block printing

Jan 112018

Welcome to 2018, in another way – lunar new year! This is the year of the dog.
2018 Chinese New Year of the dog card
For the dog, I decided on a Chow. I like the “Foo dogs”, which are really the Imperial guard lion statues, but you can see the visual similarities. Chows, eventually translated, means puffy-lion dog, which seems appropriate. They are also one of the few ancient dog breeds extant today. Besides all of that cool info, they are cute as fuck.

2018 Chinese New Year of the dog card
The lucky flower is rose and the Chinese symbol here is the one for the zodiac sign of the dog, and not the symbol for actual dogs. The zodiac symbol was more visually pleasing to me.
These cards sell out every year, so get them if you want them.

Feb 022017

AKA lunar new year

My CNY Rooster card packs sold out in my Etsy shop again. They are popular each year and I look forward to making them as my new calendar starts up.

Been quiet here lately. I’m overloaded and work is almost all of it, one demanding thing after another with additional company drama and changes on top. I’d take a break, but everything would keep piling up while I’d be away making it even harder to catch up – so, no break. Headway is being made.

Mar 292016

Recently, I celebrated another year of life and had a very small gathering for the event. I made up a lino cut for the invites.
Lino cut for birthday invites.
The process was something I played with this time. I wanted to see if I could get a freer, more lino-flavored expressiveness from the carving. Usually, I draw the design, scan it into PhotoShop to fix any massive errors, (but mostly to have a digital reference for the future) and print it out, transfer to the lino with a quick acetate wash and carve pretty much around the lines. This time, I drew, scanned and didn’t print; except the text – I hate fucking up text, so I printed and transferred that bit. I kept the drawing up on my screen and made a few reference marks in Sharpie to keep me aligned, then carved it mostly freehand – the same way you would look at a subject and draw it, I looked at my drawing and carved it. I’m not exactly displeased with the result – it is definitely freer, looser, more expressive in a lino fashion, but it doesn’t click for me like other carvings have. I will do this again and play around in different ways to see what I come up with.
I printed the unbacked lino onto black cards, freehand with light gray and silver Golden Acrylics. The sparkle level was good. I printed the interior text onto some amazing silver sparkle paper and pasted it inside.

Lino cut printed on black cotton.
When I was done, I had a lot of paint left over. Looking around, I found a scrap piece of crappy black cotton. It is crappy because it has a low thread count/ loose weave/ thin threads. It was clearly salvaged from a trash stack, or purchased before I found and became an adherent of Kona cottons. I squirted some textile medium into the paint and used up some of the mixture on this cotton. I didn’t have a plan, but it was fun to print onto fabric with this size of lino, instead of little pieces like I’ve done before.

After two days of drying, heat setting, and wondering what I was going to do with them, I decided they’d make decent little baggies. Birthday parties often have favor bags, so that’s where I was going with my idea. However, the cotton was low quality, as mentioned, so the domino chain of idea progression began there. The prints became patches onto better cotton, then pockets, the flat simple bags became drawstring bags, lined with double-brushed flannel, with grommets for the double drawstrings, with generous boxed bottoms.

Lino cut for birthday invites.
The front of the bag, showing printed pocket.

Because I was working late at night and tired, I made a mistake in the order of assembly (even though I wrote out the steps in order, I was sleepy and ignored my own list – at my peril!!) and the fix doubled the work I had to do in the end. Because of that, these ended up taking some effort, instead of the quick, cleverly designed bags I intended. They came out nice, though.

Lino cut for birthday invites.

Seven finished, empty bags. Now what to put in them? It would be too much candy to fill up with. I decided on sharing some of my favorite things. I put in black Sharpies, washi tape, glue, sparkly star and gear stickers, MineCraft and Star Trek toys, cat stamps, Japanese cat erasers, etc. and of course some chocolates.

Plastic beads and elastic cord = dead easy.
I like things that glow in the dark, stars and skulls, so I found a way to combine them through glow in the dark skull and star beads. Interspersed with black and a few colors I found in my stash, they made a few kiddie-summer-camp-craft type bracelets. The beads glow well. And I did trim the ends of the cords later, this shot was mid-creation.

Tiny dinosaurs for favor bags.
Being a moderate dinosaur fan, everyone got a couple tiny toy dinos. They are so small! That makes them even better, I think. And Legos. I split up a couple boxes of Legos to make little baggies for everyone to play with.

This project also spurred a bag making fit. I made a sample to start, then afterwards made a few different styles of bags since it was on my mind already. Now I have five varieties of bags around the workshop, only two have been filled yet. With the bag making finally out of my system, I got back onto my Maker schedule. One secret project is done (soon to be shared here) and next up is finishing that triangle quilt at last, before this quarter is closed. Fingers crossed that I make it!

