Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dragging Feet Syndrome

I've been having a tough time moving forward with the second lesson of my on-line linocut class, another one chocked full of good information, links and design issues to ponder. It includes an exercise that I've been eager to try - converting photographs to a design suitable for block printing. Yet to my total frustration, I am discovering that within my files of hundreds of reference photos, very few will convert to an effective dark/light value design. Too many medium values that I am not at the skill level to deal with. The exercise just before it helped me see better the nature of graphic design which is at the heart of linocuts - balancing the amount of light and dark space while keeping the design moving and interesting. Yes, harder than I thought. Even after several hours of sketching, going through my photo files and studying examples on-line yesterday, I still have not come up with something I'm willing to commit to carving into a block. I did run across a few photos that I successfully converted to black and white, so some progress there. And I took the plunge to carve a monogram, which was the first exercise in Lesson 2. You may recognize the conjoined letters as what I use on my Zentangles. I'm pretty pleased with the stamp (those little triangles in the "b" were a challenge), but it is about 1-1/2 inches in height - a little big for how I might want to use something like this so I may try something a little different on the back side of the eraser. (If you click on the pic, the stamp should show at actual size.)

In pondering why I was having such a hard time getting into the exercises in Lesson 2, I wondered if it were not because I didn't feel I'd finished what I'd wanted to explore in lesson 1. I was so unhappy with the ink I was using so wanted to try some of the paints I had on hand. I wanted to try different colors and printing on some of the fabric I'd pulled when discovering we'd be cutting leaf blocks. I'd looked at those 6 inch blocks and wanted to use the image for fabric postcards, which of course are 4 x 6, not 6 x 6. A partial leaf would be just the ticket so I used painter's tape to mark the 4 inch line and keep the paint off the part of the block I didn't want to print (tape is removed once block is inked). I have a lot of Liquitex acrylic paint from before I had a good source for paint specifically designed for fabric. I really need to use it up and this seemed a good place for that. I add textile medium to it to make it work better on fabric.

And my experiment was a success, in my opinion. This may be more postcards than I intended to make, but the size of the fabric was perfect for eight. Indeed, after I'd printed the first four, I thought to place the tape going a different way so the leaf would be turned in a different orientation and printed four more. Curiosity and indecision can lead to a lot of prints! The best thing though is I didn't have to endure noxious fumes and the printed fabric dries quickly. A quick heat setting with an iron and it is ready to work with within hours (although it should not be washed until air-curing for 7 days).

This fabric has specks of dull green in it - more so than shows in the photo. It just reminded me a bit of the forest floor. Of course, I could have mixed a second color on my palette so the leaves would not all be the same color, or blended the two to give a two-toned effect. But I plan to do some of that color variation when I add stitch to these, and you've got to stop somewhere with the play. I don't usually do mass production postcards, i.e. I tend to work on each as individual little quilts even if doing several similar ones at the same time. But in this case it makes perfect sense to layer this up as one piece for the quilting, then cut the stamped images apart to complete each postcard.

At one point I happened to look at the roller before adding more paint to it and saw parts of the stamp imprinted on it. Since I've not used a foam roller before when stamping, I'd forgotten about this added bit of design opportunity. I grabbed one of the pieces of fabric I'd used several year ago to wipe paint off foam brushes (that's the big spots oddly enough in the same paint color) and otherwise collect excess paint and rolled across it. The first swipe I'd pressed hard - more paint than I realized still on it and then it abruptly ran out once it circled full round. The second imprint transfer is above the first, using a lighter touch (click on pic for bigger view). Pretty cool, although as usual, I don't know what I'll do with it. 


The Inside Stori said...

Thank you for sharing your new found knowledge and insight! I had no idea how complex this process was to achieve good prints. Anxious to see more.

Sherrie Spangler said...

I'm loving these experiments!

Olga said...

This course seems really great, and you are getting so much out of it too. I love the roller offset pieces, and have found that one of the best things I love about printing is the accidental finds. You'll find just the right use for them, once your brain knows that they are there.

Wil said...

Jut continue with the drop cloth. It will turn out beautifully :-)

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila!
How good to read your progress!!
I like your descriptions, they are so full of details!
Your pictures are beautiful.
I hope you share the postcards when you finish them, I am sure they are going to be beautiful.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks for all the encouraging words and showing an interest in this recent diversion of mine. Lucia, a progress picture of the postcards is included in a new post!