Working hard or hardly working? It's been the latter for a while now, and finally this week I've been putting in my concentrated efforts in the studio to get ready for events and Christmas. Its fun to get back to working when you have some events to look forwards to. My movable press will be hosted at the Frame Gallery in Bryan, TX, for Dec First friday. Visitors to the gallery will be able to print a small keepsake card while listening to some good music and browsing some great art in the gallery. I've spent time matting and packing my small prints for the night. It's grown into a nice little pile by now.
I also had a vision of a winter scene that I really wanted to execute before Christmas to send out as gifts to some friends far away. It's moving in the same direction as my last engraving with a donkey; experimenting with composing and carving landscapes.
I felt quite lost at how to represent snow and snow covered trees in black and white, so I only did a loose sketch on the block before carving. I thought maybe I'd try some stippling, but then quickly figured I did not have that kind of time to use for this block so started carving lines instead. I still ended up using stippling in some small areas to vary the mark making a little bit. (All the photos are snapped with my cell phone, so excuse the quality)
It took a while to carve the image with the kids running around, but it was finally done yesterday and I took the time to set it on the press at night and tear paper. Which brings me to Studio Hack # 1
Ever been tearing paper with an average metal yard stick? It's flimsy and likes to move around on you when you tear paper making for curved tear lines. I finally had enough, and decided to do something about it. I have a short ruler with cork on the back, which is lovely to use, so I wanted to transfer that idea with the least amount of effort to my big ruler. I didn't have any cork at home, but did have a bit of faux suede from Joann's, which was the perfect material to use. I cut a strip of it about the width and length of the ruler, used some spray adhesive sprayed on the back of the ruler and carefully laid the fabric on the top.
Presto chango, ruler that does not slip ready to go! The fake suede is perfect on the paper, it has a nice grip and needs now minimal pressure to stay put when tearing paper. You can even see in my picture that the cut job for the strip is less than accurate, but it still works great. I'd assume that any fabric that has some tack against paper would be good for this.
Now back to printing! Here's some pics of the block on the press and printing. Ink, was a mix of some black and blue.
I decided to try to print this on my Korrex flat bed press, which as usual turned out to be a great learning experience. I've always printed my engravings on my proofing press or the adana mini press, but since this was "larger" (4x6! lol, for me), I thought the Korrex would be good for the job. Getting everything ready to print took a lot of proofing and tweaking and makeready, but as I went along it came apparent that it would be impossible to print this with only the press rollers. Which I probably should have known before starting.
The two issues to solve were:
1- the surface of the block was not even from the manufacturer. The top and bottom edges had big dips in them, making it impossible for the press rollers to ink them up while inking the rest of the block properly.
2- the block has both areas of very small detail and large solids of the tree trunk and sky, where varying degrees of pressure and amount of ink is needed to transfer the image properly.
First I needed to use a bunch of paper to get the block level so that it would ink up evenly.
Then I used a sheet of transparency for the makeready. This was a sheet that was passed through the press under the sheet of paper every time. It was easy to add tissue to by taking the proof, then tearing pieces tissue paper and putting glue on it, then placing it glue up on the print and placing the transparency on the top of the print and tissue to glue them together. You can see the final makeready with lots of tiny tissues stuck to it in the picture below.
After all the fussing with tissue paper all over the place, I still needed to supplement the press rollers by inking by hand certain areas that were lower. As printing went along, it ended up just being easier to ink the whole thing up by hand and not adding any more ink on the press rollers. When I do this the next time, I'll remove the rollers and just hand ink.
Studio Hack #2 Drying rack
If you are printing at home and don't have room for a normal drying rack what do you do? Use a clothes drying rack instead. We got this while in Germany for about $20, and the three racks go down and the whole thing folds to about 3" deep so its great to store behind a door or in the garage. And it obviously doubles as our clothes drying rack too. Here is one I found on Amazon.com for sale.
Yeah, it's only 3 levels, but since I print small, I can fit a lot per shelf, and when its full, I just start another layer on the first one. But there would be no room in our house to keep anything that does not fold down and now I can print, transfer my prints to this rack and let them dry out in the garage, without worrying about the kids getting their hands on them or trying to move around a drying rack in an already cramped space.
Here's a last shot of the prints drying. They'll be available in my etsy shop in the next week or so.
If you are in the College Station are in December, come and visit me at the Frame Gallery in Downtown Bryan for first friday. I will be setting up from 5.30pm to about 9pm.
I hope everyone has a great Thanks giving break! I'll try to post some pics from first friday sometime after the event. I've got one more print hack to share, but this post is long enough as it is, so we'll save it for next time.