Archive for February, 2010

Poser Skates and Woodblock Prints

Saturday, February 27th, 2010
skateboard 1

Real skate

skateboard 2

Poser skate

You can tell how good anyone is at skating by looking at his skate(board).

If the bottom of the skate is all torn up, like the skate on the left, then they know what they’re doing. Skate’s get all torn up when they are used to grind and slide all over public curbs, handrails, stairs, etc. The bottom of the skate gets all torn up.

If the bottom of the skate is in nice, new condition, like the skate on the right, then they probably can’t skate worth a damn. If the bottom of the skate isn’t torn up, then they aren’t really skating.

So anyway, I can’t actually skate worth a damn. A dude I knew back in college working at the coffee shop gave me the deck on the left, after he had ridden it to death, and got a new one. The skate on the right is mine. Nice and shiny!

Back in Santa Cruz, I lived by a little skate park. It was little more than a bowl with a little box knocked out of one side. My roommate Luke and I would skate over to the park, and goof around. I could roll into the bowl and skate around it a bit, that’s about it.

Meanwhile, all the 10 and 11 year old kids would be tearing it up. These kids are as tall as their skateboards, and they could skate circles around me. It was always a little dis-heartening.

Oh, well. Big, 6′-2″ dudes have a whole lot further to fall before their head hits the ground.

Consolation prize

I may not be an awesome skater, but I can make decent woodblock prints. Just finished the latest one of these little things, the one I started the other day.

It came out kinda interesting:

Skater Woodblock Print 3

Woodblock Print, 4x4 inches, third in the series

Not sure what I’ll do with all of these yet, we’ll see.

Striving for Simplicity, and Skater Sketches

Friday, February 26th, 2010
Skater pencil sketches

Preliminary skater sketches

I’m one of those people that has a lot of stuff. My apartment always seems to be cluttered, I think that entropy is a little stronger than usual in my life.

Last night I reached a tilting point. I have been working late hours and not sleeping quite enough, and one of the results is that I have ignored a lot of the nuts and bolts of life. I spent last night tightening the nuts and picking up the bolts, taking care of laundry, dishes, and most of all de-cluttering my desk.

This morning I woke up to a clean desk with my computers, drawing supplies, carving tools, and the most basic of office tools. The simplicity and cleanliness breathed new life into my morning work.

A nice clean work space makes everything nicer.

New (No) Work

My emphasis on cleanliness kept me away from this series of skater prints I have been working on. I have one in progress though, so I thought I would show you how I make these things.

I start out with a few quick sketches, like you see on the right. These are little more than scribbles, to get the basic gist of the shapes, movement, and energy I am trying to get.

I think about the overall movement in the sketch first of all, then later I fill it in with the structural details of the body. It is very easy to draw figures that look stiff and sorta awkward, it takes a bit more work to make the figures look like they are moving. I don’t always completely succeed, but that is where my mind is.

Pencil Sketch

Pencil Sketch for the 3rd Skater Woodblock

Once I’m done with the quick sketches, I do a more fleshed out sketch, where I really work out how I want the print to look. Check it out on the left

I build up these sketches with darker and darker pencil lines. I start with a very hard pencil, usually a 4H, sometimes a 6H.

Quick note about pencils: Pencils are designated by how hard or soft the graphite is. Harder graphite makes a finer, lighter line, softer graphite makes a darker, “smooshier” line. The range is from 9H (the hardest), to 9B (the softest). HB is right in the middle, #2 pencils are typically HB.

Altogether, the scale is: 9B, 8B, …, 2B, B, F, HB, B, 2B, …, 8B, 9B.

So back to the sketch, I use a 4H to sketch the basic shapes. After I have gotten this fairly well determined, I use a 2H to continue to flesh out the drawing. I use the 2H until the drawing starts to take shape.

last I switch to a soft pencil, a 6B, to really nail the linework. These woodblock prints will be printed in black and white, with no grayscale. The soft pencil puts a very dark line on the paper, and it duplicates the effect that a carved block will have fairly well.

The other advantage of using a soft pencil is that they do not hold a sharp point for longer than a few lines. It is difficult to get a very fine line with the woodblocks that I am using, so using the softer pencil gives me a better idea of what I will realistically be able to carve.

Put it on Wood

Third skater block

Third skater block, carving in progress

When I’m happy with the sketch, I draw the image again in pencil on the block. I usually again start with the 4H, but have to be careful, because the pencil will scratch the block surface if I press too hard. I follow the same pattern as with the paper sketch, I switch to a 2H, then eventually a 6B. When the 6B drawing is done, I start carving.

As I carve, I continually remark the block with my 6B pencil, because the graphite smears away as I work. I also tip the pencil on the side, and rub it over the carved areas, to get an idea of how the block will look when I roll it with ink.

The carving takes a while, especially delicate areas like the hands and face. The block you see on the right is my progress after about 2 hours of carving.

The head and the left arm are carved, but that is it. This block probably has another 2 or 3 hours of carving to do.

And of course, what was I listening to when I worked on this?

  • CrucifixDehumanization
  • Operation IvyEnergy
  • Final ConflictAshes to Ashes
  • Bad Religion’80 – ‘85

It’s just punk rock.

To Sleep or Not To Sleep?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Sleep has been part of my schedule less and less lately.

This is largely due to this little series of skater woodblock prints I have been working on. While working on the 3rd in this skater series last night, I lost track of time (technically, this morning). Work, and getting stuff done, cuts into my sleep time.

Sleep may cut into my work time, but not sleeping cuts into my ability to be productive.

This, in a nutshell, is my dilemma. By sleeping less, I can spend more time working, but when I sleep more, the time I do work results in higher quality output.

Not Sleeping is a Fantasy

Back in college, my art school buddies and I would fantasize about a magic night that would never end. The night would go on and on, as long as we could stay awake working.

The dream was, once we fell asleep, the night would start again, and we would wake up, fully rested 8 hours later.

If we could stay up for 20 hours, 20 hours of work. 30 hours? 40 hours? That’s a lot of work to get done.

When I was getting my art degree, “who can have the most all nighters” contests were common amongst my friends and colleagues. I remember one time in particular when Richard, Luke, and I spent about 3 days in a row in the painting studio, and got a total of about 6 hours of sleep over those 3 days. We were no strangers to working long hours.

…but Back in Reality,

In college, it was easier to stay up all night working. I could sleep in and not go to class. I can’t do the same now. I can’t decide not to go to work on a whim.

My solution has been to work on this week’s project all night, and sleep in, losing my morning writing hour. The danger of this is missing the time for my second job, writing and marketing my art.

I’m working out how to work with this, and I don’t have a solution yet. My only solution has been to power through, and crash when my body tells me it needs to crash.

It may be sustainable for a week, but it is not long-term sustainable.

To sleep or not to sleep.

Any ideas?

More Punk, More Woodblock Prints

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Punk rock does it again.

I had fun the night before making a silly little print, so instead of catching up on sleep (I was only up till midnight last night though), I made another print. Another skater dude print. Good times!

Woodblock Print Skater Rise Above

Rise Above, 4x4 inches, Woodblock Print

It’s pretty much the same thing as I did before, a dude with a skateboard who looks kinda excited about the fact that he has a skateboard. Who wouldn’t be excited about riding a skateboard?

Actually, all this talk makes me want to grab my skate out of the closet and start bombing down these hills I live on. Anyway, I know I can’t skate worth a darn anymore, and 6′-2″ is a long way for my head to fall before it hits the ground.

This idea is just a repeat from the night before. I don’t know why I did the same thing over again, this isn’t on my schedule or anything, I just enjoy making these things. I may make a few more of these, we’ll see. I have to deliberate with myself. It’s not like these goofy little prints require a ton of practice, they are just fun.

I only printed 4 of these last night, because I was tired by the time I got around to printing. I may carve a little more on this, I think I want to see how it will look if I carve a white line around the figure, to separate him from the lines in the background.

We’ll see. Maybe I won’t carve any more. It’s just punk rock, right? Rise above.

Important stuff

This print was brought to you by some great early 80’s hardcore:

  • T.S.O.L.T.S.O.L.
  • Agent OrangeLiving in Darkness
  • SNFUAnd No One Else Wanted To Play
  • Black FlagThe First Four Years
  • Black FlagDamaged
  • MinutemenParanoid Time
  • MinutemenThe Punch Line
  • Redd KrossBorn Innocent

I can guarantee I won’t toil away my hours tonight, I got something to do. I won’t be home. If you were hoping that I would somehow have yet another of these little prints done tomorrow, I won’t.