Jan 132016

The Chinese New Years cards were a pleasant success last year, so I thought I’d do them again this year.
Year of the monkey print.

The Chinese New Year begins Feb 8th and this is the year of the red fire monkey, with a lucky flower of crepe myrtle. These cards feature a monkey, the symbol for monkey, the year 2016 and a crepe myrtle on the front.
Year of the monkey print.
I’ve listed them in my Etsy shop, Creations of Dubious Utility, like last year. Hopefully they will be equally popular this time.

Chinese New Year of the Monkey card pack items.
I like making the card packs up. They’re like little kits, and I love kits. This puts me in the mood to make some zip pouches, too. Kits are even better when you have a place to put them.

Jan 072016

Each winter I select a myth/figure/character related to the winter solstice and carve a lino block for it. These are printed onto Fabriano medioevalis cards, hand colored, and sent off as Solstice party invitations or winter cards. This winter, the Yeti.
The Yeti, Legends of the Winter Solstice #3.
I now have so many UFPs (UnFinished Projects) piled up on my work table that I had to use my oversize ironing board as a print staging area.
The Yeti, Legends of the Winter Solstice #3.
I really like this guy; he turned out great. I wanted to hit the highlights of the Yeti, the ubiquitous footprints credit, the snowy mountainside where sightings happen by hikers with no one else around for verification, the “is it a monster, a man, or a throwback combination?” form. This print makes me happy. The odd grays you see in some places (like the snow ridges) is an iridescent pearl, which the scanner/Photoshop/any computer monitor ever could not make reflect light in a digital image. In other words, its even better in person.

Legends of the Winter Solstice series:
#1 Krampus
#2 Perchta
#3 Yeti (this post)

Jan 122015

.. or goat, or sheep.

For a couple years now I’ve wanted to carve and print some Chinese New Year cards. This year, I finally got it together and did so.
Printing up some New Year cards.
Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, with a bunch of variations, some of which don’t translate to English well. This year it falls on Feb 19th. Thus, on that day it will become the year of the ram – or goat or sheep. The symbol for the animal includes all three, so I went with ram for my art. You could look at it as a goat, if you prefer – I won’t stop you. The lucky flowers for this year are the carnation and the primrose.

The Chinese New Year of the ram cards.
You can see that this project has interrupted my desk drawer building progress. I’m not terribly motivated to finish the desk, I suppose.

The Chinese New Year of the ram cards.
The print is on the front of the card, it is blank inside for writing a message or posy. The print features a ram, the symbol for ram (and goat and sheep), the year 2015 and a primrose. I put the website name very small on the back. The cards have matching envelopes and I made sticker seals featuring the primrose and 2015 text right underneath. Yes, I put four seals in the pack although there are only three sets – I am afraid the seals might be easily lost, or even mangled trying to get the sticker backing off. And, I made WAY too many seals, so I’ll be slapping these on all my envelopes this year.

I’m keeping a few for myself to send out to friends, but the rest I’ve packaged up into sets of three and listed in my Etsy shop. They’re packaged up and ready to go, so if you want to order some, you should have plenty of time to receive, write and send them out before Feb 19th. If you’re in Cheyenne and want to save a couple bucks on shipping, I will be putting a few packs in the CAG gift shop tomorrow. Swing by and check them out – I’ll have a sample card with the packs in case anyone wants to fondle them.

Jan 052015

Continuing the Winter Solstice series this year is Perchta. Over the generations she has been renamed, combined and downgraded so many times her stories are difficult to find or separate. In the end, I went with the ones that were common and seemed to fit best to me, this being my series and all. The flax, the gutting knife, forest animal benefactor, and her higher form changeling swan foot. To be nice, I did her beautiful visage instead of monstrous – we’ll assume that everyone was good enough to deserve it this year.
Printing the Perchta cards.
The first run of prints, drying. As usual, I was running a week or so behind schedule for getting these done and out to people. The print pulling process went quite well; only a handful of misprints. Same with the envelopes, my printer doesn’t like to feed in those things for addressing.

Printing the Perchta cards.
I managed to pull barely enough good prints on this first run to send out a couple to friends who are too far away to make it to the Solstice Party. The rest of the run will fill in for the full sets of the series I’m building. If you’re interested in a complete series set, simply come back at the end of 2017 when the series completes. No rush.

