Frogs in Five C

I’m almost done with this set of prints. The current iteration uses five different color plates.

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I’ll likely only add one more plate to bring the total to six colors instead of the intended eight. The reason being is that one of the existing plates didn’t produce enough contrast with the plate it is overlaying. Another plate simply is such a small area that it’s hardly noticeable. That leaves one more plate to add a few details and variety to the water.

Ink Smudges and Frogs

More test proofs I pulled on the letterpress using the linocuts.

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The upper row and the leftmost image in the lower row are all different single color plates.

The middle and rightmost images in the lower row are a two color and three color proof respectively.

There’s still more work to do. I could really use a larger range of ink colors but I’ll make due with what I have.

Note: there are inky fingerprints showing up on a few of the door handles around here. I’m definitely getting a feel for what it’s like to be a printer’s devil.

Inky, The Frog

With the frog prints, it’s any ink color you like as long as it’s based on a shade of green, blue or tan. Say what? It’s more business as usual for me with making due with what’s on hand in the shop. In this case, a limited choices in ink colors.

With that said, here are a few of the different samples I pulled last night while cleaning up high spots on three of the existing plates. It took quite a few hours to do this, causing me to run out of time and energy later in the evening.

FrogPrints_ThreeLayers

Keep in mind that I’m using ink based on the least amount of clean up time rather than trying to select a palette that has sufficient contrast or pleasing aesthetics. To make these prints, I put down the lightest green I had and then simply mixed in darker hues at each stage so that I didn’t have to go through the typical 15 to 20 minute clean up process for the ink disc, rollers and plates. The contrast is low between the different layers as a result.

As for the palette choices, I don’t have a wide range of selections currently. The inks I have were culls sold off by a small printing business that was downsizing. Essentially I bought two cardboard boxes of old inks with no choice given about colors. It was a take it or leave it deal and since I had no printing inks at that time, I gave the guy the twenty dollars he was asking. Considering one new can of ink costs roughly 20 dollars, I was able to obtain a series of colors to work with for the same price as a single tin. Essentially I prioritized flexibility over best quality.

Some of the ink tins have proven to be dried out and no longer useful but fortunately some are still in a workable condition. I ended up getting a number of cans that were colors like tan or olive green. More problematic is the fact that there are no yellow hues present at all. For now though, even a limited palette lets me to move forward with adjusting the plates as well as get a feel for how things look in general. I’ll definitely be on the hunt for more ink colors though.

Frogs, Frogs and More Frogs

Five of the eight plates carved from 6 x 8 inch linoleum blocks for the latest printmaking project. Let me tell ya, my claws need aspirin and lots of it.

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The funny thing is you lose track of time when working on something like this. Last night the first time I remember checking the hour and thinking it was weird how much had passed by was around 10:00 PM. Next time I looked it was after 11:00 PM. Blink and the next thing it’s after midnight with so much more to do on the plate I was actively carving. I called it night before 1:00 AM because it’s not good to be heads down too long.

Hopefully I can do a preliminary check tonight without the remaining three plates just to see if things register sufficiently and look decent. Considering I already have about 25 dollars invested in the linoleum blocks and cutting blades, I have to hope it looks worthy of continuing. I don’t even want to think about the time involved in carving let alone the mess I now have with linoleum chips laying everywhere.

Printing a Zine, Cat Hoarder Style

What goes into making my zine? What? You don’t want to know? Too bad huffers because all that ringing in my ears from tinnitus means I can’t hear you saying:

“No, no, no, I don’t want to hear about this! I don’t want to see it either… ow, too late, now my eyes burn from seeing those photos!”

Buckle in kiddies because it’s time for a lengthy answer to a question you never asked. It’s like watching one of those clinically detached films from the fifties they used to show in a grade school sex-ed lecture:

“Your body is going through changes. Hair is sprouting up everywhere. These changes are bad. Sex is evil. Never speak of it again! If you do have sex, turn out the lights and think good thoughts.” What? Sex is bad? Hey, wait a minute!

Okay, so there won’t be any trauma-inducing films of hair growing here and there and everywhere. What you will see are the numerous pieces of old technology used to make my zine such as inkjet printers, inkjet printers and more inkjet printers. Okay, so there are a lot of other things involved like book binding equipment and letterpress stuff too. What it comes down to is the multitude of gadgets provide a unique vocabulary I can use to express my thoughts and ideas so to speak. Echoing the chaotic way I think, it was only natural a mess of equipment would gravitate into my hive.

You know how some people hoard cats? Not me. Ain’t nothing furry and warm around here so I hoard printing technology instead. The scary part is these things are spread out everywhere around here. There are a pair of hulking 85 pound Epson 4000 wide format printers holding down two different tables, serving as gravity anchors to keep the house from floating away. Then there’s a 70 pound office laser printer tucked under a home-made silkscreen vacuum table. Talk about inconvenient to get paper in and out of. Bend over, bang your head, then swear a lot.

