Our first project in Foundation Art I was "perspective". We were given two pieces to work on: the one -point perspective line drawing, and the two-point perspective drawing. Both pieces focused on the concept of the vanishing point, horizon line, converging lines, and parallel lines.
Piece #1: One Point Perspective
The materials used for this piece were as follows: 2B soft lead pencil, hard eraser, long metal ruler (for drawing converging and parallel lines), and a piece of drawing paper.
Before architects had access to complex computer programs to help with architectural drawings, they did things by hand using something called the "vanishing point". This point is anywhere they choose on the horizon line, a line drawn on the paper that serves as the viewer's line of sight. For our first drawing, the vanishing point was within the drawing's parameters. As we drew different buildings, stairs, and other architectural structures, we were to use our ruler to draw converging lines towards that vanishing point. This gives the illusion of depth and helps make the drawing look more realistic. To connect these converging lines, we used vertical parallel lines. Any extra segments of lines are to be erased, and what we are left with are the edges of the structures.
After we had completed the general outline, we proceeded to embellishing each building. We first began with windows, which were drawn in a similar way as the buildings using converging and parallel lines. One new thing we incorporated however, were lines that slanted inwards from the windows. When connected with lines parallel to the window bottom and side, it gave the illusion of depth inside the window; a window stool. After that, we further embellished our buildings with lined roofs and round tiles. The lined roofs were made up of converging lines and lines parallel to the roof edge, while the round tiles were outlined using the same concept and then rounded accordingly.
Some challenges that I faced for this first piece were drawing the tiled roofs and stairs properly. At first for the tiles, I had simply drawn converging lines and then drew rounded semi-circles on the lines. However, once I connected these curves with the ones above and below it, they appeared crooked and out of proportion. I then sought help from Mr. Laurence, and he suggested I also draw lines parallel to the roof's edges, getting closer together as the lines came closer to the vanishing point. I tried this and rounded the lines after this process. Sure enough, the final product was much neater and realistic. For the stairs, I found it hard to make each step look the same width without it actually being that way. Artists can create depth in two-dimensional spaces by making the stairs actually closer together as they move "further away" from the viewer, however at the same time, they had to "shrink" at the same consistent rate. I finally solved this problem after some trial-and-error by moving my ruler to reveal the previous line. This way, I could draw the next line after it accordingly. Before that, my ruler had been covering my previous work, and it had been difficult to estimate the distance.
For our second project, we practiced drawing still life objects. The techniques that we learned included positioning objects using compositional devices, rendering, outlining, shading, highlighting, and using erasing techniques. Our first part of the project was learning how to quickly render object's general outlines onto paper, while the second part of the project included shading, highlighting, and more refining.
Still Life Drawing Project Part I
The materials used for this piece were as follows: 4B pencil, cow stuffed animal, light bulb, football, and a large piece of drawing paper.
Human's brains are divided into two hemispheres: the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere controls speech and rational thinking, while the right hemisphere is where creativity and spacial cognitive functions come from. In order to accurately and realistically portray still life objects, we need to ignore the left side of our brains that tell us "no, this is what a light bulb looks like" and tap into our right hemispheres that view objects for what they are. That is why, when artists draw still life objects, they actually have their eye on the object 80% of the time, barely glimpsing down to check their own work.
Before we were to tap into our right hemispheres, however, we first had to determine our dominant eye. When we use our eyes for target or aim related functions, most of us have a dominant eye that we use to "zone in" on the object. To determine our dominant eye, we created a triangle by connecting our thumbs and index fingers, then, with both eyes open, center an object in the distance in the middle of the triangle. Then, we close one eye at a time and see with which eye the object remains the closest to the middle. This is then determined to be your dominant eye; mine is my right eye.
The next step was to choose three objects and place them in "visually interesting" positions using compositional devices. There are four main compositional devices: triangles, rule-of-thirds, cropping, and framing. Triangles are when you place your objects along (stable triangle) or around (unstable triangle) the three points of the triangle. Rule-of-thirds uses a similar photography concept to divide your picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically, then placing the objects at the intersections of these lines. Cropping ran objects off the page to create a more dynamic feeling of depth, and finally, framing had the other objects frame and surround the main object.
We had folded and divided our large canvas paper into four drawing spaces, so our aim was to make one drawing for each of the compositional devices. For my chosen piece (displayed below) however, I chose to use both cropping and a stable triangle. After placing our objects accordingly, we then proceeded to quickly render the objects onto the page. The objective of this was to ignore fine details and focus on the general shapes and outlines of each object. For example, when drawing the light bulb, I simply drew a circle first, then connected that circle with a rectangle-like shape on the left. The key with this technique was to use very light pressure with your pencil and to just make a very rough and general sketch of each object's position. Following this, we would then use our dominant eye and the pencil to "connect" the objects to one another and then compare that angle to the objects on our paper. This allowed us to draw the objects accurately in accordance to each other while maintaining each object's proportions.
After around 30 seconds to a minute of quick rendering, we would then use more pressure on our pencils to outline each object. We would start on an easily identifiable point on the object, then use our eyes to "track" the outline of the object while our pencils moved. During this process, our eyes are to be on the object most of the time. Mr. Laurence said to "imagine that there's a tiny ant crawling across the edge, and that your pencil is trying to follow it". Only once in a while would we glance down to make sure that our pencils were in the correct place. After this outlining, we could have done more to refine the drawing. However this was meant to only be an exercise, so for now, our exercise was complete.
