The Great Horned Owl woodblock is carved

the woodblock is carved, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

This block's image area is 4.5" wide x 6.5" high carved on shina plywood. The tengucho paper that was used to transfer the drawing using sumi ink has not yet been washed off. This makes the image look hard due to the high contrast; however, I'll be using Akua Kolor inks so the final product will be much softer than this photo makes it look at present.

The reference photo came from the Great Horned Owl photo that I took last year at Northern Illinois University Lagoon. For the past many years, the owls nest there. Last year was the first time that I had found their nest and witnessed the owlets growing up. The adult owls came several weeks ago and I am sure they are sitting on their eggs right now.

When I walk Grace in the morning now - no matter how cold it is - there are birds singing. There are also the tell-tale footprints in the snow telling me that the squirrels and rabbits are becoming more active. Signs of Spring are showing up everywhere despite the fact that my area's weather forecast includes up to 24" in snow in the next 72 hours or so: a virtual Snowagedon as one person put it. Ah well, that is fine.

You just keep trying Mr. Winter because your time is going to be over soon and then I will be able to enjoy Spring and Summer and Autumn once again. I can't wait to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and walk outside without a coat. Ummm… just thinking about it makes me feel good all over.


Akua Kolor Experiments deemed a success!

Year of the Rabbit Final Version

(Although there is so to learn!) Here are the final results of my first attempts at using Akua Kolor inks. I am going to love this. I can tell!

Ginger Root Final Version


The Saga of the Akua Kolor Escapades

iMcClain's came today!

I was so excited yesterday when I unpackaged my iMcClain's order containing my new earthtone Aukua Kolor inks and mediums. Bake (pronounced: bah-kay) brushes arrived, too, so I could apply the colors.

I've been wanting to learn traditional Japanese Moku Hanga techniques and have read many books about it. They all suggested using Japanese washi with just the right amount of moisture level, mixing exactly the right amount of watercolor, hide glue and nori for the inks, etc. How could I know what the correct proportions of these things would be? Practice, practice, practice.

Then I am introduced to the idea of Aqua Kolor inks, they can be used dry paper although using damp paper will provide for a more even application on large areas of color. They can be mixed with mediums that will thicken, loosen, blend, extend, retard, or lift the ink offering far more control than the traditional hide glue-watercolor-nori paste mixture. The Akua Kolors can be brushed on or rolled on depending on the consistency of the ink.

I was forced to wait 24-hours before I could try it out. If you know me, you know that is an extremely difficult task. The brushes had to be prepared. Bake brushes need the hairs split to soften them. Traditionally, dried shark skin was used, but a type of heavy duty sandpaper called dragon skin is sold for the purpose today. I had neither, so I used my kitchen grater–the side that that will zest a lemon (don't tell my husband. lol) Then the bristles had to be soaked to tighten them within their wooden base. This way hairs do not fall out and end up embedded in the print.

Inking the block using a bake brush
I made my own registration board and with tremendous thanks to Bette Norcross-Wappner for showing her method of using foam tape to assist lining up the paper properly, my registration was significantly improved!

Priming the Block
, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

I had read to use just a few drops of ink when preparing the block to print. So I added three drops and used the bake brush. It immediately was pulled into the board. Again and again and again! I kept trying to add more without going overboard. Finally after about the 13th practice print the board could not take in any more and the ink finally was transferring to the paper sufficiently. So, rule #1 prime the block using newsprint before even thinking about printing on nice paper. (David Bull's e-book "Your First Print" states this very clearly and convincingly; however, being the person I am, I have to learn by actually doing. Do yourself a favor and listen to David!)
Still working on it...
I printed quite a few practice pieces as I tried to educate myself how the ink worked. There is more than a little wrong with each of the ones I printed. It is definitely a work in progress. Tomorrow I'm buying more paper: newsprint as well as fine washi. I MUST have at least five these completed and sent to Canada by the 20th of January. So, I'd better learn quickly! After tonight, I think I'll be ok.I can't wait to get back to it!

Tomorrow morning –first thing–I'm going to make corrections to the blocks and tackle printing again tomorrow night. I like to softness of the colors, the visible brushstrokes, the watercolor effect. I'm still excited about the Akua Kolors–to me that is a very good sign! I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship!


Red Oak Registration Board

oak registration board, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

I was hoping to get my iMcClains order on Friday so I could print all weekend, but alas, it did not arrive. So, instead I decided to make my own registration board in anticipation of doing multiple blocks. I went out to Lowe's and purchased some clear red oak.

This is going to be much heavier than a purchased plywood one, plus it will last a lifetime. I thought that the extra weight would mean less movement while printing.

After it is all glued together, I thought I would tack the ends with brads and then sand the entire piece so that there are no hard edges to crease or emboss the washi.


Photo shoot with Grace

Gracie accompanied me to work today to begin her job as a model. I brought her in early so she would have time to settle down and brought a new bag of delicious treats so she could stay focused.

The photo shoot didn't begin until the mid-afternoon. At home she usually sleeps all day, so she was pretty tired by that afternoon. Still, she did her tricks on command as long as there were treats involved. She also was not accustomed to the slick surface of the white paper used as the backdrop. She didn't really want to walk on it, so a white blanket was laid down until she grew used to the texture of the paper.

After awhile she was so exhausted, that she just left the studio area and sat by the door as if to say, "I did my job. Can I go home now?"

The photos will be used in a local marketing campaign. I hope she doesn't get all "Diva" on me now... LOL!


Dick Blick Artist of the Month January, 2011

Yay! I can't even believe it! I was chosen for Dick Blick's Artist of the Month for January, 2011! What a fantastic way to start out the year! The $75 gift certificate will definitely be put to good use! A BIG thank you to Dick Blick! I am honored!