Last February, we had a massive ice storm crush through our region. Our power was out for eight straight days. We had no heat, no hot water, and no practical way to cook. The house dipped to 50 degrees F during the daytime.
I was cold, tired from the crashing sounds of falling trees during the night, and anxious. Mostly, I became restless.
I remembered that I had an old pasta roller somewhere in the studio that I’d been saving for the right time. I’d read that, in a pinch, a pasta room could be made into a printing press. Could it be true? I loved etching copperplate in college, but hadn’t done it since. This was the time to try. I rounded up some paper, measured the width of the feed into the roller, and tore my paper to about 5×7 inch pieces. What to use as a plate? I’d also read that acrylic,plexi, or any stiff plastic could be etched with a sharp stylus. Using a mechanical pencil modified to hold a sewing needle, I cut plastic into shape and started to work. I draw quite a lot when planning paintings and have small moleskine sketch books filled with material. I simply laid the plastic sheets over the drawings and traced my work. The lids from old spinach containers became a favorite material of mine. It would hold a mark well. Using a piece of rough sandpaper, I was able to achieve what I hoped would be a toning effect, like aquatint. Here’s some early examples using water soluble oil paint as ink.
After the roller failed and the storm was over, I bought a cheap table top press online. Now I print to my heart’s content, bigger and cleaner prints with proper ink. I used water proof ink that I could paint over.
Have you experimented with alternative printing methods? I’d love to see what others get up to when restless!
Internet sleuthing is a tricky thing. I decided to put some of my own research here to help others that might be curious about making pigments from different sources. Knowing that copper is used to produce some wonderful colors led me to explore ways to make my own pigments for painting. Clay, metal oxides, and certain plants can be processed pretty easily to make pigments. Below are some examples of easily prepared pigments that can add a unique and local touch to your work. Hopefully, the vague instructional will be helpful as you explore your own ways of making earth into pigments.
Another note on earth pigments: Baking them at higher temperatures can make them darker, allowing you to create varying shades from the same type of material.
Now comes the copper. This was interesting but tedious. It does involve using varying forms of nasty chemicals, so use appropriate caution.
Silver point isn’t for everyone. If you’re a draftsperson who tends to erase a lot and make drastic changes while working, it may prove unforgiving. I, personally, love the challenge. It forces you to find your ‘zone’when working. Planning each step and making careful, steady marks- not for the faint of heart! The tones build up gradually, so working lightly at first helps mitigate your mistakes.
I was able to make my own metal point grounds at first, using zinc white gouache mixed with titanium white powder and gum arabic. The results worked, but the final result was a powdery surface. I mixed gouache colors to tone the surface resulting in an interesting pink tone. I was able to get highlights in areas using a fine grit sandpaper.
The Golden brand medium I purchased worked very well. I used it as the bright white, later adding watercolor to tone it to a sepia. I also purchased a proper 2mm silver point to use with my clutch pencil. It worked beautifully- much better than the earring peg I had mounted in a makeshift bamboo holder. Here are the results.
I’m not going to lie- this is a bit tricky to get right and requires some patience. If you have some time to practice and a steady hand, I believe you can make fantastic liner and round brushes that would be great for a variety of mediums.
Here’s what you need:
Large goose feather quills
Hair trimmed closely to skin from 1 or 2 salvaged squirrel tails
bookbinding linen thread
TiteBond 3 waterproof glue
small branches or sticks for handles
a sharp knife for carving
a jar with water
optional– sheet of silicone paper that adhesive wont stick to.
