stray dogs

Softly Dreaming by Serendipity Artist
Softly Dreaming, a photo by Serendipity Artist on Flickr.

I have recently started a sketchbook to help me play with some imagery using collage and watercolor. Keeping a sketchbook gives me the freedom to explore simple ideas without having to worry about creating a finished work of art. I am hoping to also incorporate some printing into these sketches.



Originally uploaded by Serendipity Artist

This is a variation on a previous print. It was created using two blocks and two impressions and then hand tinted with watercolor. This print will be at the upcoming show at the Work Gallery in Ann Arbor running August 13-September 4, 2010. See:

This is the unfinished key block for Light, the second in my current stray dog series (Peace, Light, Love). I am carving the key blocks for this series in cherry. I like working in cherry because it is solid wood rather than plywood and it is less apt to chip. It also has a beautiful, almost waxy surface. The downside is that cherry is very hard wood compared to shina, so carving takes at least three times longer and makes my arm sore. This block is a reworking of white paws. Because the image takes up most of the piece of wood, I am going to have to get creative when I carve the kento. My plan is to place another piece of wood alongside this one and carve the kento across the bottom of both pieces and along the side of the additional piece.

White Paws I

White Paws I is a four-block moku hanga print that depicts an Indian stray dog that I met during my travels to India. Many majestic strays wander the streets of Pune looking for a bit of food or some cool shade. These strays embody the often difficult, but beautiful world of India. I am planning to create two more prints in this series of White Paws.

I am currently working on a four-block print and having issues getting all four blocks to line up properly. To help guide my carving of the blocks I used the method of pasting down the key block printed on thin paper. This works fairly well, however, I believe that the paper stretched somewhat causing slight misalignment. I had heard about using crayon rubbings to see how blocks lined up, but it never worked that well for me.

I have lots of wax paper laying around because I use it between my printing paper and baren for smooth rubbing and to keep moisture from getting on the baren. I decided to try putting the wax paper directly on the block and rubbing it with the baren. It makes a surprisingly clear image of the block, including the kento, and the best thing about it is that it is somewhat transparent so you can then place it over the corresponding blocks to see how it is lining up. Keep in mind that I did this after I had carved all of the blocks and had already inked them so I could see the wax paper lines distinctly on the darkened block. I’m not sure how well it would work on a fresh, unstained block, but I suppose a fresh block could easily be washed with a color to help see the lines.

Wax paper rubbing demo II

Wax paper rubbing demo I

That said, I am still having issues lining things up. I think it now has to do with carved and re-carved kentos that have gotten messy, plus some of those other random things (see 50 things that can go wrong). I’m looking forward to starting fresh with my next print. I have to say though that I love the way this block looks – maybe even more than the print (that wouldn’t be the first time).

White Paws - background block

Happy new year to everyone.

I’ve been back working on my India stray dog series. I am working on three simultaneously – all of a beautiful dog with distinct white paws that I met outside of a restaurant in Pune. Here is a snapshot of the keyblock and a test print on copy paper.

White Paws - Test Print

White Paws - Key Block

I carved this on shina plywood, which is not the best material for making the key block (i.e. the black line block) because it can chip when carving out thin lines. I bought some Quick Wood, which worked pretty well at mending some of those chipped spots. I think I may be ready to move on to carving my key blocks in cherry which is more suitable for detailed carving. I used a Sharpie marker to draw on the key block and I really liked the way it helped me see the thickness of my lines better when carving, allowing me to create what I hope is a more sensitive line.

I also ordered a new carving tool – the bullnose chisel. I didn’t think this tool would be all that useful, but have found it to be invaluable. I use it almost as much as my hangi to (knife). I have been using a shallow u-gouge for clearing areas, but the bullnose chisel clears a lot more efficiently. Here is a photo of it. This is actually photographed upside down so you can see the bevel. It is used with the bevel side toward the wood.
bullnose chisel - woodblock printmaking tool

I’m learning to have a lighter hand with the baren. As you can see in the test print there are some thick edges in the shadow areas. I found that a lighter hand on the baren eliminates these and makes for a more uniform printed area.

The most important lesson that I am beginning to take to heart in this process is patience and learning to trust my intuition.

I have been working on another Indian stray dog print. Here are a couple of tests. I don’t think I like the plain blue background, so I am experimenting with a pattern. I carved this using the method that Annie Bissett described in her blog using a modified photograph glued to the wood with nori. What sounds like an easy process that might even feel a bit like cheating, is actually a really messy and rather uncontrolled process that required a lot of gutsy just “going for it” attitude. The paper shreds as you carve and it’s hard to tell how deep you are carving and you can easily loose track of where you are. I like the way these tests are turning out, but I’m not sure I will use this process again.

hungry dog print test 1
test 1

hungry dog print test 2
test 2

On another front, I have decided to begin posting some of my work on Etsy. I noticed that some of the other woodblock printmakers were using Etsy with success. My site is at I like this site much better than Ebay in that it focuses on handmade arts and crafts and has some neat features like the ability to search by color. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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