Zebra under the Bridge

Upon discovering the dramatic looking stairs and graffiti-covered walls under St Eriksbron, I've decided this small bit of Stockholm deserves a print of its own. I knew it was to be a big black-and-white print (like the tiger on Urvädersgränd) - what caught my eye first was the texture of the concrete, and then, the enormous structure in shadow in contrast with the bright sky. 

I thought the zebra would be the perfect animal for this scene, just to push myself further in terms of different lines and textures. So I dug out photos I took of the zebras at Kolmården last year and started working. 

Carving the block (30 x 45 cm) took three weeks; despite being a one-block black-and-white, this turned out to be the most labor-intensive print I've ever made with all the bits and pieces. The constant visualizing and decision making also add to the intensity (and the fun!),

I used the Dremel tool I got as Christmas present last year to clear out a lot of the sky; with the first test proof (left one below) I wanted to see how the sanded texture would look would work with the lines on the stairs. In the end I carved away all the sky - the open part on the right bring out the stairs even more and the whole print just look much more dramatic. 

I also tweaked a lot of small things - marked on the text print with post-it's as you can see. At this point I also like to take a couple of days away from the print and see how I feel about the way things are. 

So here's the final print, which I'm calling St Eriksbron, is a limited edition of 20 prints on Hosho paper, each signed and numbered at the bottom. The print measures 30 x 45 cm, and the paper 40 x 55 cm. You can find the print in the shop

 

Painting on a Wall

Last two weeks I've been busy with a big project - painting someone's living room wall. The client lives and works near St Maria Magdalena church and really likes my linocut; and I just couldn't refuse a commission to cover someone's living room wall with my print. 

After covering around the work area with lots and lots of newspaper and masking tape, I sprayed the surface with a light Phthalo blue almost identical to the background color I mixed for the linocut

For the outlines I used a projector (I drew faint white lines in the 3rd photo above). The light from the projector actually made it quite hard to see, so I turned it off once I had a good structure. 

I got a bunch of supplies from Highlights, a graffiti supply store in Stockholm; the folk there also gave a lot of good advice. Aside from gloves, mask, tape and basic supplies, I mainly used MTN water-based color - spray paint, markers and refills. 

It was hard to get enough ink out when drawing directly on the wall, so I ended up using the markers as brushes, dipping them in the refill which I put in the spray can caps. 

Last step was to put a layer of varnish over the whole wall to protect the design.  

All done!

A whole new kind of project like this was both exhausting and fulfilling (I completed the wall in 4 days), and this year will hopefully witness many new things - prints, patterns and workshops. I'll post about the new zebra print very soon too :)

 

Printmaking supplies and where to buy them

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a long time. One reason is that I get asked a lot what brand a certain tool/block is and where to buy it; another is that I truly believe in the power of sharing resources and techniques. Also, if more people try out printmaking after learning from my experience and mistakes, I'm sure printmaking materials and supplies will be more widely available (especially in Sweden) too. 

This will be a rather long post with lots of pictures and resources, so feel free to save it to read later. I'd really appreciate if you share it on social media - more readers help and motivate me to post more on printmaking and illustration :)

So, a few notes about the suppliers mentioned in this article:

  1. This is not a sponsored post. I will specify which suppliers I have purchased before, as well as mention some others that I know of. My description will be based on my personal experience and my knowledge of their stock.

  2. I will cover both Swedish and international, both online and physical shops.

  3. This article is meant to share where I buy my printmaking supplies, so based on where you live, you might find suppliers that carry a larger stock, offer lower prices/shipping, or work better for your needs for some other reason. 

  4. Click images to enlarge them, and on the suppliers' names to visit their websites.

Carving materials

I use a wide range of materials for my linocuts and rubber stamps and I frequently buy from these suppliers below, in a rough order of how often and much I buy from them.

  • Stampeaz - USA, online. I searched my order history and the first order I place with Diana was Febrary, 2011 and I've been buying a few batches from her every year since. Shipping can be quite a pain if you live outside the US like I do, but the stock makes up for it, and if you reach out to Diana before making a big order, she's always happy to help figure out the best shipping option. What I buy here:

    • Speedball Speedy Carve. This is the pink rubber you see a lot on my Instagram; great for stamps: it's soft so easy to print by hand. 

    • Jack Richeson Easy to Cut Linoleum. It comes unmounted and is butter-smooth to carve; can be used in place of traditional Battleship gray linoleum. Too hard to use for stamps, but prints perfectly for linocuts.

