Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Really Big Prints!

I work really small.  Always have.  It's a comfortable size for me, and I love creating tiny cuts in the linoleum or wood.  But I do admire my friends and fellow artists who can work big.

Or in this case, REALLY big! This past July, my friend Bonnie deArteaga, a phenomenal printmaker who lives in Green Bay, asked me to be her assistant for this really fun event at UW-Manitowoc - Really Big Prints!

Forty-one prints were made for this event.  They were ENORMOUS - 5 feet by 3 feet!  That's 12 times larger than what I normally print (3"X5")!

And how, pray tell, might one print these large-scale prints?  With a steamroller, of course!  :D  That was one of the most fun parts of the day - seeing this road vehicle run over the prints!  Each time one would come up for printing, there'd be a crowd.  Fascinating!

Ben Rinehart, professor at Lawrence University in Appleton,
looks comfy on the steamroller.  :D

Because Bonnie is a total pro, she had the process down pat.  I helped by ironing these immense sheets of muslin that she printed on.   I also helped roll the ink, which was a workout in and of itself!

Bonnie and I doing a little pre-roller baren work!

Here's me, Bonnie (on the right), and Bonnie's husband Julio!
Such a fun day.  :D
I've saved the best for last - a peek at Bonnie's finished print!  It was inspired by her trip to the Alhambra in Spain, and the pigeons on the piazza.  Isn't it gorgeous?!

I am so lucky (and honored) that Bonnie asked me to be a part of this really fun day!  I learned a lot, met some great people, and got to spend a beautiful July day outside with some very dear people.  It doesn't get much better than that.  :D

If you're interested in learning more about the day, check out this half-hour documentary, created by UW-Manitowoc!  :D

Monday, September 15, 2014

Collagraphy - where have you been all my life? :D

Happy Monday, everyone! WOWIE - I can't believe it's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted! That's so wrong. This summer was so fun and busy - MANY printmaking adventures to talk about, so I'll be jamming my blog full of blog posts in the coming weeks! I've also taken a position as an artist-in-residence at Sheboygan North High School here in Wisconsin (Thanks, Frank Juarez!)! It's such a great gig - I get to practice my art in my own studio, and the faculty and students learn how to apply school subjects to a career in the visual arts! I'm having a blast, and I'll be blogging about the works I'll be creating during the next 8 weeks! :D

Because it's been so long since I've posted, I have to do a little backtracking - to late June. For two weekends in a row I was able to participate in fun classes at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. I've already talked about the APA Wayzgoose, which was SO fun, but the following weekend I took another class, called Chipboard, Linoleum, and other Simple Reproduction Techniques. It was taught by Dafi Kuhne, a Swiss printmaker who spent his summer touring the States and doing various artist-in-residencies all over the country.

Dafi likes to print with chipboard. And you should see some of his posters! When you view them, you just assume he either used wood type or he carved his own blocks.  NO!  They're done mainly with chipboard!  Check out this short video, where he shows how he locked up the design for his "Nachtschicht" poster!

One of the first questions he asked us was, what kind of answers were we looking for in the print? Did we want texture, full color, odd shapes? I'll be honest - it took me a while to get in this groove! Since I'm used to either using letterpress blocks to print or just carving my own images in lino or wood, it was a strange question. And like many classes I take, I don't fully grasp the concept until way later. (Does this happen to anyone else? It's probably why I learned the most from classes I nearly failed in school!)

I spent the summer ruminating on these questions.  Then, just last Wednesday, I realized from the books I'd been reading and art I'd been seeing that I'd actually been thinking about collagraphy the entire summer!  (See, it just takes me a while sometimes!)  Of COURSE!  So I did what I normally do when I have these "eureka" moments - I search on Pinterest and check out videos on YouTube!

There was one video I discovered that, despite its age, was extremely helpful.  It was done at Virginia Commonwealth University sometime in the early Seventies, and it's called "Harvey McWilliams: Collagraph Technique in Printmaking".  If you can get past the hilarious warping of the soundtrack in the beginning (and the fact that you'll have that music going through your head for a week), it's a low-key tutorial that's really easy to follow.  One of the best things about it is that there's no instruction - just that soundtrack.  It's so enjoyable that I keep it as a tab on my computer.