Some challenges that I faced during these rendering exercises included creating the general shapes of some difficult objects. At first, I had actually chosen the cow stuffed animal, a pear, and a shoe. While the pear was made up of simpler shapes and was easier to render, I had the most trouble with the shoe. I tried simplifying its shape, but it ended up looking like a elongated rectangle. It was very difficult to also draw the other structures on the shoe, especially since rendering was meant to be a quick and rough sketch. For some reason however, I didn't have this problem with the seemingly more complex cow stuffed animal. This could perhaps be credited to me having more practice drawing people and animals. But I think it also had to do with how the cow could be simplified into circles and ovals much easier. In the end, I decided that I shouldn't run before I walked, so I traded the shoe out for a football. I wanted to draw something similar to a pear, so I traded out the pear for a light bulb.
Another problem I faced was outlining. I was accustomed to rendering and often refined it with more "detailed" and darker rendering on top of that. That was why outlining came as something entirely new to me. However, it was just a matter of taking my time and practicing it before I kind of got a hang of it. I found that the trick was to outline slowly and to not be afraid to glance down more often to check your pencil's position.
Still Life Drawing Project Part II
The materials used for this piece were as follows: 4B pencil, fake apple, vine charcoal, charcoal sand paper/shaver, paper towel, white chalk, eraser, blending tool, and a piece of drawing paper.
Like in the first part of the project, the second part also included rendering and outlining. However, the main differences in this certain piece were that there was only one object and that we were to incorporate shading and highlighting. For this piece, we didn't have to worry about compositional devices (as there was only one object), but we did have to worry about refining the still life drawing so that it was more realistic than the practice ones we did before.
We first began with the vine charcoal and used the charcoal sand paper to "shave" a scattered surface of charcoal on the white paper. Mr. Laurence explained that many artists are sometimes afraid to "mess up" a perfectly blank piece of paper, so by intentionally "messing up" the paper, that fear is prevented. This shaving of charcoal was then followed by crumpling up our paper towels and smearing that black dust around in circular movements. We now had a cloud of smeared charcoal in the middle to work with.
Next, we followed the same steps of rendering and outlining on top of that charcoal surface. Once we achieved a general outline of our object (an apple for me), we then used out erasers to erase outwards from the outline, making the positive space of the object pop out. Then, using the vine charcoal, I looked at the apple and created a dark shadow below it, making sure to have the values darker near the start of the shadow and lighter as it extended outwards. It was very important for us to keep observing our object when we began shading, because we wanted the shading to be as accurate as possible.
Using a similar technique as our second piece in the two point perspective drawing, we added in dark and light values with the vine charcoal and white chalk. One thing that Mr. Laurence asked us to pay extra attention to, however, was shading and highlighting along the shape of the object. For example, the shading on my apple would be rounded like the actual object, not in vertical or horizontal lines. There were also different shades of dark value, so I had to change the pressure on my vine charcoal and white chalk according to whatever intenseness of value there was. If a medium value was required, I could use the blending tool to smear a surface of medium gray in whatever area I needed to. During this process, we also had to continuously redefine and the object's outline using the eraser.
Some difficulties that I faced during this project included shading and highlighting the stem of the apple. Unlike the rest of the apple, the stem was in an area of depression. I found it especially difficult to identify different shades and tints of value near and in the depression since my brain was naturally distracted by the apple's color. However, I finally achieved a relatively decent stem and depression by creating a dark surface first, then building up or taking away shaded value from that area. The blending tool also helped me a lot creating the value on the actual stem.
Another area that was difficult for me was creating the highlights and the shadow. The left hemisphere of my brain kept on thinking "no, this isn't what the shadow should look like" or "that doesn't look very right", so I had a habit of creating whatever my brain thought was a proper shadow or highlight instead of what I really saw with my eyes. This problem took a little longer to solve, but I eventually found that, by constantly reminding myself to actually look up at the object, I could successfully ignore that rational part of my brain. The key thing was to just put down whatever you saw, and then later decide if what you drew looked like an apple.
In the end, my apple came out pretty nicely, and I was proud of my work.
Our third project in the drawing unit was creating portraits of ourselves. There were two different techniques that we tried out this time: the grid technique and the observation with mirror technique. The skills we learned included shading, close observation, drawing face proportions, rendering, and using basic photoshop tools. The first drawing required us to break away from what we thought facial features looked like through "zoomed in" grid techniques, while the second drawing called for more intense observation.
Self Portrait I The materials used for this piece were as follows: 6B pencil, printed black-and-white posterized photograph of self, triangle eraser, ruler, square view blocker, and a piece of drawing paper.
When most people draw themselves or other people, we tend to "make up" things on the paper that aren't actually on the person. The picture or person in front of us may reveal that their nose looks a certain way, but since we already have a fixed image of what a nose looks like in our heads, we tend to go off of that instead of using observation to create a more accurate drawing. That is why this first technique seeks to avoid inaccurate "creating" through abstract shading, gridding, and covering.
