Sunday, November 27, 2011

Woodblock Printing

Woodblock Printing
Although the emphasis of my blog is watercolor painting, I thought you might enjoy this post about woodblock printing.  While visiting an antique store which specializes in a large variety of salvaged architectural materials, I ran across a set of woodblocks for printing.   Since I like things that are a little unique, I thought these would be great for decorating….not to mention the fun I would have “playing with them.”    The print above is one of the finished prints. 

The photos above are the printer blocks that I purchased.  Part of the fun was trying to tell what the finished picture would be.  It was difficult to tell in most cases before the print was made.  Some of the blocks are only sections of a completed painting and only discernible when viewed as the printed image.  One print is part of a torso of a man – with no head and only part of his arms and legs.  Another print is a pair of hands; another is a woman’s face, etc.  I was able to obtain 6 different print blocks.    

Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper.
As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220 BC and from Egypt to the 4th century.  (Of course, my blocks are not nearly that old.)

The wood block is carefully prepared as a relief matrix, which means the areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife, chisel, or sandpaper leaving the characters or image to show in 'black' at the original surface level. The block was cut along the grain of the wood. It is only necessary to ink the block and bring it into firm and even contact with the paper or cloth to achieve an acceptable print. The content would of course print "in reverse" or mirror-image, a further complication when text was involved. The art of carving the woodcut is technically known as xylography, though the term is rarely used in English.  In Europe, beechwood was most commonly used; in Japan, a special type of cherry wood was used.
Methods of printing:
Used for many fabrics, and most early European woodcuts (1400–40). These items were printed by putting paper or fabric on a table or a flat surface with the block on top, and pressing, or hammering, the back of the block.

Used for European woodcuts and block-books later in the 15th century, and very widely for cloth as well as paper. The block is placed face side up on a table, with the paper or fabric on top. The back of the block is rubbed with a "hard pad, a flat piece of wood called a burnisher.  This is the method I used to create my prints.

Happy Painting!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seasons of the Sun

Lighten Up
9" x 12"
I love sunflowers.  Everyone who knows me knows that yellow is my favorite color and the sunflower is my favorite flower.  One can find sunflowers and yellow hidden everywhere in my home….well, maybe not hidden! 

Included in this blog are a few sunflowers that I have created in watercolor or pastels.   

Watercolor tip:
When painting sunflowers, remember to paint each petal separately and don’t paint petals that are touching until they are dry or the colors will run together and be indistinct.    Skip every other petal when painting – this will allow time for each petal to dry.  Use various shades of yellow, gold, green and brown, concentrating the deeper colors at the base of the flower.  Remember – the petals are not perfect:  twisted, turned and bent.  This gives the sunflower character. 

Bed and Breakfast
11"  14"

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large flowering head and got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. The sunflower has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads of flowers. The heads consist of 1,000-2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base.

From the Americas, sunflower seeds were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where, along with sunflower oil, they became a widespread cooking ingredient. Leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed, while the stems contain a fibre which may be used in paper production.

 he sunflower is native to Central America. The evidence thus far is that it was first domesticated in present day Mexico, by at least 2600 BC.  It may have been domesticated a second time in the middle Mississippi Valley, or been introduced there from Mexico at an early date, as maize was. The earliest known examples of a fully domesticated sunflower north of Mexico have been found in Tennessee, and date to around 2300 BC.

Do sunflowers really follow the sun?
A common misconception is that sunflowers track the sun.  When the plant is in the bud stage, it tends to track the movement of the sun across the horizon. Once the flower opens into the radiance of yellow petals, it faces east. No one knows why. However, it is likely a defensive response. Facing south or west could result in sun-scalding of seeds during very hot days.

While researching the sunflower for my blog, I found the following information about sunflower paintings, specifically those done by Van Gogh, who is the most well-known “sunflower artist.” 

According to the National Sunflower Association:
The sunflower plant has almost 'human-like' characteristics and dimensions. The face of the blooming sunflower can almost speak to you. For this reason, the sunflower was a favorite subject for Europe's greatest artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso. Sales of these paintings can bring millions of dollars today. The sunflower continues to be a favorite art form for designers of fashion to the every-day coffee mug. It has, and continues, to stand the test of time.

According to research on VanGough’s sunflower paintings:
The colors are vibrant and express emotions typically associated with the life of sunflowers: bright yellows of the full bloom to arid browns of wilting and death; all of the stages woven through these polar opposites are presented. Perhaps this very technique is what draws one into the painting; the fulfillment of seeing all angles of the spectrum of life and in turn reaching a deeper understanding of how all living things are tied together.
Why are sunflowers popular subjects for art and a favorite subject for me to paint? 

For the reasons above?........................ OR,  maybe it is just because I like sunflowers and the color yellow… just makes me happy!

Happy Painting!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I’m Back to Blogging!

I’m Back to Blogging!

During the past few months, we have relocated to the East Tennessee mountains; and with the packing, unpacking and just getting settled, I have not had the time to post on my blog!  Whew!  I think we are finally at the point to enjoy living here and for me to have time to once more sit down at the computer and blog!

I plan to post once a week and share with you my art experiences here in the mountains.

Happy Painting!