Saturday, December 31, 2011

Drypoint Dragon for the Chinese New Year

           Stand by for a slew of them, as 2012 is the Chinese year of the Dragon, and more exactly, the year of the Water Dragon. My dragon is actually a Wyvern, an English dragon which has two legs instead of four, plus a forked tongue and tail. The word 'wyvern' is derived from French and Latin, meaning worm.
          I love the immediacy of drypoint, it's more like drawing than any other printmaking process that I know of, and because each print is made by inking and wiping by hand, each varies a little from its fellows. I used a variety of techniques to create background colour in these prints, so it is a Varied Edition. Each print will be numbered and signed, with the letters VE before the number.
          Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pochoir and Parrots.

I'm a subscriber to David Bull's Japanese woodblock series, 'The Mystique of the Japanese Print'. Dave produces a new print for this series every month, each illustrating a different technique or style. It has been a fascinating journey, some I have loved more than others, but I have learned lots by being able to hold the prints and examine them close up. The latest arrived a week or so ago, and is called Parrot and Acorns,shown below:

Dave had this to say about it:
…..”It is clearly ‘modern’ in appearance, even somewhat abstract in the way the elements are depicted. Yet it actually dates from sometime in the late 1700! ...Just how is it that such ‘old’ work can look so new?….the story of the huge influence of Japanese prints on the artists of the west has been told many times. The basic design elements of this print - wide areas of flat colour, plenty of empty space, perfect balance of the parts of the design - were all standard practice for Japanese artists, but were ‘hidden’ from the rest of the world for many years..."

     I was surprised to see just how much the style of Japanese woodblock had influenced the work of Saude, Barbier et al in the early 1900s, which had in turn influenced my own work. The two images below are from the miniature book Qualicum Blue and are about a quarter the size of the Parrot shown above.
Woodblock and pochoir have many similarities in the way they are made. For both, the complete image is first drawn

or painted, and colour separations worked out. For woodblock, multiple blocks are carved, one or more for each colour. For pochoir stencils are cut, one or more for each colour. In woodblock sometimes the block is reprinted, selectively inking up with a slightly different colour for shading, (see parrot's head and wings) or maybe using a different block, and in pochoir the stencils can be re-used to apply shading, or a new stencil is made (see jay's feathers, leaves and wings of butterfly). With pochoir it is not possible to achieve the stand-alone 'white line' Dave has used here for the leaves - at least, I should say I haven't found a way.
     Both methods build up the image with flat layers of colour, which can be quite subtle. The Pochoir artists of the early 1900s used a similar colour palette to Japanese woodblock. Woodblock is perhaps more versatile, there are certainly things you can do with woodblock that you can't with a stencil. Both methods allow the artist to create coloured prints, and require a degree of muscle and skill. 
To see more pochoir images, the Smithsonian has a great online gallery, with lots more info on pochoir. Dave Bull's woodblock site is brimming with interesting and beautiful pics. A great contemporary pochoir artist is Walter Bachinski.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wayzgoose Musings

I drove towards Nanaimo harbour in lashing rain, which thankfully eased by the time I boarded the single-engine Otter float plane, and by the time we splashed down in Vancouver harbour, the sun was peeping through. The day was newly-washed and fragrant as I turned in to the entrance of the Vancouver Public Library, a strikingly beautiful piece of architecture that reminds me of the coliseum in Rome.
It was a real treat to be able to talk to printers and book artists without concern for manning my own table, and to spend as long as I wanted just looking at beautiful books. I realised how much collaboration goes on between printer and binder, and printer and illustrator. There is also the connection between papermakers and paper decorators and the book artists who use the papers: one could not exist without the other. The phrase ‘on the shoulders of giants’ came to mind, the debt we all owe to those who have gone before, as well as those whose contribution is in the moment.
You can see the Alcuin Society photo stream of this event on Flickr   Enjoy! And thank you to all those self-less Alcuin Society volunteers who made it possible.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vancouver Wayzgoose update.