First off, Mr. Laurence took portrait pictures of us. After he had uploaded the pictures, we were to open them in photoshop and begin basic editing. The first step was to crop the photo so that our faces pretty much filled up the entire photograph. This was followed by using the "posterize" feature (I scrolled mine to around 10, which is very close to being completely posterized) to bring out the contrast of the light and dark values of my face. We then saved it as a PDF file and put it into Google Drive for Mr. Laurence to print.
Now that we had a cropped, posterized, and printed picture of ourselves, we could then begin using the grid technique. Using a ruler, we drew an outline of the picture and then make increments at each inch across the border, making sure to also draw a small increment in the middle of the picture also. Then, we connected the increments to make 1 inch by 1 inch squares that became our picture grid. We then numbered the rows 1 through 8 and the columns A to F, totalling to 48 grid cubes. On a piece of drawing paper, the same process was repeated, except this time, we had to measure out the same height and width of the photo onto the paper before drawing the grids.
Using the square view blocker, I would choose a square on my photo and bring it to the corresponding square on my drawing paper. By covering up everything else except for that one square, I was forced to only look at that one area and copy what I saw onto my drawing square. Close up, the square on my face just looked like a jumble of abstract shapes in different shades, so it helped my brain break away from that image of what I think certain facial features looked like.
To copy whatever I saw, I first drew light outlines of the abstract shapes into my own square. Then, I determined which shape was the darkest and lightest, and then shaded them in accordingly. After one square was finished, I would move on to another one. This next square didn't necessarily have to be next to the previous one, as it shouldn't matter in the end. For me, I started out in the center of my face by my nose. I knew that I wanted to get the more difficult squares done first so that the rest (which was just my hair and shoulders) would be easier to complete.
Once squares that were next to each other had been completed, I would remove the view blocker and correct any lines or shades between them that didn't match with each other (I would also have my photo nearby to compare). This was done so that my final product wouldn't look too much like a bunch of grids drawn individually, but like a cohesive drawing that looked pleasant from afar.
When all of my grids were drawn and shaded in, I then repeated the same process of removing the view blocker and smoothing lines together, using my actual photo as a reference. Then, Mr. Laurence told me that the lines on my face were too harsh, so I used my triangle eraser to soften the edges of the abstract shapes and make my face look more natural.
Some challenges that I faced during this project was the shading and drawing my eyebrows. When you have a view blocker on so that your focus is only on one square at a time, it's difficult to create the same shading in a spot that spans several squares. In one square, you might color that one patch darker, and in the other, a little bit lighter. This might be the case even if, once the view blocker is removed, they are supposed to be the same shade part of the same abstract shape. I eventually solved this by comparing the shades to each other without the view blocker, then adjusting them to match through erasing and more shading.
The second challenge was drawing my eyebrows. Unlike the rest of my face, my eyebrows weren't blobs of abstract shades. Instead, you could see in the photograph that they were little individual hairs that blended and grew in a unified direction. I found it difficult to recreate this effect, especially since my pencil was a 6B pencil (in hindsight, I really should have used a harder pencil) with softer lead. Eventually however, I was able to achieve this by marking the general outline of my eyebrows when I used the view blocker, and then filling in the hairs without the view blocker later on. It took a while, but my final product looked pretty much like me.
Self Portrait II The materials used for this piece were as follows: 2B pencil, small mirror, triangle eraser, and a piece of drawing paper.
Human faces are a fascinated subject. We see them every single day, so they don't seem all that remarkable. But once you look into our facial proportions, you'll discover that our faces are a marvellous example of natural symmetry. There's a reason why a professional artist's depictions of human faces appear so much more realistic than an amateur's version; a professional artist pays close attention to facial proportions and includes their observations into their drawings, while amateurs do not.
That is why the first thing that Mr. Laurence had us do in this second self portrait was to make observations of our own faces. First, we quickly sketched an oval that would be our head onto our paper. Then, in the mirror, we took our pencil from the top of our head to our eyes and then measured (with a finger to mark our placement on the pencil) the distance from our eye line to the bottom of chin. Surprisingly, this distance was the same! This meant that our eyes were pretty much exactly in the middle of our heads. This might not seem the case, but this is because most of our heads are covered with hair, so it creates an illusion that our eyes are higher up in our faces. On our drawn ovals, we sketched a halfway line to draw our eyes on later.
Then, we took our pencil again and measured the distance between our ears and the outer edge of our eyes, the outer edge to the inner edge of our eyes, and the distance between our eyes. Once again, we were all pretty surprised to discover that all of these distances were the same, meaning that we could technically fit five eyes in a row on our faces! In response to this observation, we then divided that line we drew in the middle of our ovals into five equal parts, then took the first and fourth ones and boxed them to show that the eyes would go there.
A similar process was followed to determine the different positions and proportions of the rest of our facial features. However, as Mr. Laurence also said, not everyone's facial proportions would be the same, and I especially noticed this with my mouth. Usually, a person's mouth starts and ends in line with the middle of our pupils when looking directly forward, however mine was smaller than that. Instead, my mouth began and ended in line with the inner edge of my iris. In addition, mouths were usually located at the halfway point between the chin and bottom of nose, but mine was a bit higher than that, leaving more room for my chin. I made adjustments to my drawing based on these observations so that I would stay true to what I really looked like.
