker or watercolour rough mockup first from which I can decide how things will work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A small photo based etching with hand colouring

The print above developed out of some shots taken with my digital camera last week. Using the zoom lens I was able to capture some nice studies of a small Northern Shrike who was sitting on a lilac shrub branch in my back yard. There is a good sized colony of finches and sparrows around the property who find shelter over the winter in a fair number of old growth spruce and cedar trees that border the yard, and a few predatory birds have been known to stop on occasion to make a meal of one of the small songbirds. Although I did not see this Shrike kill I believe that this was the case. This birds presence also signalled that spring is very close due to migration.

From the photo I was able to print a grayscale positive onto an inkjet transparency sheet, then it was exposed onto a small square solar plate (7.5 cm or about 3 inches square) with UV light from my homemade exposure unit. Followed this with a scrubbing in warm water to develop the image into the polymer and when plate was dry I filed the corners to round them. The sides of the plate had a bevel created by shaving the edge of the polymer coating with a sharp utility blade knife that was drawn towards me angled at 45 degrees.
An application of bone black oil base etching ink was wiped into the recessed lines, and finally the surface received a polishing using yellow pages torn from an old phone book. The image was printed into damp Coventry rag paper passed through my small etching press with 3 layers of felts set over paper and plate.

Once the print was removed from the press fastened the paper to a small wood panel board with butchers tape around the perimeter and when it had dried applied subtle watercolour washes to the image. I first painted on some liquid frisket in spots around the edges of the bird's body and the branch top and bottom. When it was removed it left whitish highlights of the sun defining edges.

Will print an edition of 20 (all variable) since they are going to have hand colouring applied into each one.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Stream - five colour block print

The final version of the block print titled The Stream.
Image size is 13 x 18 cm (5 x7 inches) printed on Zerkall Frankfurt 120 gsm white paper with Daniel Smith oil relief inks.
The edition size is 12.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

resuming work on recent relief print

I was away from my studio for nearly a week due mainly to a seasonal illness that made it very difficult if not impossible to perform any type of physical activity.

None the less have recovered to the point where I have resumed from where last left off. The time away did give me an opportunity to reflect on where I wanted to go with the image both in colour application and textural qualities, so have made a couple of alterations.

The first change is in the key block (the main black image) which is printed as the final colour to define everything. Additional small cuts have been made in the solid black water (central part of the print) to allow for a little more reflection of leaves in the trees. A few larger areas were gouged out of the linoluem in the immediate foreground to indicate a play of dark shadow with bits of lighter coloured ground revealed in between.

Decided to add another subtle colour into the print to define the rock along side of the water.

To achieve this have used thin non-corregated sheet card board as an alternate surface to create the relief. I am using the unused half of one side of an existing block (in this case the card block with the textured scratchfoam which creates the pock marks in the rock surface when printed in a slightly darker colour over the solid).

What I did was make a pencil outline of the rock area from my original sketch on tracing paper. I then marked off the corners of the block on the tracing paper for positioning on the new block.
I set a piece of black carbon paper underneath the tracing paper and retraced the outline onto the block. Then I traced the image outline again with the carbon underneath onto the thin piece of cardboard, the shapes were carefully cut out using an utility blade knife and pasted into the locations marked by the carbon outline on the block. I then sealed the cardboard with a thin wash of acrylic mat varnish applied by brush.

Here is a photo showing the block with the cut solid cardboard pieces in the lower half glued down and ready to print the solid subcolour areas for the rocks. The top half (the reverse side) is used as the surface relief to create the flecky texture darker tone in the rocks (it is printed over top of the solid colour.)

The block is inked up on the solid half (masking off the other half of the block using a piece of paper to act as a barrier). the block is then positioned in the brace and paper is placed over top and printed by running through the press. I then wipe off ink and apply a darker colour of ink to the textured relief side (same method) and rotate the block in other direction in the brace so that it prints over the solid layer.

The scrap of cartridge paper pictured below was used as to test proof the two colours printed one over another. The stains in the paper were made by tiny bits of oil which I didn't notice on the table surface after the paper was set down on it. This isn't an issue at this point, but when I do my actual printing on good paper it will be carefully set in a safe dry area to avoid any unpleasant accidents like this.

And finally here is the proof (without the blue and green layers) showing the main key block printed in black used to check that the edges match up according to the registration system (which they do.. woo hoo!). Unfortunately the speedball black water base ink I used for test proofing came out slightly blotchy on the paper as it had partially dried on the block by the time the print was made. I will be using black oil base ink for the final run. You will notice the little additional cuts I have made in the key block