Category Archives: printmaking

Making+Listening::4/2014

The block-printing ink we use is water-soluble. Unlike oil-based ink, it’s non-toxic and easy to clean up (and truthfully, it’s the first one that concerns me more–my goal is always high quality, non-toxic art materials). However, it’s not permanent even when dry, which means we can’t go into a print with any wet media. So I did some poking around online and learned about Akua Intaglio inks. It’s soy-based, water-based, permanent, and cleans up with dish soap and water. I ordered a small container of black ink off Amazon to experiment with before going all in and ordering, well, lots of it.

hanging prints

I played with it earlier this week. (I also set up a simple registration system so my prints would be evenly centered.)

drying rock crab prints

This is my latest linocut, which I actually did a few weeks ago, but then needed to adjust, and I never posted about it. It’s from a sketch I made of a rock crab quite a while ago.

After the prints dried overnight, I added watercolor to one to see if the ink was, indeed, permanent.

watercolor + print

How delightful is that?! I’m not sure what to do with these. I think I should have cut the paper larger–it’s 5″ x 7″ (the print itself is 4″ x 6″). I’m mulling over the possibilities for these. And of course, the kids and I are also experimenting with this ink together–but I can’t show you that yet.

Since I’m calling this a Making + Listening post and linking up with Dawn, we’ve mostly been listening and watching the Olympics. The kids-at-home get to see events live in the mornings, which is fun, and they pulled out the world atlas so they could learn to identify the athletes’ countries by their flags. And when I’m working in the art area, either by myself or with the kids, it’s Pandora–back on the 80s station because I need the extra pep when I’m the only parent for the week.

Building up the Mail Stash

February might be a tough month for blogging, because much of the kid-involved art exploration going on here will probably end up in either my column or my e-zine. After those are published, the outtakes can and probably will end up here (we are exploring so. much.), but until then… I’m excited about the things we’re reading, doing, and planning to do, yet have to be quiet about it here.

mail stash at amyhoodarts.com

However, I can share with you that I’ve been building up my mail stash! With odds and ends of time in the art studio, I’ve made lots of postcards to send out. These aren’t for swaps–as fun as swaps are, I think right now I much prefer the idea of sending out mail to people with whom I already have a connection. I can add a personal note and have the fun of waiting for it to land and brighten a day. I haven’t set a formal goal with this (because it’s a FUN THING), but I like the idea of trying to send out something every week. So while the kids were making Valentines, I made Valentine-themed postcards. When I had ten minutes downstairs, I collaged some Bristol board to turn into postcards. It’s like a quick hit of art therapy, and then comes the fun of sending them out to friends.

I can also share this: in case you missed it on Twitter, a get-to-know-me questionnaire was featured on the Home/School/Life blog last week. Check it out!

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at amyhoodarts.com

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at amyhoodarts.com

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at amyhoodarts.com

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at amyhoodarts.com

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

The Making of a Title

The first thing I make for each Art Together issue is the cover header. If you look on the sidebar, you’ll see that the headers match the theme. Once I decide upon a focus and begin researching (I do love the researching), making the header helps set my direction on the rest of the issue. It gets me into the mood of what the kids and I will be working on and distilling for the next month or two. I thought you might like to see how the header for the third issue, which will be out in March, came together.

The focus of the third issue is printmaking, so I had many possibilities. Art-making is a series of decisions made; I’ve no doubt I could make dozens of satisfying printmaking-based headers. I wanted to use easily accessible techniques, though, so that narrowed it down a bit. I decided I’d use a stencil process to get the letters onto the paper, so first I had to make a stencil. I traced the lettering from Issue Two onto tracing paper and rubbed the back of the paper with a graphite block so I could transfer the lines. This works like carbon paper.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

Tracing the letters onto Bristol board.

I taped the tracing paper onto Bristol board and traced over the lines again, which transferred them onto Bristol board. The next step was to carefully cut on the lines with an x-acto knife.

The cut stencil.

The cut stencil.

I set that aside and found some left-over brown packing paper from some of the pre-Christmas mail orders. I crumpled it up, then flattened it out again. Then I rolled it with blue ink using a brayer.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

The first layer of the print: blue ink.

After it dried, I rolled it in the opposite direction with yellow ink, using a plastic tube wrapped in twine to create a different print.

 

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

The second layer: Yellow ink on a twine-wrapped plastic tube.