Maker Talk:
Again this year, I did hand coloring for better control and variety, which worked out well. This time around I had gold paint, so her hair got the special treatment it deserves. The white of her shift is precisely what I wanted; noticeable, but not obnoxiously bright. The blue flax flowers barely show up, but that is okay. I wouldn’t want to make them any bigger or mismatch their level of detail compared to the rest of the print. Also, this has been a very bunny year for me.
I am happy with this print and I already have the Legend for next year. Now, if only I can get started on schedule this coming 2015 winter! I have a while to think about it.

And, the Legends of the Winter Solstice #1 print, Krampus.

Jan 062014

For the winter solstice this year, I wanted to do something in a block print. After some research, I decided to do a whole series, because I am incapable of doing a single, small project! Plus, there are so many great characters associated with winter holidays throughout different countries and regions that I couldn’t choose only one. I decided to start with Krampus, since he is starting to make a comeback of sorts.
Krampus, a block print.
A shot of the first print run, and me testing out masks for the holly border. I want the border to be the same on the whole series, so I needed to make it separate. Next winter I will take on Perchta. I wish I’d had gold for Krampus’ birch sticks, but no. Next time I will try to start earlier so I have time to run out and get any supplies I might need instead of waiting until the last reasonable day.

Krampus, a block print.
The colors I did by hand instead of another color layer. I wanted the choice to do some shading and be particular with the colors. It was difficult to keep the paint from pooling in the fine depressions of the hair on this block. I’m happy with how they turned out and used them as our Solstice Party invitations. I was going to use the extras as Christmas cards to folks not in the area or not attending the party, but that simply didn’t happen due to over-scheduling. Maybe I’ll do some Happy Spring cards or something. Might get something like that done by then.

Nov 222011

a.k.a. Why is there a werewolf in my mailbox?

This is it, the last postcard made in a hotel, then mailed from the airport, while away traveling for the work.
The Lafayette, LA postcard.
Last week I was in Lafayette, LA. This concludes my intensive and repeated tour of Louisiana and all their delicious food.
As for the postcard, I was having a hard time coming up with ideas since I’d used all the expected Louisiana images on the New Orleans postcard together. Lafayette also has some nice holly trees around, but I found a different path. While reading about the Acadians I page hopped onto the subsequent Cajuns and various associations, I learned about the Rougarou. I suggest you read that link, but quickly; the Rougarou is the French Louisiana version of the Loup Gaurou aka werewolf. The Rougarou was sorta added on to the local (Cajun) Roman Catholic religion, especially in regards to following Lent. Bit from the web: “Children are warned that Loup Garou can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses.” I love the bit about misbehaved horses. I became enthralled with the Rougarou myth and knew it had to be on this postcard. As I tried to sketch out a werewolf, I realized I hadn’t included any references to the famous Louisiana cemeteries yet, so they made it in to the background. Throw in a full moon to complete the feel and you have this Lafayette postcard.

When I first drew out his arm raised like that I’d meant it to be threatening, as if the Rougarou were striking out at you from the postcard. But, it ended up looking like he was waving at you instead. I thought this was kinda fitting for the final postcard, a wave goodbye, so I left it that way. Also, I resolved the Bone Black transparency issue, finally, by adding Carbon Black from the Fluid Acrylics line. Contrary to many other brands, Golden super pigments their fluid acrylics so I got a nice solid black by mixing the two together on the plate.

This also concludes the work travel postcard series. While there will be some travel in my new job, it will only be three or four times a year, tops. I suppose I’ll gather up the other editions and bundle them into packs. So, if you were one of the people who missed out on the postcards while they were happening, you’ll get another chance.

Nov 162011

Ephemeral Baton Rouge postcard, made by me.
I was really struggling with what image(s) I could use for this Baton Rouge postcard and its existence was looking bleak. Then one of my customers mentioned the magnolias in the area and I was sold. If you aren’t familiar with magnolias, they are interesting. I mean, beetle pollination! Wow. Also, the little blue heron looked pretty striking and I wanted to include a bird. Baton Rouge is a popular bird watching area and John James Audubon, of bird painting renown, began his work in the Baton Rouge area. If you look closely at the magnolia petals and the white section of the heron’s wing, you can just make out the white paint. It isn’t much contrast to the off white Fabriano paper, but I think it was still worth the effort. The blue I had to mix on the plate as I didn’t have a better shade. I’m happy with it.

This is the next to last postcard from a customer site. One more to go and the collection is done and over with. Keep an eye out on Twitter for the last call in another day.

