Friday, April 29, 2011

Linocut Carving and Block Printing: Inks, Surfaces, Suppliers and Blocks-Oh My!

As anyone who follows me knows, when I first started writing this blog, I did a two-part tutorial on how to design, print and carve a basic linocut (basically a rubber stamp of your own design).  Part one can be found here and part two can be found here.   Today I am going to add a little bit of information to that, getting more into the kinds of inks and blocks I prefer to use as well as a few more tips and tricks on how to pull a good print.

INKS: Oil versus Water Based.
Technically, you could print with whatever type of ink/liquid you could find. You could use a stamp pad, color on your linocut with a marker (though you'd probably have to move fast), stamp it in beet juice, paint it with india ink, whatever.  However, traditionally, either an oil-based or water-based block printing ink is used.  These tend to be heavier, almost a gluey consistency and give a  very slightly raised texture to your printing due to the thickness of the ink. This makes it easy to roll them right on to the block with a brayer (harder to do with thin liquids).  The big difference is oil-based will be permanent and waterproof and is harder to clean p (you'll have to use mineral spirits or turpentine).  Water-based will wash off your block, your hands, your brayer and whatever else you got it on with water.  I personally use water-based because I love easy cleanup and hate chemicals.  The main reason I could imagine using oil-based is to print on textiles, in which case I would use a screenprinting ink, which are easily cleaned up with soap and water.

SURFACES: Not Just Paper....
Like with inks, I highly recommend experimenting.  As mentioned above, you can use textile screenprinting inks on fabrics.  You can print on cards (as I do).  There are a variety of block-printing papers, but you could use anything you can get your hands on, from good old computer paper to handmade paper you put together yourself.  The key thing to remember is, the more textured the paper, the more speckled your print will be, as the ink will have a harder time getting into each nook and cranny.  I personally like this look and the cards on which I print and slightly textured, making each print truly individual.

I even had one person ask me if it would be possible to block print on her walls as a wallpaper-replacement. I really believe it would, using a large block, housepaint and a lot of patience.  Once again, the possibilites are limitless.

BLOCKS: Things You Need to Know
Okay, obviously I'm running out of creative ideas for section titles, but aside from that there are basically four different kinds of blocks: Unmounted, mounted, easy-cut and regular linoleum.  These kind of overlap, as you can get regular linoleum either mounted or unmounted on an plywood block, though I've never seen easy-cut mounted, you can often get it in thick (for carving both sides) or thin for just carving one.  If I am doing a more intricate design that I want to print in a long series, I carve it on mounted linoleum.  The mounting makes it easier to grip when picking up and printing and (I believe) helps the carving last longer since it has a firm backing.   The regular linoleum is harder to carve (that's where the hair dryer mentioned in my tutorial comes in), but it's going to hold a finer detail, and won't bend, crack or crumble as easily.  The soft-cut has a rubbery consistency but is good for simple designs that you want to carve quickly.  Your blade will run through it like butter. On the downside of that, you can also accidentally cut right through it and if you fold it in half, it might very well break.

Chances are, if you wandered into your local chain craft store, you did not find diddly-squat, except maybe maybe a brayer in the one or two aisles of actual art supplies.  If you're lucky enough to have a local store devoted solely to art, awesome.  If you live in the Charlotte area like me, I personally recommend Binders as they have a decent supply of block sizes, carving tools, blade refills, and ink colors.  I wish I could recommend Cheap Joe's Art Stuff for block printing, as they are a great local store, but sadly, I have never found any such supplies there.  However, if you live in NC and are into any other branch of art, I highly recommend them.  I get almost all of my other art supplies there and they have amazing prices and a store brand that is still high quality.  If you really want options or live somewhere without easy access to a true art supply store, I recommend ordering from Dick Blick, which is basically your Amazon of art supplies. If you want it, they have it, and probably at a great price.

Well, folks, that should cover all the basics of what which weren't covered in the how-to's.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments or send me an email and I'll respond as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Questions, Questions

I have a lot of things to figure out.  Presently unemployed and recently married, my dream job would be to stay home, make art and be a housewife full-time (ideally, of course, making enough on art to my bills and my share of the household expenses).  My secondary dream job: working in a bookstore.  I don't know why, but I've always felt like I could go far working in a bookstore (and get a lot of awesome discounts on new reading material).

