printmaking

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

 

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

 

Airship Linocut

This is a commissioned linocut design for a craft beer brewery in Italy. The client will be using the design for their beer label; the edition of original prints are also available in my shop

The initial pencil sketch. Concrete enough to give me a guideline when carving, but without too much details - the dark color of the Japanese vinyl means it's a little hard to see the pencil sketch after transfer, so it's better to add more details later on when carving.  

beer-label-linocut-airship-sketch-square.jpg

After rubbing the sketch onto the block, I sprayed three layers of clear acrylic spray to seal it. I'd been experimenting to get the perfect coverage; three layers seem to do the trick. Be sure to wait for it to dry between layers too. 

This sketch should last through carving, printing (Carligo ink) and cleaning (baby oil or baby wipes), so it works great for reduction prints. 

Then it's carving time. Extra important to keep the big gouges sharp when carving away the white area.

Done carving! I also ended up trimming away most of the border with scissors to make sure of a nice & clean print. 

Hanging to dry - this is an edition of 30 printed on Hosho paper. The design measures 15 x 21 cm and the paper 30 x 30 cm. Numbered and signed on the bottom.

You can purchase the original Airship linocut here

I have already started the second design for the client - also a linocut, this time of an great horned owl in full hunting mode. The sketch is almost completed and you'll find it in a day or two on my Instagram. This be fun! 

/Tian

 

Linocut, S:t Johannes Kyrka (St. John's Church)

This will be an update with mostly process pictures of my first two-color reduction linocut, S:t Johannes Kyrka (St. John's Church).

Making this print was really challenging but also great fun, so I tried to photo and document everything. If you have any questions about any step or something I used, feel free to comment and I'll be happy to answer.

I've been drawing, carving, proofing and printing non-stop for the past two weeks, and the next week will be the last before the deadline for next year's

Liljevachs

Spring Salon (Liljevachs vårsalong). Background information: Liljevachs public art gallery was opened in 1916 as the first independent, public museum for contemporary art in Sweden. I am planning to apply with a couple of my original linocuts, including two new reduction prints featuring churches and rooftops in Stockholm.

S:t Johannes Kyrka is the first of the two and is the view of

Vasastan

roofs with the church's peaking Gothic tower. I've been going up to the roof park on Sveavägen to look at the amazing geometry; this linocut is my interpretation of it.

I started with a sketch in Photoshop. Here's what I learned: clipping masks work great when sketching for reduction prints. Nothing fancy at this stage - just messy doodle to show myself the overall composition and colors.

I did a quick transfer, tracing the outline (I printed it out to A3, same size with the block) and draw the details right onto the block. Here's me carving for the first layer. 

At this point I'm carving away what I want to leave white. 

First test proof of the lighter-colored layer. I'm making two editions, with this layer being red or yellow. 

I made enough prints of the first layer, in both colors, to give myself some margin for error in registration. Prints would hang to dry for 3 - 4 days before I print the second layer. 

This is the yellow one - a bright, rich color that really reminds one of the sunrise on a beautiful day. 

When the prints were hanging on the wire, I cleaned the block using baby wipes and baby oil, then started carving more from the block to prepare for the second layer. Here I'm carving away what I wanted to leave yellow/red. 

First test print! Apart from the dark color not saturated enough, I also marked with little stickers all the places I wanted to tweak before printing the final edition. Oh, also - you'll notice I signed this test print in Chinese :)

Printing the final edition :) Registration turned out great, and the dark color really made the lighter one pop.

Another angle - 

And the completed print, in yellow and dark gray (Sunrise), or red and dark purple (Sunset).

Can you spot the squirrel?

Some details on the print: 

Well, that's the print :) It's available for purchase in my shop

here

. Limited edition of 10 original linocuts for both colors; the design measures A3 and is printed on Hosho paper. 

Until next time!

/Tian

Blackbird & Rowanberries, Linocut

A couple of pictures to record the process of making my new linocut with a blackbird on a rowanberry branch. We had a blackbird nest in the garden this summer and we watched three eggs turn into beautiful birds.

Blackbirds come often to the rowanberry trees in our garden and this print is inspired by them.

Starting with a carving out linoleum - I'm using Jack Richeson this time. 

Prints hanging to dry. These are printed with Caligo oil-based ink on 200 gram Hahnemühle paper.

Hand-coloring the prints with watercolor. 

Getting to the leaves on the branch, mixing in yellow, blue to get different shades of green.

The print measures 23 x 30.5 cm (or 9" x 12") and the paper roughly 40 x 40 cm (16" x 16").

The print is available for purchase

in my shop

Have a great week!

/Tian