Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Twin Sisters" (Wood Engraving)

2.25" x 5.25" (image) 3" x 6" (paper)
Oil-based ink on sand-colored paper with wooden particles and fibers 

This is my print for Baren Exchange #70 where the technique challenge is "in the style of/or Wood Engraving". My contribution perhaps falls into the category of "in the style of" since it is carved with a dremel (opposed to traditional wood engraving tools). The block used was end-grain Basswood. I completed an edition of 27 for the exchange and another limited edition of 15 to be used in a future promotional campaign for my book project The Nautilus and the Ammonite

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Elephant Skull"

2.5" x 4.75" (image) 3" x 6" (paper)
Oil-based ink on bright white paper 

This engraving is carved with a dremel and the block used was end-grain Basswood. The image is taken from my recent drawings from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science. Earlier this week I also made engravings of a Dolphin Skull and Buffalo Skull

Sadly, this is a one of a kind print. I'm experimenting with wood engraving for the first time with some unconventional materials, and after creating this Artist's Proof I damaged the block while cleaning it, so no further edi
tion can be printed. Live and learn. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Two Pumpkins

This week I was drawing pumpkins, inspired by a trip to the Brumbaugh Fruit and Fun Farm in Arcanum, Ohio.

During my kids' yoga class this week I decided to play around with adding color to this drawing, and a girl I babysit was sitting next to me decided to draw her own pumpkin. I like her drawing (below) much better. Mine might be a more accurate representation of the shape of the pumpkin in question, but hers more honestly captures its pumpkin bumbiness.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Buffalo Skull"

1.5" x 2" (block) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based black ink on natural paper 

It's my second such engraving (my first posted earlier today in preparation for this one.) The image is taken from my recent drawings from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science

I'm pretty excited about it. I want to play with my dremel more. Although I need to get some earplugs. My head is throbbing from the sound.   

"Dolphin Skull"

2" x 1.5" (block) 5.5" x 7.5" (paper)
Oil-based black ink on grayish paper (not sure what types of paper. It was in my scrap stock.)

This is my first "wood" engraving. That's in quotations because I didn't actually engrave wood. Instead I engraved a Resingrave block, a product created to be used in the same way as end grain boxwood, which is the material traditionally used in wood engraving. The primary reason to use Resingrave is the cost is much less. (I purchased it from McClains.) Anyway, I'm not sure how I feel about either the experience or the final product yet other than that I enjoy appearance of the brittle mark-making.

I also didn't use traditional wood engraving tools. Instead I used a dremel. This decision was partially made because of the cost of investing in engraving tools (particularly since I'm just trying out this method for now) and partially because my hands have been hurting more and more frequently after carving and printing. I found using the dremel to feel very similar to using a wood burner, which is to say I had to move it across the surface slowly, apply varying amount of pressure, and the resistance encountered was surprisingly varied despite the Resingrave's uniformity.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Fish in Vase" Monotype

9" x 12"
Createx Monotype Colors on 140 lb. watercolor paper

Inspired by the work I had my young students making last week, I made some of my own layered-primary-color monotypes. Not satisfied with any of them, but it still was a useful exercise and I'd like to try again soon. This was the best of the lot.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Skulls at the Wagner

More drawings made from the collection at the Wagner Free Institute for Science where I work. Last time was birds, this time skulls. I'll probably go back later this month.

I am turning a couple of my skull drawings into small engravings. I have some Resingrave blocks (a more affordable alternative to end-grain boxwood for wood engraving) that were just waiting to be drawn on and carved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Layered Monotypes by 3rd and 4th Graders

These are monotypes by students in my 2D Mixed Media after school class at the University City Arts League. Since it was a holiday and the public schools were closed I only had three students show up. But I liked their work so much I had to post it here. 

For the first layer, printed in blue, the students were instructed to cut out a shape which they taped to a piece of plexiglass. Then they rolled up the plexiglass with ink and removed the cut shape before printing. 

For the second layer, printed in red, the students rolled up the plexiglass plates in ink and then drew into them with Q-tips, then printed over the first print. 

For the final layer, printed in yellow, the students arranged torn pieces and strips of masking tape on the plexiglass before rolling it up with ink, removing the tape, and printing. 

I made an example along with them, but their work turned out much more interesting, as often happens in the classroom. That said, I think I feel inspired by my students to try this again tonight in my studio. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Drawing Sunflowers with Lysi

By now the sunflowers are bending over and all but a few have lost their yellow pedals. So this week Lysi and I decided to go outside and draw from ours before they are completely gone for the season. These are my favorite two drawings we did. Mine is to the left and Lysi's is below. Both are pencil drawings that we then elaborated on with watercolors and oil pastel resist and salt wash.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tub Toys: "Sneaky Snark"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the last of 5 tub toy woodcuts I made this week. The others were "Splashy Crab", "Sated Gator", "Sea Star Veneer", and "Gleeful Turtle".

