Teaching Linoleum Block Printing in Vermont

This winter Middlebury Studio School invited me to teach a linoleum block printing class.

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One block, carved and cut apart into 4 pieces. The artist separated the pieces, inked each piece in a different color, reassembled them, and printed them as one piece.

I chose Blick Readycut blocks for our projects because it is easy to carve. I wanted to the students to try making a multiple color print, like the one above, using just one block cut into pieces in order to prevent registration problems.

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I prepared for the class by doing another two color print of one of my favorite subjects: Dogs.

Even though I planned this to be a two color print,  I carved it all as one piece. It is much easier to cut it apart later.  Carving the words became very tricky- probably because my design didn’t leave them enough room.

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I often trim off any excess block beyond the design if I don’t want to bother carving it all out.

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Once the block was completely carved I used an exacto knife to cut it apart into two pieces.

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After my students created a design, reversed it and transferred it to their blocks, they began carving away any part of the block that they DIDN’T want to show in their print.

Once the block is carved and cut apart, each piece is inked using a brayer. The paper is laid gently on top of the inked block and the back of the paper is rubbed with a hard smooth object-such as a spoon or baren.

Finally comes the Ah Ha moment when the paper is pulled and the finished print revealed.

In the end my dog print was only a partial success. The carved quote part was a mess so I discarded it and added some hand lettering instead. Hand adorned giclee prints available here.

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For our last meeting I brought in large, cotton tea towels that could be printed using the blocks carved during the class. There were no rules but this was one beautiful and orderly result.

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“Painting” Chickens and Dragons with Oil Pastels

In March I had the excellent assignment of teaching about 500 students in Northern CA a new art technique.

The parameters were rather strict:

  1. It had to be FUN!
  2. Set-up and clean-up had to be reasonable.
  3. Each session would include up to 100 students and would be held in the echoing cafeteria.
  4. The project had to be started AND completed in one hour.
  5. Students would walk away with a piece of art that was basically dry and portable.
Kindergarten Chicken

She looks like she had fun!

The technique I chose to teach was Pastel blending with mineral oil.

I designed two projects to appeal to my range of ages. My 1st group was 1st graders and we started with a direct draw of a hen and chicks with the help of a document camera.

They all drew with pencil, traced with Sharpie and then started coloring with oil pastels.

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Using a document camera I showed how to draw a hen and chicks.

We passed out regular oil pastels and told them to color roughly-leaving areas of white paper would work to their advantage. Some followed this advice…pastels20180305_101455_resized20180305_090920_resized20180305_090828_resized

Once the chickens were colored it was time to use secret sauce (mineral oil)and magic wands (cotton swabs) to make these drawings into oil paintings.

I counseled using a different cotton swab tip for each color, but just like any other painting technique, if you want to, you can make all the colors blend together and end up with a lovely muddy result!20180305_102911With 2nd grade and older I taught them how to draw a flying, fire breathing dragon. We followed the same process of direct draw, Sharpie outline, pastel drawing, and oil painting.20180306_135157

 

These are great before and after examples showing how the rough coloring results in the smooth final painting.

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I also tried teaching the dragon to a T-Kindergarten class and saw some amazing results.

20180306_102534I love how this little guy attacks his coloring and painting with such purpose and enthusiasm.20180306_10400520180306_104541_resizedWas it Fun? Check!

Set-Up and Clean-Up Reasonable? Check!

Possible with Crowding? Check!

Started and completed in an hour? Check!

Ready to go and Portable? Check!

 

 

Joining the team at the 2018 Tunbridge World’s Fair

Teamwork is everything in my business of creating picture books. The author/illustrator team, the author/editor team, the illustrator/art director team, all of the above, plus the marketing team, bookstores, librarians, teachers, parents, grandparents–ALL of us are on the same team–to get good books into the hands of children.

So imagine my pleasure when I was asked by Robert Howe, Tunbridge Fair’s postermeister, to join his team and design the official poster for 2018. The theme is Celebrating Working Teams.

Of course the word Team can mean something different at the fair, but I still took it as a good omen.

The 1st time I went to the Tunbridge World’s Fair was with my parents, back in the early 1970s. We camped at a friend’s farm in nearby Chelsea and drove over to the fair, always held the 1st weekend after Labor Day. In those days there were still girlie shows at this and other Vermont Country fairs.

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The Tunbridge World’s Fair was, and still is, a genuine agricultural experience, set in a lovely, narrow river valley.

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There are horses, cattle and sheep, pigs, chickens, goats and rabbits proudly on display.  There is a midway with rides and game booths, and all the greasy, sweet fair food you could want.

Nowadays, I go to draw the animals and the people.

Gabby and the Girls

So it was no surprise that the poster I chose to design featured both.

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I was lucky to be given excellent reference photos by two fair photographers: Nancy Cassidy and Mark Dixon. Drawing from elements of these and my own research material, I created a rough sketch.