Unlike the grid technique drawing, this project really relied on basic artistic skill and real-life observation. It was so much more difficult because of this, and in the end, it didn't even look as much like me as my grid drawing. My first attempt didn't work out so well, so I actually took the materials home and completed it in my own time. One thing that I really noticed was that this drawing was so much more time consuming. I kept on having to erase and redraw and erase and reposition my facial features. Using the grid technique, I kind of ran away from the issue of using my presumed mental images of facial features using the square view blocker. But with this drawing, I really had to internally battle with that side of my brain that screamed, "No silly, your eyes are supposed to look like this."
Even more disheartening was how, if I focused too much on one part of my face, I would look up to realize that it was out of proportion and had to readjust or entirely erase it. Without a doubt, drawing my mouth and lips were the most difficult of all. Perhaps this was because of my not so usual mouth proportions, or maybe it was because I was so tempted to just draw a line (when I doodle in my own time, I usually "chicken out" on the mouth by doing just that). This truly was my most gruelling project in Art Foundations yet, and whatever the reason for my difficulty was, I am glad that I pushed past that to achieve a drawing that I can at least say I'm proud of.
With our first unit of drawing now complete, we are now moving on to our second unit: printmaking. Our first project in printmaking was screen printmaking, a technique that requires knife-cutting skills, knowing how to use printmaking ink and a brayer, and finally actual screen printing skills. For this project, we created two prints, the first a positive of our image silhouette, and the second a negative image of our silhouette.
Part I: Printing Background The materials used for creating the print background were as follows: apron, printing ink, palette knives, small ink cups brayer, rectangular plastic inking surface, rubber and plastic ink removing tools, brushes, print roller, rectangular paper border, permanent marker, and printing paper.
Screen printing involves spreading ink across a screen onto a desired flat surface, however before we began this process, we were to create a background on our choice of flat surface: printing paper. In printmaking, the concepts of negative and positive space are very important since there is no "outlining" of shapes and silhouettes until the embellishment stage. That is why for our printmaking background, we focused on creating negative spaces by taking away ink in desired places.
After wearing an apron, the first step was to decide what colors of ink to use. Using plastic palette knives, we scooped preferred colors of ink into small ink cups and then transferred them onto the rectangular plastic inking surface. We then used the brayer to roll the ink all over the plastic until the entire surface was covered in ink. If you wanted, you could use more than one color and create different gradients of color. The trick here was to use just enough ink to cover the plastic, but not too much that the ink stood up in a clumped texture. Then, we could use different ink removing tools like the rubber-tipped tool and the flat plastic zig-zag edged tool to create negative spaced designs into the ink. Mr. Laurence encouraged us to be abstract, so I used the rubber-tipped tool and just ran it along the inked surface to create a random-looking shape.
When we were finished inking and creating negative space with different tools (you could also use a dry brush to make smear designs), we headed on over to the print roller with a piece of printing paper and a rectangular paper border. At one end of the roller, you place your plastic inking surface facing upwards, and then place the paper border around to create a frame. Finally, you set your printing paper on top of all of that. This is followed by putting the heavyweight cloth on top of your print and rolling it through the print roller. The reason why it was so important to not have any ink "standing up" was because the print roller would just flatten it across your paper. When your print is going through the roller, the ink is slowly being pressed across your printing paper. Once on the other side, you can then lift the heavy cloth away and peel back your printing paper with the newly printed ink on it.
Once our first printed background was completed, we could then proceed to a second or even third print. I wanted to have all of my three backgrounds (I created an extra just in case) a different color, so my first one was mostly orange, my second one was purple with shades of pink and red, and my last one was a gradient of hot pink to light pink. After rolling all three through the roller, we placed them on the drying rack so that they would by dry by the next class.
In creating the print background, one of my biggest challenges were mixing the ink on the plastic with a brayer and allowing my negative designs who up on the print. Using a brayer instead of a paintbrush to blend colors proved very difficult for me since I wasn't used to it. At first, I really wanted to create a nice blend of colors that were blended but still remained a little distinct. However, I found that the brayer usually just blended all the colors together into one. It was really hard to create a background that I visualized since the brayer seemed to have a mind of its own. After looking around at how other students in my class were dealing with this issue, I discovered that if you didn't roll too many times, you could allow your colors to mildly blend without overpowering each other.
The second issue I faced was getting my negative spaced designs to show up on the printing paper after it went through the roller. My first two prints turned out well, but the designs on my last print didn't even show up at all. I had used the plastic tool to create wave designs all across the plastic surface, but once it went through the roller, they were only visible in one patch on the bottom right corner. Although I never got to solve this problem, I realized that the designs I made were too thin, and that next time, I should make them thicker. Despite this, the final backgrounds of all three prints turned out pretty well because the color combinations I chose really looked pleasing to the eye.
Part II: Screen Printing The materials used for screen printing were as follows: apron, plastic printing film, black permanent marker, cutting knife, cutting board, Baymax reference photos, paper envelope, fine mesh screen, rectangular paper border, printing ink, small ink cups, palette knives, inking squeegee, and background prints (the ones made in part one).
