When Your Artwork Finds You Again

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Every once in awhile, I hear from former customers regarding work they purchased and it is always lots of fun to hear how they have lived with the work through the years.  I had such an experience last week when a customer from the early 1990s contacted me to ask if the piece he purchased could be used for a virtual art exhibition.  He then explained that he and his wife run an art and cultural center in an under served community in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The piece they own is called By Night and they want to feature it as a homage to healthcare workers in their community.

This was very meaningful to me on a variety of levels.  First, that the piece is being used to honor such an important sector of the population.  In addition, artists often wonder if what they do has any long term benefit.  Also, in this case, the idea that something I made in 1993 has not only been enjoyed all these years but has managed to make its home in Cyprus, where it has been displayed off and on and viewed by the local community.

I have thought of this piece and other similar ones recently because I have considered returning to work in this method, as it is very similar to many of the artist books I currently make. At that time, instead of making prints to be viewed as prints, I made them to be cut up and used as collage elements because I mainly worked in the medium of collage.  So the idea that this piece showed up to me at this time, is somewhat of a nudge to possibly work like that again.  

Though I have posted the piece above, I would encourage you to check out the organization’s Facebook page to see other works and events they have featured. It is a great way to “travel” while we are all home.   Check out:  Kuruçeşme Projekt.
https://www.facebook.com/kurucesmeprojekt/

Redoing an Unsuccessful Print

A few posts back I wrote about a print I felt was unsuccessful. I had some wonderful feedback and decided to redo the print.  The first thing I did was change the position of the girl. So unfortunately for the idea of a new working title she is no longer holding a “broken golf club” as per my friend Julie. Sorry Julie!   Many people commented they liked the sky.  I liked the sky too but I needed to adjust the color. My friend Claudia offered that she liked how the girl sort of blended with the background and also suggested I make the head a bit smaller. I did initially make the head smaller but then decided to give her hair a bit more volume which, in combination with the change in position, makes her appear at a three quarter pose which I liked more. The print is also 6 x 8 rectangle rather than a long thin rectangle.

So here is the final piece

Big Dreams
Big Dreams, 2020, Reduction Linocut. Ed. 9 Image: 6″ x 8″

And here is the original

A Poor print
Girl with a Broken Golf Club, First attempt, 3″ x 8″

What was a bonus with redoing this print was the the key block is very good and can be printed on its own and hand colored. A key block is the last color printed (generally black) and gives definition to the image.   Here is the key block and a printed image of the block.

Big Dreams and plate
Carved key block and printed image

Notice the image is reversed from the block. They is how block prints are. I used to tell my student that if they were going to write anything on their blocks, they had better figure out how to write it backwards!

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys: An Old Family Remedy

Coming home from our socially distant walk yesterday and reflecting on the current crisis in the world, my husband mentioned that when he was a little kid and didn’t feel well he would draw pictures of armies to fight the sickness.  I was immediately reminded of a similar scenario in my home where my sister would illustrate her tale of the Good Guys and the Bad Guys.  She would get pencil and paper, sit down beside me and told the story as follows:

Here you are sick with lots of bad guys outnumbering a small number of good guys.

sick

 

Then you take some medicine and the it knocks some of the bad guys out and more good guys enter the scene. (When she crossed out the bad guys, she made a noise like BOOM, BAM).

Medicine

 

Now you get some rest and a few more bad guys die off and a few more good guys join in.

Rest

 

Now you get some tea and/or soup and even more bad guys go away and more good guys enter the picture. 

Soup

 

Now you are all better. The bad guys are all killed off and shrinking in size and the good guys are numerous and large.   The good guys prevail!

better

As we all take precautions, may your Good Guys always outnumber your bad guys!

Bedtime Story ~ Completed Artist Book

Bedtime story full
Bedtime Story, 2020, Artist Book, Open view measuring 18′ x 16.5″

A week or two ago I had written about the process of making an artist book using my piece Bedtime Story picture above.  The piece is now complete with the exception of a slipcase which I am in no hurry to make at the moment.

As mentioned before, the inspiration for this piece was a documentary I watched on paper folding as well as participating in my grandson’s bedtime routine.  What I did not mention in that post was my longtime fascination depicting people of different ethnic and racial groups together.  This manifested itself with multicolored circles that represented faces; this was one of those personal symbols that showed up in my work off and on over time. So the various color papers used above are my current way of representing the tradition of bedtime routines throughout the many cultures of the world. It also struck me after this piece was put together that the people also resemble houses, another long time symbol in my work. Hmmmm….

A slide show of the entire piece is shown below.

This piece is dedicated to my grandson ‘Oti’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bedtime Story, 2020, Artist Book

Creating a False Deckle Edge on Paper

Mould and Deckle
Paper Mould and Deckle

If you have ever had the experience of seeing a really old document, you may notice that the edges look kind of “raggy”.  This is what is called a deckled edge.  It is called that because the uneven edge of the paper is formed by the part of the paper mould called the deckle, which is the frame like structure in the photo above.

Hand made paper
Handmade western style paper

In my post on making the book Bedtime Story, I had mentioned using a beautiful handmade paper I purchase several years ago. The paper measures approximately 6″ x 8″ but I also needed a few pieces that were about 3″ x 6″.  If I were to get out scissors or an Exacto knife, I could easily make a smaller piece of paper but it would like sort of odd with three deckled edges and one straight edge. So how do you go about getting a false decked edge? It is pretty simple but first a bit about paper.

