Sunday, April 26, 2015

Amazing Victorians

 Who's dour and stodgy?

Much criticized, and often stereotyped as a dour, stodgy era, the Victorian period actually exploded with vibrant art and scientific discoveries, fueled by the inquisitiveness and varied passions of the people during that time.

I love the Victorians; their art, literature, and curiosity!
And I especially love the art of Sir John Tenniel, most famous for his illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice books, but a contributor to Punch magazine as well.

But getting those incredible illustrations transferred to a printing press was a complex task, made possible by brilliant scientific discoveries of the age--in this case, engraving and electrotyping.

Preliminary drawing for Father William by Sir John Tenniel.
(Image from Tenniel's Alice, 1978, The President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Tenniel's illustrations were meticulously hand-drawn, using very hard 6h pencils--especially made for him. He worked in the "facsimile-style" for engraving; drawing directly onto the surface of the wood block before sending it to the engravers.  First, Tenniel worked up his composition, transferred the drawing via tracing paper directly onto a boxwood block, and then finished the detailed line-work. When completed, the block was sent to the talented engravers, the Brothers Dalziel, who carefully preserved the style of the artist while cutting the design into the wood.

 But the demands of high-quantity printing would wear down an engraved block.

The solution: Electrotyping, discovered in the early part of the nineteenth century, and perfected by the Victorians.
It was a fantastic invention--basically transforming the wood engraving into a harder, metal plate. The process: A wax mold (subsequently coated with fine graphite dust) or a lead mold was taken of the engraved block. This mold was then immersed in a bath of metal salts and H2O, along with a bar of the same metal. The mold is the cathode--connected to the negative terminal of the electric source. The metal bar--the anode--is connected to the positive electrical source.

Electrotype Diagram*
When the electric power was activated, the bath gave its metal content to the surface of the mold. The electrical current flowed through the (copper in this diagram) anode connected to the positive terminal of the electrical source, through the bath, and into the coated mold (the cathode). A metal film (the electrotype) grew onto the electrically conducting coating of the mold.

 The result: A sturdy metal engraving plate capable of many printings--amazing!

A colored version of the engraving, from a special edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published by Random House in 1946.

 So, who's dour and stodgy?
(Photo ca. 1883-1886, by Eadweard Muybridge)

 Thanks for reading!

*"Electrotyping" by Easchiff - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Strange Collaboration: Idea and Process
Our logo, crafted by Kayla Edgar

The Idea
Last year I was part of a group of artists who attended Greg Spalenka's fantastic Artist as Brand workshop
 From that meeting of creative minds came the idea of Strange Conversations!
(This banner designed by Cayce Goldberg and Crystal Sully, using artworks from the eight of us.)

The Process
Our group has been meeting at intervals, having very enjoyable and strange conversations. From these we've individually crafted artworks for an upcoming show at Helikon Gallery

We honed the idea, (based on the Exquisite Corpse concept, wiki/ExquisiteCorpse  ) and then each of us submitted random phrases. 
As a group, we ordered the phrases into a "story" or Strange Conversation
The phrases were typed up, cut up, and placed in a box. 
We each drew one to three phrases from the box, and these were our individual sentences to illustrate.
(A detail of one of my works-in-progress, illustrating the phrase "They were always watching, waiting for a change".)
(The artist's process is often to sketch out ideas, thumbnails and preliminary drawings. This is a group of a few thumbnails I drew for the phrase I described above.)

Along with the show, we've created an incredible book that not only contains full color reproductions of each artwork which illustrates the complete Strange Conversation, but also many thumbnails and preliminary sketches from each artist! The show at Helikon will include the sketches and prelims and the finished art as well. Sketches are intriguing--they provide a glimpse into the creative process of an artist. Yes, I love a finished art product, but process has always fascinated me. And for me, it's the most enjoyable part of being an artist.
(Some sketches for the king's face, illustrating my other phrase "For a brief moment, Death loosened its grip".)
(And here is ol' Death, from a work-in-progress detail of the painting for that phrase.)
 Cover design by Cayce Goldberg and Greg Spalenka.
The crowd-funded book has nearly reached goal, but you can still grab a copy of the book there! Click on the link below and watch the video for details and more glimpses of artworks

I'm excited to be part of this group collaboration--please click on each name below to check out the terrific artwork of artists whom I'm honored to know:

We sincerely hope you will be able to attend the Strange Conversations show at Helikon Gallery on June 5th, 2015!
Thanks for reading

Monday, April 13, 2015

An Un-Stilted, Still-Life Workshop!
Clock study. Pen and ink, gouache on brown paper.

Looking forward to an upcoming workshop I'll be teaching at Foothills Art Center--sort of a whacked still-life drawing course--for all ability levels!
MugMan with a Mug. Pen and ink, watercolor.

As a young artist, I stubbornly disliked--no, detested--drawing objects from life. But that was not the object's fault. My art-brain was a late bloomer, and I just couldn't make the connection between what my imagination was seeing and what my eyes observed. Thus, I felt stilted and unfortunately, very angry.
Still life progression. Pencil, pen and ink, on toned paper.

It wasn't any fault of my instructor's either, but I just couldn't separate some personalities from the art I loved and wanted to create. Ugh--that nasty, handcuffing, internal rebel. So I refused to study objects.

Luckily, art (and maturity) has a way of unlocking the most obnoxious pig-headedness, and opening one up to a lot of joy. At some point the realization dawned that I could draw an object from life without having to be a camera. (Photo-realism just ain't for me.)
Denver Coaster. Pen and ink, watercolor.

So I hope to make this still-life class a fun one at the great Foothills Art Center--please join me if you can! (I will even try to help you separate my personality from the kind of art you love.)

Thanks for the visit!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reckless Deck with the Denver Illustration Salon
Vampire in a Victorian Topcoat with an animal familiar, wand, and tribal jewelry

It's a mash up that originated from the Reckless Deck.

 While I didn't quite understand the concept back then, I got a chance to experience it at the Denver Illustration Studio's Drink 'n' Draw last week. This Drink 'n' Draw is always a relaxed good time, but doing the deck added an interesting twist to the evening.

Character Drawing as subject was selected, and then
two sets of cards were drawn. Participants got to choose between the Vampire with Victorian frock coat, animal familiar, wand, and tribal jewelery; or a zombie with stuff I can't remember (since I chose the vampire). A 90 minute time-limit was decided upon, and we drew and talked over a few beers.
Here are some of the Zombie results from the crew.
And some of the Vampires.
Here's my sketch with some additional shading after the time limit expired.
For me, it was not just a great time--it was a creativity boost.
thanks for reading!
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