Goodnight, pinky. 

Tub Toys: "Gleeful Turtle"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the fourth of 5 tub toy woodcuts I'm messing around with this week. The first three were "Splashy Crab", "Sated Gator", and "Sea Star Veneer". I knew I wanted to write some brief text in cursive before I knew what I wanted to write. I decided on "rip and tear" because I imagined the turtle was ripping open the wrapping on a present, and I also liked the contrast of the subtle violence of the words with the overall soft and cheerful tone of the image. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tub Toys: "Sea Star Veneer"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here is the third of 5 tub toy woodcuts I'm messing around with this week. The first two were "Splashy Crab" and "Sated Gator." Those two and the two that are coming are more cartoonish characters, where this tub toy was more of a flat, abstracted representation of the actual animal, thus I turned it into a sort of glib overlay. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tub Toys: "Sated Gator"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

Here the second of 5 tub toy woodcuts I'm messing around with this week. "Splashy Crab" was the first and is posted here

Tub Toys: "Splashy Crab"

6" x 6"
Woodcut with watercolors on Stonehenge

I made five small woodcut stamps of tub toys representing some other water-dwelling species that were also alive during the time of the ammonites and dinosaurs. They will ultimately end up in the background in the Nautilus and Ammonite book project, but for this week I'm having some fun adding watercolor to some of the proofs.

Another influencing factor here is that I'm currently teaching a "Chemistry of Watercolor Paints" unit to 8th graders through SNAP, and why should my students have all the fun?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Process (The Nautilus and the Ammonite)

I haven't typically shown much documentation of studio process on this blog in the past. I usually like to keep that to myself because I worry it will color how people view the final work. Generally I also feel that my experience as the maker of the work should be profoundly different from the audience's experience of it.

I'm sharing some process today because I thought it might be interesting to some readers and because I'm still very much in the middle of working something out that I've been at for a while (and then took a very long break from) and it helps me think to either say things out loud to someone else or in this case type them.

This will eventually (possibly) be the first double-page spread of The Nautilus and the Ammonite picture book project. The following text would be included:

The nautilus and the ammonite
     Were launched in friendly strife, 
Each sent to float in its tiny boat
     On the wide, wide sea of life. 

The idea here is that the title characters are somewhat infantile (thus the tub toys and kids' drawings) and perhaps meeting each other for the first time. This is just me working on the backdrop. I'm figuring out the placement of the background figures in the scenery; they are currently printed in black on acetate sheets so I can play around with placement. When I go to actually print them on the paper they'll be printed in a muted, blue hue that pushes them back.

I was originally going to go with this simple blue color backdrop with a sandy blue ground and the handful of figures printed in blue. I was thinking that less is more, and that the monochromic field and empty spaces would be more suggestive of a world that is at this point smaller for the main characters. I still might go that way, but I'm also toying with the idea of more layers. In other words, I'm deliberately attempting to rely more on my intuition. In other, other words, I don't  really know (at least consciously) what I'm doing.

This is not how I made my last picture book, Owl and Cat In Love. For that I first created a whole storyboard that I stuck to with the exception of a few minor details here and there. For this book I have instead some sketches of the characters in a sketchbook where I first started exploring the idea of taking on this project, and last year I made a dummy book with some vague sketches inside that serves as a storyboard, but it is really only the scaffolding. I have screenprinted backdrops and I've printed all the shells of the characters to collage onto those screenprints, and I've begun to make woodcuts for scenery details such as the linocut dinos and bath toys pictured here. But I'm not sure if there will be other collage or painted elements, and I still haven't decided if I'm going to hand write the text, collage it, or leave spaces for it to be added by a graphic designer.

Now I must decide whether or not to publish this post. Well, if you're reading it, I decided to hit "Publish." In which case, now I feel uncomfortably exposed, like the Wizard of Oz when his curtain gets pulled back. But it's good to get out of one's comfort zone. (And most likely only a handful of the few people who see this post will bother reading it.)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sketchbook Sunday: Birds at the Wagner

I first discovered the Wagner Free Institute for Science in 2005 while in grad school at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I took an elective Animal Drawing and we went on a field trip to the Wagner to draw from its collection of skeletons, fossils, taxidermy, and other specimens. After graduate school I continued taking trips to the Wagner to draw, but I ceased the practice as my teaching work piled up and then I had my children.

Today I work for the Wagner as an artist/scientist-in-residence with their SNAP (Science Nature and Art in Philadelphia) program, which uses art to enrich the science curriculum of middle schoolers. In between meetings and visiting public school classrooms I have had the time and opportunity to go back to the Wagner and resume drawing from the collection. It's a joy to return to this practice and I hope to make it a habit.