Thursday, June 19, 2014

Screen Printing on Plywood

In the quest of expanding on some recent techniques I learned at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, I've been wanting to go beyond printing on paper and work with materials that are a bit more architectural - like plywood! Interestingly enough, the one thing that I have noticed is that despite the material and thickness differences, printing on wood actually behaves quite similar to paper with the added bonus of the wood grain as a part of the piece. 

Still using the Iceland image, since it was already burned, the top image shows a watercolor print, the second down is a graphite print, and last but not least is an opaque print. Most of the plywood (with the exception of stray unknown pieces) that I've been printing on is Baltic Birch. 

Unleashing my inner hidden woodworker, I made one sample panel for a more involved four screen print with the help of my fathers tools and his garage. First we took two pieces of plywood and cut them down to size, with the flat side for screen printing, and the frame side meant to sit flat against the wall and accommodate the hanging hardware. Next we glued them together with standard interior grade elmer's wood glue.  They dried overnight, and the next morning we planed down the edges so they aligned flat. The final step involved taking the rough piece to a wood worker with a router or table saw.  The ply's in plywood are one of the inherent characteristics that show how it is constructed, so I wanted to have the edges of the piece beveled, exposing the ply's like a reverse frame. 

Lessons Learned:
01. To avoid an excessive amount of planing, cut the two pieces of plywood at the same time
02. Don't shop at Home Depot or Menard's.  Finding quality plywood there is impossible. Go to a specialty wood store.

Time to expose the screens!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Iceland Sketchbook

All ready (at least the sketchbook is ready) for the Iceland trip.

I searched through pretty much every sketchbook at Wet Paint to find one that both had suitable watercolor sketching paper, but also a good printable cover and came up with this Hand Book sketchbook by global art materials. Not perfect, but pretty close for now. My ideal sketchbook would allow for flat full spreads (which this one does), have hot pressed watercolor paper (can't find a single sketchbook that has this), and have a good screen printable cover (which this has).  I'll admit the linen cover made me a bit nervous, but after securing the book in place and four passes of ink, the image still came out quite clear.

No new sketchbook would be complete without color guides! Admittedly, in addition to the new sketchbook I also purchased a set of 12 Holbein Watercolors, which I am planning on taking with. Thus, doing double duty, this also made for a good reason to test out mixing some colors, and trying out the paper in this book.

Back at screen printing, here is a quick run-down of the process... Above is the vector silhouette of the country of Iceland that I drew in Adobe Illustrator, printed on acetate film, and exposed.

With a fully exposed, washed, and dried screen and this set up I was ready to print. 

Because of the thickness of the sketchbook, and the normal depth that using clamps allows, we added an extra piece of wood between the table and where the clamps are attached.  Of course, then a bit more support is also needed for the bottom of the screen as well. I only had one chance to get this print "right," otherwise I'd have to buy another sketchbook, so I taped down some guides to hold the book in place while I pressed the ink through the screen. Since it took four passes to get the complete image, it's a good thing the book stayed in place!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bell Museum with Metro Sketchers

Back at the Bell.  With too much to catch up on at home I wasn't able to stay too long (perhaps a good thing for practicing sketching on site), but was able to hatch out portraits of these Dall's Sheep. As I was sketching away, immersed in my own world a museum-goer made the comment, "it must be easier since they are standing still."  With a quick laugh and a "yes, of course" on my part she moved on.  Though we have yet to see a Dall Sheep on a backpacking trip (they reside in the high mountain ranges from British Columbia to the arctic) we have quite often come across the shy big horned sheep.  Their sense of sound must be significantly more attuned than ours as we spot them 500+ feet away and they quickly scamper on and out of our sight.  Yes, I could never sketch these animals in real life ("now hold still, turn to the right, and put one hoof forward"), but sketching this museum is a nice close second.  Though if any wild animals would like to sit and look pretty for a sketching session, I am of course in! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rock Island State Park

Summer is here? Well, at least the summer weekend getaway part has officially started. This Memorial Day weekend we spent three days camping on Rock Island, off the tip of Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin. It's interesting how two islands so close to each other can be quite different when it comes to weather... Washington Island was green and booming with signs of Spring, yet on the 15 minute boat ride to Rock Island we felt the temperature drop immediately and green leaves had not quite started budding on the trees. We were very lucky to have three gorgeous days camping on the island, despite the cold and windy mornings and evenings, the days were sunny and calm as we went about exploring the island.