It’s also punk rock to skip days.

All Work and No Play makes Deacon Listen to Skate Punk all Night and Make Woodblock Prints

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Horse Bites Dog Cries album cover

Horse Bites, Dog Cries by D.I. One of the better punk rock records ever.

I didn’t intend to stay up till 3am last night.

I’ve been in the Spice Mines (DayJob) all weekend, trying to get caught up for a deadline. This put a huge damper on my weekend, when I usually put in a lot of time working on art. I got home around 8pm last night, after a 10 hour day in the office. I packed up a few orders, and relaxed for a bit.

My mistake was to listen to “Horse Bites, Dog Cries”, quite possibly the most perfect punk rock record ever. I got fired up, and grabbed my sketch book. Then I remembered I have a bunch of small 4″x4″ woodblocks.

Before I knew it, I was sketching out an idea for a quick little woodblock print. 10 to 15 minutes later, I had a decent enough sketch on paper, so I re-drew the image on the block, and carved for a good 3 hours or so.

I rolled out some black ink, and printed up 8 copies of this silly little image. It’s not meant to be anything groundbreaking, just a funny little image of a dude on a skateboard.

skater woodblock print

Static On The Brain, 4x4 inches, Woodblock Print

I am gonna be wiped out all day because I stayed up till 3am, and my alarm went off at 6:30.

…though it took me till 7:15 to roll out of bed.

I have been a bit frustrated lately that DayJob has required all my time, and has put printmaking on hold for a few weeks. It felt good to make a little something. Even a silly little something.

What really fired me up was listening to some awesome music. This print is brought to you by the following albums (I listened to D.I. and Suicidal twice):

  • D.I.Horse Bites, Dog Cries
  • Circle JerksGroup Sex
  • Dead KennedysIn God We Trust, Inc.
  • D.I.Team Goon
  • AdolescentsAdolescents
  • Wasted YouthReagan’s In
  • Suicidal TendenciesSuicidal Tendencies
  • 7 SecondsWalk Together, Rock Together

All albums I recommend if you want to get your early 80’s punk rock fix.

A Few Things Learned

1 – Washi paper accepts the ink on the block far better than cotton rag paper. The paper I have been using for my last project is Rives BFK, a heavy, thick paper. It is meant for lithography or intaglio, not block printing.

A few weeks ago I placed an order for a selection of Washi papers. Tonight was the first time I used these papers, and the more delicate washi takes the ink far easier than the cotton rag paper.

2 – When an ink maker calls their ink “Intense Black”, they might mean it. This stuff is a mess, and is gonna be stuck under my fingernails for a good week or so.

Oh well.

The Real Lesson

The real lesson of this whole thing is not to listen to awesome music, because it will make you do awesome stuff, and you won’t sleep. This is the danger of Punk Rock music.

I will probably end up giving these away as promotions, or selling them for a few bucks. In this case, the doing was far more important than the product.

Woodblock Prints Are Always v1.0

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

A woodblock print, when done right, requires planning.

When I carve a chunk of wood from a woodblock, it is gone. No ink prints there. There is no ctrl+z. No undo. I can’t paint over it. There is no eraser.

Cutting wood is final, and a woodblock print requires planning.

When I print the woodblocks, it is an event, like a party I have been planning for weeks. A party is just the result of all the planning that goes into it.

When my subject matter is an array of leaves, I do not have to be exacting with my x-acto knife, I can let my hand influence the result as I carve. I don’t have to plan quite so thoroughly. In fact, I can sorta “wing it”. The art process is done as I carve the block (more on this “art process” soon).

This is the party where you run to the store, get 2 cases of beer, a handle of smirnov, O.J., cran, and some chips and salsa to throw on the table. Invite your friends and let whatever happens happen.

When making a woodblock print of a person, however, each line, each shape, and each cut is planned. Aftar all, a leaf that is a little off still looks like a leaf. A hand that is a little off looks funny, and amatuer.

I am thoroughly planning this party. I’m assembling the right guest list, arranging the seating, picking the music, and choosing the menu.

After all, this print has to be right. “Good enough” is good enough for some things, but not this print.

This planning is the artistic process. The creative and emotional decisions happen now, before I touch a block of wood. By the time I carve the blocks, the only decisions left will be aesthetics and design.

