Monday, September 28, 2009

Kerflooey II: Inky Boogaloo

Okay, so attempt number two went much better. I love the poplar blocks, and the colors were really good. However, the register was still way off. But I've figured out how to fix the problem. So stay comes the good print (3rd Xs A Charm!).

Monday, September 21, 2009


Well, this was a learning experience from step one. I'm not upset that it all went south on me. Obviously, one wants one's efforts to be rewarded, and it would have been fantastic if the print had been perfect. But here are the things that went wrong:
  • The First block, Light Gray, was somehow more than a quarter inch out of register with the other colors
  • The Red block and Dark Red block were reversed
  • The blue and green blocks were somehow carved without allowing them to trap the colors in the structure
  • The very open grain of the plywood allowed for poor coverage
I originally planned to shim some blocks to make them fall into register with the others, but the green, and probably the blue, would have had to be recut. But regardless of that, I just couldn't reconcile myself with the poor coverage. I've never had to deal with the issue much, because reduction prints cover up most poor coverage from the first blocks.
     So, the big news is that, as of immediately, I'm going back to poplar, solid half-inch blocks. The best part of it is that if another job goes kerflooey, I can burn the blocks.

     So, here's how the proof ended up (detail):

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Altered States

This morning I proofed out the first color of the still untitled print. The proofing process is all about finding mistakes before you actually get into the prints that will go to customers. This is not a foreign process to me, as I am a printer by trade. But in my artwork, I've never really had the luxury of correcting errors. The reason is that, until recently, my prints have been exclusively "reduction prints." A reduction print is when you ink a block with, say, yellow, and print it, then carve away anything you want to remain yellow. Then you print the next color, say blue. Then you carve away anything that is to remain blue, and so on. Reduction is nice because you're only using one block, which is cheaper and less work. Also, because you are always printing with the same block, your colors always line up perfectly (this is called "registration." The drawback is that if you do screw up on, say, color 4, the whole job is ruined. Another drawback, and the only reason I've chosen to get away from the process, is that because colors must be printed on top of other colors, the coverage gets to be very uneven, and the colors are never as vibrant as I'd like them to be.
     So, that brings me to multiple-block prints. For this print, I have carved six blocks, the colors being Light Gray, Red, Dark red, Blue, Green and a special tint I call Shadow. The first block looks very good. I printed the second block, the red, this evening, and while it went down well, as you can see, the register is way off. I'm not sure what the issue is (but I can tell you that it is 100% human error). I will have to see where the other colors hit before I can decide how I'm going to deal with this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A little off topic, but...

I hate to dip my toes into the slimy pool of what passes for pop culture these days, but: do Jon & Kate Gosselin understand the concept of videotape, and that the kids are going to be watching their stupidity in the coming years? Kate's said that she continues to wear her wedding ring "for the kids." At some point, a child from outside the bubble is going to sidle up to one of the kids and say, "Your parents are psychos." Oh, to be the one to deliver the news!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ready for Action

Please check back this week for play-by-play action as I work to complete this untitled multiple-block 6-color print (as yet untitled) of a building we saw outside of Rochester last year on a road trip. I just finished carving the blocks this afternoon (using a gouge now drunk with the taste of blood [see earlier post]) and beginning tomorrow or Thursday I will begin the proofing process. This is a great opportunity to check out what goes into pulling these blocks together to make a good print.
(Above: The six blocks, hopefully carved correctly)

Blood on the Block

When you first use razor sharp tools to carve wood, you learn one thing fast, and it's a lesson usually written in blood: keep your hands clear in case the gouge slips. I learned that lesson in March of 2002, while carving out a portrait of my brother. The gouge I was using, which was very dull, caught on a particularly rough patch of wood. No quitter I, I put my weight into that gouge, knowing the wood just HAD to give. Because the knife was so dull, it skipped over the wood and right into the hand, which was holding the block. This was about 3 weeks into my woodcutting adventure, when I didn't know bench hooks from barens, so I was clueless. But I learned fast. And though I've had a few scrapes here and there, I have wisely avoided putting myself in the position of being punctured like that first time.

Ah, but that's me. Flash forward seven years to this afternoon. I'm calmly carving a block in my studio when the Little Woman decides she wants to play with my toys. I give her my sharpest gouge, as that's safest. She took an old block of poplar i had from before I started using plywood. Poplar is soft, but I prefer the "give" plywood afords the blades. Poplar is also very slippery at times.

She busied herself nibbling away at the wood. I saw the knife slip a little, and I admonished her to keep her hands if front of the blade. Another slip. I suggested she stop. I stopped carving and turned around for a second to strop my blade, and she walked out of the studio without a sound, and I figured she'd had enough tool time. I sat down to resume, and that's when I saw the drop of blood on the floor.

I ran upstairs, where she had her hand under the water, cleaning the wound. I fetched her a bandage and patched her up with a kiss to her boo boo.

And balances of knowledge once again tip toward the wise (or, at least, wizened).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stalking Marv Levy

Okay, just so you know I'm not a one-track-mind kinda guy...
Saturday night, after celebrating my grandmother's 92nd birthday, the Little Woman and I went to Wegmans in Blasdell to get some provisions. As we were browsing the books and magazines, she leaned over to me and whispered: "Marv Levy." I looked next to me, and there was the man, the Football Hall of Famer himself in a bright orange, blue-striped Hilfiger shirt. Everyone around him was staring, but no one was approaching him. Which is nice. But if you're wearing a traffic cone inside a crowded supermarket, aren't you just asking to be hasseled?
Anyway, Marv was behind us with his cart full of fruit, and as we strolled out to the car, I had a great idea: let's stalk Marv Levy!
So, we drove around the parking lot until we found him and tailed him. After four turns and a hop onto the 219, we realized that he was going our way. So, I guess it's not really stalking, especially since we exited in West Seneca as he proceded up the I-90, destination unknown.
Another brush with greatness, brought to you by Napping Cat Press. And check out Marv's photo. He looked just like that when he squeezed the nectarines!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Amazing Response

It's interesting, the things that pique the interests of folks. My call for input on the "Life is all about..." project has generated much response. But I need more.
The most interesting thing is that not one person has written anything negative. Even the goofy ones. My God! Are we optimists? (or are we dancers?)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome & Thanks

So, there's a good chance you've stumbled over into the neighborhood by chance because I or someone who knows me & you sent you an e-mail entitled "Jeff's Little Project," in which I'm asking volunteers to e-mail me their fill-in for the following sentence:

"Life is all about _____________________."

I want to thank everyone who has responded so far -- people I haven't heard from in ages. I think it will be a pretty interesting project. Please keep checking back for updates on the project.

Since I haven't publicized this blog, I'm pretty sure it's new to everyone, so poke around. I haven't gotten into a rhythm yet, but there's some interesting things coming along soon.

If you have any questions, or wish to participate in the "Life is all about__________" project, please send your verbiage to