For the third layer, I cut triangles out of bubble wrap, painted them with red acrylic, and made prints in a star-burst sort of design.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Third layer: Red prints from bubble wrap triangles.

Finally, when that was dry, it was time to use the stencil. I taped it down, including the floating bits inside letters like “A” and “R.” This isn’t the best method, but it worked. I used black acrylic paint and a sponge brush.

The final title print.

The final title print.

There is just a little bit of paint excess on the left side of the “O,” but that’s okay. One of my goals for this zine is for it to retain a bit of a zine vibe, even though it’s a digital file. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hand-write the entire thing. For practicality’s sake, much of it is typed. But I didn’t want a slick computer-produced header, and I wanted touches of someone’s hand to be found throughout. So you’ll find not just my kids’ and my own artwork, but hand-done headers and, sometimes, borders. Hand-drawn or -colored explanations. The stamp of the people who put it together, in hopes that not just the content but the entire package is inspiring (and also because we have fun doing it!).

This is the final header, cropped in Photoshop, just as you’ll see it on the cover of Issue Three. Now you’ll know how it was created!

Issue 3 Title Sharp

Issue One and Issue Two are available now. You can sign up for my newsletter to be informed when Issue Three is available and to hear about discount codes and the like.

Making + Listening

Now that Issue Two is out in the world, I really want to get my hands into some off-computer creating. Of course lots of art-making goes on while creating the magazine, but the last push is very much on the computer, and the very last bit is sorting out the tech-stuff, which is getting easier but still gives me a bit of a headache. So it was a treat to put together this card to send to a pen-pal.

notecard at amyhoodarts.com

That’s a hand-carved stamp printed on Kraft card stock, colored in with a colored pencil, surrounded by a glued-on watercolor/salt effect border. Yay! Making things with my hands is so…necessary.

I also started a pair of socks for my eldest, having finished his mittens. (He has gloves, too, but at 12 he still appreciates and wants hand-knit mittens from his mama. Love.)

beginning of a sock at amyhoodarts.com

He isn’t typically a bright-color kid (his mittens are black), but he only wears handknit socks to bed, so I’m guessing that explains this rather bright yarn. We were more concerned if it felt okay. It would be nice to have these finished in time for Christmas, but knitting socks for him no longer means quickly whipping up some kid-sized socks; it’s just the same as knitting a pair for me. His new snow boots, in fact, fit me. (!!) However, he’s a good-natured kid and will happily accept partly finished socks and a promise, if it comes to that.

As for the listening part, I’ve been listening to my youngest nonstop. We’ve also been listening to Christmas music, but when I need a break–and sometimes I do–I turn it to the 80s station to pep myself up a bit. And I’ve been overdosing on Of Monsters and Men and loving it.

How about you? What are you making and listening to? I’m linking up with Dawn again here.

Notebooks in the Shop

I’ve added some new items to the shop, including some hand-colored and hand-stamped notebooks, like this one:

daisy moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And this one:

tree moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And a couple of others. I also added two new embroidered pouches:

I sewed both of these together this past weekend, and when I was completely finished–turning hole sewn closed by hand, pockets ironed–I regarded them with what can only be described as satisfaction. I am pleased by them, in that quiet way that comes of creating the thing that you envisioned. Sometimes I get that feeling from a piece of writing, too, the sense that it expressed exactly what I was trying to say. That’s a good feeling, a feeling worth slogging through the not-quite-right attempts in order to achieve.

Anyway, I suppose if I ever lose that feeling with these pouches, I’ll have to move onto making something else, because I hope the sense of care and satisfaction hangs around them like an aura, packaged and mailed right along with the pouch.

Grounded!

I’ve been looking forward to changing the clocks back because it pushes sunrise early enough that I can fit in a morning run for a few more weeks. However, after some on-and-off calf pain became more severe Saturday, I did the smart thing and didn’t go on any more runs until I saw a sports medicine-minded orthopedist. Luckily, he had a cancellation on Tuesday so I was able to see him quickly. He confirmed what I suspected–a shin splint, only in the left leg. (Weird, right? More on that in a minute.) I need to stop running until the pain is gone, which is hard, hard, hard. It’s my form of active meditation. It’s been integral to my mental health. That’s why I quickly decided it was worth it to get myself to a doctor who’d assess me properly. He referred me to the running clinic at the office’s associated physical therapy center, where I’ll have my gait evaluated–I’m looking forward to that in a tech-y, science-y way too. I have to wait almost three weeks for that, though, because he doesn’t want me running on the treadmill until I’m free of pain. He did say I could walk, though, as long as it doesn’t hurt, so I’m back to sunrise walks. It’s not the same, but it gives me quiet, sort-of-active time alone before the demands of the day descend.

