Project Update: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

Things are happening at Grey Gardens, possibly too many things at once. There are projects spread all around in various states of completion. Still the energy is good and after months of what felt like spinning my wheels, I am starting to gain some traction. 

First project update, the wood block for the If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now project is stained and ready to carve.

Wood block for  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now  ©2014 Kristen Necessary

Wood block for If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now ©2014 Kristen Necessary

I stayed with my favored hot pink stain for this block. Once I start carving, toning the block with this stain helps me see what I have and have not cut.

To tone wood blocks, I typically mix a few drops of Golden Fluid Acrylic into Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish. I apply 1-3 coats of Polycrylic® and sand the surface lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between coats. No sanding is needed after the final coat. I prefer this method of toning to traditional processes that use mineral spirits, oil based ink, and polyurethane because of the low odor and the soap and water clean up. 

No matter which method you choose, using a protective finish seals the block and prevents ink from soaking into the  wood. This leads to better ink coverage and provides a flat, even transfer of the ink during printing. It also makes it possible to switch colors easily.

In this project, however, I first want to see if the wood grain will show in the print and work advantageously for the image. So, I did not use Polycrylic® on this block. I used only the Golden Fluid Acrylic thinned with water.

At first I worried about about using water on the block, especially since I am working on MDF with a Birch veneer. Proceeding cautiously, I worked to carefully apply the acrylic using as dry a brush as possible, following behind with a paper towel to soak up any additional moisture. This worked well, and the application does not appear to have affected the stability of the block. 

Now, to finally carve the block!  My current goal is to not spend another year carving and printing this project. I will keep you updated on how it's going.

In other updates, I have finished building a Forced Air Print Dryer for the studio. This is a great tool for drying prints made on damp paper and it is relatively simple to construct. I am writing a tutorial detailing the construction and use of the Forced Air Print Dryer (this is decidedly less simple) and will post that information very soon. 

What about you? What's happening in your studios?


Setting Up Shop: First, Make Room

Setting up a studio is a task all artists share. Why not make it easier on ourselves? Let's talk.

In an effort to exchange knowledge and skills, I want to share my projects and progress with you as I build a new home based printshop that is both professional and budget friendly. I welcome feedback and participation in what I hope won't be a one-sided conversation. How can we build our studios and get the most from often limited spaces and budgets? What has worked for you in the past? What is working for you now? How did you find a studio space in the first place? Let's work together to collect and share our brilliant ideas and problem solving solutions. 

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Project Update: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

Last week was filled with events and meeting new people, and this week I have been busy attending to Grey Gardens. My studio time hasn't been as plentiful as I would like, but I have made some progress on the large wood block I shared earlier. The drawing is complete and the upcoming print has a title!

Wood block for the upcoming print  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now    © 2013 Kristen Necessary

Wood block for the upcoming print If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

© 2013 Kristen Necessary

If you are not familiar with Relief or woodblock printing, this drawing is not intended as a finished artwork. Think of it as a sketch, or better still, a map. I am using the drawing to lay out my idea, to guide my hand in carving an image from the block.

This block is 1/2" MDF with a Birch veneer. I haven't worked with this material before, typically I favor Birch Plywood or Shina Plywood from McClain's Printmaking Supplies. Yes, I probably should choose a less ambitious image when using an unfamiliar material, but that would just be too sensical. 

Detailed view of wood block for the upcoming print  If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now    © 2013 Kristen Necessary

Detailed view of wood block for the upcoming print If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

© 2013 Kristen Necessary

Next I will stain the wood with an intense color, I like to use hot pink. Using a series of wood carving gouges, I then remove areas that I do not want to transfer ink in the final print. As I carve, the contrast between the hot pink stain and the areas of unstained wood revealed by the gouge makes it easier for me to see what I am doing.

Physically creating two levels of surface height, I remove the negative space of the image with my gouge and the positive space of the image emerges as a raised surface. Ink is applied to the block using a roller or brayer, thus it adheres only to the raised (un-carved) surface of the wood. The ink is then transferred from the raised surface of the block onto a sheet of paper using pressure. That my friends, is the basic definition of a Relief print.

I am going to continue to document the creation of If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now in future posts, so be sure not to miss a step by subscribing to the blog using the link at the bottom of this update.

Work (in) Progress

I'm starting to pick up steam on this print-in-progress (finally). The image is my tedious take on ticky-tacky, inspired by a housing development in Des Moines, Iowa. Its hard to admit, but I've been working on this woodcut block off and on for over a year now and I have yet to touch it with a gouge. I first laid out the drawing in graphite. I am now going back with a black permanent marker and a white colored pencil to clarify my vision of how I want to begin cutting the block. 

In graduate school, a wonderful professor/colleague once teased that I was a secret printmaker, only showing what I was working on when forced into a critique. It's true, one of my big stumbling blocks in sharing my work is feeling like "It's (I'm) not ready yet".   This is an attempt to begin to share more of my process. It is going to take the time that it takes to complete this print and I am satisfied with the progress I have made this week.


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