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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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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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. 

 

 

 

The End of May…sigh

Another school year is skipping, ambling, screeching, and wildly cheering to a close. Everyone is restless and eager for release. Erasers are worn to nubs, and so is patience, but, as much as I look forward to summer, I love being in school…

especially on Author Day!

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“School” for me might be in Vermont, or California, in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio. I’ve been to schools in Utah, Texas, Alabama and far away in New Delhi, India.

I have been to rural schools and urban schools, big and small schools.

I am always excited to arrive

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Because now I get to share how I struggled to read, to understand math and to achieve what my 5 year old self really wanted to be–an artist!

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When I explain how the words Passion, Practice, Patience and Perseverance became my 4 Ps, I’m hoping every child can think of their own passion; that activity or thing that makes work into fun.

More than talking about books, I talk about where stories come from.

My books grow directly out of who I am: a daughter, a sister, a mother, an animal lover, a reader, and, most important– a child at heart.

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When we’ve talked about where stories come from, we make up our own. As I draw animal characters based on their names and ideas, I explain how an illustrator works.

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We discuss ideas such as forward momentum, attention to detail, setting, mood, time of day and point of view. They learn to merge text and illustration and how to use the whole page to tell their story.

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I arrive early and I leave after all the students have gone. I sign books and pass out bookmarks.  I marvel at how the work in school happens every day, even if I just get a one day glimpse. How do teachers muster the energy to come back every day?  I need a huge latte to recover for the ride home, but I always have a good day in school.

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