Posts Tagged ‘Druid Arch’

Druid Arch Woodblock Print in Process

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I’m working on a new woodblock print based on my destination at the end of Elephant Canyon: Druid Arch.

I was rather struck by this arch. To get to it, I had to hike through a canyon, then finally up a rocky hill. I scrambled up and over rocks to climb a couple hundred feet up the end of the canyon, before reaching a rock plateau that looked back on the canyon.

Druid Arch

Druid Arch, at the end of Elephant Canyon

When I turned my head to the left, I saw this tall arch, standing 100 feet up in the air above this plateau. I drew this arch then, and I am printing it now.

The colors and shapes of the desert strike me the most. The rocks are large, massive, un-moving, yet arches like Druid Arch look fragile, like the slightest push could topple the entire thing. The rock edges are smooth in places, weathered by who-knows how many years of water and wind, yet in other areas the edges are sharp and hard, where the water worked its way into the rock, eventually causing it to break apart quickly and fiercely.

The rocks themselves are rich reds, oranges and whites, cut by the dark shadows against the rock edge. Most of all, the sky in the desert is blue. It is vibrant, and when I looked at the arch with the sky behind it, the blue began to vibrate and pulse with brightness and luminosity.

It is a challenge to capture the entirety of this experience in a small printed image.

This arch stands up above a rock plateau at the end of a canyon I reached 6 miles into this desert canyon. It stands about 100 feet tall.

I sketched Druid Arch while I was out there, and I am developing this woodblock print from the sketch and from photos I took.

From the Grand to the Mundane

This weekend I found myself in the middle of process hell. I haven’t written much about process hell, but it is when my work consists of carving, mixing ink, rolling and printing blocks, making sure images register, cleaning up ink (and hands, and rollers), preparing paper, and other tedious bits of the printmaking process. All my work was printmaking grunt work over the weekend.

There was a bright spot, however. As I was working, I realized I was at an interesting point in the process that illustrates how a print is planned and how the image takes shape. I took a picture of the assortment of materials I was working with to show and describe to you. The numbered descriptions below the image describe each item in the picture below.

A Woodblock Print in process

A woodblock print in process of being developed (click to enlarge)

  1. Graphite and Color Pencil Sketch – Before I touch a woodblock, I sketch the image to solidify my plan. I started with pencil to get the overall shapes correct, then added color to figure out how many blocks I would need to do what I want. My plan is to use three blocks, one for the blue of the sky, and two for the arch. One block will print the light yellow areas in the sketch, another will print the dark areas shown in the sketch. The third color, the reddish brown color will be created by overlapping the two other colors.
  2. First Carved Woodblock – When I am satisfied with my sketch, I transfer the image to the first block. To do this, I draw a heavy line around the edge of the image with a soft pencil, my 6B or 9B. I then press the sketch against the woodblock, and rub the back of the sketch, making the pencil lines transfer to the block. The blocks that define the arch will be bounded by the blue of the sky, so I carved the sky first.
  3. Mylar Transfer Paper – After the first block is carved, I transfer the image to the other blocks. This requires a more precise process than when I transferred the sketch to the block (as described above). To achieve the required precision, I print the first block on a sheet of mylar. Mylar is a plastic, and the ink largely remains on the surface of the mylar (in other words, it adsorbs instead of absorbs the ink). I take a fresh block, align it with the mylar, and rub the mylar against the block. As long as I align the mylar with the block correctly, the result is a fairly precise transfer of ink from one block to another.
  4. Woodblock with transfered image – The process I described above results in a block with the ink from the first block transferred to it. I brush the block with Talcum Powder (i.e. baby powder, makes the block smell nice too). The talc absorbs into the ink, removing the tackiness, leaving the surface of the ink dry. This keeps me from smearing the ink and making a mess as I work on the block. You can see I wrote “light” on this block, to help me keep track of which color this block will print. This block will be the lighter color of the two blocks I print to compose the arch.
  5. Partially carved Woodblock – This block will print the darker of the two colors in the arch. I have carved away the area that will be printed blue, and I will carve away more from this block before I am done, to define the areas in the arch that will not receive the darker ink. When I finish this block, I will repeat the process of printing the image on the mylar, and transfer this image onto the second block (in number 4 above). The second block will then have the image from both of the other blocks transferred on to it, and I’ll be able to finish the carving process.

More Work To Come

The process is interesting, but tedious.

The most difficult part of the carving process is carving the second and third block, because these define the arch. The first block was fairly easy to carve, since it only depends on having the boundary of the arch with the sky defined. The success of the image will depend on how well the other two blocks work together to define the structure of the arch.