As for the one-leg-only phenomenon, the doctor double-checked that my right leg had no pain at all. “Do you run on the side of the road?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I said. “Facing traffic.”

“Always?” I confirmed yes, pretty much always. The roads in our neighborhood have a very pronounced camber, and running facing traffic means my left leg is always on the downward angle. I’d love to see a digital recreation of that, with all the forces and angles shown, with equations of how the force is unevenly distributed and messing up my left leg. Interesting, no? In a physics kind of way? That might not be the reason–thus the gait evaluation–but it can’t be helping.

Anyway, I have a stack of books to read, I’m writing daily (following along with Amanda’s prompts), and Wednesday afternoon I spent some time printing onto Moleskine notebooks.

printed notebooks at amyhoodarts.com

Some of these will be teacher gifts, but I think some will end up in the shop. It’s kind of an experiment. As for the running hiatus, I’m trying to keep perspective. The conundrum is that running is a big part of how I keep my perspective with everything else. May the shin heal quickly…

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils

Slide2For the second year, I’m a part of a fantasy football league run by Diane of CraftyPod. It’s a fun way to connect with other creative women who also love football. Because I’m first and foremost a Patriots fan, I have a lot of rules for myself. I won’t have any player on my team who’s in the same division as the Patriots, and in any particular week, if one of my players is on the team playing the Patriots, I sit him. I won’t put myself in the position of rooting for a player against my Patriots.

So of course, when the idea was floated of a crafty football blog hop among crafty fantasy football league members, I knew I’d be doing something Patriots related, and I decided to share a tutorial on how to make and use freezer paper stencils. I generally create these stencils from my own designs; I’ve used the Patriots logo here in keeping with the blog hop theme. You cannot use a licensed logo on any item you plan to sell. Honestly, I’m hoping if anybody from the Patriots organization happens upon this tutorial, they see it for what it is (fan devotion) and don’t sue me. I like to think Mr. Kraft has sympathy for the common man…

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Freezer paper (look in the supermarket in the aisle with foil and plastic wrap); scissors; craft knife; masking tape; source sketch for design; cutting mat; iron; item to be stenciled; fabric paint (see below); paint brush

How To: Freezer Paper Stencil at amyhoodarts.com

Materials for cutting the stencil.

Every stencil begins with a source design drawn on regular paper at the final desired size. I like to measure the paper to fit the item I’m stenciling (in this case a tote bag purchased at the craft store) so I know my design fills the space the way I want it to.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Source sketch of design, with colors written in for reference.

The next step is to cut a piece of freezer paper a little bigger than your source design so you have plenty of  margin around the edges. Tape your design to your surface so it doesn’t move; tape the freezer paper over it, shiny side down. Trace your image onto the papery side of the freezer paper.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Now it’s time to cut out your stencil. Be precise and cut only on the lines. I use an x-acto knife for this. If the design has lots of straight edges (like this design that incorporates a star), I’ll use a steel ruler as a guide for those lines. Just make sure you stop right at the intersection of the lines; don’t cut over. You’ll be painting into the open spot, so you want the edges to be as clean as possible.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Turn the paper as necessary so the cutting motion is as smooth and easy as possible. Avoid awkwardness! This design has two “floating” pieces, the star and the face, which need to be ironed on into the middle of the open area. If your design has floating areas, you need to cut those precisely as well.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Once the stencil is cut, it’s time to iron it onto your item. The shiny side of the freezer paper will iron onto fabric firmly, yet also peels right off without residue. It’s really amazing stuff. Iron the surface of your item first to make sure it’s free of wrinkles, position your stencil where you want it, and iron away. Pay careful attention to the inside edges, where you’ll be applying paint. You want those firmly affixed so no paint bleeds under them. I usually stencil t-shirts; this is the first time I’ve tried a tote bag, and the surface is a bit more textured. You’ll see below where I didn’t get a few edges as closely adhered as I should have. Live and learn.

Because this design has those floating pieces, after I ironed on the outside piece, I fit the inside piece (which I’ll need later, too) without ironing it down, then placed the floating pieces inside, like puzzle pieces. I kept my finger on them while lifting off the inside piece, then ironed the floaters in place.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Proper positioning of the floating pieces.

