27 April 2012

Coelacanth: Living Fossil Birthday Card

So here's another one of my recent lino pieces finished.

The actual linocut is one I made several years ago to go with some hand-set type, and I've been wanting to use it again for a card. Here's the inside (also hand-set metal type):

If you're unfamiliar with the reference, the coelacanth is a big, ugly fish that was thought to have been extinct for thousands of years until one turned up in a fisherman's catch in the late 1930s. Since then, it's often been used as an example of a "living fossil."

I am wondering if I should take along some blank inserts with me to the craft fair next week, in case anyone likes the card but not the insides.

Anyway, I only printed a small number for now, because I didn't have many sheets of this particular paper, which was a batch I made to use up some pulp. It's half recycled rag, half goldenrod, but the rag had been frozen and didn't spread out well in the vat, which created the blobby look. And because the goldenrod was the end of the batch, there were a lot of stem bits it it, making the paper brittle and crunchy. I also had problems with the paper sticking to the plate and leaving bits behind, so I had to wipe off the lino and re-ink after every print.

I'll see how these sell before I print more, at which point I'll use a different paper.

25 April 2012

House Frogs

I haven't got much exciting or new to report on the making-of-things front, but life on the edge of the woods continues to be interesting. Late last night I happened to step outside and looked, as I always do, to see what moths had landed near the light over the door. There aren't many moths out yet, but I saw an odd dark shape that I thought might be something new. When I looked closer, it turned out to be two small frogs, clinging to the loose paint of the siding. By the time I got my camera, naturally, one of them was gone, but the other one sat still while I photographed her from several angles, and didn't seem too bothered by the flash.

She (or he) is a Spring Peeper, a common species in Nova Scotia. We're treated to choruses of hundreds of them every spring. These two were rather large, though, to the point I thought maybe they were some other species. I'm not a frog expert, but I'd guess they must be about at the upper size limit for Spring Peepers.

18 April 2012

New Design and More In-Progress

Phew. I still haven't got back in the groove of blogging. I blame it on finally having something resembling full-time work (with its firm deadlines and all that). But anyway, here are the few little things I've been working one.

Scarab Card

Thing the first (actually, it's thing the second, but it's the first one done, so it gets bumped up): a scarab greeting card.

It's a hand-cut and hand-printed linocut (see my previous post for pictures of the actual plate, if you're interested), printed on handmade (by me) paper. The paper is approximately 50% recycled cotton rag printmaking paper and 50% Nova Scotia goldenrod harvested from my back field. It has a sheet of classic laid paper tipped-in to the inside to make for easier writing, and it comes with a nice deep red envelope.

I had originally planned a multi-colour print for this one, but I started with the black so I'd be able to see how to register the other colours, and I liked how it printed (see that lovely deep embossment? No? Click on the image for a close-up) so much I decided to just go with the black.

Scarab Print

Then I decided to pull a few as prints, which I may do multi-colour, but I think I'll try hand-colouring instead of a multi-block print. I'll try one and see if I like it. But here it is with just black, printed on the same paper as the card version.

The fun thing about these is that the imperfections in the handmade paper actually enhance the print (at least I think so), so I can save all the less-than perfect sheets for prints. Incidentally, the image is my own original design, based on ancient Egyptian and not-so-ancient Art Nouveau images, as well as on actual photos of real scarab beetles.

More Linocut Cards

I don't have individual pictures of the other two cards I'm working on, and won't until they're done, but there they are in the half-finished state.

The fish is a coelacanth, a "living fossil," and it will get a tipped-in insert with "HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a living fossil" printed from hand-set type. The plant is goldenrod, and will have a second colour added. All of these are actually on 50% rag 50% goldenrod paper, but the different batches produced very different results.

The first batch, with the goldenrod flower printed on it, is paler and was made from fresh pulp. The second batch, with the scarab, was made from goldenrod plants that had sat and gone swampy for several weeks because I got busy and had no room in the freezer (it was the actual boiled plants that sat--I rinsed and pulped them after). The paper is much darker. The third batch, with the fish, is the same goldenrod pulp as the second, but the rag pulp came out of the freezer and didn't disperse into the vat very well. I liked the way it looked, though, so I left it.

And that's what I've been up to.

04 April 2012

Linocuts in Progress

Yeah, I got a bit swamped with dayjob stuff and with trying to keep up my fiction writing, too, so I haven't posted here in ages. But I have been working on a few things.

I've been teaching letterpress for Extended Studies at NSCAD for the past six weeks or so and the final class is tomorrow. I teach the class again starting in early May. I've been trying to sneak in a little printing time of my own before each class--last week I printed some invitations for a client, but I also got a chance to proof a dragon linocut I made off and on over the last . . . well, too long to tally up, but a long time. Then I managed to leave all the proofs in the shop, so I don't have any pictures to show you. But I will after I bring them home tomorrow.

In the meantime, my worktable has this on it:

Wee little linocuts that I will print on my own handmade paper to make cards. The top one is goldenrod, and it will also have a yellow block, and maybe a green one, depending on how ambitious I feel. It'll be printed on 50% recycled cotton rag / 50% goldenrod paper. Here's a closeup:

And the bottom one is of course a scarab. It's an original design based on a variety of ancient Egyptian sources. I've had a big fascination with beetles for a while, but especially so now that I've got a character growing in my head who has a peculiar affinity for beetles.

I'm especially fascinated by the combination of scarabs and falcons, not just with the wings, but with the big falcon feet, too. Here's a peek into my process, with the original sketch, the tracing paper I used to transfer it to the lino and then used to play with colours, and the lino for the black layer.

I'm planning (if I have time) to do this in two versions: a two- or three-colour one on a greeting card, and then a six-colour limited edition print (black, green, blue, yellow, red, and metallic gold).

And, if you're curious about the beetle character, she's in this short story by my alter ego Nic Silver, available for Amazon Kindle: