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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The Bunny Runs Away to Hollins

Margaret Wise Brown is one of Hollins University‘s most well known graduates-especially in the children’s book world.

Most famous for Goodnight Moon, her 1942 book The Runaway Bunny, about  an adventurous baby bunny and her devoted mama, inspired the first pair of characters to mysteriously appear on campus–right outside the library.

These were all conceived and executed using corrugated, plastic board and acrylic paints by a Fairy Godmother, assisted by her trio of fairy assistants.

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Lyndsey and Topher Keppol cutting and priming the Mama Bunny

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The fairy godmother painting the Mama Bunny with acrylics

As the summer went past, more and more appeared, until at almost every turn you could find another classic or contemporary children’s book character, casually hanging around, sometimes literally!

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Lucy, a Wild Thing and Max

After Mama and Baby Bunny,  we made some more classics: Ferdinand the Bull,  Pooh, Piglet and EeyoreThe Very Hungry Caterpillar,  Wilbur and Charlotte, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Mister Toad

 

Then we added some characters dreamed up by Hollins professors and guest speakers:

Minna from The Rag Coat, and Skippyjon Jones.

And finally, a whole ‘girl gang’ of our favorite independent females: Tinker Bell,

MadelinePippi Longstocking, OliviaEloise, Miss Rumphius , and Frances the badger.

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Who will appear next summer?

Suggestions are welcome!

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Scratchboard 101

Speaking of taking light out of dark, I’ll continue this summer’s lessons with scratchboard. Using sharp tools we scrape off the top layer of black ink, revealing the white clay layer underneath.

In addition to straight and curved scrapers there are stiff wire brushes, forks with multiple prongs, sandpaper, and steel wool.

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The 1st activity is to create a sampler to test how the different tools work.

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I always start a piece with a drawing on tracing paper and then apply graphite dust to the back. When this is transferred to the matt black scratchboard it shows up as an easy to see silver line.

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Working on a piece of 6″x 6″ Ampersand scratchboard I complete this talkative pig.

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Gouache over Black Gesso 101

 

I love ‘carving’ light out of dark.

It started with scratchboard, then wood cuts and linoleum, and now gouache over black gesso.

There is a different quality to the line when you are taking it away instead of adding it.

I’m certain I didn’t invent this technique, but this is the version I teach at Hollins as the technique I used to illustrate several books.

Home Sweet Home and Each Living Thing were both done this way.

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This lush style is great for lots of detail, but I’d like to simplify, so I’m working on a less realistic, more graphic look.

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I start with a simple line drawing and rub graphite on the back to transfer it to a paper prepared with black gesso.

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The traced line shows up as silver and is easy to see. If it lingers when I’m done painting I can erase it or paint over it with more black gesso.

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The 1st layer of paint looks pretty weak and grayed out, but keep adding layers. If you need to, spray lightly with workable fixative in between layers.

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When I saw the results of my initial drawing I added more flowers and grasses in the foreground by painting 1st with black gesso and then ‘carving’ away with the colored gouache.

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another cat, less stylized, with pimento stuffed martini olive flowers!

Try it–it is fun and meditative and your color scheme can be as wild as you want.

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B&W Gouache Resist 101

Gouache resist is kind of magic.

To make a black and white image you need to block out everything BUT the areas you want to remain black using solid white gouache.

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I begin with a pencil drawing on trace. Then transfer it to sturdy, smooth,

watercolor paper. You need something that can stand up to being wet and rubbed a little.

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close up of the thickish white gouache on paper. The lighter areas are unpainted paper.

Once the gouache is “dead” dry, use a wide foam brush to apply undiluted India Ink to the whole piece. The ink fills in every area of unpainted paper, dying it an indelible black.

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The white gouache design is still visible under all the ink

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washing the white gouache off  a different piece.

Once the paint is removed the design, originally painted in white gouache,

is revealed…

Magic!

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A few other  examples of B&W gouache resist images.

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Watercolor 101

I love teaching the Weird, Wonderful ways of Watercolor.

 

Cool vs Warm

Pthalo vs Ultramarine

Primaries,  secondaries, tertiaries, complements

and a huge variety of grays

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A brush charged with  water can lift a clean line or destroy a wash

A spray of rubbing alcohol doesn’t make a dent on a dry wash, but drip it onto wet paint and you have fantastic, blobby bullseyes.

A sprinkling of salt makes “stars” on a damp night sky.

Crumpled plastic wrap makes blocks and angles

Your smooth, even wash depends on keeping a wet ‘bead’ moving along under your brush.

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Glazing color over color makes every possible combo, yet all you really need to make a whole spectrum are

Red                                                           Yellow                                                               Blue

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If you enjoyed this post, please  follow me here: Ashley Wolff Art on Facebook, my webpage , my Etsy shop, or Instagram. You can follow the blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at the top of the sidebar.