However, if the art thing were working out (don't worry, I'll never stop creating) I wouldn't even be looking for a job.  And if it were as simple as getting hired at a bookstore, well, I'd already be working there. So I need to figure out other options.  I am considering going to school at CPCC for an associate's degree in accounting, though after filling out the FAFSA today, I've realized my newly married status gets me no financial aid (I'll have to take out student loans).

So where I am at is: (a) do I go back to school even though we could really use the second income and full-time school will inhibit my ability to work more than a few hours a week? While job-hunting, what else should I look for (if you read the first paragraph, you have an idea of what I like, and I would love to hear suggestions for jobs I may not have otherwise thought of)?  Does anyone know of job openings?

I find myself really frustrated right now, because it's hard to make up my mind what to do.  I continually see how badly we need money and yet know even a two year degree could seriously up my earning potential.  I also hate being supported by my husband or the government (I'm presently on UI).  Just thinking about it makes my shoulders draw right up to my ears.

Looking for input, but not expecting it.  If anyone has suggestions, knows a job I should look into applying for, or wants to suddenly buy a thousand dollars worth of my art monthly so I can focus on what I love most, let me know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday Spotlight (On Tuesday) On: Karen of Simple Blue

Just a note before we begin. My apologies for not having posted in a month.  First there was the wedding, then the honeymoon and then just adjusting to married life.  I've been very lazy since we returned, but as the weather warms up here in Charlotte, I'm getting revved up more and more to really create some new stuff.  However, this post isn't about me, it's about Karen, so let's get on with it.

Karen has a beautiful shop on Etsy that makes me want to stop using paper napkins.  It's full of simple and gorgeous cloth napkins in a variety of fun and funky patterns, with a few that make me wish I had kids to buy them for.  She also has just a couple nicely structured bags, with clean architectural lines that are very cool and modern.

Tell us about yourself, anything you think is worth knowing.
I have a mom who is a professional quilter.  I have a dad who does incredible one line drawings.  I come from a long line of ancestors who did amazing handwork and are creative and artistic.  I love that their gifts are a part of me and I feel blessed to be able to use the past to pass on a quality future.
What is your medium and how did you get into it?
Right now I'm really into fabric!  I grew up in a creative household and was exposed to all kinds of expressive outlets.  I go through phases.  I've done photography, sewing, pottery, beading, playing musical instruments, polymer clay, knitting, a little crocheting, drawing and even some dancing.  I think fabric and sewing is going to be a long phase though.  When I see a fresh stack of cut fabric, my heart sometimes melts.  Is that love?  

Where do you take your inspiration from?
Every day life inspires me.  I'm kind of a closet-case minimalist so I don't like to have things hanging around that aren't useful.  But there is no reason things can't be useful and beautiful!  That's when my creativity starts to kick in.

When creating, do you have more "Aha!" moments or do you slowly figure things out? What's your process?  
I kick ideas around in my head for a while and then the perfect idea usually hits me with an "Aha!"

What is your favorite piece of art you've created and why?
I don't have a solid favorite because as I continue to create, I like what I make.  Usually my favorites are what I just finished making!  I just finished making a dress, some slippers, a banner and a cake for my daughter's birthday.  I'm pretty proud of them!  My favorite item from my shop?  My Love Red Napkins
What is one piece of art you wish you'd created and why?
This is a tricky question for me.  I don't think there is another piece of art out there that I wish I had created.  Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of incredible art out there and it hopefully expresses what the artist wanted it to say but it's not what I would say.  I am happy with my abilities and what I make.  I am also glad that others can express themselves likewise and that I can share in it with them as an outside viewer.  I find beauty and can identify with lots of art pieces in some ways but I am satisfied with the things I make and that they are mine. I don't want to create someone else's work. I hope that makes sense to someone other than me.   

If you could have one person living/dead own a piece of your art, who would it be and why? 
 I make stuff for my family all the time because they are so important to me.  I hope some of what I make will be passed down to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren because I already care about them.
One piece of advice you've picked up along the way that you'd like to share. 
Love what you do.

One random thing/fact/idea you'd like to share that isn't covered here.  
I am terrible at making hashbrowns.

Once again, welcome back.  I'll be posting (semi) regularly again.  I just want to note also that I am now out of artists and craftpeople to interview, so if you know someone who makes something awesome and handmade, please message me and let me know!