Spring flowers and white line prints

spring bulbs cards celebrate bottle branch

I don’t want to jinx it , but its been a mild winter here in Boston and I’m feeling like spring is in the air. So I’m celebrating with new photo cards of spring flowers in my etsy shop. I’m offering a set of five cards depicting tulips, jonquils and hyacinths in whimsical arrangements, with plans to add individual cards sometime soon.

spring bulbs bottle branch blog

I wish I could say the flowers were from my garden, but as of right now, my bulbs are just slowly poking their way up through the ground. Still, its much earlier than last year.

white line prints in process bottle branch blog

Also, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve finally added some of those white line woodcuts I keep chattering about. So far, only two designs are listed, both originals and fancy reproductions. I’m all ears if there are any requests to see others listed. I have many designs, but somehow, my motivation to list them is low.

In truth, I’m much more excited about the upcoming gardening season, so this is where I’ll be: sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea, planning and dreaming about my garden.

seeds and garden dreaming bottle branch blog

 

Goal setting, making assignments and Big Magic

notebook for big dreams bottle branch blog

I’m not exactly a goal setting type person, but I do like to assign myself tasks. I dream big, make plans, write lists in my trusty decomposition notebook. I never get around to doing it all – there are so, so many projects I’ve planned, needlework patterns I’ve imagined, and essays I’ve started that have fallen by the wayside.

Still, each week, I assign myself a few tasks related to my creative life and especially my blog and/or creative business. I may tell myself to write up a recently completed project, list something new for sale in my store, pick up some supplies, finish up a project, spend a half a day trying out a new and exciting idea, research alternative blogging platforms, or figure out twitter/periscope/snapchat. This act of assigning does not necessarily mean I get them all done but usually I chip away and keep things moving.

Other times, my progress grinds to a halt. I run into technical problems, or the task is tedious and I find myself avoiding it, or life just gets busy. I ran into all of these roadblocks in my latest task. My assignment was simple: list a few of my white line wood cut prints for sale in my etsy shop, and then write post about them from my blog. Easy.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

But then I had to think about pricing and it turns out, pricing hand-painted work is not easy. Etsy sternly admonishes sellers not to undervalue their work. Not only is it not good for business, it undercuts other sellers and the market as a whole. I get it. If I am selling my work at a loss just to unload it, then I am hurting artists who want to earn a living.

It takes a couple of hours to paint and print one white line wood cut print, and then there’s the cost of designing and carving the block, plus materials. That makes this work expensive.

So, being a practical dreamer, I looked around on etsy to see what other artists were doing and decided to offer digital reproductions of my white line prints, in addition to a the more expensive originals. Thus a new assignment was born: discover the best way to create digital reproductions.

bunch of white line prints for bottle branch

With a new printer and moderate experience manipulating digital images, I felt ready to tackle this assignment, though the learning curve was steep. I poured over my printer manual, researched paper types, learned a few new photoshop tricks, and printed many, many prints of my prints. (It turns out scanning and then printing does NOT give an exact copy. Not even close.)

There were many times when I complained, gritted my teeth, groaned, or just plain avoided my desk. And all the while, I listened to Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, a reflection on living a creative life. (I am a big fan of audible.com)

listening to big magic bottle branch blog

Not surprisingly, I loved Big Magic – I’ve written before about flashes of creative inspiration and the joy of unfettered creativity, what Gilbert calls big magic, and I have lived through many cycles of frustration and faltering confidence (another topic she addresses.) But most importantly, Gilbert describes following your curiosity as a way to find your way to a creative life, which I read as taking on life as a series of self-assigned tasks and creative challenges. Suddenly my crazy tangents, pssion for gardening, and self-assigned tasks seem like they’re not so kooky after all. In fact, these humble adventures just might be the makings of a satisfying life.

So Big Magic was an uplifting accompaniment to my latest creative endeavour and thankfully, in the end, I came up with some pretty prints also. More about those in my next post.

Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Summertime white line prints

white line printing

I’m so excited to share these new white line prints, and I’ll be the first to admit that they are a little outside my usual range. Usually, I’m mucking around in natural greens and brown for plant-inspired printing, so I must have been craving the simple bright colors, just as all of us have been craving sunshine after a long cold winter. IMG_0771

Working from old instagram photos, I chose two beach-related shots. Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

beach umbrella

First, I carved and printed this simple beach umbrella photo. Carving so many converging lines has some challenges, but I’m happy to say I persevered. I particularly like the mottled effect the printing process left in the sky section of the print.

white line print beach umbrella

This same effect also enhances the look of the next print I worked on, of these vintage-y, semi-rusted beach buckets. I was really happy with the way this print was coming along, and even posted my progress on instagram.

white line printing buckets

When it came the background, though, I lost my way. In the photo that inspired this print, the buckets sit on a painted step, but I wasn’t sure that would read very well in the print, so I split the background with an arbitrary horizon. Bad idea.

whitelineprint.buckets

Thankfully, I didn’t actually carve the area around the buckets, so I can change it on my next print. Still, I have to figure out how to treat that background. I have some ideas, but I’m all ears if you have any suggestions.

White line print: succulent

making a white line print

When I posted a white line print a few weeks ago and mentioned that I was super-excited about my next printing project, I wasn’t kidding. Here it is – a more detailed close up of a succulent.

close up succulent print

This time, rather than work form one of my own instagram photos this time, I scrolled through the many amazing succulent photos on instagram (hashtags: #succulentlove, #putasucculentonit) and fell in love with a beautiful photo by holly, whose instagram feed is jam-packed with stunning photos of succulents.

I’m really loving making these white line prints and feel like my mind is crackling with ideas for designs. Assuming I can keep up the momentum, there will be more to come!

white line print succulent

New white line print: Succulent garden

white line print and block I’ve just finished a new white line print and I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of thie printing technique. I posted last summer about taking a white line printing class. Since then, I’ve been dabbling away at printing, but my efforts have been invigorated by joining a white line print maker’s group organized by Amy McGregor-Radin and my summer instructor, Lisa Houck. I am thrilled and grateful to be a part of this wonderful group of makers and artists. For my latest print, I went to my favorite iphone app, instagram, for inspiration. (If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know that I love instagram in a way that borders on unhealthy.) I picked a photo of my succulent planter. IMG_0711 Looking back at the photo now, after spending so much time working on its facsimilie, I feel both surprised and a little disappointed. I had thought it a better photo the first time around. white line print - succulent 1 I won’t go into details of the printing process, since (1) I am hardly an expert (2) I’ve already posted a rough outline of the process here and (3) I am already thinking ahead to the next one. While I love the soft washes of color, I’m already planning what to do differently for my next print. But that’s the creative process, isn’t it?! Always thinking, planning, making, and moving on.

White line wood cuts

 

1st.print.2.finished

Despite living in a city with an exceptionally high concentration of institutions of higher learning, I never mange to squeeze in any type of continuing education class. Usually, school schedules, family life, and general inertia get in the way. So it was a treat when, earlier this week, I attended a workshop on white line wood cuts offered through the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

What is a white line wood cut? As I quickly learned, the white line wood cut is a visual arts chimera – part print, part painting. A woodcut printed with hand-painted watercolors, the white line woodcut was invented by Blanche Lazzell in the early 1900’s and it remains the only printing technique invented in the United States.

Led by the talented Lisa Houck, a painter, mosaic maker, white line woodcut artist and maker of many beautiful things. (visit her blog here), my classmates and I learned the basic steps of the white line wood cut.

Since I am hardly an expert, I will refrain from offering specific instructions. The basic steps can be found here, though if you get the chance to take a class, do! (Especially if you can take a class with Lisa.)

Instead, I’ll say my white line wood cut workshop was a delight. Not only did I learn a new technique, I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and uninterrupted creative time. Most of all I learned that I clearly need to get out and make things more often.

Below are the two prints I created during the workshop. Its still a bit hard for me to look at them and not think of all the things I could have or should have done differently… the expression “an hour to learn a lifetime to master” comes to mind. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a level of mastery, but I hope I’ll find the time to make some more white line wood cuts.

white line prints