Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Instagram-esque photos, Pre-instagram

It's pretty likely that in the last couple of months your social news feeds have been swamped with camera phone photos that are square shaped, scratchy, and oversaturated. Apps like Instagram and Hipstomatic, which take that photo of your meal, your cat, or the view from your car and make them look retro, are insanely popular. I'll admit that the right photo can be very cool, and maybe I'm just bitter that I bought a Diana months before the craze hit. Just remember that these apps are based on something real, when there was excitement in waiting to see how pictures turned out, and a photo looked old, because it actually was.  

So here are a few photos taken long enough ago that it's considered cool and vintage, but not long enough ago to be black and white and creepy. I found these when my family sold their house last year, and I presume they were taken by my father, a former art student who still takes tons of pictures.

Mom, probably late '60s, epitomizing youth and beauty

Just a friendly squirrel.  This album dated April, 1972

The Florida Everglades (spring break whooo)

Mom ('72) likely stealing these oranges on a trip to Florida.  

Shark, he's friendly too

The store where these were developed is still open and is one of the few around that still develops film.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Inking and printing

It's been a while since carving was complete and you're probably wondering where the prints are.  Sorry for anticlimax, but I was really dragging my feet when it came to buying paper.  Maybe I just wasn't ready to part with the project.  Nonetheless, here is the final step: inking and printing.


  • Brayer — This is what rolls the ink on.  I'm using a Speedball 6" soft rubber brayer.  The size of the brayer should be proportional to the size of the block (I could actually use a bigger one), and make sure it's rubber, not foam.  
  • Inks — I like to use water based inks because they are easier to clean, but oil based inks work well too and don't dry as quickly.  I chose a dark blue for the water, and a light blue for the octopus.
  • Something to roll the ink on — These things include marble or granite, glass, or plexiglass.  I actually use the back of my cookie sheets.  It just needs to be something with a smooth, flat, non-porous surface.   
  • Baren — This is used to rub the paper and help transfer the ink.  It's a great tool to have, but the back of a wooden spoon is a good stand-in.   
  • Paper — Most papers will work for this type of printing so feel free to experiment.  I prefer to use something thick but a little soft, but I'm using cheaper paper until I get the print just the way I want it.  
Squirt some ink on the flat surface and the brayer over top, giving it a thick, even coat.  Don't glob it on, but don't be stingy either.

Roll it out

Roll the inked up brayer onto the block until it has an even layer of ink.  The block may still suck up some ink the first time so make sure it's completely coated.  It might take a couple tries.

I'll go in later and cut out some more off the areas where
I don't want the ink going

Lay the paper on top of the block, leaving enough room for a border.  Rub the baren in small circles with gentle pressure over entire surface.  If you skip this step the ink won't transfer, or do it half hearted the print will come out blotchy.  

Try to keep from saying "wax on, wax off."

Pull the paper up and let the ink dry completely.  Repeat with the second block on the same sheet of paper.

There are techniques to lining the blocks up correctly, but I don't always do things the proper way.  My technique simply involves trying to line up the corners and then eyeballing it.  Here's the final print!


It took a couple bad tries before this one came out.  At first I wasn't using enough ink, you really need to be generous with it.  The fact that it doesn't perfectly line up actually gives it a letterpress sort of feel.  I'm still going to work to get the ink to cover a little better because it's a bit splotchy, and I'll post the results when I get one I like.  Until the, here are some closeups showing the details.

Very pleased with the lettering. 

There he is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY desk

It's hard to believe that with the exception of my college years, I have never had a desk.  After years of making a mess on my couch, kitchen table, floor, and bed, I finally convinced myself to get one.  What I did not want was a "computer desk," complete with a pullout keyboard table and holes for the cables to go through.  I also didn't want anything too bulky or large, more of a writing desk or small table, and I did not want to spend a lot of money on it (I mean like under $40).  After endlessly checking Craig's list and never finding what I wanted, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I headed to Ikea to see what I could use to create exactly what I wanted on the cheap.  In the section with all the table tops and legs, I was able to pick up two Vika Lerberg Trestles for $10 each.  Next, I headed to the "as is" section and found a leftover metal shelf that (for the most part) fits on top of the trestle legs.

One set of legs + the top

Putting the legs together was a pretty similar to any Ikea job; you wedge some pieces together and turn that tiny screwdriver a million times.  Once the legs were assembled I just popped the top on and voila! a table/desk.

Don't be fooled, it's usually not this clean
Maybe you recognize that hanging bag from last month's post on Customizing a boring canvas tote.  Since the desk has no drawers, the tote bag gives me a little spot for storing the items I need at an arm's reach.  It's held up by one of those purse hooks that my roommate was sweet enough to bring me back from her trip to Madrid.

Right now it holds all my inks.
It's perfect for doing small projects and working on the computer.  The chair I'm using now is from my kitchen, but I'm confident that I'll be able to find a free chair at the end of the month when everyone is moving.  Total cost for a new workspace: $26.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Block 2 completed plus oiling the block

It feels great to finally be done with carving.  Here's an image of the final second block:

Good thing, my hands were getting pretty crippled.

After this, I am certainly due for a new set of tools, as mine were pretty old, cheap, and now are incredibly chipped.  

So now it's ready to print, right?  Not quite.  There's one important step that I'd actually forgotten about on previous projects: oiling the block.

Oiling the block is very simple and will save you lots of ink.  Unfinished wood is dry, and being porous by nature, will suck up liquid like a sponge.  You'd have to roll on several layers of ink before you could even run a print, which will probably turn out ugly and splotchy.  Oiling is akin to painting with primer but it retains the texture of the wood and color of the ink.

All you need is some mineral oil and an old, but not totally filthy, rag (so not your wedding dress).  It is important that you use mineral oil as other types of household oils are odorous and will turn rancid.  Mineral oil is also used as a natural laxative, so it can usually be found in any drug store.  

Take a spoonful if you're in the mood for a colonic

Put some oil on the rag and rub it over the board, especially the areas where ink will be applied.
Notice the slight color change

The wood will suck up the oil quickly at first, so several layers will probably have to be applied.  The color will darken a bit, as it would if you applied stain, and this won't effect your ink.  Stop once the wood stops absorbing oil.  

I've got to go back and oil my first block, but after that I'll be ready for printing!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Block 2: Day ??

I'm back from an amazing trip abroad and have managed to squeeze a little carving in between catching up on sleep.  I've completely lost track of how many days I've been working on this piece, but I'd say I might actually finish the second block tonight!

Word that best describes this project: painstaking