Regretfully I have withdrawn from participating in the Wayzgoose this year, as I have very few books left to show, and my work on the next book is coming along so v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. My disappointment is someone else's good fortune as I hear my table was eagerly snapped up by another. Every cloud has a silver lining, even if it is your cloud and someone else's lining!
However, there are lots of interesting presses, book artists and demonstrations, and it is always a very stimulating event. Check out the Emily Carr table and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild table, and see how paper is made and marbled.
As far as I know it is the only event of its kind in this part of Canada, and as it only takes place every two years, it is a mecca for bibliophiles and artists of all stripes. The organisers, the Alcuin Society, are to be congratulated.  The society is entirely run by  volunteers, and has single-handedly mark out a little territory for those interested in books and the book arts.  Go to the Alice Mackay room at the Vancouver Central Library on West Georgia, between 10 am and 4 pm and prepare to be enthralled.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

De Walden Press site updated: Bluewave Printmakers Fall Schedule

Well finally I've managed to re-build my website, De Walden Press, and have put up a page for 'Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine'. I know, I know, it's taken me ages, Pharoah could have been half way through building a pyramid in the time it has taken me. Anyway, you're welcome to visit the site, and tell me what you think. 

Anne Jones of Bluewave Printmakers in Nanaimo, BC, has posted her fall schedule for printmaking workshops. I really enjoyed the day I spent with her, and will be using some of the techniques I learned in my new book. Pharoah will probably have time to build the rest of the pyramid by the time that is ready for publication.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vancouver Wayzgoose Strikes Again!

The celebrated Alcuin Wayzgoose, a bi-annual event, will take place on October 22nd at the Vancouver Public Library, in the Alice Mackay room. I shall be attending along with other presses and book artists, and there will be demonstrations of marbling, pastepapers and linocuts.

All are welcome, and it's free! See the Alcuin Society website for further details.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Beginnings, Leonardo Update

      A quick update on "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine", (see Sept 2010 post for details) there are just two copies unsold as of today, and I'm posting this info here as I'm unable to post this on my website at the moment.
     The most refreshing thing about not having to work to commission is that you can choose whatever subject you like and tackle it in whatever way you want. This does have a downside, as the scope is so vast that the words 'spoilt for choice' are an understatement. However, undaunted by that thought, I'm now launching myself at an idea that's been gently bubbling away on the back burner for the last few months.
     I say 'launch' because I've taken a step into the unknown, buying a press that at the time of purchase I had absolutely no idea how to use, or whether it would indeed be useful to me, but I do know that I need a printmaking technique that pleases me aesthetically and that I can physically manage to work with. And I've been very lucky.
     I've found a printmaker, Anne Jones, who has set up a studio, Blue Wave Printmakers at a drivable distance from my home, in Nanaimo BC. She is very experienced both in printmaking and in teaching. I spent a day with her, learning the basics of monotype and drypoint, and I hope to return at a later date, when I have digested the new knowledge and experience. She's running several workshops in different techniques over the next few months so you may want to check out her info. One of the great things about Blue Wave is that all processes and materials are non-toxic, using Akua Kolor and Akua Intaglio waterbased inks, and non-toxic methods of plate preparation.
     Drypoint belongs to the same family of printmaking as engraving and etching. They are all intaglio processes where ink is held in an incised line, and transferred to paper under pressure (which is where my new intaglio press comes in). Drypoint has a lovely fuzzy line and the immediacy of drawing, and I'm only just beginning to explore this technique.  
Image is by Rembrandt, and is an etching, drypoint and mezzotint. Drypoint combines well with monotype for colour, see Hugh Bryden's site.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back In The Studio

For the past few months, I've been working on my father's autobiography, which he wrote for the family. It runs to some 178 pages, including lots of photos, and will be printed and bound by a local company for family members. Not a miniature book, I hasten to add.
     It speaks to another time, a slower way of life before all the electronic gadgetry, and to a time when the youth of the free western world was actively engaged in fighting to preserve that freedom, when letters often didn't make it home to their loved ones and neither did their authors. 
In the late 1940s and early 1950s the hardship and disillusionment of those who did return, their efforts to build their own 'brave new world', their determination that they and their children would have a better life are recorded within this book and echoed in families throughout the world. My father will be 91 this year, and this book gives insight into a twentieth-century way of life that has almost disappeared, so quickly has our society changed.
     So now, having handed off the files, I'm free to think about a new book. Some things never change!  And...I've been playing with my new press, an Ettan etching press, 12" x 24", lightweight but strong.
It weighs only 40lb but is robust, and has two pressure gauges, and although it isn't geared, is easy to use, doesn't require a huge amount of effort to crank the handle. I'm very pleased with it so far.
More about the press and learning to use it later....
I was going to link to the Ettan site, seems their domain has expired, so here's a link to the Daniel Smith page.
Edit July 3,2011: Ettan site up and running again,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Covering Leonardo - Part V