After the blocks are carved, the other challenge is picking and mixing the right colors to print. I spent the last week printing an edition of another woodblock print, only to realize, at the end, that I was unhappy with the color decisions I had made. I learned from the process, however, and I will be able to apply what I learned to this print of Druid Arch.

As of this writing, I have the second block carved and ready to print, I should be proofing this print later in the week, and start editioning the print this coming weekend.

Threading the Needles to Druid Arch

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Note: I spent last week in Utah, climbing and roaming around the desert in the middle of nowhere. These posts are about the things I saw, the places I climbed, and sometimes, the drawings I made. Previous day’s journeys include climbing to Angel’s Landing and weaving through Devil’s Garden.

From Wednesday, June 2

This is what I came here for. By mid-day Wednesday I was miles from the nearest person, on the top of a rock, alone with the stone and the sun, looking up mountains and down canyons at the magnificent earth around me.

Druid Arch

Druid Arch, at the end of Elephant Canyon

By 7:30 Wednesday morning I was on the road. I learned from Angel’s Landing a few morning’s previous, and cooked myself a big breakfast of eggs and chorizo to start the day. Back in “real life”, I rarely eat because I need fuel. I eat enough to provide the energy for my usual daily level of exertion.

The desert is different. Climbing up mountains requires fuel, and I became aware of my need of food for fuel on this trip.

Fueled up, I hit the road. Canyonlands National Park is about an hour and a half drive south of Moab. I drove south from Moab for 30 or 40 minutes, then along the road into the park for about an hour.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into three parts by the Green and Colorado Rivers. The Green River joins the Colorado river in the middle of the park, and they continue on together. In the North is the Island in the Sky, which I plan to visit on Friday, to the West is The Maze, the labyrinth of rocks and canyons that is considered the most remote place in the contiguous United States.

view from Elephant Canyon trail

The view just a few minutes from the Elephant Canyon trail head

I went to the Needles in the East, named after the rock formations throughout this area. They have been eroded in such a way that they bulge in layers, like soft serve ice cream poured badly, leaving a mound of lumps. These lumpy rocks stick up, resembling needles, hence the name.

A quick aside about Canyonlands: This park is far more remote than the Yellowstones, Zions, and Yosemites. There are no shuttles, no cafes, no plumbing, no simple guided tours. There is one road in to each of the three districts, and a small visitor center near the entrance. This park is not developed, and it is remote. Just what I wanted.

My hike started at Elephant hill, down the road through the Park, then down a dirt road for the last 3 or 4 miles. The trail immediately climbs up from the parking lot at the trail head. Within 10 minutes of walking, I was in the middle of nowhere.

The trail was easy enough to follow, thanks to the cairns (neat stacks of rocks) along the way. The trail took me up rocks, down through canyons, and along winding paths, until I hit the sandy bed of Elephant Canyon. A large portion of the trail is through this canyon, which serves as a wash during the sporadic rainy periods this area receives.

Pencil sketch of Druid Arch

Pencil sketch of Druid Arch

I followed the canyon until I neared the end, at which point the trail climbs up. The last bit of trail is a scramble up a hill of rocks, and it let out at a large open area of rocks, near the top of the canyon. In front of me was Druid Arch, standing 100 plus feet above me, jutting out from the surrounding rock wall.

I pulled out my lunch and my sketch book, and got to work eating a pear, an apple, granola bar, and plenty of water. As I drew, a raven slowly flew by, close to me, probably checking me out to see what I was up to.

I had this rock plateau to myself, nobody else made the hike out this far. I met a group of three girls coming back on the trail from Druid’s Arch as I was getting closer to it, but that was it.

Even more spectacular than the giant Druid’s Arch in front of me was the view of where I had come from.

The extent of Elephant Canyon and the rocks of the Needles stretched out in front of me, as far as I could see. The trail that took me here weaved through the canyon below those rocks, taking me 5 miles into the Needles.

I sat up here for a time, letting the dry heat soak into me, and looking at this still landscape. The only sounds were the occasional rustle of a small creature in surrounding brush, the brusk blowing of the wind, and my own shoes rubbing on the rock.

The view of Elephant Canyon from Druid Arch

The view of Elephant Canyon from Druid Arch. Down below these rocks is the canyon I walked through to get here.

I started on my way back, working through the process of climbing down the mountain, traveling through the canyon, and walking up and over the canyon walls to the trail head. My feet were sore, I was thirsty, and I was ready to sit down, but that didn’t distract me from the process of hiking out this canyon. My usual anxiousness to arrive at my destination was absent, and I was able to enjoy the process of moving myself out of this rocky canyon, back to the trail head.

Worn out from the 11 mile hike, I got to my car, took off my boots, drank water, and drove back to my campsite.

I slept well.

Next: Through the Fiery Furnace and Pictures from the Partition