Monday, December 30, 2019

San Joaquin Kit Fox

As an artist who draws great inspiration from my environment and love of nature, I'm forever contemplating ways to utilize my creative abilities to help educate and advocate for a healthier Earth. One issue that has especially weighed on my heart and mind this year is the current rate of species extinction. Especially troubling is the fact that some scientists estimate as much as 99% of the extinction crisis is being driven by human activity.

It's a big problem, one that's currently unfolding right in my own backyard.

The San Joaquin Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) and Bakersfield Cactus (Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei) are both are listed as federally endangered, largely due to habitat loss associated with human development. Both are native to the part of California where I live. To me, they represent why wildland conservation and conscientious stewardship are so critical to maintaining rich biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. I've depicted them here in a graphic style as a dual reduction print, meaning a second block was carved and printed to incorporate a layer of cool color on top of the warm hues.

I love where I come from and all of the life this land supports, and I believe it's possible to create solutions that allow both humans and nature to thrive. And as disheartening as it is to witness such great loss of life and land, my spirit is buoyed by the belief in a future in which we value our Home and all of its inhabitants enough to protect and preserve it to the fullest extent
of our human ability.

The finished print

Block One, Color One: Inked and ready to print.

Due to the nature of reduction printmaking, the block is gradually destroyed with each layer of carving. Therefore, an edition of prints is limited to the number of copies made in the very first round of printing.

Progress photo showing the print with two layers of colors, printed in two stages utilizing two separate blocks.

 Transferring the Key Block (the black outline that has been carved from Block One) to Block Two. Use of a print jig and registration tabs ensure that all of the blocks are in perfect alignment as separate layers are printed on top of one another.

So much thought and care go into every print, from the first sketch to the final execution. I love the process of printmaking and all of the fun little puzzles it requires my brain to solve. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"Keepers of the Desert" 3-Color Reduction Linocut

A few weeks ago, I completed my first reduction linocut print since returning from my summer workshop at Penland School of Craft. It was a valuable learning experience for me, so I thought I'd share a bit about the process here. 

For video clips and further explanation of the printing process,
check out my Stories on Instagram @smallfoxpress

As great as it was printing on Penland's automatic Vandercook letterpress machines, I don't have the advantage of such technology in my home studio. So initially, there was a lot of trial and error as I sought to find the perfect registration system for the Jack Richeson Medium Press that I picked up via Craigslist shortly after returning home from North Carolina.

Registration refers to how well the layers of color align on a print. Each layer of color requires another pass through the press, and another opportunity for either the block or the paper to fall out of alignment. To ensure precise registration, I purchased a set of Ternes-Burton Registration Pins and Tabs, and am really satisfied with how well they worked. However, there was one flaw in my system: The cardboard jig that I made for the block was not 100% snug, and the block was able to shift slightly, resulting in some imperfect registration on a few prints. Something to improve upon next time.

"Keepers of the Desert" is a 3-color, single reduction linocut, meaning that the print was carved from a single block of linoleum. After the first layer of color is printed, the block is carved again in preparation for the next layer. This process was repeated three times. Because the first two layers were destroyed via the carving process, this is a limited edition print. It cannot be reprinted.

I realize that most folks who are new to printmaking find it somewhat challenging to visualize the reduction process, so I made this little gif to show how the layers of the colors stack up (from lightest to darkest):

After many hours of drawing and redrawing, the design is transferred to the linoleum block using a graphite pencil and tracing paper. 

Carving the first layer of color.

The first layer of color is printed. The number of prints made at this stage will determine the maximum number of prints in the edition. It's best to print more than desired, as this layer cannot be reprinted after further carving.

Carving the second layer of color. More details begin to emerge. 

The second layer of color is printed. The print is beginning to take shape. 

 The third and final layer of color (the "Key Block") is carved, inked, and ready to be printed.

 The final layer of color is printed. Registration looks good!

As I mentioned, this print turned out to be a great teacher for me, and I learned a lot through the process of creating it. I'm glad to have challenged myself, but it certainly wasn't as easy without the support of a knowledgable instructor and a studio full of other talented artists to help guide and reassure me through the inevitable bumps in the road. I have a feeling that I'll be drawing from the wisdom and confidence bestowed upon me by my Penland experience for many years to come.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Penland School of Craft

This summer I attended a two week linocut reduction workshop at the beautiful Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The experience was an opportunity to immerse myself in art, nature, and a warm social atmosphere alongside nearly 200 other amazing artists.

I began researching various printmaking workshops at the beginning of the year. What I wanted was the opportunity to work alongside other great artists in my preferred medium of linocut printmaking, as well as have access to the space, tools, and support that would enable me to take my creative practice to the next level.

My time at Penland helped me to achieve exactly that, and more.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my experience was validation. Validation that art is a noble and worthy pursuit. Affirmation that art is a valid career path. And realizing that, when given the opportunity, I will happily spend 12 hours of my day in the studio, sketching, planning, carving, printing, and more or less transcending time and space in a blissful state of flow.

Meeting other female working artists who devote themselves entirely to their craft was equally inspiring. My studio instructor, Laura Baisden, owns and operates her letterpress shop Camp Nevernice in Nashville, Tennessee. Her style, technique, and work ethic are all worthy of the highest praise, and her sense of humor is not to be matched. I feel very thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from her creative vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and general air of fearlessness.

I'm now back home in sunny California, and excited to integrate all that I have learned into my everyday creative routine.

For a little mini tour of Penland and a peek into the letterpress studio, scroll down to view my photos, or check out my Instagram feed @smallfoxpress.

Rocking out on the porch of the Craft House 

Craft House back and Supply Store Entrance 

Double rainbow welcome following orientation

Warming up on a small 4x6" block (battleship grey linoleum mounted on 3/4" MDF)

Planning a 9x12" dual reduction 

Carving the key block 

Printing color #2 on a Vandercook Letterpress Machine 

Proud Printmaker

Finished 9x12" dual reduction linocut print (still awaiting paper trim)