I received a message recently from someone who had purchased one of my screen prints, loved it, and wanted to know more about the differences between my woodcuts and screen prints. Since I took the time to write a thorough answer, I thought I ought to share it with everyone. I chose The King in Yellow as an example to discuss the different processes.
To make the woodcut (aka xylograph) I sketch the art, transfer it to a piece of shina plywood, then carve it using knives & gouges (no power tools). Carving this woodcut probably took 10-20 hours. Once the block is refined to my satisfaction, I ink it with a brayer, move it to the press bed, align a sheet of heavy cotton rag paper on it, lay a felt blanket over it, and run it through the hand-cranked etching press. I estimate that in the case of the KiY it takes 10-15 minutes to ink and print each print. The prints then dry in a rack for at least two weeks before I inspect them, destroy the errors, and sign/number the edition. (Incidentally, if you want a King in Yellow woodcut print, I have only two remaining from the edition of 23 as of 4/21/18. Get yours here!)
The screen prints (aka serigraphs) are made by taking a digital scan of one of the original woodcut prints and using it to make a transparency which can be exposed on a photo emulsion coated screen. For the KiY I digitally removed the abstract background because I felt it would clash with the wood grains. I also scaled the image down. I then set up the screen and create a registration jig so I can place my wood veneer sheets in the same position every time. Once I have made my jig, printing each is a process than can take less than a minute. Much of this time is spent taping down the wood, then removing it after the ink is applied and putting it in the drying racks. Drying this ink takes 3 days, then I inspect them and save errors to be reused as registration jigs or to test ink on the back. (Want a King in Yellow serigraph? They are available here.)
Here’s a summary of what is similar between the two formats:
Both are handmade processes & can have minor variations due to the vagaries of wood and inking.
Both are almost entirely made by me. (I sometimes have an assistant tear paper, carry prints to the drying rack, and help clean up.)
Both are made with archival inks, though not the same ink. Both are inspected for quality & packaged with acid free polybags & mats.
Here’s a summary of what is different between the two formats:
Woodcut is the original artwork and is considered a fine art print.
My woodcut prints are signed by me, and typically limited in edition size.
My woodcuts on paper are printed with enough pressure to slightly emboss the paper, which gives them a subtle visual effect that simply doesn’t translate well to photos and scans. The papers I use are archival quality and typically hand-torn instead of cut.
Woodcuts are much slower to print than screen prints. Wood wears down over time, and I use a soft carving wood, so I can only pull so many prints from the woodcut.
Screen prints (as I make them) are reproductions based on the original woodcuts.
The art is altered to better suit the wood veneer I print on, and also scaled down.
The ink applied to the wood does not get embossed.
Wood veneer is not technically considered archival, though it should be long lasting.
Screen prints are faster to produce and are unsigned. When the screen wears out, I can make new screens and continue printing as many as I want.
I am unfortunately unable to attend either of the above out of state shows, but you will be able to find me at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR. I’ll have a table in the upstairs theatre vending area and am also scheduled for the following:
Women in Lovecraftian fiction panel on Friday night at 8:30pm
Pickman’s Apprentice 90 minute art competition at noon on Saturday
Drawing the Unspeakable panel at 3pm on Sunday
I’m currently working on adding November and December shows to my calendar, but I do have a few I can share now: Sunday, November 12, 2017 Siren Nation Art & Craft Sale from 10:00am to 4:00pm, McMenamin’s Kennedy School, Portland, OR Friday, December 15, 2017 Opening reception for my solo show at Gargoyle’s Statuary in Seattle, WA
Not near any of these shows? I ship worldwide and I’ve recently added my newest woodcut print edition, Insectivores, to the Etsy shop, and I’ll be adding a whole lot of new screen prints after the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival! More is in the works as well, but I don’t want to reveal too much ahead of the Gargoyle’s show.
For those not in the know, Bite Studio is the group studio where I pull all of my prints. It is home to a wide variety of printmakers and we’re only open to the public on First Fridays from 6pm-10pm. Join us if you can! I’m not doing many shows right now in order to focus on my large project (not the piece shown above, though I am working on it as well), but I will be in attendance.
Can’t be there in person? Here’s what will be available framed and unframed at Bite: Signum Advenit and Summoning. Mind you, they always look better in person!
Also on Friday, I’ll be picking up the newest screenprints ahead of the party so April Patreon rewards may be shipped as promptly as possible! If you’d like to be part of April’s subscription shipment, today, March 31st, is the last chance to sign up! If you wait until April to subscribe at the Card of the Month level or above, your first physical rewards will ship in early May.