For part two of this project, we didn't use the printing roller anymore. Instead, we were to do things manually with a fine mesh screen, printing ink, and a large inking squeegee. First off, however, we had to choose what silhouette to print. As an avid Big Hero 6 fan, my printing silhouette of choice was Baymax. Using reference photos of Baymax on my computer, I created a sketch using a black permanent marker onto the plastic printing film. Then, with a cutting knife and a cutting board underneath, proceeded to cut out this outline.
It was very important to keep everything that you cut out since we were going to make both a negative and positive print. We learned that, to cut more successfully, it was best to cut towards yourself with the blade at a 45º angle. This way, more of the sharp cutting surface area would touch the plastic, making it easier and smoother to cut. For me, I cut out the outline of Baymax first, and then cut out the details inside the outline later.
Since it took an entire class for me to cut out Baymax, I had to keep the smaller plastic pieces inside a paper envelope to prevent them from getting lost. Actually, I had already lost one of my smaller pieces, so to solve this, I simply outlined the piece onto the edge of my plastic film and cut another piece out. As the plastic film was larger than the printing background, I wouldn't have to worry about the additional cutout from showing up.
The next step was to put on an apron and choose either the negative or positive cutout and place it onto one of the background prints. I chose to do use the positive cutout of Baymax to print first, and I chose to use the complimenting color green on my orange background. Since my cutout was positive, my resulting print would be negative. Using palette knives to, once again, scoop the desired color into small ink cups, I then placed the fine mesh screen over my background print, Baymax cutout, and paper border frame.
Next, I placed blobs of ink across the top of the mesh screen and used the squeegee to spread the ink down and across the entire mesh screen. While doing this, Mr. Laurence reminded us that we had to keep one hand on the screen to prevent it from moving. It was also dire that we put enough pressure on the ink to spread it. If, after the first sweep down, there were still spots with no ink, all we had to do was place blobs of ink there are squeegee it around again.
After the entire screen had been squeegeed with ink, we pulled them up and peeled back any remaining pieces of plastic. Despite already covering the entire screen with ink however, there was still one patch on Baymax's right arm that wasn't covered with ink. Since I had already removed the screen and plastic however, I simply took a paintbrush and painted over that area with the same colored ink. Then, we simply put it back onto the drying rack. The print was a negative print, so this meant that the green ink I put on would fill in the space surrounding Baymax's silhouette.
This process was then repeated twice (since I had one more extra print), except this time, using the negative pieces of plastic cutout to create a positive print. This one was be harder since there were more loose pieces of plastic. All I had to do different however, was position these pieces on the background and then carefully press the mesh screen on top to keep them in place.
For my second and third prints, I chose to use white ink. The surprising thing however, was that once I lifted the mesh screen and lifted away the plastic pieces with a cutting knife, you could still see my background showing through the white ink. At first, I thought this was because I didn't put enough white ink. But after realizing everyone else who used white found the same results, I came to the conclusion that, because white was a more translucent ink color, the stronger colors behind it would show through. Although this was unexpected, I quite liked the result. Especially after it dried, you could still see the designs I made with negative space showing through the white-turned-pink ink.
The final step was to embellish our prints with designs of our choice. We could use anything we wanted, whether it be markers, paint, or colored pencils. I chose to simply outline all three Baymaxes with permanent marker, and then embellished them with lines, swirls, or stars.
Some challenges I faced during the screen printing process included getting all the exposed background spaces squeegeed with ink. The first time, it was an easy fix with that paintbrush, but the second time, it was a bit more difficult. This was because I was using white ink, and there was a caky concentration of it in one area, so when I painted over it, it created a textured patch that stood out. I asked Mr. Laurence what I could do, and he suggested that I use a sponge tool to lightly dab at the excess white paint. This worked, so when a similar problem arose in the next print (also with white paint), I used the same "fixing" technique.
Additionally, I had some very small pieces of plastic when creating the positive print. After I lifted my screen, I didn't know how to lift those pieces without smearing the ink any further. I contemplated just letting it dry like that and then taking it off later, but Mr. Laurence recommended I use a cutting knife to lift it. Since the cutting knife had a precise edge, I was able to successfully lift and dispose of those plastic pieces without smearing any ink.
Print #1: Negative print, green ink on orange, yellow, and silver background. Embellished and outlined with orange sharpie marker.
*Note: the star on the lower left was painted in, but since that would've taken too long, I later chose to continue with sharpie marker only*
Print #2: Positive print, white ink on purple, pink, and red background. Outlined with black sharpie marker.
*Note: I chose not to embellish this one since it would have distracted the eye from the already-prominent swirl designs*
Print #3: Positive print, white ink on pink gradient background. Embellished and outlined with black sharpie.
The second project in our printmaking unit was linoleum printing, a kind a printing that involved a material called linoleum. Linoleum is a rubbery substance that comes in flat rectangular pieces, and while its original purpose was to cushion floor tiles, artists discovered its unique printmaking properties. This is because linoleum is especially easy to carve, and while it is flexible enough to bend, it doesn't get out of shape easily either. That is why for this project, the main skills learned were tracing, carving techniques, blending and rolling out printing ink, and finally, the actual printing itself.