So, I’ve been drawing. The 4th version of this image is sitting next to me on my desk. The first was a small sketch, an outline of my concept (those that watch my flickr feed have seen this one). The next was a quick sketch on a larger size paper. I broke out the ruler for the third drawing to work out the space of the image (perspective, vanishing points, that sort of thing).

The current drawing puts it all together — I’m working on the breakdown of colors and on perfecting the details of the image, mostly the hands and face.

I’ve got another 2 revisions ahead of me before I put knife to wood. Since this next print will include an image of a person, I have to work and re-work the figure to get the drama and the pathos into it. Without that, the art is little more than decorative illustration.

If I were selling an ebook, or a video series, I could release version 0.5, then update everyone with versions 0.6 through 1.0 as I complete them (a good idea, with digital products).

…but I sell art. There can be only one version of every woodblock print, version 1.0. No updates are possible, no revisions are allowed once I sell you the print.

This means I have to work the image, and continue to work it, until it is ready for final release.

It’s keeping me busy.

101 things I learned from making 101 prints, Part 5

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

After finishing the 101 Woodblock Print Project (printing 101 all-different woodblock prints), comes this series of 101 things I learned by making these prints.

These 101 prints are for sale to email newsletter subscribers (sign up at left). They will be available to everyone in a couple week, but the price increases by about 7x. As a promotion, I am selling them for the price the materials and shipping cost me, nothing more. If you prefer to spend less money rather than more money, act now.

The last 20 prints are going to be uploaded to the sales gallery today, so all the latest, freshest prints are freshly available.

Previously, in this series of 101 things I learned by making 101 Woodblock prints:

The Last 21 Things I learned by making 101 Woodblock Prints

  1. If it starts to take twice as long to carve a block as you thought it would, relax, and get to it. Don’t take any shortcuts, you will be glad you didn’t.
  2. When you are happy with what you accomplished after a long day of work, that is following your passion.
  3. You may not always be passionate about following your passion. Gruel it out.
  4. Leverage your day job as much as possible, but don’t sacrifice performance. Remember what pays the bills.
  5. When you are stuck, not sure what to do next, do the first thing you think of.
  6. The first dollar that you receive from selling your artwork is going to feel really good. I still have mine.
  7. Framed art looks fantastic.
  8. Variety can extend your theme further
  9. Once you have a theme to work with, make small changes to add variety
  10. Get comfortable with selling your work, and accepting money for it.
  11. Learn how to sell your stuff. There are people that probably wouldn’t buy $10 bills for $5, unless you sold them on it.
  12. Don’t worry if you don’t feel excited when you finish. It just means you have bigger things to move on to.
  13. Plan for success.
  14. Keep working.
  15. If you get sick of your project, keep working.
  16. Keep working.
  17. When you are not sure what to do next, keep working
  18. Keep working
  19. When you finish the project, move on to the next, and keep working.
  20. Keep working
  21. Did I mention, keep working?

101 things I learned from making 101 prints, Part 4

Friday, February 12th, 2010

I know what’s been on your mind. After reading the first 20 things I learned, then things I learned numbers 21 through 40, followed by 41 through 60, you are dying to hear the next 20!

If you are new to this list, then you should know the story. I decided to make 101 Woodblock Prints, all different. I recently finished, and they are for sale to newsletter subscribers. Sign up if you wanna buy art for very few dollars.

So here are the next twenty things I learned by making one-hundred and one woodblock prints.

  1. It’s ok to waste some unused ink. You don’t have to use every part of the buffalo.
  2. There might be another use for that leftover ink though.
  3. There may be ways to use a woodblock that you initially did not think of. Look for those uses.
  4. Develop a fast, easy, and reliable registration system. The extra time upfront is worth it in the long term.
  5. Leaving a project unfinished because you don’t feel like working on it anymore is not acceptable. Or rather, it just won’t get you anywhere.
  6. Most art stores have a horribly small selection of relief printmaking supplies. Don’t count on them.
  7. Order from McClain’s Printmaking Supplies. They rock. Other places I’ve ordered from suck.
  8. Call of Duty is the enemy of productivity (though I am lethal with a silenced SCAR)
  9. Good friends will offer good encouragement
  10. Surround yourself with motivated people.
  11. It feels really nice when people like your art. REALLY nice.
  12. It’s even nicer when they email you and tell you they like it. HINT.
  13. Don’t expect everyone to get it.
  14. Feeling understood is one of the most nourishing things in life.
  15. When you get so tired you make stupid mistakes, stop working
  16. Nurture every relationship that comes your way.
  17. Seek out new relationships and connections to strengthen your personal web.
  18. The internet is a time waster. Unplug when time to work (do as I say, not as I do)
  19. When you pull the print off of the final block, and it looks great, it’s ok to actually yell a “woohoo out loud.
  20. When you hang your art in your window to dry, include a sign directing folks to your website. You never know who is walking by.

