Now that Open Studios is over with I can start planning for the next big event(s) in my art life. On Monday I completed sketchbook #6 and started sketchbook #7 and them almost immediately felt sketchbook paralysis. Not on the first page since I start the first page the same every time with a collection of colors, my name and number and a quote to inspire me. But after page number three or four I started to feel blocked. The perfect cure was a walk around the Arnold Arboretum here in JP collecting fallen leaves. Now I need to paint them and their gorgeous fall colors in my sketchbook before they all turn brown! Following that is a workshop on Moku Hanga Japanese printmaking workshop at the Elliot School here in JP this weekend. Back to printmaking I go but with a big change in learning a new technique that I have been interested in for years now. In a week I will be in Maine...
After the holidays made a mess of my little studio I took some time to clean and clear it out a bit and focus on work. I got rid of a few broken tools and some old drawing assignments from my freshman art school days and suddenly I can breath again. I'm ready to work. Everyday. When I finish carving the block that I am currently working on and print from it it will either go in a drawer or a stack. I stack the larger blocks and put the midsize to small ones in a drawer. Then I can print from them whenever I want for years to come. But I will need to restock my paper supply first. That is always fun!
What are you procrastinating right now? I am the master of procrastination. Sometimes I will clean my whole apartment just to avoid writing an email. Currently I am procrastinating carving. My latest carving got started well enough and I am committed to the design (good thing since there is no going back on it at this point) and had grand plans to carve out one design every evening and I would be done in a month. It's been a month and I am not even half done. I got distracted making Rainbow Loom bracelets with my daughters, making Perler Bead Christmas Ornaments, watching Twin Peaks on Netflix with my husband and generally just enjoying life outside of my studio. Oh and I let the mess beast creep in and take over my tiny studio and once that happens doing work there is pretty much impossible. Anybody else procrastinating anything and how do you like to procrastinate?
Most of the time I draw directly on a block using a sketch of some sort to guide me. Sometimes I draw completely free on the block or even just carve and make marks without any guide at all. But sometimes I transfer a photocopied image from a book onto my block. It's kind of a pain in the butt but the results are worth it. I'm trying to do that in places with my latest block but the photocopies I made at the library just aren't transferring. Using fresh photocopies and using oil of Wintergreen has always worked but leaves my block so stinky that I don't want to be near it for a week or two. Now that the toner on the library photocopier must have changed I am going to seek out some less stinky transfer methods rather than hunt down a photocopier that uses carbon toner. The wax paper transfer method is the most appealing right now because I can use my own inkjet printer. But I could also damage my own inkjet printer which is less appealing. A trip to Staples for some transfer paper may be on the schedule today. I need to get this drawing finished so I can start carving. I need to start carving soon! I am feeling rather impatient at the moment.
Looking for my tribe on the internet and in the blog world. Reconnecting with some print making blogs that I used to follow before my children were born. There are some really great artists that I have been missing out on during these years I have been so busy with my small children. In particular I am feeling a bit disappointed that I missed out on this large collaborative puzzle block from 1000 Woodcut artist Maria Arango. Each zone is a puzzle piece that has been mailed off and carved by a different artist and then mailed back to be printed together. It looks really neat and I regret not having it together enough to sign up for it a year or two ago. Now I know that I need to keep my eye out for upcoming projects like this and maybe even eventually start one of my own. In the meantime I will keep making art, keep blogging, keep connecting with others and start a blog roll reading list on my website.
I am a relief printmaker and my material of choice to carve is wood. I've carved linoleum, potatoes in grade school, rubber and tiny erasers for stamps. But I always come back to carving blocks of wood. There is so much to love about the material. It is strong and durable and easy to take care of so I can buy in bulk and store them flat in a drawer if they are smaller or their sides in a corner if they are larger. I can print from a carved block for many years. Wood is a fun surface to carve and I like seeing how the personality of the block shows up when printed. That lovely wood-grain pattern is oh so nice.
From a blank surface of wood with endless possibilities to a carved and ready to print woodblock that can be printed from for years. A good design can last for years carved on a block of wood so it is worth it for me to take the time to get the design right and carve it with plenty of care and attention. I pour over reference books and my own sketchbook brainstorming for a woodblock design. Once I have one picked out and ready to go the first thing I do is stain the woodblock with some sort of light watercolor. Just enough to change the color of the surface then when I start carving I will be able to see my marks. Then I draw or transfer an image onto the block and seal it was varnish. Once that dries I am ready to carve. Mostly I use Japanese and Western carving tools designed for wood but I also use nails, scratch art tools, wire brushes and power tools to make marks in the surface of the wood. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to sixty hours depending on the size of the block and the amount of detail in the carving. This one was a moderately sized block with a good amount of detail that kept me engaged for about a week working an hour or two a day. Then I give it a final varnish before it is ready to print.
This morning was hard. This week is not off to a great start. I need a redo. After a fairly fabulous weekend the family is having a hard time adjusting to our ordinary week. The girls were fighting over everything this morning while I was trying to write and I was not handling the stress of it very well. Then it was time to take the big to school and drop the little off at a friend's house. Somewhere on my drive home while I was stuck in traffic I realized I was alone again and stopped stressing out so much. I am giving myself a redo and clearing my head and starting over.
Procrastinating art making is what I am currently beating myself up over. I don't have a clear project that I am working on and that is probably why it is so hard for me to use my time to create. I don't know what I am creating just yet. I know I need to do research and sketch and be ready to start carving a new block soon but so far the inspiration is not there. I need a schedule to pour over my books and do the research and the sketching to find the right design that I will love to print from for years to come. Something like the starfish block that I caved last winter. My deadline for myself is to be carving by winter and printing by spring. Carving can take a very long time so this deadline is not as forgiving as it may seem.
This post is a part of Just Write, an Extraordinary Ordinary writing project. My first attempt to join a group writing challenge.
Getting geared up to carve a large woodblock this winter and getting inspired by the patterns from the Textile Designs book that my inlaws got me for Christmas last year. So many awesome patterns to sift through it is such a great book for any artist. I am especially drawn to the page of black and white textiles of "half-mourning" from the late 19th century and early 20th century used to cover widows who had passed through the early morning period but not quite ready to wear colorful fabrics. Interesting but I am not sure where I am going with these just yet.
JP Open Studios is over and so is my daughter's 6th birthday party. What a busy, fun weekend! JPOS was a good experience that I would like to do again plus some more events next year. I brought a few carved blocks of wood to show people and had some really great conversations about art, sold some pieces and got to spend the weekend with other artists and art lovers. Really fun! Here was my panel. Some pins that I was giving away to children and the young at heart and my lucky 2 dollar bill. Thank you to everybody that came down and stopped at my booth and talked to me. This is why I make art.