Part I: Tracing and Carving The materials used for this part were as follows: 6B pencil, printed out owl picture, tracing paper, flat linoleum piece, black permanent marker, and metal carving tools.
The first step in creating our linoleum print was to decide on which animal to print. For me, my choice was an owl, so taking a sheet of tracing paper, I placed it on top of an owl photo and used a 6B pencil to trace it. The actual photo had many minute details that I couldn't possibly carve later on, so in places with these details, I would use creativity to simplify them into my own designs. It was important that we use a 6B or any B pencil with a high number. This was because these pencils had softer graphite, making it easy to smear or transfer them.
After tracing, we would place our linoleum blocks on top of the tracing paper and outline the edges of the linoleum. Then, turning it over so that the linoleum was on the bottom and the tracing paper on the top, we use the tips of our pencils to apply pressure all along the traced image. This would transfer the soft lead onto the linoleum and leave a mirrored image of our animals, or in my case, an owl. It was important to match the traced edges up while doing this so that when we repeated the transferring process to the other side of the linoleum, the image would stay exactly the same.
Now that my traced owl image was on the linoleum, we proceeded to trace and thicken the lines with black permanent marker. On one side of the linoleum, only the outline of the owl would be traced. On the other side, both outline and inside details would be traced. Pencil lead easily rubs off, so tracing with marker had two purposes: The first was to prevent our traced image from rubbing off, and the second was to offer an easier guide for when we began carving. All of the white spaces without marker were to be carved away, so the thicker marker lines would be easier to see and carve around.
Once this tracing with black permanent marker was completed, the carving finally began. Our carving tools were wedge-shaped, and all of the different carving heads were different variations of "U" or "V" shapes. Mr. Laurence warned us that the two basic rules to successful and safe carving were to always carve in the direction away from yourself and to never place your hands in the carving tool's path. Following these rules, we then used the tools to first carve the outline of our animal. I found that the linoleum carved super easily, somewhat like butter, so it really depended on your own control to get the carved lines you wanted. Any space that was carved away would later not show up on the final prints, so it took a while to carve away all of the space surrounding my owl's outline. For these large areas to carve, it was much easier to use a large "V" headed carving tool, allowing you to carve more area easily and deeply. However, it was important to not carve too deep, for there was still a flip side that had to be carved.
Now that the owl's outline had been carved out, the other side had to also be carved. Once again, I began with carving the outline first, then once all the linoleum surrounding it had been carved away, I then proceeded to the details inside. Since these details were smaller and required more precision, I switched my carving tool to a smaller "V" shaped head. I found that it was much easier to carve away larger portions first, then leaving all of the smaller spaces until later. During this process, it was important to not cut into the black marker lines so that they remained when we started printing. To easily carve away spaces that were facing different directions, instead of moving your carving tool, it was also much simpler to adjust the linoleum block's direction.
Some difficulties I faced during this first part was definitely the carving process. While the owl's outline was easy enough to carve out, I found the edges of the linoleum to be a bit challenging. If you approached the edge from inside the linoleum block, it wouldn't clean carve through. Instead, it would only rip around the edges, leaving the edges uncarved. However, I soon discovered that if you carved from the outside edge inwards, you could successfully carve away the edge. Another challenge was carving the tiny details inside my owl. If you carved too deep with a small-headed tool, the tool would get stuck and having trouble "resurfacing". Later, I solved this by not carving so deeply in these detailed areas and made sure to switch my tool sizes according to the spaces that needed carving.
Part II: Inking and Printing The materials used for this part were as follows: apron, double-sided carved owl print on linoleum block, brayer, barren, plastic palette knives, block printing ink, plastic inking tray, wooden block-printing registration board, printing paper, and a hairdryer.
With our linoleum block already carved, we could now move on to the actual printing. The printing techniques we used with linoleum were actually similar to the process for wood-block printing. The first step was to get an apron on and use palette knives to scoop small amounts of desired ink onto inking trays. The first print we would make would be the silhouette of our animal, so a lighter colored ink would stand out more. I tried out many different ink colors, but the ones I eventually chose to present in this blog post were the ones where I combined two colors into an ombre effect.
Once we selected what color ink to make our animal's silhouette, we would use our brayers to roll out the ink until its texture was consistent and slightly sticky. Then, we used the ink on the brayers to roll the ink onto the silhouette side of our linoleum block, making sure to cover the entire surface with ink. We then placed the linoleum block, inked side facing upwards, onto a wooden block-printing registration board, tucking one side of the block into the board's registration corner. Next we tucked the corner of a piece of printing paper into that same corner and carefully placed it parallel on top of the linoleum. Using a hand to keep the paper in place, the barren was then used to apply pressure in all areas where the ink would go.
At first, I did this in a circular motion, but I soon realized that this created too much unwanted paper movement, smearing the print below. After this, I changed my technique and only applied pressure in one direction away from myself. This proved to be effective, for most of my following prints were solid and smear-free. Once pressure was evenly applied with the barren, you could then lift the printed paper off the linoleum and leave it on the drying rack.