So, with the plague upon us, I decided to try my hand at something new. Woodcarving is something I have wanted to give a try at for a long time now, but have either been hesitant, had false-starts at, or hadn’t made a serious attempt to overcome the initial hump that comes with learning control of new tools. At the start of Oregon state’s lockdown, I decided it was time to craft a new bow out of yew wood. I haven’t posted anything about this hobby of mine because I really was new to it and hadn’t had many successful attempts. I have crafted near to 10 different bows out of a few different types of wood, and have found Pacific Yew to be exceptional material. I’ve had a few staves drying for about a year and decided the tedium and stress of a lockdown at home was the perfect time to give a measured and paced attempt. I worked pretty slow for a few weeks on this bow. When bringing the belly of the bow down to a drawable length, it’s important to follow the growth ring in order to get a strong even tiller on the bow. following the growth ring on this particular bow was challenging because I want the ‘spring’ and speed that a concave limb could give me. I need to use a hook knife to pull it off and in the process started to get a real feel for how to use these tools well. After I completed to bow, I decided I was going to tackle more complex carving projects- starting with spoons. Here’s a shot of the construction of my new bow, as well as a few shot of failed bows. A failing bow is heart-breaking but the things you learn are priceless. My new bow has already withstood about 2,000 arrows through it and I am confident it will last for a very long time. The last 5 photos are of the new bow.
Now on to my spoons. Much of the wood used for these was inherited from my Grandpa’s workshop. Each piece of wood I pick up, I think about what he would have made with it and what he may have had planned for it’s use. Many pieces actually have various notes written in his hand- usually measurements, but occasionally, notes like, ‘birdhouse’. At a time of isolation, especially from family, it’s been very connecting for me to learn this craft and use some of his tools while doing it. I like to think that he would have loved what I have turned his ‘stash’ of wood into. I wish I had more. I’ll have to stat building my own now. Except the oak- I have loads of oak to go through!
Here is yet another sketch of our new friend. This guy is so regal for a rabbit. I’ve never known a rabbit to be so particular or insistent as this guy. When it’s time to eat, he practically pulls his troff off the wall as he tries to push the door to his pen open. Here he is in a more subdued but kingly pose.
Parenting is challenging. You’re either hopping around like a crazy frog having exhausting fun, or strengthening your shell as tough discipline is necessary. Either way, you occasionally need to breathe and find a moment of peace, right?
Here is ‘ Up for Air ‘
Prints will be available on my etsy page, and the original is still up for grabs. Find me on Facebook and inquire if interested.
A few years back, I and my wife went back to Ireland. While I had lived there for a few years back in the oughts, I hadn’t really done any sort of tourist thing. We had a blast. I took a ton of photos with the intention of making some work out of them.
Here’s my go at capturing some of the beauty and charm of my favorite place in the earth.
My little girl is precious. Fawning over rabbits at the County Fair- telling us how much she wanted one of her very own, made my wife and I entertain the idea. We have an old coop that could be turned into a hutch easily. We have plenty of space, so why not?
We decided against it, as our money is tighter this year. Quinn, after all, already has everything a child could want. And we wouldn’t want her to think the world REVOLVED around her, right?
It turns out, it was well out of our hands. Last week, while tending the garden, my wife left the gate to the front yard open while she was watering flowers. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement behind our beauty berry bush. I could tell what it was, but I really couldn’t believe it. I mused, “Better get the dog inside, babe- looks like the Easter Bunnie is here for a visit!” Quinn lit up. There he was, but he wasn’t OURS. We easily caught the plainly tame rabbit, and gathered him into a laundry basket. Then we went to every door in the neighborhood. We asked the local kids. We put notices on the public forums. Nobody, it seems, lost a rabbit. After many days, we took down the notices and decided he would be ours, or more accurately, HERS. The world really does revolve around her.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls! I introduce to you Butterscotch Spigot Bunbun Nickerson. Quinn told us today that they are married now….
Working my shift at the TRAG Gallery gives me some much needed time to sketch. Here’s a few from those recent shifts.
The first is a sketch of one of the new lambs that live just a block away. They’re older now, but still every bit as cute as they were when they were born this past springtime.
the second drawing comes from our visit to the Clackamas County Fair. I love to take quick photos of the animals so that I can sketch them later. This guy has so much character. He’s like a goat from a children’s fairy tale.