Thanks to my existing patrons, I’ve been able to add to my screen printing supplies and create the new Tsathoggua on 8 x 10 wood veneer! It, and the King in Yellow, will soon be available to all.
On another note, if you’re wondering what the artwork above is, it was carved during my two Art in Action demos at Norwescon. Sunday’s carving demo was done on little sleep so I probably didn’t get as far as I could have. (I worked with an abundance of caution.) On Friday, my first day of carving, I was placed next to a face painter, so my table was swarmed with kids for quite a bit. It was surprisingly not bad considering I was working with sharp knives.
Small children are actually often more respectful than adults about not grabbing artist tools. One of the girls complemented my goat depiction, told me about their herd of goats, and then asked, “Are those hares? They look more like hares than rabbits.” No idea what she wants to be when she grows up, but her observational skills can surely take her far in life. I’m seriously impressed she picked up on that detail.
Incidentally, I didn’t chose to depict the witches as hares because I knew I’d be carving this on Easter. That was just a nice coincidence. Mostly, I really liked that The VVitch incorporated the hare form of witches into the plot. Carving in my studio may be more productive, but sharing the process with folks who may otherwise never see woodcut in action. Thanks to Norwescon for the opportunity!
The 17th was my birthday, and I celebrated by continuing to unpack from my Pantheacon trip, which was both incredibly fun and exhausting! I’ve also just launched something I’ve been quietly working on since last year: a Patreon page!
For those of you not already in the know, Patreon is a crowdfunding resource oriented toward ongoing financial support for independent creators. Whereas traditional crowdfunding websites aim to raise a set dollar amount in a limited timeframe, Patreon allows sponsors to make ongoing contributions to the artists of their choice. It also allows creators to blog easily, and offer both public and patrons-only posts. You can pledge as much or as little per month as you like, and receive different rewards (both digital and physical) depending on your level of sponsorship. It’s an incredible, symbiotic way for creators of all stripes to develop and maintain an ongoing relationship with their supporters, and to give back to those supporters in tangible ways. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the old-school tradition of artistic patronage (think the Medici family) that used to be artists’ main source of income.
When I launched my Patreon a few short days ago, my most immediate goal was to raise enough money to purchase more screenprinting equipment. This would allow me to expand the selection of wood veneer postcards and 8 x 10 screenprints I unveiled at PantheaCon last week. At this time I’m offering four different screenprint designs and three new wood cards, and I’d love to be able to make more. I had high hopes yesterday when I launched the Patreon, but I was nevertheless floored when several new supporters helped me reach my first goal in only a few hours. The instant positive response has been hugely encouraging, and I’m already hard at work setting new goals and brainstorming more rewards for new patrons.
Speaking of which, let’s talk a little about what kinds of rewards are on offer. As with other crowdfunding sites, Patreon is based on a system of contribution and reward. Depending on the dollar amount you pledge each month, you’ll receive one or more rewards to thank you for your patronage. At the $1 level, you’ll receive my thanks. $2 will earn you access to my patrons-only Patreon feed, as well as early ordering privileges for new prints. Higher reward levels are a variety of subscription services: a wood card of the month, a monthly print from my Zodiac series, a grab-bag of surprises that may include early and experimental woodcut prints as well as other items, and more. (And given the very positive feedback I’ve gotten in under 24 hours, it’s clear that I’ll need to diversify the range of rewards even more.) How much you contribute each month is up to you, and every single pledge helps assure a steady flow of new art!
Before I sign off, let me take a moment to remind you that I’ll be in Seattle, Washington for Norwescon 39 next month. I hope to see many familiar faces there and make a few new friends as well. Until then, I hope February is treating you kindly.
R’lyeh is rising next weekend! August 20th – 23rd, I’ll be in Rhode Island appearing as a guest at NecronomiCon Providence 2015, alongside a stellar array of noted Lovecraftian luminaries. In observation of Lovecraft’s 125th birthday and the birth of weird fiction, this year’s conference theme will be a Lovecraft International Homecoming. Writers, artists, and scholars the world over will join us for a long weekend of panels, readings, film, art, theatre, and more!
Visitors can look forward to events including the dreaded Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast, the Eldritch Ball, walking tours of Providence, weird gaming, and a symposium of new research on all things Lovecraft-related, among other entertainment.
Additionally, those familiar the The Starry Wisdom Library may recognize the names of of a number of other contributors among this year’s special guests: Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Graham Jones, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Robert M. Price, and Ann K. Schwader. Other guests include Glynn Barrass, Jesse Bullington, Michael Cisco, Richard Gavin, John Langan, Andrew Leman, Scott Nicolay, Joe Pulver, Darrel Schweitzer, and Simon Strantzas. Needless to say, there will be no shortage of autograph opportunities, so you’ll want to pack your copy of Starry Wisdom. I’ll be happy to sign at the Arkham Bazaar booth in the vending area or if you catch me in a not-too-chaotic moment elsewhere.
