Thursday, December 27, 2007

christmas zine

This was my Christmas card for my family this year. I made it from photos of our 2005 Christmas, mostly taken by my son. There were several rules I tried to follow: include at least two photos of everyone, include random shots from walks, and field trips, no page should have just one photo. Oh, and I culled out the most unflattering photos. I think my sisters will thank me for that. It's all color, a two sided photocopy, each book is on one sheet of legal sized paper.

I have failed at metal casting and printmaking because I hate many-step art processes. I have been wanting to make some kind of book multiple, but was worried about having to sit and do the same thing over and over. I made this in about 12 hours, and spent another 4 hours assembling it. I think it cost around $25 for 15. If I had remembered to put the title and a birthday message on the master, it would have gone together quicker.

This is my master. The white lines indicate cuts, the black ones are the folds. They aren't there in reality, I added them in PhotoShop.

This was inspired by sinoun's zine, "small tasks of labour suit her slender bones." You can see her zines at anatomic air press. stolshsb is poetic and mysterious. I also love "the art of smelling and feeling paper."

Disclaimer: I'm using "zine" very loosely. It really seems to mean an ongoing edition, like a magazine. Mine are one-shot deals, but they are are meant to be fast (sort of) and cheap (relatively) to make.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ursa Major

Ursa Major, Staedtler MasterCarve carving block, image is 3 x 4 inches. This is the most complicated eraser carving I have done. I ground the point of a large needle flat and polished it to make a small carving tool for the detail around the stars and the eye. You can a larger version on my flickr page.

Searching the web to find stars charts to use for this carving was fascinating. The asterism (the big dipper part of the constellation) has different images associated with it in different cultures.

My favorite is from Keith Snyder's site. "When a Lakota dies, his or her material body returns to grandmother sacred below. The spirit rises up into the spirit world, returning to grandfather sacred above. It is important to note that while the spirit travels from a material to a spiritual dimension of existance, both of these realms are called "sacred". Formerly, there was a star in the center of the Big Dipper. Now, however, there is an opening or hole where the star was located. The Wenagi comes up into the spiritual world through this hole which was made when Fallen Star's mother dug out the first wild turnip."

From this web site:
"Nearly every culture on Earth has seen patterns in the stars. But, not surprisingly, very few have seen the same patterns. Take, for example, the Big Dipper, perhaps the most recognizable star pattern in the sky. The Big Dipper is not actually a constellation itself, but is part of a larger pattern known to the Greeks as Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The seven stars of the Big Dipper have inspired many stories, perhaps because they are bright and located so near the north celestial pole, around which the stars rotate during the course of the night. But not everyone calls it a Dipper. The British call it a Plough. In Southern France, it is a Saucepan. The Skidi Pawnee Indians saw a stretcher on which a sick man was carried. To the ancient Maya, it was a mythological parrot named Seven Macaw. Hindu sky lore called it the Seven Rishis, or Wise Men. To the early Egyptians, it was the thigh and leg of a bull. The ancient Chinese thought of it as a special chariot for the Emperor of the Heaven or some other celestial bureaucrat. For the Micmac Indians of Canada's Maritime Provinces, along with several other North American Indian tribes, the bowl of the Big Dipper was a bear, and the stars in the handle represented hunters tracking the bear. And in the nineteenth century, the Big Dipper became a symbol of freedom for runaway slaves, who "followed the Drinking Gourd" to the northern states."

More here. (Skim down to "The Big Dipper in other Cultures."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Soft Block or Eraser Carving

I am working on a book and needed a bear, so I carved the one above. He was traced from a photo with a 2B pencil and transfered directly to the carving block. I like the stray marks a lot in this one.

I keep fussing over this, probably because it is from a favorite photo, taken by my son two years ago at a family Christmas. The arm is terrible, so I started another.

