Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Reduction printing

 Shallow Water

I have never done a reduction print.  I've done lots of lino prints, but nothing that takes a lot of left brain thinking like a reduction print.  I decided to tackle one - a very small one - and see I could create.  I had a 3" x 4" lino block and used Rosaspina paper torn to about 7" x 10" and Akua Liquid Pigment to print.  Reduction prints are also called suicide prints.  Pretty much sums up what I was considering after the first couple of steps!

Reduction printing involves cutting away areas of lino, printing a colour, then cutting away more, printing, cutting...until you have reached saturation point and have little printing surface left.  The final lino is no more than a skeleton of the print and has no further use.   Of course a registration jig is required as well to ensure effective lining up of colours and I did try that.

Original tri-colour print

Being me, I was in a hurry and didn't take quite enough time to make either the jig or the paper guide completely square so after applying the second print colour it made me think I was drinking.  What to do?  There was no point trying to adjust the registration jig so I thought I'd do them by hand and hope that the printmaking gods would be on my side.  I put on the final dark colour in the hopes it would pull it together a bit and it did to a degree, but I think I wasn't generous enough with the initial ink loads and the result was a bit patchy.

What to do with nine prints?  Add colour!   I used a variety of mediums from watercolour to coloured pencil to transparent marker to add layers of colour to the prints.  And this is the result.

What did I learn from the exercise?  Planning is everything.  Patience is everything.  Luck comes into as well as troubleshooting.  I will try another reduction print when I have time and I enjoy the process of printmaking.  And the good thing?  I found the etched plate I was looking for after I last cleared up the studio!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Flatrock Harbour

I tested some of my handmade charcoal for the underdrawing of a new painting. These are some small boats tied up to the wharf in Flatrock Harbour, in the town where I live.  Flatrock is tiny, with about 1400 people and rural.  Its on the coast as much of populated areas of the province are with a small fishing community, but most activity around the recreational fishery in July and August.

The charcoal that has been produced is what I'd call soft, meaning it gives a dark, rich mark.  Its very smooth to work with and to blend.  After the underdrawing, I sprayed it with fixative to prevent the drawing smearing and mixing with paint as I applied it.

I've blocked in colour for the background of the wharf and boats and will refine detail as I proceed.  I build layers of paint with a palette knife, which is my usual painting tool, the same way as I would with a brush.  The initial layers are thin as I establish colour and placement then I increase paint amounts to the final textured painting.

The palette is fairly subdued in the shadows of the wharf and boats with light hitting the ends of the flats (boats).  The foreground of the water is much brighter and will provide the visual interest with the subtle colour and value changes that I love to paint.  The painting is on a 15" x 30" canvas panel.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

After the exhibition

I'm drifting down after the flurry of the last week with the solo exhibit opening last Friday night and the artist talk on Saturday.  Both were well attended and it was good to meet old friends and make some new ones.  Here's a look at some of the fifteen paintings that were hung at Peter Lewis Gallery for the exhibition.  You can see images of each individual painting on my website on the Wooden Boat page under What's New.

All the pieces are in oil and measure 30" x 40".  I think I'm going to paint in miniature after this!  The exhibition runs until June 26th if you have a chance to drop in and see it.

I produced a book to accompany the series that I distributed at the artist talk.  I've made the book and my presentation available as a download from my website if you'd like to read them.

Artist Talk, June 13, 2015
I've been drifting a bit in terms of starting new work and I think that's pretty normal after producing a series of work, exhibiting, etc.  I've freed up my summer (or tried to) until workshops resume again in the fall.  But I do have a couple of commitments.  I'll be teaching gyotaku (Japanese fish printing) workshops at The Glass Station in Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne on the west coast of the province in late July/early August.  Gros Morne is full of spectacular scenery and I can't wait to fill up on some new ideas for paintings while I'm there.

Tethered  16 x 20 oil

On July 18th from1 - 4 pm, I'll be doing a boat painting demo at the Wooden Boat Museum in Winterton.  I did this last year and had a great time meeting and talking with people coming through the museum.  Now I need to decide what to paint while I'm there!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Final countdown

The final touches are in place for the opening of my solo exhibition tonight. Touch wood!

I left Maria, the gallery curator, busy unwrapping and hanging paintings at the gallery yesterday.  It really is a gorgeous space to have an exhibit in an old heritage building in the heart of St. John's.

On Saturday, I'll be doing a talk at the gallery at 2pm to provide the background information, sketches and photos of boats and areas that inspired the paintings.  I have a limited number of draft books that accompany the project that I'll be giving away at the talk.  I'll also be making the book available as a free download from my website and an option to purchase a hard copy.

I hope to video the artist talk and have it available online and will try to do a short video of the paintings hung in the gallery for people unable to attend and/or in far flung places.

I did an interview with The Telegram, a local paper, about the exhibition and series  which you can read here.

