This image has been burning a hole in my brain for about a decade (maybe a wee bit longer).
My step-mom took my friend & me to the west coast of Vancouver Island to spend a lovely day puddling around on the beach and in the tidepools near Port Renfrew. A perfect way to spend time, I always think (but then, being amongst marine biologists all my life has kind of made it difficult to think otherwise).
I had originally started a pen and ink sketch years ago, but abandoned it as not being able to hold my interest. Then I was reminded of the image again when I saw Sherrie York's recent post on her blog for her beautiful reduction linocut "High Tide Detritus":
So I thought to myself, "OF COURSE!" a linocut would be a brilliant way to deal with that image. Well, ok, not linocut, because I'm working in MDF lately, so a block print to be more precise. While I love Sherrie's handling of the colours and her reduction, I wanted to make the image even more abstract, so I've decided that for this one, it'll be all about black & white.
I took a little time procrastinating because I didn't have the photo here (such a pain being between two residences where almost all my art crap is with my studio/press, and I'm not there right now!), so I asked Mom to find, scan & email it to me. That took a little doing on her part; did I mention I am between two residences? That means boxes of crap in both places, neither particularly well organized. Well, standing "O" for Mom, she fished out the photo, digitized it in good pixel resolution, and sent it my way.
The next stage was deciding whether to draw onto a piece of paper then transfer that onto the block, draw onto a piece of paper adhered to the block and carve through, or draw on the block directly. The last won out; the MDF is very smooth and delightfully simple to draw directly onto, and it erases very well. I figured there would be just too much margin for goofing up the image if I tried transferring it in any fashion, so direct drawing it was. I feel that I get a bit closer to my pencil via my carving that way, kind of like the way lithography is more autographic: it's the direct result of the drawing tool, rather than being one step removed. Well, this is still the one step removed with the carving tool making the actual print markings, but at least it's a little closer with the drawn image rather than a transferred image.
So I waited a little bit longer until Dave was able to go pick up the MDF from storage (I have a lifetime supply thanks to an auction-savvy relative who obtained a number of large sheets for a construction project that is no longer going forward).
Then I had to decide on a final dimension. I had picked up a 100 pack of kitakata from Daniel Smith last spring, and I thought that would make a lovely support for this image. So not really "white" so much as a natural buff colour. Anyway, Dave very generously not only retrieved the heavy sheets of MDF, he also chopped them up to dimension on the table saw. This block is 16"x20".
I fiddled with the image on GIMP, cropped it to my liking to make the composition a little more intriguing (I hope), then printed it to a scalable dimension. My final image size is 14"x18", so I overlaid the printout with a grid of 1/2" squares, then I drew out a grid using 1" squares on my block.
The setup was finally finished: now onto drawing!
Well, that in itself took the better part of two weekends and a few days after work (when I wasn't too mentally exhausted to do so). One square at a time. That actually made the process much easier, and caused the image to become even more abstracted in my mind, even though it's a fairly good literal representation of the original (GIMPed) image. Here's a slide show of the development of the image:
Here are snapshots of the development of the image:
You can see it progressing across the block. In actual fact, I worked on it upside down so that I was going from left-to-right, and so I wouldn't smudge it. OK, and probably to add yet another level of abstraction so that my brain just drew shapes in each little 1" square and didn't panic about the huge project overall.
And the final one that I'm working on now to carve:
You can go to my Flickr account to view larger versions of all of the stages of the drawing.
I have actually started carving, but it's going to take a very long time. There's a ridiculous amount of detail, and I decided that for much of it, it'll take the teeny tiny carving bit on my Dremel. It seems to be working really well so far. Now it has to make the migration over to the studio; I'm thinking of spraying Krylon fixative on the block to keep the graphite from smudging, as I'll be sanding the block prior to inking it anyway. I'll also wrap it up in craft paper and maybe in a garbage bag (for moisture protection), too. And it'll probably get stuck into my large portfolio case, just for good measure. After that many hours of drawing, I would really like to keep it in good shape to work from!