You also won’t want to miss Ars Necronomica: an exhibition of international historical and contemporary art further exploring the Lovecraft’s contribution to the horror literature canon. In addition to boasting an unrivaled collection of Lovecraftian art manufactured both locally and abroad, this showcase honors Lovecraft’s status as “the godfather of collaborative creative culture,” recognizing his relationships to the contemporaries with whom he corresponded and shared ideas. A number of my prints will be on display at Ars Necronomica, alongside the work of Nick Gucker, The joey Zone, Abigail Larson, Allison Sommers, Lee Moyer, and Paul Komoda. For more information, check out Skinner’s awesome blog post here.
Lastly, you have until the end of this month to take advantage of my free shipping promotion. Use the coupon code PROVIDENCE and receive free domestic shipping through August 31st!
As you may already know from my most recent post, I’m in the process of creating a new edition specifically for the Kickstarter campaign supporting the 20th annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. This print is inspired by this year’s festival theme—Expedition to R’lyeh—based on the concept of Miskatonic University professors Henry Armitage and William Dyer journeying to the South Pacific in search of the enigmatic island.
Those of you acquainted with Lovecraft mythos will recognize Henry Armitage as the librarian who first appeared in The Dunwich Horror. In this short story, a frighteningly disfigured social pariah named Wilbur Whateley harbors an unearthly presence in his home. Over the years it grows and grows until it fills the entire house, killing Wilbur’s mother, grandfather, and a number of cows in the process. Desperate to rid himself of the ghastly entity, Wilbur travels to Miskatonic University to obtain a copy of the Necronomicon, seeking instructions for summoning the Great Old One Yog-Sothoth. There he encounters university librarian Dr. Henry Armitage, who refuses to lend him the book.
Likewise, geology professor William Dyer makes his first appearance in The Mountain of Madness, in which he leads a catastrophic expedition to Antarctica. Later, in The Shadow Out of Time, he accompanies an expedition to Australia’s Great Sandy Desert. (Given how horror has a way of finding him wherever he goes, one wonders whether Dyer is really the best choice of a traveling companion.)
This year’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival theme is based on the idea of Armitage and Dyer joining forces and mounting an expedition to Lovecraft’s famous island of R’lyeh. With documents pulled straight from the Miskatonic University library archives they’ve calculated the date of the island’s next sighting, and participants in this year’s festival have the opportunity to experience the excitement firsthand through our Kickstarter exclusives. These rewards include an expedition log book, a map of R’lyeh, a box of artifacts, and more. For just this occasion, I’ve designed an original hand-pulled woodcut print based on the sort of imagery one might find in the Miskatonic University rare book rooms. The finished piece, Signum Advenit, is an example of the type of illustration Armitage and Dyer would have used to calculate their journey to the lost city of R’lyeh.
In this woodcut, we see a seated figure with a book at her feet burning incense in an upturned human skull: an offering to those whose return she seeks. The figure, though apparently human from the waist up, has a mermaid-like tail evocative of the siren: a denizen of the deep notorious for luring unsuspecting fishermen to a watery death. (Indeed, a shipwreck can be seen vanishing into the waves behind her.) In the background we see R’lyeh depicted as a walled medieval city, a staple of the 15th-century woodcuts on which this piece is based. Above, a comet containing a key descends from the sky while a cosmic eye keeps watch. This is the sign that “the stars are right” to raise R’lyeh from the sea. Attentive observers will notice that the sky contains twenty stars, a nod to the 20th anniversary of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.
While the Kickstarter campaign has already been fully funded, it isn’t too late to get your hands on one of these limited edition commemorative prints. Contributing toward stretch goals at the Cryptic Design, VIP Yog-Sothoth, Traveler from Beyond the Stars, and All Access levels and above will entitle backers to a rewards package including an original hand-pulled print of their very own. You also have the option of adding Signum Advenit to your rewards at any level for an additional $70.
Finally, if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Signum Advenit, check out this video to see its very first inking!
What can I say about CthulhuCon San Pedro? It was a different climate from the Portland conference by far, but no less fun, and with no shortage of Lovecraftian delights in which to partake. The attractions included (but were not limited to) short film screenings, burlesque, gaming demos, pub trivia, live author readings, and live radio theatre. Plenty of entertainment to really put the wgah’nagl in your fhtagn!