Crop from "Home Port" - J Jobson
So start your engines, I'd love to see you at the opening tonight and/or talk on Saturday!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Handmade charcoal

Vine charcoal sticks

I've dabbled at making artist charcoal in the past, but over the last couple of months I've gotten more serious about it.  With several grape vines in the greenhouse and lots of early spring cuttings before the sap rose, I thought I'd put them to good use.

Mark making with vine charcoal sticks

With a fair bit of hand work in cutting, seasoning and removing the bark, some experimentation was done on burn times to come up with a product that worked well.  Charcoal is produced by subjecting wood/vines to intense heat but eliminating oxygen so that it doesn't burn. Resins and water are eliminated and it becomes carbonized instead of turning to ash as it would in an open fire.  Prep time is tempered with patience and waiting.  Nothing about making charcoal is quick.

Peeled vine sticks, ready for a burn

The test burns have exceeded my expectations and are still ongoing.  The vine charcoal that has been produced so far is what I would class as a "soft" grade, meaning it gives a very dark mark on paper.  I'll be working with other woods available locally to see what grades of charcoal I can produce.

Test charcoal sketch

I've done a few quick sketches with the vine charcoal that I have produced and will create a full drawing on an appropriate paper to really give them a test drive. The wave above was a 10 minute sketch on the bottom of a letter that came in the mail, copy paper.  The streaks are marks on the paper itself, not the charcoal.

Erased lines in charcoal - newsprint

I'll do a pilot test with some charcoals later in the year through artists who are familiar with using charcoal as a medium and who are willing to answer questions about its quality and usability.  If charcoal is one of your primary mediums for drawing and you would be interested in testing some handmade charcoal, please let me know and your name will be added to a list of potential testers.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tips for artist talks

As part of my upcoming exhibition which opens on June 12th, I am giving an artist talk on the day after the opening (June 13th).  For me, public presentations are not usually something that make me nervous as when I was working in my day job, I did a lot of public speaking at a variety of levels.

 I believe that if you comfortable with your subject, talking about becomes easier.  And for an artist, talking about their art comes naturally, or should!

To keep audience attention in any talk the following points should be kept in mind:

  1. Know your subject inside out.  If you are not familiar with a section, practice it until you are.  If you don't know your subject, it will show as you "umm" and "errr" your way through it.
  2. Speak in layman terms about your art.   While "art speak" may be the norm in some presentations about art creation, it does confuse listeners, even if they are artists themselves.  Explain what you created and why in as plain language as possible.
  3. Inject a little humour into the talk.   Making people smile at the beginning of a talk sets the tone for the session.  Keep it general public appropriate, you don't know who will be in your audience and you do not want to offend anyone.
  4. Have a logical sequence, don't jump all over the place.  Have a start, middle and end so there is a flow to the talk.  Give an introduction at the beginning outlining what you'll be talking about before getting into the presentation itself.
  5. Use visuals.  You're an artist, of course you'll have visuals!  Visuals keep people interested where words don't, so sprinkle them liberally throughout the talk but make them relevant.
  6. Keep questions til the end of the talk.  Questions that randomly pop up make you lose your train of thought and interrupt the concentration of others who are present.
  7. Keep to the time allotted.  Stay within the time frame for the talk.  People have lives and places to go.  Anything over an hour and an audience becomes fidgety unless you are absolutely rivetting in your talk.
  8. Thank your hosts, sponsors and those attending.  These people are the reason you are here.  Thank them warmly and genuinely.
  9. Mingle after the talk for those back room questions.  Often after the talk, more questions arise.  With your coffee or glass of wine, talk informally with people.  Seek out quiet people and make a point of speaking with them.  Don't be monopolized by any one person.
  10. Have lots of business cards available.  Provide business cards on a side table before and after the talk as well as have some in a pocket to provide to individuals you speak with.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brush or knife?

 Deeper Water
8" x 10"  acrylic on panel

Available through Daily Paintworks  $95 + shipping

I made a transition to palette knife a few years ago and haven't really used a brush much at all since then, aside from sketches in watercolour.  I had some acrylics out for a value exercise in a class over the weekend and thought it might be fun to further test my brush skills.

Any tool that is used to transport paint to a surface has similarities.  The difference is more in the way you put paint on the support than the vehicle for getting it there.  Palette knives provide texture and cover canvas more quickly but brushes can have a similar effect depending on how thickly paint is applied. The process of building any painting is the same, starting with large shapes, blocking in colour and working down to detail.
I use the same technique with this brush work as with all paintings, with little blending, and colour placed one stroke at a time on the surface and keeping the edges soft.

 I don't enjoy using acrylics for palette knife work, even with a thickening agent.  For me, they don't have the same buttery feel that oils contain.  Of course either can be used, but acrylics are more challenging to use with a knife, especially on a larger support, because of their quick drying tendency - both a good and bad thing.

So will I return to brushes?   Unlikely.  I like the texture of painting with a knife and the loose impressionist quality I can get.   I think brushes will remain for some demonstrations and for adding colour to sketches.