The piece pictured above is western handmade paper. What that means is that the paper has very short fibers. If is also a relatively weak paper compared to Eastern style papers (often misnamed ‘rice’ paper) that are long fiber papers. So the technique I am about to describe works best with western style papers because the short fibers break apart easily when wet.

Apply water
Preparing paper to make a false deckle

After measuring where you want the edge to be, you take a soft brush soaked with water and brush it along the ruler edge. If the paper is very thick (which was the case with this paper) you need to do this several times until the water soaks through.  Then you pick up the paper and very slowly and carefully start to tear from top to bottom. The result is a false deckle that should serve your purpose.

Redeckled Edges
Creating a false deckled edge

Working Title for the Unsuccessful Print

In my last post I talked about a print that was not successful and asked for feedback. One comment I just absolutely loved from my friend Julie was she was struggling with what the girl was holding and thought is was a broken golf club. I busted out laughing and decided that will be the working title for this piece and any follow up efforts.  Thanks Julie!

A Poor print
New Working Title:  Girl Holding a Broken Golf Club

An Unsuccessful Print

It is important that I share my work that does not come out as planned as well as the work I am happy with. Let’s face it, for every good piece of work, artists (I know this is true for myself) make a few crappy ones.  Sometimes I just rework the same thing and other times I abandon the idea altogether or just put it on pause.    Below is a print that did not come out the way I had planned and I will talk about how it came to be and why I think it basically is not so hot.

A Poor print
Example of a print that did not come out as planned

The original idea for this is pretty much as pictured, a girl sitting on a hill over a stream looking at a big starry sky. The other things this work originally was going to include were a full moon, then a crescent moon, and a cat.  But for some reason, I removed the cat and made a different piece of work with a cat.  But that is another story.   So I decided the focus should be on the girl.

I also wanted to do a reduction linocut, which is a way to print in color. It has been a long time since I have made one and I wanted to see if I could still register my blocks properly.  So what is wrong with this print?  Basically, it is too dark. The one I photographed is a bit lighter but in the majority of them the ink is even darker than the one pictured.  So I decided to add some hand coloring to see if that perked it up.

A poor print 2
Same print with some added hand coloring, but it is still not working for me

It did perk it up a bit but not enough to my liking. So now what?  Basically, I love problems like this.  I will probably make this piece again as a drawing but I may also cut it again and print it in lighter colors.

The point is this:  failure is a great thing. Making art is problem solving.  My thoughts are lighter colors but if this was your work, what would you change?

New Tools, Yahoo!

tools
New stuff!!

Not long ago after getting tired of sharpening my lino cutting tool every three seconds and still not having it sharp I decided “Enough!”   I have been cutting with the same old tools for 30 years and had gotten used to their quirks so much that it never even occurred to me to look for something else.  But it did on that wonderful day a week or two ago.

So I called up the wonderful people at McClain’s printmaking supplies and asked a bunch of questions, thought about the information over the weekend, then called back on Monday and placed my order.  Today, packaged with great care, were my supplies, some samples of blocks, technical information print outs, and their beautiful catalogue. The catalogue is such a treat because it contains artwork submitted by printmakers from everywhere.

I have come to realize that dealing with specialty stores for something that is really important to you is really the only way to go. Great service and expert advice are priceless. And a bonus:  going through he catalogue, I came across one of my linocuts reprinted!

catalogue
From 2020 McClain’s Printmaking Supplies Catalogue

Process of Making an Artist Book

Several months ago, I watched a wonderful video called Between the Folds which went into great and surprising detail on the art of paper folding, also known as origami. The video covers way beyond what we traditionally think of and even gets into how the art form is also being used by scientists to study complicated problems.  So of course after the show was over, I got a piece of paper and started to fold it. The form that I liked the most is pictured below. It reminded me of a mother holding a baby.

Folded paper
Experimenting with paper folding

I saw this video not long after visiting my grandson. One of the things I enjoy most about my visits is participating in his elaborate and nurturing bedtime routine. I started to think of lots of parents and their children and bedtime routines, remembering the one we had with our daughter. It quickly came to me that this was the making of a “bedtime story”.  So I started to experiment with coloring papers and different types of papers thinking of a quilt like form to play with.

quilt squares
Experimenting with colors

After deciding on the colors I would use and folding a number of the squares, I pieced things together as seen below.

quilt together
Squares pieced together

While this may look nice, it was clearly not going to work. My overall idea was to have this structure fold up into one square that could be stored in a box, sort of like folding up a quilt and storing it and taking it out when you use it.  The other problem was that I wanted to add stitching and it was very difficult to stitch in this form. So after wresting with this for several weeks, putting it away and taking it out to think about it some more, I decided it needed to come apart.

Quilt pieces
Form now cut apart: what to do next????

Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the ‘quilt’ idea and not enough on the ‘story’ idea.  Perhaps putting equal emphasis on both: the quilt and the story?  I found some handmade paper I purchased a few years ago that spoke to me for no reason except that I knew they would be perfect for something someday.  That day came today. So here is the current version of the Bedtime Story, though it is still far from finished. The smaller squares are not yet glued down so this is a layout pictured below. I will post the piece when it is finished.  I am also documenting this via short (1 minute) videos on my Instagram account.

quilt book form layout
Getting there but not done yet

 

Postscript note:  you can now see the finished project here.