The sketch above is of the iconic boathouse that greats you as you dock on the island. Much of the Islands history and structures owe their existence to a wealthy Icelandic inventor/settler who lived in Wisconsin and used this island as a retreat. With the exception of the roof, the boathouse is made from materials derived from the island itself. Quite impressive given the small scale of the island.  

In support of Wet Paint's summer travel sketch postcard initiative, the above sketch was sent to them for a window display. 

Waking up in the morning is always my favorite. With few people up, it's almost like having the island to yourself, if only for a few moments.  Our campsite was right next to a white rock beach where I drank my coffee, enjoyed the sound of the waves lapping ashore, and sketched a bit of our surroundings.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Alternative" Screen Printing Methods

About a weekend ago I had the chance to take a class on "Alternative Screen Printing methods at Highpoint Center for Printmaking taught by the talented Drew Peterson.  I have to admit that I immediately signed up for this class as it brought back memories of those fun days in thesis hanging out in the print studios and playing around with different print media and my screen. And in one short weekend I learned a lot...

New materials! Including graphite (used directly on the screen), Carbon Black (acrylic painted on acetate and then burned to screen), and Screen Drawing Fluid/Screen Filler.

Normally I tend to be a bit more pre-meditated and composed with my images, but most of what we experimented with was completely free-form - so a free form weekend it was!

Below are a few of the images I created using 2, or a combination of all of the options above.

From left to right... 1. graphite, black acrylic from acetate transfer, and water color via screen drawing fluid 2. Same as the first, but with the first pass of graphite 3. Black acrylic from acetate transfer, and water color via screen drawing fluid 4. Graphite and watercolor (from burned black acrylic acetate transfer.) and 5. Watercolor on watercolor.

The interesting thing about working with the graphite was that it got lighter with more passes on new paper (obviously), but some parts didn't transfer at first, and by the last piece, they transferred quite dark while everything else transferred light.

Free form graphite passes on the drying rack. Notice the difference from right to left as far as what pushed through the screen and what was already been used up.

For a closer look at using watercolor directly on a screen, on the first day I did some free form drawing directly on the screen.  My understanding is that you can use anything that is water-soluble including watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons, and traditional watercolor.  You never know ahead of time exactly how it will turn out, so it's always a surprise:)

This first one is a more traditional "old school" architectural illustration with both watercolor and graphite drawn on the screen (separate screens), and the second is completely random - just getting back into the swing of things!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mill City Museum with MetroSketchers

Finally... a gorgeous day to sketch outside! Today's sketch-outing was at the Mill City Museum - a must see for any visitor to the city (and this native sadly admits that she has not actually been inside...).  Case and point - sidetracked by the beautiful weather outside and the old mill foundations along the river make for finding a quiet peaceful place. The other motive for sketching outside was that inside we could only use pencils. So we (Claire and myself) found a few nice stones down by the river to sit down and sketch on.

A few months ago (about six I think) I purchased a small sketch pad of hot press water color paper as a test because as much as I love the "tooth" on my Moleskines, I wanted to try something smoother. And per usual, it sat on the shelf unused because I was too accustomed to other materials. I'm not sure if something in me snapped as I walked out the door this morning, but curiosity got the better of me and I grabbed the unused hot press pad. Needless to say, I do believe I am quite happy with the results... nice blending with the watercolors, and a smooth paper that does not distract from the image.

Right before the watercolor is added.

Everybody's sketchbooks all lined up:) Great inspiration!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dave's Brewfarm

With the weather warming up we decided to make one of our token trips out to Dave's Brewfarm. We make the 1hr. pilgrimage a few times a year and find our visits to be like hanging out with a family member who has their own farm. Dave's beer is quite delicious and never ceases to impress us on each visit with his ever changing highly, creative menu. While I can't comment on the intricacies of the beer (I'll leave that to my husband), what I can note is perhaps the new found purpose of designated driver in return for sketching time. With so many new breweries popping up I can imagine this becoming a welcome compromise.