Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Little Black Book

A few months ago, I made a concerted effort to infuse more creativity into my day. I started carrying a little black sketchbook around with me and taking at least a few minutes almost every day to just draw "something". Doesn't have to be anything special, just a chance to let my mind get in right brain mode for a few minutes. I've found that besides being a good way to get a pen or brush in my hand just about every day, it's also been good for my soul. Having a small creative outlet on my lunch break at work or spare moments around the house, has let me explore ideas I wouldn't have otherwise and gives my brain a sort of "reset", leaving me in a fresher state of mind. This week, I made the accomplishment of filling the last page of my sketchbook that I started last summer, and decided to share a few of my favorite sketches.

Some abstract color:
Some water studies of the Winooski River, which flows by my workplace:

I'm a little obsessed with the subterranean landscape:
Also a little obsessed with cephalopods. This one was a reaction to a news story about how octopi were observed collecting discarded coconut shell halves and reassembling them to use as a shelter. It's considered a form of "tool using", and thus highlights the high cognitive abilities of octopi. I think non-mammals, and especially invertebrates, get a bad rap in terms of people's perception of intelligence. Octopus, squid, cuttlefish are all in the class Cephalopoda (Phylum Mollusca), and are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. They're known for their problem solving abilities and ability to learn and adapt to new situations. The root "cephala" is latin for "head". Indeed, vertebrate or not, heads are where brains reside. So this little sketch was kind of a "no, duh..." reaction - not because I don't think cephalopods are amazing (on the contrary), I'm just not surprised to hear about octopi being so inventive.My version of Munch's "the scream" - renamed "the squeeze":
A brown bullhead. This and the two above were drawn with a non-waterproof pen and then brushed with water.
Some trees:

Some birds. The stork is based on a picture taken in Lithuania by friend Tony. I think of the other bird as a kind of superhero.

I saw this Carolina wren on Christmas day in Carbondale, IL. Had never seen one of those before.I drew this while flying over Toronto en route to St. Louis.
This reminds me of Pakistan. I have never been there, but this is sort of how I imagine it.

This is an abstraction of a thought about a description someone told me of how sometimes when the weather conditions are right, a very delicate and fine frost can protrude from tree bud tips.

Some random pen and ink doodles:

This one reminds me of cfl light bulbs -- sort of cfl light bulb people. An army of them.
Sort of sea anenomeish:

An abstracted landscape:

Today I made my first sketch in my next sketchbook. It's become a ritual for me, and I like it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Handsome Folks in Handsome Shirts

Some happy customers modeling some of the t-shirts Brian and I make and sell. Don't they look great?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lessons Learned

Well, yesterday I was super excited to try batiking some of the fish prints on cloth I had made the day before. Like most things I get excited about, I didn't bother with researching techniques or anything like that, and just jumped right in, using whatever I had around the house for supplies and improvising along the way. Sometimes this approach leads to great discoveries, but this time, well, it didn't.

The first thing I learned was that you can't use hot water dye baths for batik because it melts the wax. As soon as I had done it, I thought to myself, "Oh, duh...". I was using RIT dye because I had some around the house and I knew it was suitable for cotton. I also knew I could get some wool dyed for some fiber projects at the same time - bonus. I don't usually use RIT for wool, but figured it was a compromise for the two materials. I didn't think much beyond that, but now I realize that one must use cold water dyes for batik. I prefer acid dyes for wool, which require a hot water bath, so don't think I'll be multitasking with the dye any more. I did get some nice somewhat subtle oranges and reds with the wool, though:
Yellow dye bath - pre-wax:
I used 100% parafin wax for laying on the resist areas - again, because I had some around the house. After doing a little research, I now realize that using a mixture of beeswax and parafin will make life much easier. The beeswax adds maliability and makes the wax less likely to crack and flake off the fabric.

After the yellow dye bath, pre-waxing:
After the orange dyebath:

As you can see above, when the wax melted, it allowed some of the orange dye to penetrate the resist areas. I had planned to overdye in a more saturated red color, but because the wax was melting off, decided against it for fear the entire piece would come out red. The result is a much more subtle effect than I was going for, but still kind of neat. The halo around each fish is from ironing out the wax. I'm investigating ways of fully removing the wax so the fabric does not have any stiffness to it in the waxed areas in the end. If anyone out there knows of good methods - let me know!

Wrasses and Tangs:

Little Tangs. This layout was Brian's idea. He said, "think Japanese", referring to the open space in the design.
Close up of little Tangs. Would have liked more contrast.
I'm now stocked up on more dyes and fabric and ready for round two. When purchasing the fabric, the sales person asked me what I would do with it. I told her about fish printing, and she looked a little mortified. I said that people often think Gyotaku is either really cool or kind of gross. She replied, "Yes, I can see how that might be..." in a tone indicating that she fell in the latter category. Oh well - can't please everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fish Printing Day!

Today was a fish printing day! Brian and I collaborate on creating fish prints using a Japanese technique called Gyotaku, which translates to "fish rubbing". Today was especially exciting because we used some salt water fish species we had never used before. Brian asked a local pet store that sells aquarium fish to save any good sized fish for us that die, so today we tried a few of them out.

This is a tang (we think) that Brian prepped. As you can see, prepping entails removing the eye and pinning out the fins, among other things. The basic tools of the trade are simply paint, a sponge for applying the paint, a fish, and something flexible to print on.

For the print below, some fabric was laid over the fish above and then gently rubbed. Rubbing transfers the paint from the fish to the fabric.
Here's Brian printing a Bluegill:
The eyes and our signature chop are painted on afterward. Our square chop means "Water, Art, and Life". Our circular chop is our stylized initials.

Besides printing on t-shirts, we also print on rice paper. And today, we tried something new -- printing on muslin to create small table cloths and handkerchiefs.
When we print on cloth, we use fabric paint that is heat set with an iron to make it permanent.

Tomorrow, I plan to batik and dye some of the fish prints that were printed on fabric, so stay tuned for updated photos!