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Photo by Nancy Cassidy

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photo by Nancy Cassidy

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photo by Mark Dixon

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Once I had a B&W linoleum print,  I painted it with gouache, layered a little painted carousel onto the girl’s tee, and added text in Photoshop.MGRTYPEgaptooth_1

I began by trying to match this old-timey font, found in the background of a photo, as my poster display type, but it didn’t enhance the finished artwork so I switched to Linolschrift for the finish.

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The last adjustment was to eliminate the “gap tooth” on the little girl. The consensus was that it made her look a little too young.

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I’m pleased with the finished product. I hope 2018 fair goers are too!

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Channeling Sam Cannon

While looking for something else I discovered Sam Cannon’s artwork and fell in love with his imagery and calligraphy. His eloquently realized animals, with beautifully hand-lettered quotations, spoke to a desire in me to do likewise. His tiny Petal Paper originals were particularly appealing.

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When I looked into channeling his style I found I was fresh out of Petal Paper, so I just made my own version by wetting watercolor paper and painting  loose leaves and flowers.

Using these backgrounds as inspiration, I added figures and quotes that particularly resonated with me, keeping faithfully to Sam Cannon’s style.

As the paintings developed I added more leaves, flowers and stems around the figures and calligraphy, making the most of my watercolors.

I love the distinctive Sam Cannon ‘font’ and line arrangement. I experimented with different tools for the calligraphy. flowersetsy

I tried a more traditional opaque gouache approach with the dip pen on brown paper for this garden painting.

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My favorite Thoreau quote is painted with white ink and a brush on the woodpile. These chilly chickadees are drawn from the flocks right outside my window here in Vermont.

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I am using Schminke Aqua Bronze Rich Gold and Silver gouache to paint the metallic accents.

I learn by copying and experimenting and evolving. I hope to keep moving ever further from copying Sam and more into being entirely me.

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As always, you can find my work for sale at my Etsy shop.

 

There’s a Fungus Amungus

There are mushrooms EVERYWHERE! Days of rain here in northern New England have produced a sprouting, thrusting crop of fungus, some of them edible and choice.

MUSHROOMS

Though I haven’t spotted any Chanterelles, like the ones Pumpkin is picking.

The shapes and colors of mushrooms make them fun to draw and paint. I have probably drawn them my whole life.

Lately I’ve been imagining them as tiny, secret houses.

You can own your own, hand painted mushroom cottage here.

Happy Hunting!

 

The Ducklings Come to Hollins

For the 3rd year I have been creating and placing character cutouts around the campus of Hollins University during the summer term.

Each summer it is joy to choose which classic children’s book characters will be immortalized. Last year I chose to focus on female characters.

This year the ducklings marched onto campus. To make them I first looked up reference from the original book, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

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The duckings were a LITTLE too long to include them all on my corrugated plastic material,  which is only 40″ wide, so I had to edit a few out.

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Then I cut out the whole flock with a sharp exacto knife, sprayed the material with primer and painted them with acrylics.

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Robert McCloskey illustrated Make Way for Ducklings using lithographs. I tried to reproduce this and make it look as close to the original art as possible using only paint brushes.

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Joining the ducklings on campus were Horton from Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.

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Peter from Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

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The Princess and the Dragon from The Paperbag Princess, written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

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Yoko from Yoko’s Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells

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Paddington Bear by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum

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and finally, School, from School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson

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Making my ‘Rufus in the Tall Grass’ print, with the help of three experts.

I’ve been admiring the work of printmakers since I was a small girl and this summer’s project emulates three people whose work has influenced me. I’ve been collecting samples of the work of Andrea Lauren lately. She does small, two color prints using two separate blocks.

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Andrea uses two separate blocks and prints one over the other.

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You could cut a block into more pieces as well and ink each piece separately. That’s what Woody Jackson did early in his career when he started cutting up zinc etching plates, inking each piece, and putting them back together like puzzles before printing.

I’ve loved Mary Azarian’s work since I was a teenager. Her hand-colored woodcuts of Vermont scenes and her illustrated books influenced my illustration work enormously.

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I am teaching at Hollins University again this summer-this time I designed a course called Printmaking for Illustration. To make a sample for my students I used all three of my printmaking idols as inspiration.

My new puppy Rufus has a foxy look similar to Andrea’s print, so I chose one of the dozens of reference photos I have and started designing my own two color linocut.

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I decided to use one block and cut it apart into two pieces-Woody Jackson style-right around Rufus. That made getting perfect registration a breeze.

 

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I start by coating the “inside” cut-out of Rufus in black ink with a rubber brayer.

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Then I mixed a yellow and a dark green and used them both to ink the grasses on the “outside” block. Sometimes the two colors mixed on the brayer, but I didn’t care-I wanted each print to be one of a kind.

I placed both parts of the inked up block into a custom cut cardboard jig, or frame, to hold them steady, then laid my paper on top.

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To make a print I’m merely rubbing the back of the paper firmly with an ordinary wooden spoon. I keep it fairly parallel to the paper so that it presses evenly and doesn’t rip this delicate sheet.

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I made a small edition of 20 prints using 2 colors of oil based ink.

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When these are dry I’ll hand color each one with watercolors, making them truly one of a kind, just like Mary Azarian does.

Three printmakers-four counting me-all different but with so much in common!

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