San Pedro luminaries included Leslie S. Klinger, world-renowned scholar of the Victorian literary figures Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, and New York Times-bestselling editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, The New Annotated Dracula, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, and Annotated Sandman. For more information about his books and upcoming appearances, check out his blog! Also present was director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Fields of the Nephilim, Dust Devil) and Cody Goodfellow: novelist, short fiction author, and editor in chief of Perilous Press, a micropublisher of cosmic horror. For an unabridged list of HPLFF San Pedro guests, visit this page.
And luckily for us, the entire conference was chronicled by photographer Todd Chicoine, whose photos you see here, with his kind permission. I highly recommend you check out his webpage here.
Once again I had the pleasure of competing in the Pickman’s Apprentice Live Drawing Competition, with a brand new prompt and a talented fellow artist and seasoned veteran of the Lovecraft scene. Our task? To complete an original artwork of Tsathoggua changing a tire. (A rather odd activity for such a lazy Mythos character.) I’m pleased to say that we both reacted to the subject with a moment of “What does a car look like?
This time my competitor was illustrator Mike Dubisch. In addition to creating Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons toys, designing DVD covers for WWF, and animating characters for MTV, Mike has published the Lovecraftian graphic novel Weirdling, and has a number of works on permanent display at New York’s Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art. ” Check out his magnificent interpretation of the prompt at right.
My competition piece proved a bit troublesome in the making. Though I love working in wood due it its unique qualities, sometimes particular pieces are problematic. The wood may be too soft, or the grain too wide to yield a solid black print. In this case, the block was prone to chipping, perhaps due to uneven gluing between the layers of the plywood. I quickly learned to be extremely cautious with my larger cuts in order to not lose large pieces of the work! Fortunately the block inked and printed well. Given the subject matter, it has been dubbbed, “Worst AAAA Service Ever!” (You are of course familiar with the quadruple A company: Anomalous Arcane Automobile A———- and their famous slogan, “Do not speak the forbidden name, simply scream AAAA for service.”)
Sadly the print pulled during the competition did not survive the trip home. Fortunately the woodblock did, and since there have been requests, for the first time ever I’m offering a Pickman’s Apprentice edition. In the spirit of the 90-minute art challenge, I will not be making any alterations to the block before printing. I’ll be accepting orders through June 25th 2015 and then printing only as many “Worst AAAA Service Ever!” as have been ordered. Each print will be signed, numbered, and shipped as soon as they are dry (approximately June 20th). Block size is 9 x 12″, paper will be 11 x 14″ cotton rag in my preferred cream color. Shipping via First Class Domestic or International Air Mail. Shipping is included in the price; simply chose the appropriate option below.
Oh, and I should probably mention, I was declared the winner of Pickman’s Apprentice!
Last but not least, the good folks from Everyone Question covered the the festival with excellent photos and interviews. You can find my own interview here, in which I discuss woodcut, nightmares, and why I enjoy H.P. Lovecraft.
Last weekend at PDX CthulhuCon I debuted my new print Supplication. This print—the first installment in a new series inspired by the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and the medieval tradition of manuscript illumination—depicts a supplicant making a ritual sacrifice to Shub-Niggurath, Lovecraft’s “black goat of the woods with a thousand young.” The central figures are enclosed by a thick, detailed border of uncannily tentacle-like flora. This first edition of thirteen signed and numbered original woodcut prints is available on Etsy. Additionally, those of you attending HPLFF San Pedro this weekend will have the opportunity to purchase your own Supplication onsite from yours truly! The festivities began yesterday at the Warner Grand Theatre, but you still have today and tomorrow to get in on the fun.
It is possible that the image of the Baphomet goat was Lovecraft’s inspiration for Shub-Niggurath, who first appeared in the short story “The Last Test” (1928). While she is never described, leaving ample room for varied artistic representation, she is frequently called upon in incantations and rites like the one illustrated here. Her influence has also crept into pop culture, leading to references in horror fiction including Stephen King’s short story “Crouch End.”
If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the woodcut printmaking process, then take a gander at this short video of my very first proofing of Supplication. Here you can watch me apply the first application of ink to the newly carved woodblock, thoroughly coating it in preparation for printing. Then, in this video, I drop a fresh piece of cotton rag paper on the freshly inked block and pull it through the etching press, leaving an inky impression behind. Typical of first proofs, the resulting print is a little hazy. The pigment becomes darker and bolder with each application of ink, giving us clearer, bolder prints later in the session.
That’s all for now, folks! I hope to see some of you in San Pedro this weekend. Until next time, may the Great Old Ones smile upon you.