Nov 152011

The postcards sent from Tyler, Texas took a worryingly long time to arrive at their destinations. Now that they’ve all arrived, we can chat about them.
Postcard from Tyler, Texas.
Tyler Texas is a small city, mostly known for their roses. You could say there are other things, but really the roses are the thing. So, given the single focus and the very short time I had in Tyler, the postcards got a single subject. The star was thrown in at the last minute so the roses didn’t get lonely and as an offhand reference to Texas. I think it turned out pretty nice. I had to print the black twice, which took way too much time. The Golden Open Acrylic Bone Black has too much transparency. I should have learned after this event, but I continued on with the Bone Black on the next one and had to print the black twice as well. Pain in the ass. You’ll notice the differing reds in the roses. Since I had so little time in Tyler, I mixed the two reds, one bright and one dark, together on the inking plate to get some red variations. I like the effect, but I don’t know that I’ll do it again as it was hard to control.

As soon as the Baton Rouge postcards arrive, we can chat about them, too. Tonight I’ll be sketching out the Lafayette postcards and get a first color printed, if I’m lucky.

Oct 282011

Wichita postcard block and color test prints.
I know these went out three weeks ago, but I didn’t get a chance to talk about them, so we’re doing it now. Thanks again to my postcard fans for making this batch the fastest claimed yet on Twitter.

Wichita postcards, ready to go.
This was a busy trip, with almost no time for sightseeing. I think I got ten minutes, as noted below. So, the images may not be the most perfectly representative of the city of Wichita, but that isn’t really the point of these postcards. Thus, my inspirations. The Keeper of the Plains, with bonfires at the base, is an iconic Wichita figure and the sunflower is the Kansas state flower. The lucky five who received their mailed postcards will notice a sunflower stamp on the backside in honor of this. The upper corner has a little Cessna plane coming in from the border; Wichita is aircraft production heavy, albeit less today with the recession affecting such. The clouds I had to put in because one thing Kansas definitely has is pretty clouds and open skies – almost as nice as Wyoming does.

Wichita postcard inspiration.
The old town theater. This link shows what it looks like at night, and thus the postcard version. I had hoped to have enough time to go inside and maybe watch a movie. I’ve read and seen some photos that the inside has been restored to its art deco splendor. Alas, I had exactly enough time to walk over, snap this shot and walk immediately back to the hotel to drive off to the work dinner on my only available night. Such is work travel. Wichita is making efforts to push their art and theater life in the city. There are three restored theaters and many performance art events as well as physical art shows and galleries to share a respectable number of artists and forms. Good for them.

Wichita postcards, ready to go.
This is the only other thing I had time to take a picture of, while in a parking lot. Funny.
Such exotic sights I see.

This Wichita postcard looks much better than New Orleans did and I’m happy. In New Orleans, while I was at the mercy of an understocked store, mostly I have myself to blame. I didn’t have time to test the inks, which blows, but I could have done at least one test for color opacity and viscosity. Those inks were way dark and didn’t like to spread out on the paper. Also, the only carving block the store had was a fat, thick, squishy one – Moo brand. I’d not tried them before, but merely picking it up would inform you of the flexibility and the spread when pressed. This means it was completely the wrong block for a reduction print like I did. Every time I pressed the block onto the paper, whether it was perfectly aligned or not, the whole thing would squash out and the lines wouldn’t all match up. What a mess. I actually thought about redoing the New Orleans ones since I was going to be there again, but (1) these are ephemeral things done in a hotel room and I should let it stand and (2) my New Orleans appointment canceled on me anyway. So, New Orleans stands as is. I learned my lessons. I purchased a sampler pack of Golden Open Acrylics, which have a longer wet time than regular acrylics making them ideal for block printing. I also brought along my own lino block to carve and Fabriano postcards for printing. Controlling my supplies instead of hoping for a craft store in my travel destination simply makes sense. These Wichita postcards look so much better that I think the results (lessons learned) speak for themselves. Although, I forgot my sketchpad and a pencil (!!) and had to make due with the back of old paperwork and a borrowed pencil from the hotel’s front desk. I guess I haven’t learned all my lessons.

This was the third travel postcard issued. I skipped Appleton, WI (although I did take Harry Houdini stamps with me, as he was from Appleton) because I was having a shitty time and just didn’t feel up to it at all. I did regret missing a city, but I am imperfect. Then, the week after Wichita, I was supposed to be in Tulsa, OK. However, I got sick, as you recall from a couple posts back, and had to cancel. A coworker filled in for me (thank you!!) so the work was covered, but that is another city that won’t get a postcard. Next week I have a short trip to Tyler so I hope I might have (barely) enough time to get a postcard out. Then, the next two cities will likely be my last at this job. It looks like I will have only six cities out of a possible eight. It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t much of a series. I do wish I’d have thought of this idea sooner.

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