Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ink Packet Storage Rack

I know that it seems funny to let myself go on a tangent like this right now, but there's a skill that I want to brush up on. When I've got a booth full of prints, I'll need displays to show them off and allow customers to browse through them. I plan to design and build some gorgeous displays myself if I can remember how to run the design and carving programs that I use for that kind of 3D design.

So, here's the problem I'm going to solve in this test... When I get into a printing groove I mix up custom colors of ink. If there's some left on the slab, I wrap it in wax paper and save it for later. The problem is that I now have enough little packets that I don't remember what is there. For the dark colors, it's tough to tell what it is without at least partially unwrapping the packet. This takes time and lets in a little air to harden the ink. It'll be more efficient and the ink will last longer if I don't have to do that.

[Ink Packets]

[Design Sketch]

So I decided that I wanter a tall, skinny rack with 12 slots for the major points on the color wheel.

[Robot At Work]

After designing it, I laid it out for carving and set the robot carver to work.

[Cutting the parts free]

In order for the robot to carve, the pieces have to stay held in place with little "tabs" that I leave in between the otherwise free-floating parts. I have to cut through them with a box cutter to free the parts.

[Glued and clamped]

Then I smeared on some glue and clamped it up.

[Sanded and installed]

After a little sanding, it's done and standing in the corner doing its job. Now I can tell what hues of ink I have left over when I need to mix a new color. And, more importantly, I got a refresher on how to plan and design a piece of display hardware in the 3D design and CNC carving programs. Now I can let the design requirements for print displays to percolate in my subconscious while I continue with my printmaking education.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Reduction Woodblock, Foreground...

For the next reduction woodblock, I've decided to incorporate stencils and viscosity. Since I don't have lots of time for my printmaking education while I'm in the middle of weaving show season, I'm trying to combine as many things as I can into each test.

[Carved ditch]

One of the things that I'll be learning and practicing in my time at Constellation is the combination of woodblock printing and stencils. Because areas of the plate are being blocked out with stencils for inking, the whole background doesn't need to be carved away. The relief areas just need a ditch carved around them. Here's the plate, ready to do a viscosity printing treatment to the uncarved foreground area.

[Viscosity through a stencil]

In viscosity, a thinner ink is applied to the plate and used to resist the thicker ink that's rolled on afterward. Here, I rolled a thin yellow through the first stencil, rolled the bright green through the second stencil, and printed it. The thin yellow ink prevented the thicker green ink from sticking to the plate, leaving a yellow skeleton in the print.

[Inked for the second pass]

For the second pass, I carved the branch shape away. Because of the viscosity, the main branches will be yellow and the smaller branches will be green. The new, darker green will cover the areas outside of the branches.

[Carved for the third pass]

In the third pass, I removed great chunks of the remaining area to give a "checkerboard" effect to the areas around the branch. This last pass was printed in teal.

[Foreground result]

 Here's the final result of the reduction on the foreground area of the print. When I get some more time in the studio I will do more work in the background of this print. You can see from the marks on that part of the plate that I intend to do some kind of radiating aura around the branch. I can't wait to get back to it and see what I come up with, but for the next week I'll be romping with my friends at the Oregon Country Fair.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Reduction Woodblock on Washi

There are quite a few things that I'll be learning at Constellation Studios that I don't have much experience with. Japanese mulberry paper (washi) and reduction woodcut are among those things. For this test, I decide to kill two birds with one stone by doing a reduction woodcut on japanese paper. A secondary goal was to learn how much ink the japanese paper can take before it stops absorbing it.

[Three passes - yellow, gold, orange]

After each pass through the press, I carved away more of the plate, mixed up another ink color, and did it all over again. (Notice in the image above how the ink is making the paper more translucent.)

[five passes - red and brown are new]

[Back of the paper]

Five layers is the answer to my question. After five layers, the ink is pushed all the way though the paper and the new colors start to be rejected by the print. It's why the last brown layer isn't very dark.


It's hard to capture in a photo, but the paper fully saturated with ink is really quite translucent. It glows from within, an effect that can never be achieved with standard cotton watercolor paper or a surface-based printing process. This effect requires the ink to pushed into the paper fibers under high pressure.

[Final state of the plate]

I have heard this method of printmaking referred to as a "suicide print" because there's no going back. Once the plate is carved, there's no uncarving it. Reduction woodcuts are the original "limited edition" because there can never be more than were printed the first time. The block is destroyed in the creation.

For this test, I "suicided" my ink as well, adding more pigments the make the color for the next layer and destroying the original ink pool in the process.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Woodblock and Stencils

I'm currently preparing for my class and residency with Karen Kunc at Constellation Studios in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is an incredible woodcut printmaker who uses a few "simple" techniques to create spectacular work. (You can see some of the amazing work that she creates with these techniques HERE.)

In order to get the most out of my time with her, I have been practicing everything that I know we'll be covering. This is my first test of using craft paper stencils to isolate areas of the block for selective inking. This set of plates is pretty simple, they are the positive and negative of each other, giving complete coverage of the block between the two of them. The trick that I tested here was to create a set of stencils that matched the block and gave me enough wiggle room to roll the ink on consistently without getting it in other areas. As you can see, without stencils, rolling ink onto some of the "tiles" without hitting others would be impossible.

[Blocks and isolation stencils]

First, I ran the 8x10 craft paper stencils through the press with carbon paper to transfer the image to the paper. Then I cut out the separate stencil areas with an X-acto knife.

[One inking]

In this image, you can see how I did the biggest trick of this test run. It looks like I've achieved a radial rainbow roll, which we all know is impossible. As you can see, all I did was ink a linear rainbow (orange to purple) into each "petal" separately. Since the orange was always pointed toward the center, it gives the appearance of a fade form the center outward. Pretty cool, huh?

[Two inkings on one block]

[Five passes]

I then went on to do some tests that used all six stencils in various ways just to show myself what's possible.

[Variety of effects]

Now I just need lots of practice with these techniques so I can wrap my head around how to use them in my real work.