Each time a print was made, you would have to wash your inking tray, brayer, and linoleum block if you wanted to print in another color. This process was repeated several times (I made a total of around ten prints just in case), and these prints were left to dry. The next class, everything was repeated, except with darker ink colors on the detailed animal carving side of the linoleum. In addition, instead of using blank sheets of printing paper, we used the printing paper with our lighter colored animal silhouettes. It was important to keep both the paper and linoleum block registered with the registration board so that the prints wouldn't be too far off each other.
This time, it wasn't as easy to dry the washed linoleum block because of all the carved details. It was important that the blocks were dry before reprinting so that the ink won't smear or run, so we used hairdryers to speed up the drying process. Once again, we placed our printed works onto the drying rack at the end.
Some difficulties I encountered during the printing process included applying the right amount of pressure with the barren and getting the two prints to align with each other. For many of my earlier prints, I found that I hadn't applied enough pressure in different patches around the print. This was because when I applied pressure with the barren, I did so randomly and couldn't remember whether or not I had already one over a patch. To solve this, I would work systematically applying pressure from the left to the right, then right to the left, paying special attention to the edges of my print. This worked, for my later prints were all solidly printed.
The second challenge was aligning my prints. What happened was that when I traced the detailed side of my owl, I had accidentally moved the alignment out of place so that the carved owls were already different. However, I soon realized that the error was small enough that if I carefully registered both block and printing paper exactly the same time during printing, the misalignment would become less obvious. Despite this obvious mistake, it added a special charm to my print, making it look artistically imperfect. That is why, after all of these prints, I believe my final three chosen prints remain very unique.
Selected Owl Print #1: Black ink on red, orange, and yellow background
Selected Owl Print #2: Black ink on bright blue and turquoise-green (from left to right) background
Selected Owl Print #3: Black ink on turquoise-green and bright blue (from left to right) background
Our third and final project in the printmaking unit used a technique called dry going printing. This involved using sharpened metal tools to carve into a hard plastic called plexiglass, applying ink, removing ink in non-desired places, and finally, rolling it through the printing press. As a bonus, we also chose one of our prints to paint with water color. The theme of this project was "destinations", and unlike our previous printing projects, we were to use a picture we had taken ourselves and turn it into multiple prints.
Part I: Carving The materials used for this part were as follows: Printed and edited destination photograph, one rectangle of plexiglass, metal plexiglass carving tools, iPhone flashlight, duct tape, fine sand paper, and rough metal filer.
Before we began doing any actual work on the print, we first had to choose a picture we had taken during a vacation to fit the theme of "destinations". I eventually selected a picture I had taken in the Millbrae Japanese Garden of a Japanese stone pagoda-like structure. After uploading it to photoshop, we then tweaked the photo's brightness, sharpness, size, and eventually turned it black and white. After Mr. Laurence had printed these edited pictures, we then got to work with carving on the plexiglass. Despite its name, plexiglass is not actually a kind of glass. Instead, it's a hard plastic made from acrylic, and this hardness makes it an ideal choice for carving. In photoshop, we had edited the photo so that it was exactly the same size as our plexiglass piece, so we laid the plastic on top of it and duct taped it on the sides.
Next, we first used a thicker metal carving tool to carve the general outline of the objects in our picture. The key was to only use the picture as a guideline, so only the objects we wanted to include had to be traced. However, since it was difficult to see where you are carving on a clear, transparent piece of plastic, Mr. Laurence revealed to us a trick. Using the flashlight on our iPhones, we could shine them in direct contact with one of the plexiglass's corners, and all of the carved areas would shine white. After I had carved a general outline of the pagoda-like statue, I then used a much finer and pointier metal carving tool to carve out the finer details of the picture, like the texture of the statue and the tree branches in the background. Especially since my photo had such a strong contrast of light and dark values, I wanted to express this by putting a lot of thick dashed lines in the dark areas and fewer thin dashed lines in the lighter areas.
Once the entire outline was complete, we then used fine sand paper and selected areas of medium value to sand down. Since the areas I wanted to sand down were very detailed, I folded the sand paper and then only used the sand on the tip to create medium values. After a while, I found that sanding in a circular motion worked best, so that's how I created the circular texture in my carving's background. Since my original photo had so much stuff going on in its background, I only decided to include the trees and pagoda in my carving.
When the entire carving was complete, we then removed the duct tape and used the rough metal filer to feel down the sharp surface edges of the plastic. This way, when we rolled it through the printing press, it won't cut through the printing paper.
Some difficulties I faced during the carving process was the carving of the outline of the photo onto the plexiglass. This was because the plexiglass itself had a certain thickness to it, and looking at the photo at a different angle would alter the picture's outline. Eventually, I realized the best way was to keep my head at a comfortable position but to not move it too much. Additionally, I also found it hard to create the different light and dark values in my carving. But when I imagined that this was essentially the same thing as creating values with pencil on paper, I realized all I had to do was create more thick lines in areas of dark value and the opposite for places of light value.
Part II: Inking and Printing The materials used for this part were as follows: Plexiglass with carved destination picture, a tub of water, thick printing paper, newspaper, thin waxed paper sheets, printing ink, a brayer, plastic inking surface, cheesecloths, Q-tips, plastic palette knives, and a printing press machine.
Unlike our previous printing techniques of screen printing and linoleum printmaking, dry point-printing was more of an ink-reduction method that created a print with very little ink. Because there wouldn't be that much in on the plexiglass while printing, we would need to make the printing paper more receptive to the ink. To achieve this, we submerged the thick, textured printing paper into a tub of water and let it soak while we prepared the plexiglass for printing.