101 things I learned from making 101 prints, Part 3

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

After putting up the first 20 then the next 20 things I learned by making 101 Woodblock Prints, it is time for….

The 41st through 60th thing I learned by making 101 Woodblock Prints.

  1. “Eyeballing it” is not a reliable registration method
  2. White erasers can erase quite a bit, including stray ink marks on the paper.
  3. To spend the time it takes to make art good enough to impress chicks, you won’t have any free time for chicks.
  4. After 10 hours of work, beer tastes good.
  5. 12 hours spent focusing on carving 1 block is mentally draining.
  6. 3 hours, on the other hand, is no big deal.
  7. It takes a long time to make art, and a long time to market art. Doing both takes even longer.
  8. Decorative art is ok. People like it.
  9. Wood is more delicate to carve than linoleum, and also, it prints better.
  10. Cheap brayers will deteriorate over time. I already told you to get good ones.
  11. Your least favorite art might be someone else’s most favorite art.
  12. It’s ok to take risks, sometimes you will be surprised at the results.
  13. Sometimes you will be surprised at how bad the results are too.
  14. Pay attention to everything you do, it is information to learn from.
  15. Different colors have different pigment strength. Learn what’s what.
  16. Some colors are naturally transparent. I’m looking at you, Prussian Blue and Pthalo Green.
  17. Speaking of Prussian Blue, it is a surprisingly beautiful color.
  18. Always test the color on paper after you mix it on your palette. It will look different on paper.
  19. Trust your gut. If a color doesn’t seem right for a print, don’t use it.
  20. The most important influence on how productive your morning will be is the prior evening.

Check back tomorrow to read the next 20 lessons.

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101 things I learned from making 101 prints, Part 2

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I know. This list should have been 3, 5, 7, or 10 long. Not 101.

20 a day is a ton. 101 total is waaaay too many. people who like art, however, and thus, my website, are smarter and sexier than average. I have faith.

Don’t worry, most of these are mere trifles, and won’t require any thought.

There may be one or two hidden in there that have some nuggets of wisdom…

Without any more waiting, continuing from the first 20 things I learned,

20 more things I learned by making 101 Woodblock Prints

  1. Someone else might like most what you like least.
  2. Photograph your art during the day, in the morning, when you have the most natural light available. Indoor lighting is awful for photos.
  3. Give a print a night or two before pasing judgment. It might look better in the morning. Or worse. Either way, give it time.
  4. The color will look darker when it is printed than it does on the palette. Context changes how things appear.
  5. If you leave your computer on to take notes/post to twitter/whatever, you are gonna get ink on the keys
  6. If you are not careful opening ink jars and getting ink out, it will splatter, and your walls will look like a Jackson Pollock painting
  7. Order a LOT more transparent medium than anything else.
  8. People will take pictures of your apartment if you hang your art in the window to dry.
  9. Good ink is worth the extra 15 bucks a jar
  10. I need better brayers.
  11. Cotton rag paper isn’t the best for relief printing, even if it looks nice. Get washi.
  12. Do people care about what goes into making art? I don’t know.
  13. Watching TV in the background will just slow you down.
  14. Listening to audio books won’t slow you down.
  15. Listening to heavy metal will speed you up.
  16. Especially if it is Slayer.
  17. Especially if it is “Reign in Blood“, Slayer’s fastest album (210 beats per minute average!)
  18. Don’t cut corners.
  19. Also, don’t carve corners (or yourself).
  20. And definitely don’t ink the corners.

Curious what the next 20 lessons are? Click to read numbers 41 through 60, amigo. You can also read numbers 61 through 80, muchahco!