After seeing that video, I was inspired!  I set to work the next day, as I knew I had an entire day where I could just work in my studio.  I kept Dafi's questions in mind, and I also watched and re-watched the Harvey McWilliams video about 20 times to see his inking technique.  Sometimes, though, you just have to forge your own way, so I just got to it.

I knew I wanted to make a design for one of the bulletin boards in my classroom studio at Sheboygan North, so I made shapes that were much bigger than I'm used to creating.  I really enjoy ovals, for some reason, so I made a hollow oval and a smaller solid one, and printed them on regular old chipboard using both oil and water-based inks.  The photo at the top is just one part of the bulletin board, and it's my favorite part.  I can't wait to do more with this technique!  It's SO freeing!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It started with a thumbprint.....

WOW!  It's the middle of July!  How did that happen?  Time does indeed fly when you're enjoying every moment of it.  And this summer has been one of the most delightful in recent memory!

When the summer began, I told myself that it was going to be a summer of experimentation.  No idea or medium or color was off limits.  I also made time for some reading, which has been extremely beneficial!

One book I found was "Drawn to Stitch" by Gwen Hadley.  I've been doing quite a bit of free-form embroidery this summer and incorporating printmaking into it. One of the exercises in the book was to take things found in nature and magnify them - the author used various rock walls and markings found in her native U.K., but I thought a bit differently.  What's the first print most of us make in our lives?  It's an easy one - our fingerprints!

I took this thumbprint and magnified it, like so (I'm still in the process of darkening the whorls in Photoshop for some sun printing):

I then traced this design onto a basswood block - 

After inking and printing the block on my backpack press with Akua ink on a very thin unryu paper, mounting onto a vintage 1939 Wisconsin survey map and having the prints professionally matted by the wonderful folks at Gallery & Frame Shop here in Fond du Lac, this is the final print!  I call it "Tributary", because it reminds me of winding riverways.  You can find it in my shop on melkolstad.com!  :)

I challenge you to take something in your house or backyard and enlarge it - you'll be surprised at the difference it makes!  It's like a whole new object, and it's really fun to play around to get different results. Hooray for experimentation!  :D

Monday, June 23, 2014

APA Wayzgoose, Baby!

wayzgoose (ˈweɪzˌɡuːsn
1. (Printing, Lithography & Bookbinding) a works outing made annually by a printing house
[C18: from earlier waygoose, of unknown origin]

Oh my heavens!  I went to my very first wayzgoose this past weekend!  What an amazing experience.  I attended the Amalgamated Printers' Association's wayzgoose right in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, only about 60 miles from me, at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum!

It was actually a four-day event (Thursday-Sunday), but I only went on Friday and Saturday.  On Friday, I took a wonderful class called "Weaving Type, Structure & Image" with Jessica Spring of Springtide Press in Tacoma and Jen Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago.  We created three wonderful projects!  The first was a little collaborative "meander" book, which is printed all on one side and then cut to make pages. There were 8 of us in the class, and we all chose a synonym for "wander", the name of the book. We were free to experiment with about 12 cabinets full of beautiful vintage wood type.  HEAVEN!!  I chose "ramble" as my word, and found a gorgeous type and border for my portion of the book.  Here's the uncut print:

I love how everyone's word is completely different!  We each had to "lock up" our own word, which was a new experience for me.  I had to measure picas and use "furniture", which was thrilling.  I felt like a real printer!  :D  Here is the back of the print, which would become the two "covers" of the book (sorry for the not-so-great photo!):

How cool is it that all of our names are included?  :D  Once we all had our words in place, Jessica measured the final piece and began inking.  As you can see, she did a beautiful two-color process.  Here is the finished book - it turned out SO cool!  What a lovely memento to have from the class!  :D

Our second project was to weave prints we created. Once again, we were given free reign over all of the available wood type!  I played with the letters and numbers, mixing up sizes and fonts for each line of type. Jen Farrell suggested that I experiment with the bottom of the wood blocks, for a fantastic effect.  Here are two of my finished prints, each printed with violet ink but using different paper colors.  The results were SO different!!