I thought I would like the composition better reversed. But now the elf is too large, the nose bothers me, the hand needs work (that may be fixable). I like the squareness and the position of the elf in the first try. I am tempted to start over again to make it "right." At the moment I'm thinking I should leave it for awhile. I used a big block of Staedtler carving material for all the stuff above. Everything is shown actual size.

These are very old, I like them much more now than I used to. In fact, I like them better today than yesterday. The larger letters were carved from some old green erasers and the smaller ones are on pencil erasers. So far the pencil erasers are holding up okay, but the green eraser material is getting brittle. I have numbers, but need more punctuation.

What have I learned? In no particular order:
1. The image will be reversed.
2. Start with the hard part (faces for me).
3. Turn the block to cut a curve.
4. Keep photo references nearby. I didn't know I was carving an arm and a mitten on the Christmas elf, it came out looking very awkward.
5. Start with a slightly larger block than the finished stamp. It's hard to carve the very edge neatly, it's better to trim away the edge when you're done.
6. Go slow, make lots of test prints along the way. You can't replace what has been removed.
7. Use an old, faded ink pad that doesn't cover the pencil lines. Or you can buy pads made for testing.
8. I like the stray marks, and am trying to use them to good advantage.
9. One option is to carve like you draw. Look at lots of drawings, study how shadows are indicated. If you would shade an arm with "bracelet shading," carve in the same way.
10. Photoshop Elements (and I assume Photoshop) has a nice "stamp" filter, it's under "sketch." It usually needs some adjustments. If you like the face better on one setting and the rest on another, you can layer them and erase the "bad" face to combine the two.
11. Also try tracing the image with a soft pencil. This is sometimes better than the "stamp" command. Lay the tracing on your block and rub with a bone folder or spoon to transfer the pencil lines to the block.
12. Or draw directly on the block.
13. Don't carve away both sides of a corner - it will have no support. A border might help here. Or change the design.
14. I couldn't get my laser prints to transfer with acetone, citrasolve or ironing. I'm no good at these kinds of transfers anyway. See #11.
15. If you heat the Staedtler carving block too much it will change texture and become harder to carve. It's probably also very unhealthy.
16. Simple is best - I don't always take my own good advice.

There are several photo pools on flickr with lots of carved images:
Carve Your Stamps
Stamp Your Art Out
Block Prints

Stampeaz has soft block and linoleum carving supplies. Wonderful, helpful people, fast delivery.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tatebanko, Japanese paper dioramas

My husband received this Tatebanko made by "It's a Beautiful Day" in his office gift exchange. On their "about" page you can see more images.

Here is one of the pages - they are very attractive before they're cut out.

A definition from Osaka Prints:
"tatebanko-e: "Standing printing-block models," a paper-craft hobby featuring three-dimensional constructions made from woodblock prints. The divertisement appears to have originated in the Kansai region by at least the late eighteenth century. Most designs were dioramas with their various parts printed on one or more sheets, intended to be cut out and assembled. (Thus very few from the Tokogawa period have survived intact, and Meiji-period examples are also uncommon.). The Edo variant was called kumiage-e (assembled picture). Tatebanko-e are considered a type of omocha-e (toy print), although some scenes of kabuki, geisha, samurai, sumô and daily life are hardly "toylike," consisting of elaborate designs with numerous elements cut from large sets of individual ôban sheets. Other related terms include kumiage-dôrô ("assembled lanterns," although not actually "lanterns"), kinkumi-dôrô, and okoshi-e."

This image came from Osaka Prints, in their "articles" section.

I love this one. The parts and the finished tatebanko together are dream-like. It came from this site. I am very handicapped here, since I can't read Japanese. There are many more images on the same page.

On this site you can download some fairly contemporary looking tatebanko as pdfs. One is round and very sculptural, one looks like a tunnel book. Go to the download page by clicking on the left hand red link just below the large image.

Enjoy Korea has a few images of tatebanko, both flat and assembled. Scroll down to see them.