First, we used a plastic palette knife to scoop a small amount of printing ink onto the plastic inking surface. We could either choose red, blue, or black, and I chose to use black ink. After this, we used the brayer to roll and spread out the ink. The ink we used for this printing project was especially sticky, and Mr. Laurence showed us how we should roll it out until it was both evenly distributed but still a bit tacky. Then, we used the inked up brayer to roll ink onto the carved side of the plexiglass.
Next, using a used piece of cheesecloth, we wiped away the surface ink from the plexiglass. Now, the ink was only in the carved crevices and sandpapered areas that we created earlier. Then, we used a cleaner piece of cheesecloth to get the desired un-inked areas cleaner, and for the finer details, we used a Q-tip. Once this was complete, we retrieved our soaking printing paper from the tub using a small waxed paper sheet. In order to get the excess water off, we then proceeded to place the paper in between a few sheets of newspaper and pressed on top, allowing the newspaper to absorb the water.
Now that the printing paper and plexiglass with ink was ready, all we had to do was place the damp printing paper on top of the plexiglass and sandwich it between the printing press paper sheets. Once we finished rolling them through the printing press, we then carefully lifted the paper off the plexiglass, placed the wet print on the drying rack, and washed our plexiglass piece. This process was repeated once more to create two prints.
Some difficulties I experienced during this process included wiping the ink away with the cheesecloth and placing the wet inking paper on top of the plexiglass before printing. The first time I did this, I had removed way too much ink so that my print ended up being too faint. This was a problem because I had wiped away the ink too roughly, and this resulting in the ink inside the carved crevices to be taken away also. Eventually however, I solved this through being more mild with my wiping away of ink. I tried to only wipe away the general surface of ink so that I could see my carving's outline, and then used the cleaner cheesecloth and Q-tips to only wipe away places I didn't want ink. This left plenty of ink in my carved crevices. That is how my next print proved to be more successful with bolder lines. The only problem with this, however, was that in certain areas (especially in the bottom right of my print), I had wiped away the ink unevenly, leaving smudge marks. By then, it was too late to solve this, but if I had done another print, I would've paid more attention to these areas and wiped away ink more carefully.
Additionally, one of my prints (a third print that isn't shown in this blog post) had water marks streaking the entire print. Later, I realized that I had done everything correctly. The thing that caused these unwanted water marks was that when I placed the wet inking paper on top of the plexiglass, I moved it, smearing the ink disproportionally onto the paper before rolling it through the printing press. This, coupled with how the paper was wet to begin with, resulted in those unwanted water marks. I now know that if I were to create another print, I need to carefully place the inking paper on in one try and to not adjust it once it's on.
Part III: Painting with Watercolor
The materials used for this part were as follows: plastic bowl with water, water spray bottle, watercolor trays with watercolor paints, flat medium-sized paintbrush, thin and pointed tiny paintbrush, and paper towels.
In total, I had create three prints, but for my final presented two, I excluded the one that had watermarks. Out of the two, we were to choose one to leave in its original inked form and the other to paint with watercolor. I chose to use the first print I did since the lines were fainter than the other one.
First, with a bowl of water and paintbrushes next to me, I used the spray bottle to spray water onto the watercolor paints. This activated the gum arabic inside the paint, allowing it to be used for painting. Next, I used my wet brush to take some paint and put it onto the watercolor tray. Then, depending on how mild or strong I wanted the colors, I used water to dilute the paint. Using this diluted paint, I carefully painted the desired areas in my print with a paintbrush. For the watercolor painted print, I decided to make the pagoda-like statue red, the supporting structures orange-brown, the trees green and brown, and the background light blue.
I decided to make the darker-valued areas of my print have a bolder color, so for those shaded areas on the pagoda, I painted bright red. For the lighter-valued areas, I used more water to dilute my brush and only took a little bit of red paint to create a lighter tint of red. A similar process was repeated with my pagoda's support structures. With these two shades of red side-by-side, it successfully emphasized which areas were meant to be shadowed and which were not.
Despite this, I found it especially difficult to keep my printed lines visible. With the stark red popping from the print, I needed something to ensure that the printed lines beside them were still visible. I later solved this by using a thin brush and outlining the printed lines with the same bright red paint. Some of the areas I painted were still wet when I outlined them, so in order to prevent bleeding, I took a paper towel and dabbed the areas dry.
Additionally, when I painted the background light blue, I didn't put enough of the blue paint on my palette. This meant that when I finished painting one section, I would have to recreate the same tint of blue from scratch, and in certain areas in my print, you can still see how not all of the blues are the same. In order to even out the color, I decided to use a wet brush and take away some color from the bolder blue areas and add them to the milder blue area. Next time, I'll know to take enough of the desired paint so that I won't have to remix with water.
Although this project was probably the most difficult out of all the printing projects due to some very new techniques, my final product was still something that I could say I worked hard on. If given the opportunity, I would like to try this project again and create something I would be even prouder of.
Print #1: Black Ink on Printing Paper
Print #2: Black Ink with Watercolor on Printing Paper