The calm monochrome that follows the feast days

an abandoned sidewalk xmas tree— set out to the street before xmas fully dressed (b&w photo)

These days following the winter feasts bring a quiet with them, not necessarily unwelcome. Often grey and a little lonely, or too-quiet for some, yet there is a gentleness to them that eases the emotional tumult forced by the calendar shift into a new year.

the giant pine in the yard upstate, blocking snowfall on the yard liek an umbrella (b&w photo)

When I was younger, I longed for the new year to turn at Springtide, or during the full heat of Summer. As I’ve got older, the shift has felt more accustomed and proper happening in the dead of winter— it allows a moment, at least, for reflection which those other times wouldn’t afford.

Several pine trees upstate in snowfall (b&w photo)

(I’ll own, this is clearly the result of living one’s entire life in the northern hemisphere, in the west. Nurture and nature have their sway.)

Upstate at the Farm over the winter holiday is something I’d not trade. Cold, and snowy, I can see the sun and shade of summer in every angle— but those white cloaked fields are equal in my mind to their mild counterparts. Some of my best memories are of being alone in a quiet icicled clearing in the woods; or frigid rides along field paths as snow-blanketed as the horse’s backs, and my eyelashes— in awe of the change a bit of weather can make.

Sure, we get more irritable in the cabin-fever months. But also we get closer, cozier, if allowed. Weather does change things. It’s one of the things my cold-climate friends and I always joked about— nothing akin to Russian novels ever comes out of easy climates!

the house at the Farm, blanketed in easy snow (b&w photo)

We complain, yet we can’t rightly imagine life without seasons. Or we try, and give it up for folly. Relegate easy to vacation times, to the fleeting (and also irritating but in different ways) Summer. It all balances out in ways we’ve grown accustomed to; in ways that make sense to us.

telephone pole and wires in snow (b&w photo)

Anyway, I rather enjoy and look forward to the quiet spell after the hectic holiday time —before it turns into the doldrums— at which point I’ll want winter to go. There’s a period during which it’s welcome and agreeable; and productive, honestly.

Eventually, of course, the grey just becomes too much, and all we want is the return of green trees and sunshine. That’ll be hitting us around mid-February, I suspect, when the whole city has lost its luster; after the fairy-lights’ve been long taken down, and all the world just feels like it’s given up.

But, just as we reach our wit’s end, some modest glorious crocus will raise her chilly new petals from the snow, and give a beacon of spring, a bit of hope to see us through.

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Crossing into a new year armed with a pen

Ink sketch of people at the bar

New Year’s Eve: the borderlands of the year; symbol of hope, renewal, revelry. To some, the biggest party of the year. To others, just a day like all the others. I reckon my take on it falls somewhere in between. It’s nice to mark it, to be in the company of others, but not the sort of event I buy new clothes for, (Although, to be honest, I rarely buy new clothes for anything in particular.)

Left: sketch of a woman on tv interviewing revelers at Times Square. Right: two men dancing at the bar

So it was I found myself at my local around 10pm. I braved the dismal rain for two whole blocks to meet up with TL after her shift at the restaurant. She went home before the changing of the guard, but I stayed.

I’d spent the day working on updating my art website, and along the way I realized I’ve not done any drawings in two years with my trusted old ball-point with the ink that smears so wonderfully—so I armed myself thusly before heading out, hoping to fill the last few pages of my sketchbook at the close of the year.

Ink sketch of people at the far end of the bar

The simplicity of working with a single pen is good for bar drawings. You must work fast, as people may walk away or re-orient at any moment, The setting is dim, so details are hard to pin down anyway. These are aspects of bar drawing that I really enjoy. No time for thinking— just keep grabbing what information you can.

The type of decision-making apparent in these sketches differs from my more thoughtfully-approached drawings. I learn so much from doing them, despite that they never look finished or beautiful.

And now, it’s time to begin a new Moleskine, the first of 2019. Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

The Witch-boy: line etch proof

Here is a scan of an initial proof of my line-etching of the witch-boy. This is the result of scratching my drawing into a waxy coating over the copper plate, called a hard ground. After coating the plate, you can transfer your (reversed) image onto the surface to guide you as you make your lines into the coating with a scribe tool..

Once you’ve finished, the plate is ready to go into the ferric-chloride acid bath. The places where you’ve scribed into the hard ground coating will be eaten away by the acid, thereby “etching” the lines into the copper plate.

Continue reading “The Witch-boy: line etch proof”

A witch-boy wanders woods at the full moon

detail of a drawing of the witch-boyMeet the witch-boy. He surfaced toward the end of my Inktober series for this year. I did a couple more sketches of him after the first, intrigued.

A few weeks ago I began studying intaglio again, and decided I’d like to do an etching of this guy, but that initial sketch needed some work, it was very rough. Below are four different studies I worked on my iPad of the witch-boy in various different wooded settings.

Witch-boy digital study No.1Above is the first study. I like the composition of the snow and path, but after some thought I decided that these slender trees are not quite what I had in mind; they lack mystery. So I moved one to another.

Witch-boy digital study No.2Here are some beefier trees which I can easily imagine being toned with a combination of line etch and aquatint (a way of introducing continuous tone shades to a print) I like this one! But I kept going.