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Anyone foolish enough to look really close at the photos might be able to see a hypodermic sitting on a table in one of the picture. No, I’m not looking to be Crack-House number two. [Note: Crack-House Number One, a rental property about half a block down from me got busted earlier this week. A reporter posted details online saying there were indications the occupants were manufacturing meth so my description isn’t quite spot on but I think everyone gets the point.] Back to the topic at hand – that hypodermic is used to transfer ink to cartridges… wait, is it against some anti-tampering code to refill something? Knowing the IP tyrants, it probably is. Sheesh.

[Note, the observant spotted an upside down stencil of Optimus Prime painted on a piece of cardboard in one of the photos. Hey, I can’t help but like Optimus Prime!]

Okay, okay, so I’m not making you laugh. Still, you’re stuck reading this so let’s just make the best of a bad situation shall we? Back on track again, let’s no’t forget there’s a wee bitty dot matrix printer hidden away around here. Got that one from my next door neighbor and believe it or not, I do use it occasionally. Mostly for the unique look. Everything around here has a purpose and does get used at some point or another.

No matter how many inkjets or laser printers there are around here, they all bow to King Ghidora which is the Risograph. That thing is a 250 pound beast from 20,000 fathoms. Is it the biggest machine on the block? Not quite. While the Riso is the King Ghirdora of the household, the garage essentially becomes Monster Island; a place where things grow much, much larger and have teeth. It might very well be Kaiju fight time because the letterpress is the heavyweight champ that tips the scales at over a thousand pounds. Quite the thing to move.

Then there are the machines that remain mostly behind the scenes. They are little gadgets like the electric paper folder or the electric dual-head saddle stapler. Sometimes they need some tender, loving care to coax them into work. Other times, they’re too cranky and I go back to using manual methods like hand folding or using a thrift store just-pound-on-it saddle stapler.

Most of this gear was acquired on the cheap. Things like the wide format Epson 4000s printers were free from Craigslist while on the other end of the spectrum, the C&P letterpress took a huge bite out of my resources. It’s been a slow process acquiring the tools. Mind you, I’m still hunting for a new additions too such as a small offset press (approximately 800 pounds of metal) to add to the hive. The requirement that I find it for free makes that a more challenging, but not impossible acquisition. Patience is required.

The other beast on the list of wants is a problem though because it’s becoming harder to find as the years pass and it’s also the darling of the industry for those who use them. I’m talking about proof presses like a Vandercook or Reprex cylinder press. They’re unbelievably expensive with prices frequently starting at 13 thousand dollar level and go up from there. The price makes a cylinder press pretty much a pipe-dream. Add in the fact they are usually showing up in long distance locations that require trucking it in, adding another thousand or two to the bill makes it like scaling Everest – it’s not something everyone can manage to do.

Sometimes there are things that just doesn’t happen in life and I understand that. Still, as an artist, I think I could make a bit of a splash in the world tinkering with a press that can churn out larger sized posters. Maybe not a Warhol-like splash, but at least it would be something. Blah, blah, blah. I’m always looking for things so it’s a never ending story with that. Like it or not, it’s part of my personality and as such, is also shapes my artistic voice.

Pipe-dreams aside, I think I’ll start calling this place Matchstick City because if I can keep from defaulting on the house payments, I’ll have so much equipment deeply entrenched that they’ll have to dig a big hole and burn the place to the ground to clean it up when I finally do kick the bucket.

Yep, much blabbing about nothing. TL/DR. It was the rhetorical question everyone wanted to wish away into the cornfield.

 

The Frog Prints

Ain’t no frog prince around here. Only frog prints. So how does the idea for a frog print evolve? In my case, with lots of carving. Going from left to right in the photo, you can see three different stages one of my print ideas went through.

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The leftmost image in red ink was the initial idea taking shape as a simple stamp carved from Speedy-Cut.

Not satisfied, I carved a 4 x 6 inch linoleum block for running through the C&P letterpress to produce the single color print in the center. The size factor proved problematic because I intended to use it for the back cover of a zine which is a larger 5.5 x 8.5 inch format. A lot of wasted space is not what I wanted for jacket art so it was back to the carving tools.
Next up, I carved two different plates on 5 x 7 inch linoleum blocks. Let me tell ya, pulling a two color print on platen press isn’t a five minute process. Getting everything to register properly and cleaning up the ink for each plate takes a lot of time. But it’s worth the effort.

Those of you who subscribe to my strange little zine either already have a properly editioned two color print in your hands or soon will (overseas destinations take about three weeks for the care package to arrive). On the plus side, one person has asked for a standalone print because they didn’t want to rip the zine apart in order to frame the little frog.

As it stands, this print feels like it still wants to go bigger so perhaps I’ll make a larger set of plates using three or four colors with more details. I’ll do some sketching to see if anythings strikes me as worthy of more late night carve and ink sessions.

