End of the Digression

GriffinPrintRunEtsy

Well, they are printed, signed, numbered, and listed on my Etsy shop. These Norse Griffins were an experiment and time will tell how successful an experiment it was. My original thought was to have them for sale at the Oddmall show, but I completely ignored the logistics of how to sell unfinished art. Any promotional effort I made was too little, too late. And my hope of generating interest in my other linocut prints with my demo, never materialized.

PrintingGriffinEtsy

This is not to say that the endeavor was a failure. I learned a lot, and it may yet prove to be profitable. I’m certainly not sorry I took the leap.

For the geeking out aspect, I’m including a series of images showing the progression of the reduction printing process. I always find it challenging in a good way.  Multi-color printing without a safety net.

Griffin 1stColor

The first color. I carved away everything I wanted to stay white.

Griffin 2ndColor

The second color. Here I carved away everything I wanted to show as red.

Griffin 2ndColorCombo

And this is what the second color looks like printed on top of the first. The color balance is a bit off in this picture, but the orange toned down to a pumpkin like color.

Griffin 3rdColor

The third color, a blue-black mix attempting to match indigo. This outline is all that is left of the original block.

Griffin Final

And lastly, the third color printed on top of the others.

Little Guy and Griffin

This is the last entry before my printshop-in-a-show experiment. I’m nervous and excited. I think as long as I don’t leave something critical at home, it should be a lot of fun.

Dude7

The final color carved, inked, and ready to go.

I printed the third color on my little test subject. It’s a mixed blue trying to get close to indigo. When I pulled the first clean proof I could not help but smile. There is something entrancing about seeing this image appear for the first time.

Dude8

My little dudes lined up. The background isn’t quite as pink as it appears here.

Yes, I drew it and it’s nearly symmetrical, but you never really know what the final image will look like. That, at least for me, is one of the attractions of printmaking.

Griffin Carved

The first step, carving away what will be white.

I have much still to do today; print the first color on the griffin, get more supplies, print new signage, pack things up. But I can’t wait until that moment on Sunday when I pull the first finished griffin.

A Tangent Off the Digression

If you read my previous post you will know that I have temporarily veered away from my all-consuming zodiac project to prep for a show this coming weekend. I will be printing a linoleum block reduction print on site at Oddmall Tacoma. One of the features of a reduction print is the overlay of colors. Unlike multiple block prints where each color has its own block, reduction prints use only one block which is carved away as the printing process progresses. This means you only get one shot at it. So instead of risking a major public face-plant, I decided to test my color ideas.

I could have just cut some simple geometric shapes and run some color tests, but where’s the fun in that? The paper for the Griffin piece is 8×10 and after cutting down the parent sheets, I was left with thirty 4×6’s. I got a 2×3 block when I went to buy more ink and started drawing.

Dude1

The image drawn directly onto the block in pencil and then refined in pen.

The image is derived from an ornament on a horse collar from an archeological find in Søllested, Denmark. The Griffin is also inspired by beasts on the horse collars in the same find.

Dude2

The areas I want to stay white have been carved out. I lowered the angle of my desk light to hopefully show the carving.

My previous multi-color Norse block prints have had a Naples yellow-like background and I wanted to do something different that would still feel like it was part of the same series. On the mixing glass and on the block, the ink looks way too pink, but the print came out close enough to what I wanted.

Dude3

The mixed ink and the ink on the block.

Dude4

First impression drying inside the studio.

The second color is lighter than the first and I had no idea how well it would cover. The mix is yellow ochre-ish, but because it’s on top of the rose color it changes to a gold or Raw Sienna.

Dude5

The yellow ink on the block and the print ready for the second impression.

Dude6

After the second impression.

Next up will be the outline in a dark blue and carving the Griffin.

 

The Digression

I’m going to take a slight break from the Zodiac project this week to prepare for a show I’m doing next weekend. Originally it was not on my schedule, but the date opened up and spaces were still available.

The show, Oddmall, has been in Everett,WA for a few years and I’ve done it since 2014, both in fall and summer. Now the organizer is expanding his reach down to Tacoma and I decided to give the new venue a try. I was able to obtain a second booth space at a discount and wondered “What could I do with the extra space?” My inventory comfortably fills a 6×8 booth so twice the space with the same stock would look sparse. But I’ve been listening to a podcast on art marketing, selling, working conventions, etc. and following their advice, I saw a possibility.

I could set up a print shop.

Norns_PrintRun_Close_72

A print run from a couple years ago in my studio.