I didn't get around to weaving my prints.  Why?  Well, because Jessica wanted us to all take turns printing our book pages on the Vandercook press, just to get a feel for it.  Since most of the people there already own their own Vandercooks, I volunteered to help print the majority of the prints for the books.  I was happy to do it!  I've already done weaving with my prints, so this way others got to experience something they might not otherwise do (these folks are SERIOUS printers).

Our last project was a folding exercise - Jessica and Jen had printed out some great prints and then cut them down to about 6X6" squares.  We then made a little folded piece out of them!  You can see what I mean, here:  

As you probably have guessed, this was an all-day class!  We were all pretty pooped by the end of it.  All of the wonderful folks I met during my class (hi Erin, Nancy, Marjorie, Laurie, Gary, Mary Alice and Carol!) were from somewhere else - Phoenix, Tacoma, Cincinnati, Virginia, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, CA - and one other Wisconsinite, from La Crosse - so they all stayed overnight.  I went home for the evening, but returned on Saturday for the...drum roll....swap meet and auction.  

It was FANTASTIC!  I bought a lot of wood and metal type, some awesome vintage blocks, some ink, some vintage trays, a couple of wonderful vintage books....and this beautiful little toy press for the ridiculously low price of TWENTY BUCKS!  The description says it's an Elm City toy press and by all accounts, I guess it really works!  I can't wait to try it out!   :D

I also got to meet Michelle Walker, who's the creator of the "Lovers of Letterpress" group on Facebook!  She and her husband George came all the way from Toronto (my fave city in the world!) to be at the event.  We were able to have lunch together and hang out during the auction!  How lovely!  :D

Now that I've got my first wayzgoose under my belt, I can't wait for Hamilton's very own, which is held every November!   But next up:  "Chipboard, Linoleum and other Reproduction Techniques" workshop with Dafi Kuhne this coming Saturday!   :D

Monday, May 19, 2014

Plein Air Printmaking!

This past weekend, I participated in a plein air event at the Friends of Horicon Marsh Educational Center in Horicon, Wisconsin.  It was SO much fun!  Five of us each took our materials out on the patio of the gorgeous center, and created works based on this view:

It was a pretty chilly day - a high of only 54° (or 12°C).  And the minute I set up my carving station, press and tools, it started to rain.  :/  Not to worry, though - it only sprinkled and after that, we just worked in the wind and clouds!

You may be wondering why I'm talking about carving at a plein air event!  That was the beauty of this specific gathering - it was an all-medium day!  Sue Hoehnen, the founder of Wild Goose Fine Arts United, wanted it to be open to anyone who wanted to participate!  And since only one of the five of us came armed with paints, I'd say that this is a new rule whose time has come!  :D  (For those of you who are unaware of what "plein air" means:  It's a form of painting [traditionally, only oils or watercolors] outside.  Most events do not allow any other mediums, such as printmaking, collage, needle felting or photography, which is what we did on Saturday!)

My goal was to sketch my design, carve my block, and print the block right there.  I didn't make it as far as the printing, but I did get the whole block done!  I was really happy I got that far, and it's probably best that I stopped when I did - I forgot sunscreen.  :)

Carol Toepke, the photographer at the event, snapped this great photo of me working (you can see the center in the background, and the sun had peeked out at this point!):

Photo courtesy of Carol Toepke, owner
of Collections by Carol

It was SO fun to actually carve what I was seeing at the time!  I made sure the design was simple enough to be completed in the 3 1/2 hours I was working.  I also allowed enough time for socializing with my Dodge County friends!  

Even though I didn't get to print on site, I finished the print this morning!  I inked the block using two separate brayers so that I could get two different colors at the same time.  After the ink dried, I embellished a little with some watercolors.  This is a real departure from my normal work, but I like how it turned out! This will be an edition of 10.  I call it, "Stormy Day on the Marsh".   :)

If you've never experienced carving en plein air, I highly encourage you to do so!  It was a truly fun experience.  :D

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Childhood Inspiration who Still Inspires!

Throughout my adult life, I have kept coming back to those things that held a deep fondness or interest for me when I was a kid.  From my second grade stamp collection to my burgeoning collection of old labels when I was 14, to my desire to own any and all manner of tiny "printing press" toys - I am of the firm belief that what you loved when you were young is what you come back to as your passion in adulthood.