          The last steps in the binding of "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" - at last, you say. It takes longer to describe than it does to make ;-) Filling the inside boards is a fairly straightforward process. The purpose of this is to raise the height of the inner part of the board that is not covered by the turn-ins to the same as that of the turn-ins. You measure and cut pieces of thin card (I use Bristol board), making them just slightly smaller than the area you wish to fill. I usually step it back just a little from the spine edge. For this thickness of leather I used two layers of Bristol board to bring it up to the right height. You must be sure to have the grain of the fill-in running from head to tail. 
          Now the cover is ready for fitting the text block. When positioning the text block it is very important to locate it centrally on the spine, both vertically and horizontally. I usually draw guide lines on the flesh side of the leather as my eyesight is poor and I don't like to leave it to chance. I also draw lines to indicate the positions of the slips, and make slits through the spine on each side, one for the slip to go outside, and one for it to come back in. When I'm satisfied the slips are in the correct position, I trim them all to the same length and cut each end into a point to facilitate its passage through the leather. I lace the slips through and pull the text block into place. The slips are about 18 mm (just over half an inch)  long at this point. 
For this binding, to accommodate the depth of the vellum slips, I mark their position on the fill-in and using a sharp blade cut along the pencil lines and remove as much of the fill-in material that is underneath the slips to the depth of the vellum so that when the slips are glued in they are the same height as the fill-in.
          Obviously you have to try it as you go along to ensure you remove just the right amount. Then glue in the slips and bone down, dry under weight, book open flat. I then tear a small piece of Japanese tissue to cover each slip before putting down the endpapers. This last tissue layer ensures that the slips are not visible under the endpapers. 
           You may think that there are a lot of fiddly little extra steps. As you may have gathered, I like the binding to be smooth and tactile, to feel as good as it looks. When you go to the trouble of buying good quality papers and leather it seems only right to treat them well. Here are another couple of views of this book. I love Leonardo's drawings and the music of 'Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine' and have enjoyed every aspect of making this book. I always learn so much.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Covering Leonardo Part IV

          Oh so long ago, last year in fact, I promised to show fitting the ribbon ties and lining the flap extension of the binding of Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine. I had forgotten to take photos, dear reader, and so this post has had to wait until I got to that stage again with more bindings. So here goes.

          After the edges are turned in, corners made, flap blind-tooled and title blocked, the ribbon ties are fitted. On the left (top) board I had previously removed a thin layer of the board 8mm x 8mm to allow the ribbon to sit in. (The ribbon is 8mm wide, as is the turn-in. Adjust the size to whatever ribbon or tie you use.) When turning in this edge, this part of the turn-in is left free. A slit the width of the ribbon is made vertically in the leather of the turn-in and the ribbon threaded through. One end of the ribbon sits in the 8mm square well, and is glued in place with PVA, with the turn-in glued on top of it, being careful that the PVA does not ooze out and stain the ribbon or the leather. The ribbon for the back board, shown on the right above, is threaded through a similar slit in the flap, before the flap is lined. Note the guide lines, and measure the position of both slits carefully so that when the boards come together the ribbons are positioned exactly opposite each other and the ribbon is in the vertical centre of the flap. I position the flap slit about 1 mm from the edge of the board, which seems to work well. The ribbon is glued down onto the inside edge of the book board and will be covered by the lining leather.

         Before applying the lining, the edge of the back board that would normally be covered by the turn-in, where the ribbon is glued, must be built up with a thin piece of card or Bristol board each side of the end of ribbon to bring it up so that when the lining is in place the lining plus card is the same thickness as the rest of the turn-ins, and the end of the ribbon sits roughly level with the strip of card.
          The leather for lining the flap should be pared thin and I use a Brockman parer for this, as shown above. The Brockman parer is very useful for paring small strips of leather for this sort of application, or for title labels etc. You could also use a knife or a spokeshave to do the same job. The lining leather needs to be thin because otherwise the flap would be stiff and a bit clumsy. The function of the lining is to tidy up and finish off the appearance of the flap and secure the ribbon tie, it does not need to have tensile strength.
          For the lining I apply adhesive to the flap, and position the lining on top of it with enough leather to cover the strip of card, so that when it is trimmed to size, that edge is the same width as the turn-ins and the lining completely covers the end of the ribbon and the card. After boning lightly in place I trim the superfluous lining material with a sharp blade so it fits neatly and all the edges are flush.
          The inside covers are now ready to be filled with card flush with the turn-ins, so that all is level, and the end-papers go down onto a flat surface. In my next post I'll show how this should look and how the text-block is fitted with the vellum slips. Incidentally, you can also see that when I turned in the top and lower edges at the spine, I left a little puff of air at the edge, to serve as a little headcap.