Thursday, November 26, 2009

· Progress Report #2 - Carving

So, having designed the image, and having already carved the first part (the whale), I set about carving the red squid portion of the design. I drew the image on a grid, and each square of 7/8" got blown up to 3 1/2" on the linoleum (each section is 13" x 13", to fit in the window panes of the door which inspired the project in the first place... which presented some problems in that linoleum really only comes in pieces of 12" x 12", so that in a few of the panels seams show where I had to add an extra inch to the blocks to fit... you can see such an extra piece in the middle of the photo below. I still like the way it looks, however).

It was a fairly simple process to take the smaller image and draw it on the larger grid, I would just look at an individual square and think "Okay, so this tentacle passes just under the upper right corner, and continues on the the middle of the left side", etc. Old school! You can't get a perfectly exact reproduction of your initial image this way, but that was part of the fun for me, to let the idiosyncrasies of the carving process take the image in somewhat new directions. I was especially taken with how well the process of carving worked with the subject matter of these undersea creatures in mortal combat... the details of a Sperm Whale's hide really are a tracery of gouges and scratches in a huge field of color (I was lucky enough to see Sperm Whales in New Zealand, and they really barely look alive, they are too big to take in). When I was carving in the small details, like the wrinkles around the eyes, for instance, I would use a sharpie to make the lines pop out more and be easier to visualize. Overall, the final design was very close to my original drawing.

The tricky part was trying my best to make sure that the squid blocks lined up correctly with the whale blocks. Using the grid, I would line us the blocks up, one on top of the other, and use an awl to make little punch marks at the edges of where I would have to carve away the black block to show the red image (for instance, where a tentacle lay over the whales body). I tried to be very meticulous, but I won't really know how well I did until I print the black over the red and see! Yikes!

Okay, that's it for now... I'll be back next week with a post about the actual printing of the thing, with the extraordinary assistance of Aaron Cohick of New Lights Press. Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

· Downy Woodpecker at SFSU

I spotted this little guy a couple weeks back while I was checking out some Pygmy Nuthatches in the trees on campus at SF State. They are actually cutting down a lot of the trees lately... I don't know why, I'm sure the groundskeepers have their reasons, but it is still sad and I hope that these birds which rely on the Monterrey Pines on campus for their food and habitat won't be displaced!

Today, Hannah and I took a morning walk through Alamo Square, Buena Vista, and the Panhandle, and saw the following:

Scrub Jays
Anna's Hummingbirds
Black Pheobe
??? Warbler
Red Tail Hawks
Chestnut Backed Chickadee (?)
Giant fungus fruiting from a tree

I'll be back later this week with a pic of something we found yesterday which is really exciting and will be the source of a Bird Brain-related project in the coming month!


Saturday, November 07, 2009

· Print Project - Progress Report #1

I have been slowly chugging along on a large-scale linoblock print for a month or so now... as always with me, the process was in fits and starts, I'd do a lot of drawing one weekend, carve the linoleum another, but there would be huge gaps in between where the whole project got shelved.

So, I was delighted when I ran into Luke, the manager of Giant Robot SF, at APE, and he asked me if I had anything I'd like to include in the upcoming Printed Matter art show (Dec 5). I'm really honored to be included in such a terrific show (I haven't seen the line up yet, but the print show I worked a few years back was excellent, and I'm sure that Eric and Luke are doing a bang-up job curating this one), and it has lit a fire under my ass to get this project finished.

I'm going to be updating this blog with progress reports for the remainder of the month, as I finish my design, carve everything, and finally pull the prints. This is certainly the biggest and most chalenging printing project I've yet to embark on, so I'm sure that it will be a learning experience for me, and perhaps interesting for you, too!

Part 1 - Design

The impetus for this work comes from the realm of interior decorating, as it happens! About a year ago my girlfriend Hannah and I came across a construction site... they were refurbishing a house and there was a very nice window frame sitting outside. We asked the contractor if we could take it. "Sure thing", he replied, "but what about these, too?" Inside the gate there were dozens of frames in varying states... We picked out a few especially cool ones: a very large (35" x 48") picture window and a eight-pane door. The picture window I used as a frame for a beautiful but battered canvas I had found in an abandoned house in Oklahoma, but we weren't sure what to do with the door. We ended up putting panels of decorative paper in each of the panes for our holiday party last year, which was fine, but we both really felt that it wasn't engaging enough.

After ruminating on it for a bit, I realized the long format of the door would perfectly frame the image of a whale. I love nature illustrations and nautical imagery (Moby Dick has long been at the top of my "favorite books" list), and I liked the idea of the design, a huge whale, being chopped into smaller panels, a bit like a comic, or the painting Nila byWalton Ford, one of my all time favorite artists. With that in mind, I drew out the design:

Then I spent a Saturday afternoon carving it from linoleum, expanding it by grid from a 14" x 7" drawing to eight 13" x 13" pieces (so the whole thing will be big, over 2' x 4'!):

But I decided that the design wasn't quite "there" yet. The compliment to the piece was more inspired by color than anything else: I had been slightly obsessed with black-and-red print designs (I'm planning on using that palette on the next issue of Friends), and the black bulk of the whale conjured in my mind a red counterpoint, as if the colors themselves were having a battle of dominance. So I added in a Giant Squid to battle my Sperm Whale, drawing it in with red gouache. I'm really pleased with the result.

So now I've got to do some more carving, jigsaw piecing the squid in with my completed whale and mounting all the pieces onto plywood. I'll have another post up this week with pics of the carving process.