Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Magician

Next Tarot card in the series - The Magician. This is kind of a weird card, it's ideas are around creativity and magic. The magician lets energy move through him, and he directs it. Also featured are the four icons of the Archana - the wand, cup, sword and pentacle. This card can "signify a positive beginning to a new project or a new phase in a person's life." (The New Tarot Handbook by Rachel Pollack)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Find Your Style in Illustration

There are lots of opinions on style on the internet, but I thought I would add my two cents. First of all, what is style? Style is your own unique voice that comes through in your artwork. It is why art directors will seek out your work and hire you versus another artist. They may be looking for a certain look to match the article they have to find an illustration for. In art school I had one instructor that said something about style that has stuck with me - style is the natural way that you draw, and should come naturally.

So, how do you find your own unique voice? I think style is something you discover in yourself, not something you try to copy from other artists. Copying an artist's style is fine to learn a technique, but should not be how you find your style. How I found my current style of linocut illustration was a lot of experimentation. While in school I tried many, many mediums before settling on linocut in my final year of studies. I tried painting in acrylic, ink, cut paper, silkscreen, digital, scratchboard, etching, and finally settled on linocut. I think experimenting with as many mediums as possible while in school is very healthy and will stretch and grow you as an artist. If you are not in school to learn new things, what is the point? I think your work should go through changes from your first year of school to your last year.

I didn't fully develop my style until my last year of school. I had a breakthrough in my third year during a school trip to New York. In New York, we had the opportunity to show our portfolios to various art directors and fellow professional illustrators. The portfolio I showed the art directors had a variety of styles in it and was not very consistent. At that point I was already experimenting with linocut, but wasn't very developed in it yet. One of the art directors reviewing my portfolio commented that I was obviously passionate about printmaking and should work that into my style. That was when I first seriously considered to combine printmaking and illustration. After New York I tried scratchboard, which has an etching look to it, but is a quick method of working. I also did more experiments with linocut, but didn't really delve into it until my fifth year of school.

Printmaking is a medium I naturally gravitated to. One of the printmaking methods I tried was silkscreen, and I completed my illustration projects in school using this method. But I figured out that silkscreen was too slow of a method to apply to illustration, which has tight deadlines sometimes. So I thought of trying linocut and relief printing to complete projects and found this quite enjoyable and a much faster method of working compared to silkscreen. Don't get me wrong, silkscreen is awesome and I'm not knocking it, but I think it is best to be used for projects with a longer deadline, or personal projects.

In conclusion I think to find your style you need to experiment and figure out what makes you excited about creating your art. Follow what comes naturally to you and eventually you will discover your own voice.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

First day of summer

The first day of summer is coming up (June 20), so I thought I would make this little spot illustration. Just playing around with scale and a sunflower.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Linocut Materials

I am changing up the blog a little bit. I am planning to do written posts as well as image posts. Written posts may be on topics pertaining to illustration, printmaking, or design. If you have any topics you would like me to write about, please leave it in the comments below.

For my first written post I'm keeping it simple and writing about the materials I use to make my linocut prints.

Linocut Materials

Lino -  There are a few different types of linoleum to choose from. The easiest to cut is a white, eraser-like material; I think it is called Safety-Cut. I would recommend to start with the Safety-Cut if you are carving lino for the first time. The lino I have pictured are the ones I prefer to use. The black lino is a medium-hardness rubber-like material, that is quite easy to cut. I also like it because you can use both sides. The brown lino is the regular unmounted linoleum. It is slightly harder to cut than the black lino, but is still fairly easy to carve. This kind only has the lino surface on one side, so you can only use it once.

Carving tool - The tool I use is the Speedball carving tool. This is the beginner's tool, you can also purchase more expensive tools that are a single blade. I find the Speedball brand is good for carving lino, so I have not purchased additional tools. The tool I use comes with the handle and several interchangeable blades inside. The sizes included range from #1 (very thin) to #5 (thick). Also included is a cutting blade. The blades are stored inside the handle when not in use.

Ink - The brand I use for ink is Speedball. The Speedball ink is water-soluble and non-toxic. I like it because it can be easily cleaned up with water, which works well if you work at home. The only downside is it dries fairly quickly, so you need to work quickly; this is especially true if the room you work in gets warm (as my apartment does in the summer). Fast drying time is also an upside, you don't have to let your print dry too long. I predominately use black, so I just buy a bigger container and it lasts a long time. Speedball also has smaller tubes of ink, as well as a variety of colours. You can also use oil-based inks for relief printing, these have a longer drying time (overnight); they need to be cleaned up using mineral spirits.

Palette Knife - This is what I use for spreading and mixing the ink to prepare it for printing. It's just a cheap plastic knife which works for me. You could upgrade to a metal palette knife.

Brayer - This is the brayer I use to apply the ink to the lino block. There are different hardness of brayers, they can range from soft rubber to a harder material. This brayer is on the softer end. I think generally a harder brayer is best for rolling out ink onto the block. I purchased this one because it was a bit wider than my small hard brayer. Generally it takes a few passes with the brayer to apply the right amount of ink to the block.

Paper - Paper is very fun to shop for, I could spend hours in a paper shop, there are so many varieties. You can print on any paper you like, including found paper such as paper bags, newsprint etc. For my prints I like to print on Mulberry paper, which is a thin, Japanese-type paper. One side is smooth, and the other side is a little rough, so you can experiment with both sides of the paper. I find the thinner paper easier to print by hand. Heavier papers may require more pressure (from a press) to print. What I also like about the Mulberry paper is it comes in a roll, and lasts a long time (I've had this roll for a couple years and am still using it). The disadvantage to the paper being rolled up is it curves up at the edges, and you will need to flatten it if using for presentation. My prints are the mid-way point in my process, so I don't need to worry about this.

Wooden Spoon - Last but not least is my printing tool, a very complicated item known as a wooden spoon/spatula. I use the wooden spoon for applying pressure to the back of the paper, which transfers the ink from the block to the paper. You can also purchase an item called a baren, which is a circular disc with a handle on it. Barens are also used for hand-printing. I have never personally used one, so I can't comment on the differences, but for my uses I find a wooden spoon is just fine.

If you would like to see these supplies in action, you can view my process video at:

Thanks for reading!