Issue Six and Lapses of Sanity

Issue six of Spare Ink is hot off the press. Artistic content was produced with a C&P letterpress as well as DSC_0007a Risograph and my cranky old inkjet. Included is a limited edition two-color relief print on the back cover.

The numerous late night hours involved in creating the art for this issue makes me wonder, if a relief print is pulled in the woods and no one other than the artist is there to see it, does the print exist? Or is the print more like a representation of Schrodinger’s cat, oscillating between being and not being? Perhaps its only proof of existence hinges upon whether some winged-insectoid with compound eyes spies it and instinctively calculates whether it’s predator or prey before flying away. Perhaps the only way to know is to get your hands on a copy of the latest issue.

Are you short on money currently? I’m right there with you since negative cash flow has haunted me for a number of months but I’ll see what I can do about sending a gratis copy as good karma.

For anyone who has sufficient finances to help support material costs, use the appropriate button to purchase a copy of issue six.

If you have a US shipping address:

US Buy Now Button

 

If you have an international shipping address outside of the US:

International Buy Now Button

 

Bargain Gone Bad

This morning I set about making a video to document how the stencil making process works on the Risograph. After spending several hours shooting 50 different takes for footage that I intended to edit through to put together something from different camera angles, I discovered the external microphone failed. Only the first dozen or so had audio. To compound the problem, the critical segments that demonstrated the process of making the stencil and producing usable copies were in the missing audio batch.

The take away lesson is that the cut-rate price I got on the external shotgun mic existed for a reason. The mic had likely failed for the original owner, hence the reason it was in a thrift store for only a few dollars. Not that it was a quality directional microphone. It wasn’t. It was a cheap low-end consumer model masquerading as a shotgun mic but at least it helped with audio quality when it did work.

Ugh, thrift stores… both boon and bane. The one thing I can say is thrift stores provide access to things we normally wouldn’t be able to use but the risk factor is high. A shotgun mic isn’t something I can or want to spend money on so a cheap model is the only option in my situation.

Another lesson is I should have spot checked quality as I shot video. Considering the shotgun mic had worked flawlessly numerous times in the past, skipping spot checks on audio/video quality was a gamble that didn’t pay off this time around.

I’ll try making the video again on another day because sometimes it’s just best to walk away for awhile when everything goes wrong.

Making a Print on a Risograph

Earlier today I published a five minute video on YouTube that goes through the basic steps involved in creating a three color print on a Risograph. Most people are probably not familiar with a Risograph as it’s a niche product that caters to markets like flyer printing for churches as well as being used in some school environments.

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Artists are one of the current groups who make use of this quirky but expressive stencil-based process. The technology in a Riso was originally intended for making one or two color prints. Somewhat like a silkscreen, a stencil is created by the machine which ink is then pushed through to make the print. As always, people tend to do things that weren’t originally planned such as running prints through repeatedly to overlay multiple colors. The variation that happens with registration means the different color layers won’t always line up the same and gives the output a signature style that has the feel of older comic books that were printed using four color offset lithography.

The video doesn’t cover making the stencils but that’s a fairly straight forward process of creating  and printing gray scale images on a computer for each color and then scanning them on the Riso. What you will see is a three color print being made using red, blue and black inks. The source of the gray scale masks used in the video came from artwork I created for making the cover of an earlier issue of my zine.

Love it or hate it, feel free to leave comments about the process as well as the video either on YouTube or here. Well, okay, if you hate it, no need to be abusive but I’ll gladly listen to constructive criticism with an open mind on improving.

Interviews and Sunshine

Friendly faces! Everyone needs friendly faces around to help make life into an even more enjoyable experience. I can say I have a few of those helpful people around who I have the pleasure of interacting with. My good friend Brianna Wray is one of those people. Not only is she a local artist but she shares her talent through writing on her website and has graciously interviewed me about my artistic endeavors. You can find the interview over at Wrays of Sunshine.

I’m a bit late in posting the link due to a respiratory ailment that took me out of commission for over a week. Thankfully, my brain finally started working enough today to get this post shared. With that said, let’s talk about Brianna for a moment.

Brianna and I met while attending art classes at a local community college. My internal voice that guides me along the interesting path of life told me Brianna was an awesome person who I had to get to know. Fortunately, the print making class we were taking together provided plenty of good opportunities to interact and get to know each other. During that time, Brianna and I became friends.

Brianna is someone who is imaginative, gregarious and possesses an industrious “Nothing can stop me!” attitude that engages and activates everyone around her. These are good descriptions indeed yet I’ll add one more – friend! Brianna is one of those kind souls who I consider as kindred spirits from the art world.

For those who haven’t visited Brianna’s site, go check out what she’s up to at Wrays of Sunshine. You’ll enjoy the many different posts she shares chronicling her adventures in the academic environment of higher education as she fine tunes her artistic talents. Also take a look over at CatfightCraft on Etsy to see some of her artistic creations firsthand.