I don’t have a press any more, but all the printing I’ve been doing lately has been by hand, using a barren. The ink I use is water-soluble, so no stinky solvents. The promoter thought it was a great idea and we got the go-ahead from the venue. So here I go!

GriffinSketch1SM

The original sketch, about 5×7.

Since my shop name is the Literate Griffin, I decided to do a Norse inspired griffin, done as a reduction print in a very limited run, and available only at the show.

GriffinTransfer

I placed the original sketch face down on a linoleum block and used the side of a medium-soft pencil to to transfer the image.

I’ll post updates and shots from the event. Or better yet, come see me there!

The Reduction Print

The last print is done. It will be delivered to the gallery for framing on Tuesday. This one of Slepnir, Odin’s eight legged horse, was a special challenge because I decided to do a reduction print. For those unfamiliar with this technique, please forgive me if I geek out a bit. It is a way to make a multi color relief print using only one block. But it’s also kind of like working without a net because there is little room for error. First you carve away everything you want to appear as white, then print the first color.

This is a scan of the first color. I only touched up lint spots on the scan. The ink coverage was fabulous, and I was surprised.

This is a scan of the first color. I only touched up lint spots on the scan. The ink coverage was fabulous, and I was surprised.

 

The next step is to carve away everything that you want to appear as the first color. In this case, I wanted only the background to be the Naples Yellow-like color, so I carved away all of the background. Well, almost all. There’s some lettering above the horse’s back that I carved around, but it doesn’t show in the next picture because I didn’t ink it during printing.

The second color was straight Dark Yellow over the pale yellow mix of the first run. If you look closely you can see that the ink coverage is a little spotty, but not too bad.

The second color was straight Dark Yellow over the pale yellow mix of the first run. If you look closely you can see that the ink coverage is a little spotty, but not too bad.

 

Lastly, I carved away everything I wanted to stay as the dark yellow. I then printed the third color, a mixed dark brown. The coverage on the final run was the toughest. There was either not enough ink, or the ink was too stiff, or not enough pressure, or too much ink and it plugged up the small spaces, but no matter what, I couldn’t get a good clean impression. Again, I don’t think it’s too bad and the majority of the prints will be useable, but it was exasperating.

The final print showing the lettering (runes) that I avoided in the second run.

The final print showing the lettering (runes) that I avoided in the second run.

 

And now a bit of a test. I took some video of the printing process and will attempt to post it here. I’m just following directions on how to post this, I really have no idea what I’m doing, so I hope it actually works.

 

All this and Tom Waits on the radio. Yeah. Life is good.

Tyr, Fenrir, and the Norns

Most people wouldn’t have a clue as to what the title of this post refers to. Even if they were given the hint ‘mythology’. That’s because the mythology we are usually taught in school (if at all) is from the Egyptian era, and/or from Greece and Rome. The mythology I’m working with here is Norse and while there may be some similarities (how many cultures have a war god[dess] or a love god[dess], etc.) the stories are very different and rich with symbolism.

The background color block for the Norns print. I carved the line work first, then made a print using a lot of ink. I then transferred that print to this block to use as a guide. I only had to make minor adjustments in the carving after the first proof.

The background color block for the Norns print. I carved the line work first, then made a print using a lot of ink. I then transferred that print to this block to use as a guide. I only had to make minor adjustments in the carving after the first proof.

 

The Norns are a trio of goddesses conceptually aligned with the Greek Fates and I’ve depicted them in a similar fashion. Urd, what has become, is spinning the yarn of our existence. It is what we are. Verdandi, what will become, is measuring out the yarn. This is not a fatalistic viewpoint, but one of potential. She simply measures and our actions guide her hands. Skuld, what should become, cuts the yarn. Again, she does not decide our fate. It is up to us to determine how to use the time we have.

The first print run of the Norns. I used a mix of dark yellow and white to come up with a Naples Yellow-like color.

The first print run of the Norns. I used a mix of dark yellow and white to come up with a Naples Yellow-like color. You can see that the background isn’t a solid color, but has a Norse scrolly design that I hope reflects the roots of Yggdrasill, where the Norns live.

 

The Norns, who live at a well among the roots of Yggdrasill, the Norse World Tree, are also said to weave these threads into a tapestry and to carve the runes for peoples lives into Yggdrasill’s trunk.

The Norns with the black line work on top of the yellow.

The Norns with the black line work on top of the yellow.

 

Fenrir was a giant wolf and one of the sons of Loki, the god of transformation, trickery, and chaos.