Continue reading “A witch-boy wanders woods at the full moon”

Second week in the printmaking studio

drawing worked into hard ground on a copper plate

Here is a picture I took with my phone after working the drawing in the hard ground, then immersing the plate for three ‘bites’ in the acid. This plate will serve as my re-entry to the world and techniques of etching, since it’s been over 7 years since I took my first class, so I didn’t spend a ton of time on it

The way this process works:
1. Coat copper with ‘hard ground’ which is basically a sort of wax
2. Draw into the hard ground, exposing the copper
3. Immerse the plate (carefully, wearing gloves) into a bath of ferric-chloride solution. The longer it is in, the deeper and the acid ‘etches’ your lines into the copper, so they hold more ink.

It’s very similar to the photographic process in that way. So if you want some lines to stay very thin, you do a ‘first bite,’ then mask off some areas. Immerse for a second bite, etc.

This means that even though I used the same scribing tool on the whole plate, the result is three different line weights in the image, which will be more apparent when I do my test print.

Below is a sort of preview that I did just by inversing and using photoshop to fake it, but as this can’t show the depth of the lines, it’s not a true preview of a print.
Same image reversed and inverted in photoshop as a rough preview

Soon there will be snow in the air and the grey will set in

cleaned-up ink version of house drawing

Here is the cleaned-up inked version of the house. Next is time to trace it and then transfer the revered version of this to the plate, below:

pencil tracing of the house drawing
Here is the tracing paper after transferring the image. As you can see, I replaced the original trees. I used a white charcoal pencil on the tracing paper to show up on the dark surface of the ‘wax’ ground into witch I’ll scratch the drawing. (I’m hoping the pre-made transfer paper I ordered will leave crisper lines, as this is fuzzy.)
the copper plate, with image transferred
After finishing the transfer to copper, I realized that I left all of my etching tools at the studio! So, I guess I’ll be working on that portion at class. I’ll try to take some decent photos of the line work in progress. You’ll see how impossibly fine the lines can be compared to pen or pencil. Stay tuned!

Paper-dry leaves crunch beneath our feet, and the wind is picking up

pencil sketch of a house in a bell jr

Tuesday I went to my first class in over 7 years— returning to the art of copperplate etching (intaglio). I’ve a small plate ready to work on before my next class on Tuesday. This is the wee sketch I did for it today.

It needs finessing, and then I’ll transfer it in reverse to my plate. I may change those trees to pines, and add some snow. We’ll see. I want to keep it fairly simple, but use this to re-familiarize with the studio and processes after such a long hiatus. Gotta wake up the muscle memory.

After I’ve got into a bit of a groove, I’ll embark on something more complex. I really want to design images with the various techniques in my mind from the start. Work to the medium’s strengths, not just mimic ink drawings or some such. More to come here as I progress!

The last few drawings from Inktober

the witch boy, capturedI lost my momentum toward the end of the month. I remained a day or two behind schedule, and when catching up was posting to social media, but not here each day, So this post is a bit of catch up.
ink drawing of the witch-boy

So there totaled three drawings of the witch-boy, leading up to Halloween. The final drawing was just a plain old hair study. Terrifically anticlimactic, honestly. I haven’t even posted that one elsewhere, as I was sort of thinking I might do something else for the 31st ‘official’. But now it’s November third, time to let it go.
ink drawing of a woman with long hair

All around All Hallow’s Eve— catch up drawings

ink drawing of a witch boy

Here’s what I haven’t posted the past few days— and I’m still three days behind! But the missing drawings will be forthcoming. I’m a man of my word, dammit.

Above, Day twenty-seven: : The witch boy on a night walking beneath the pointy crescent moon.

photo of me in bandit makeup for halloween

Day twenty-six: My FACE! Here’s a variation, as I already included one in the last post. This makeup was my 26 day drawing, haha.

ink drawing of a palm plant

Day twenty-five: a palm plant, enjoying the sunshine of the east-facing window in her new-old house.

Kween of the Museum, perched under a blanket on the Queen Anne

a couple of drawings of me by my friends

Today is my birthday, and I interrupt the previously scheduled “Inktober” drawing posts to share a couple of fabulously wacky and delightful portraits of me by my dear friends, the Chickens, Zac and Tara Lynne.

We were all on a conference call (they called to sing me Happy Birthday), and knowing I was sitting on the ol’ Queen Anne sofa in my living room, they decided to each draw an impression of the scene. They sent these while we were still on the phone and we had a hilarious time dissecting the images (and cackling like the chickens that we are).

Zac's drawing of Liz

Here we have Z’s drawing; appropriately dark and highly witchy. His rendition of the blanket turned into a kind of beastly thing— seen in one way it looks like a giant crow; seen another it becomes a sort of warthog! He moved my giant clock from the dining room into the living room, and included the boxy little fish tank in the drawing. I’m looking dreadfully serious, and we joked that it was my “I must send some money to PBS, I simply must” face.

TL's drawing of Liz

And then TL upped the ante, including labels in her diagram. Proud paintbrushes (she really knows me, haha) and hidden clothing (it’s a closet!) The money tree is so money that it speaks, and she included my Halloween makeup in this, rendering me a bandit queen. Even the phone charger snaking out from under the couch is here, and she turned my coffee table into something quite minimal and chic! Hahahahaha!!

I hafto say, these absurdly sweet drawings are among the best birthday gifts I can imagine. And they are rather inspiring as drawn bits of storytelling, too, so I really wanted to share them. Thanks, chickens!!

selfie of me in my bandit make-up