Speaking of childhood inspirations - growing up, Ed Emberley was one of my favorite authors!  I pored over his "Make a World" - the simple shapes and tininess of the drawings allowed me to draw small worlds. Since I first checked it out of the Ashwaubenon library in 1977, I've owned several copies.  I STILL own a copy, as a matter of fact, and thumb through it often (about those thumbs - remember "The Great Thumbprint Drawing Book"?).

I didn't realize until recently that Mr. Emberley was the also the illustrator (and his wife the adapter) of Drummer Hoff, a book that has left an indelible print on my heart (and for which Ed and Barbara Emberley won a Caldecott medal in 1968).  I read this book, ad nauseam,  as a very small girl.  I remember being somewhat terrified of the psychedelic colors and designs of the beautiful woodcuts, and yet I couldn't stop looking.  There was something magical about those illustrations!

Then, in January of 2013, as I was just discovering the magical world of relief printmaking and woodcuts in general, I found this glorious book:

I was at the Milwaukee Public Library's book sale, and felt like I was committing a crime - I got this book for one American dollar.  I was smitten with the cover immediately, but then I looked inside and found pages like this:

The Story of Paul Bunyan, by Barbara Emberley and woodcut illustrations by Ed Emberley, 1963.

Those TREES!  They're just so....woodcutty!  So simple, yet so gorgeous.  The whole book is chock full of incredible woodcut illustrations.  My copy is one from the fourth printing, in 1966 (the book initially went to press in 1963).  Every illustration almost feels like it was printed directly on the page - it is somewhat embossed!  And if you notice, there is some bleed-through from the proceeding page!  I don't know how this happened - maybe it's just the fact that it's a 48 year-old book, but it just feels so real.  This book inspired me to start carving my own designs - once again, Ed Emberley gave me the courage to create, just like he had 36 years prior.  :)  

So imagine my utter delight when I got this notification in my e-mail yesterday:

Are you KIDDING ME?!?!?  Ed Emberley, following ME?!?!?  This news made my whole week, month and year!  :D  

To all of my fellow printmakers and other artist friends - do yourselves a favor and discover (or rediscover) Mr. Emberley's work!  You won't be disappointed.  :D  And thanks for following me, Ed!  :D

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Plethora of Printmaking!

Image  ©Fuzzy Door Productions

Is it just me, or do you feel as though there's a resurgence of printmaking?

Of course, art + craft goes through trends, and right now it appears as though all manner of prints are all the rage.  Case in point:  I belong to a Facebook group called Linocut Friends, and when I joined about a year ago there were around 75 people in the group.  Today, there are 493.

Have you caught the latest incarnation of the TV show "Cosmos"?  If so, you've noticed the breathtaking animation (like the still, above).  The thing that first struck me about it was how "woodcutty" it looked!  If you haven't caught an episode (and live in a country where you can watch it), check it out.  I think you'll see what I mean.

I live in Northeastern Wisconsin and I'm so lucky to say that there are at least two fantastic exhibits that will be running now through this summer - MOWA on the Lake's (Milwaukee) fantastic "Fresh Impressions: Contemporary Wisconsin Printmakers" (which just so happens to include two of my friends and fellow WVA colleagues' work!), and The Paine Art Center's (Oshkosh) "Matisse as Printmaker" exhibition, which will feature his monotypes, etchings and linocuts!  That runs June 28-October 19.  I can't wait to see both!

A few weeks ago, we had our Wisconsin Visual Artists - NE Chapter meeting at The Mill Paper and Book Arts Center in Rhinelander.  I am the chair for our chapter, and chose this venue last fall when we didn't have a program chair.  And while it's quite a hike from Fond du Lac and other points around the state (three hours for me), we had a great turnout.  I've taken classes at The Mill previously (remember this post?), and knew how great Daniel Goscha and Debra Jircik are - and they didn't disappoint.  Debra talked about the myriad ways to make handmade paper, and Daniel led us in a letterpress project, reminding us to "MAKE" every day.  Many of the artists had never done letterpress before, and all had a great time!  Here's the piece we were able to take home:

I hope more folks discover the joys of this varied and wonderful medium - there's a lot to learn and appreciate and drool over.  Even the season (in French, anyway) calls for it - Vive le Printemps!  :D