The block for Tyr and Fenrir, inked and sitting in my makeshift printing frame. Apologies for the washed out pic.

The block for Tyr and Fenrir, inked and sitting in my makeshift printing frame. Apologies for the washed out pic.

 

It was foretold that Fenrir would slay Odin at Ragnarok, the final battle. So the gods tried to trick Fenrir into being bound by magic cords, saying that they were only testing the strength of the cords, and they would release him as soon as the cords were tested. Fenrir, who was no fool, didn’t trust the gods.

 

The first print, an artist's proof, to make sure everything looks OK. The carving was fine, but we decided to lighten up the brown.

The first print, an artist’s proof, to make sure everything looks OK. The carving was fine, but we decided to lighten up the brown. It also let me know how much pressure I needed to use to get a clean print. (A lot.)

 

So he asked for one of them to put their hand in his mouth as surety of his release. Only Tyr, the great warrior, was willing to do this, knowing full well that Fenrir would not be released.  For this, he lost his right hand, and he is considered to be the embodiment of willing sacrifice.

 

A few of the prints in this run. You probably can't see the difference in the ink color, but it really was an improvement.

A few of the prints in this run. You probably can’t see the difference in the ink color, but it really was an improvement.

 

Heavy stuff, huh? Here’s a sneak peek at the next block to lighten the mood. The sketches for it are under all the shavings. It will be of Slepnir, Odin’s eight legged horse, Because who wouldn’t want one of those?

 

You can see a hoof and three of Slepnir's eight legs.

You can see a hoof and three of Slepnir’s eight legs.

Can We See A Pattern Here?

August was busy. Get the new web-site operational. Create art and a story for a small show. Get prints and framing for another small show. Both of those flew by. Sorry for not announcing them. Oh yes. There’s also the next show at Avanti, a printmaking extravaganza. “Would you like to be in it?” they asked. “Sure! Why not.” I replied.

I’ve done printmaking in the past, mumbldy-mumble years ago, and I remember it being very freeing as a technique, but not without its challenges. And because I seem to be genetically disinclined to do things the easy way, I decided to go back to my Norse roots and take a look at the myths and legends from that side of my family.

First up were Hugin and Munin, Odin’s ravens. He would send them out across the land (and worlds) and they would report back to him what all they had seen. I laid the designs down quickly enough, but there they sat.

And now for a change of perspective…

Hello to all reading this blog, I’m Levi Cain; Kevin’s son & a recent graduate of high school. For all ya’ll wondering why I’m writing the remainder of his blogpost, it’s kinda simple; the art opening my dad mentioned previously is in less than twelve days, and he doesn’t have any finished pieces for it… yet. (Lets not mention the fact that they will need to be framed as well, shall we?)

As I sit here writing this he is calmly working away at solving this current issue and panicking as well. A little bit of an oxymoron, I know, but it’s the truth. The work itself, despite a certain lack of completion, is coming along quite nicely.

Here’s the WIP of the print block for Munin:

MuninProcess72

The show opening for Avanti will be on Friday the 12th of this month at 6:00 PM.

One More Thing…

My dad has finally gotten his website (with store!) up and running. Granted, it’s still in the beta phase right now, so feel free to contact him should you be encountering any problems with it.
The Link:
kevinecain.com

And Even Older Technology

TypeBook1My love affair with type began in grade school. My dad gave me an old type specimen book. I spent hours pouring through it, copying the fonts by hand. In high school I took a printing class and worked after school, and for a little while after I graduated, as a printer. Fast forward many years to when a friend called me and asked, “Do you want a letterpress?” I leaped at the chance. I would get to play with type in it’s physical form. He bought it at auction from the UW, and I slowly started to put together a print shop in my basement. Fast forward a few more years, and my little print shop, languishing in my studio space, needed to find a new home. We had sold our house, and rather than move the shop and ignore it for another decade, I decided it was time for Adele, my printing press, to get back to work.

Enter Lynda Sherman. She connected up with me through the printer’s grapevine and she needed a print shop. She fell in love with Adele, set up her shop, Bremelo Press, and best of all, she is sharing this joy with others.

Northwest author Mark Holtzen has written a fabulous essay on the joys of working with this beautiful machine, Adele. Please read it. I realize now that my role in Adele’s life was that of the caretaker. I cleaned her up, refurbished her motor, gave her some new toys. I waited for the day Lynda would arrive and people like Mark would get to experience the ‘dance’.

Thank you both.

Me&Adele