    • OZ Kut. White rubber I've been using for some stamps. A bit harder and thicker than Speedy Carve.

  • Artistica.nu - Sweden, online. The only Swedish shop I found that carries the green Japanese vinyl blocks. The material is softer than traditional linoleum, takes details beautifully and can be carved on both sides, but it's hard to get a clear pencil transfer of the design, and to see the design clearly when you carve. 

  • IB Wahlström - Sweden, online and physical shop (Olofsgatan 10). They carry traditional gray lino as well as Adigraf, an Italian carving material that's very soft and rubbery. Swedish schools use this a lot in art classes. Fairly easy to carve, but hard to get fine details. This shop also has other beginner-level carving blocks, most of which I have tried and wouldn't recommend.

Carving & sharpening tools

  • Jackson's Art Supplies - UK, online and physical shop. I buy my Pfeil tools here. There are some Swedish web shops that have Pfeil (Boesner, Slöjd-detailjer, Holm Trävaror), but I have yet to purchase from any of them. 

  • I also use gouge with sets of blades from Speedball and Esdee; both I highly recommend to beginner and intermediate printmakers. I believe I bought mine from Stampeaz and IB Wahlström respectively, but they are rather popular so you should be able to find them in other online shops. 

  • Hyvlar.se - Sweden, online. If you have gouges like Pfeil that needs more maintenance and sharpening, the Flexcut Slip Strope sharpening system works very well. Hyvlar is the shop where I got mine; you'll be also able to find it in art supply shops as well as carpentry shops. 

  • I'm not gonna write about scalpels this time for two reasons. One, I don't use scalpels a lot for linocuts and two, I find the grip and the angle of the blade more important that the brand or model, so if you are starting with rubber stamps or carving softer materials, you should be able to find a scalpel that works nicely in your local stationary or craft supply place.

Paper

  • IB Wahlström - Sweden, online and physical shop (Olofsgatan 10). I buy most of my papers here: Hosho, Yamashiro and Chinese mulberry paper. 
  • Konstnärernas centralköp - Sweden, online and physical shop (Fiskargatan 1A). They also carry Japanese and Chinese mulberry paper. 
  • If you don't live in Sweden, your local art supply shops should carry some Japanese paper. Hosho is thicker and great to work with (be sure to print on the smooth side); Yamashiro and Chinese mulberry are much lighter and have beautiful fiber-y textures.

Ink

  • After a long phase of experimenting and frustration I now stick to Caligo Safewash Inks and I buy them from Jackson's Art Supplies. These inks are "oil-based but they can be washed away safely with liquid hand soap and water". 

 

Other stuff

  • There are other things you might need like a sheet of non-slip mat, cut proof gloves (I use disposable rubber gloves when I start to sweat), carbon paper (for transfering the design onto the block), Japanese brush pen or marker pens to draw the design, ect.. You'll be able to find all of them on Ebay, Amazon, or your local shops. 

That's all I can think of for now! This article focuses more on linocut than stamp-making; for the latter you can check out my previous blog post on stamp-making tools and materials

If you have any questions you can of course comment or get in touch. Again, I appreciate your sharing the post and spreading the word on social media - I believe everyone can use a little creativity and inspiration in their life :)

/Tian

 

Layla - hand-carved dog stamp for wedding stationary

So if you know me in real life you probably know that I grew up with dogs and am a dog person. I do get more cat stamp commissions than dogs (cat owners are more crafty, perhaps?), but this time it's a custom dog and name stamp for a couple in Baltimore and their wedding stationary. 

Starting with a pencil sketch, using a photo provided by the customers and their wedding photographer.

Layla, handmade dog portrait stamp by Tian Gan

I put together a quick Photoshop mock-up of the dog portrait and the typography design the couple requested for the name stamp. 

Layla, handmade dog portrait stamp by Tian Gan

Once the sketch is approved it's carving time! The fur took a long time. In the photo below I have completed carving and cleaning the stamp; when I carve, I stain the stamp with a light-colored ink pad so I can see what I'm carving better. 

Layla, handmade dog portrait stamp by Tian Gan

Completed and mounted on wood, these stamps are good to go!

Layla, handmade dog portrait stamp by Tian Gan

You can write to me (tian@gantian.se) for commissioning your own custom stamp, or look at the designs in my shop for inspirations :) 

Good night!

/Tian