The completely ironed on stencil looks like this for the first paint layer:

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

I typically use Speedball Screen Printing Ink for my stencils. I like the smooth look and the basic colors. It’s heat set, and it’s worn on our shirts well, although overly thick layers will crack a bit in the dryer. However, I needed silver for part of this design, and I don’t have that in the screen printing ink, so I used a little liquid acrylic paint as well. This is the kind of acrylic paint sold extremely cheaply in big-box craft stores, and it won’t wash out once it’s dry. It’s great for use on fabric, easy to find, and a fine alternative to screen printing ink for these stencils.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Materials for painting.

For this first paint application, I’m using red and blue.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Once those colors are dry, I can peel off all three pieces I’ve ironed on. For the small floating pieces, the edges of which are covered with paint, tweezers are helpful . These colors need to be heat set, so that’s the next step. Follow the directions on whatever paint you’re using.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Notice the slight bleed in a couple of places on the red stripes and one spot on the blue. I should have ironed a bit more firmly in those spots.

I still need to paint the face silver, however. Remember that other inside piece I said I’d need later? I matched it up to cover the blue paint and ironed it down, again paying attention to those edges. Now I can paint the exposed face silver.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

After letting it dry, I carefully removed the final stencil and put my knitting inside the bag. Ready to watch some football and knit!

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Be sure to visit the rest of the blog hop participants for more crafty football ideas!


A Birthday Shirt and Cape

I’ve been quiet here because I was busy last week getting ready for my youngest child’s fifth birthday. For her third birthday, I surprised her with a white t-shirt with her number and a crown painted in pink, and now a new shirt is expected every time her number changes. Last year’s shirt was purple with a light blue number and crown, and this year’s is pink with a black number and crown. Of course she wore it on the big day itself.

five

I made it using a freezer paper stencil, which is so easy, with such satisfying results. I’ve been using them for years now, and I’m working on a tutorial for a blog hop I’m participating in on Thursday with other members of my fantasy football league. (I’m a woman of varied interests!) So look for that.

She is also wearing her new wizard cape, which is technically for Halloween, but she really, really wanted it in time for her birthday. She and her brother picked out Halloween decorations for her party, and Halloween plates, and she wanted people to wear costumes, and she wanted her wizard cape. Four years ago, when she was just a wee baby who wouldn’t sleep without me, I agreed to sew each of the boys special capes–my younger son has one just like the one you see here, except it’s white (he was a ghost), and my older son had a wizardy one with stars and moons on the fabric and big drapey sleeves. I drove myself into several meltdowns trying to sew slippery fabric around the schedule of a clingy baby, plus I’d only been sewing for a year, which means I’d sewn as much as possible for a month before having the baby, then barely sewed at all, then made those two capes. (After that, my husband banned me from sewing Halloween costumes.)

But this year, four years later…I know so much more. I made this cape with French seams, so the raw edges wouldn’t fray and unravel like they’ve done in my son’s, because patterns never do tell you what to do about those raw edges, they just figure you know, and I didn’t. The fabric didn’t seem at all unmanageable, I gathered the hood as instructed (I don’t think I even attempted it last time), and I turned the narrow hems with no trouble at all. It took a goodly bit of time to sew, of course, but that’s all it took–time. It didn’t take anything else out of me. As I sewed the pattern pieces together multiple times (because of the French seams) and watched my seams line up and everything come together smoothly, I kept thinking, I have come so far! That’s a nice feeling, and a pretty good bonus that comes from making the same pattern four years later. As my daughter twirled around in her cape, pretending to fly, I sat on the couch watching her and couldn’t help saying, “I did such a beautiful job making your cape.”

Freezer-Paper Stencil Birthday Shirt

We have a nephew turning five this weekend (whose favorite color happens to be green), so top of my to-do list upon returning home was to make him a special shirt. This process will never get old, I don’t think. It’s so much fun and the results are so pleasing. The paint application is a little uneven on this (there I go, being a perfectionist again)–it’s a little tricky on the colored t-shirts to get good coverage without applying overmuch paint, which could lead to cracking later on. So I decided a little unevenness was better than possible cracking. But shoving that aside, I think this shirt is adorable. My kids all approved (and none of them commented on any uneven paint application, either), so I hope our nephew likes it too.

I’m teaching a local workshop on this in December for ages 8-13 (see the classes page)…it’s a great technique for making gifts!