Monoprinting Tutorial & Foxes

Today my Mom taught me how to monoprint. She is such an expert when it comes to painting, colours, technique, tools, and she’s absolutely fearless when it comes to experimentation. It was raining today so it was the perfect opportunity to have a little art workshop together. There are many different types of monoprinting (for instance, my Mom has made plexiglass monoprints), but I chose to go with a woodblock technique because I wanted to print one of my drawings. I had so much fun learning how to do this that I wanted to share it with you too!

Materials needed:
-flat craft foam (found in the craft section of the dollar store)
-ball point pen
-white glue
-block of wood (that is roughly the size of your drawing)
-blockprinting ink (any colour of your choice!)
-2 rollers (one to paint with, one to press with)
-a palette big enough to roll paint on (like a sheet of mylar or a plastic plate)
-watercolour paper
-a basin of water
-dry paper (newsprint paper works well)
-creativity!!! ♥

1) First I sketched directly on top of craft foam with a ball point pen (it doesn’t matter what colours you use, it will be painted over anyways.). The foam is kind of squishy and it will easily take the impression of the pen if you press firmly while drawing. I started with the cats, and then decided I would prefer to draw foxes (I used the fox drawings I did in February as reference). Then I cut around the foxes, leaving a border. I used white glue to stick it to a block of wood that was about the same size as the foxes, and waited for the glue to dry.
*Tip: Press hard while drawing as if you were etching the foam, even if it looks like there’s too much pen ink on it. The drawing will be more defined and transfer better this way.
*Tip: You can use a blow dryer to quicken the drying process.

2) I grabbed a sheet of watercolour paper and let it soak in a basin of clean water for about 10 mins (which is the time that it takes to do Step 2 & 3).

3) Next I put a glob of black Speedball blockprinting ink on a sheet of mylar, and used a roller to roll the ink out to an even consistancy so the ink covers the roller evenly. If you don’t have mylar you can also use a plastic plate.. or basically something that is big enough to roll ink onto.
*Tip: Make sure there is an even amount of ink on the roller for the next step…

4) Then I rolled the ink directly over the foxes and wood. Bye bye foxies….
*Tip: make sure the glue is dry by this stage.

5) I took the watercolour paper out of the water and put it between dry sheets of newsprint paper and pressed them down with my hands on a flat surface to remove the excess water.
*Tip: The watercolour paper should be damp for the next step. Make sure it’s not shiny because then it means it’s too wet.

6) Then I placed the damp sheet of watercolour paper on top of the foxes & woodblock (while trying to centre the paper with the woodblock as much as possible.) I held down the paper firmly with my hands and using a clean roller I rolled the paper across the foxes & woodblock many times, making sure the paper didn’t move or slide. Then I slowly peeled the paper off starting with the right side.
*Tip: You can first ‘peek’ at your print by pulling up a corner to see if you need to do more rolling.

7) Voilà… a finished monoprint! As you can see, the areas I drew with the pen resisted the ink (because they were pushed lower than the surface of the craft foam). I discovered that areas which looked ‘shaded’ with the ball point pen actually ended up looking like highlights after it was printed. (It made me think about how I would approach the next piece I make.) Overall I really like how the print has a ghostly feel to it, and I like that the texture of the wood was printed too.
*Tip: If you are printing letters or words, remember to draw them backwards so they print the right way.

8) I made 4 monoprints in total, experimenting with different types of paper, and adding different amounts of ink. After experimenting I prefer using more ink (so it prints darker), and I like it when a lot of the wood block texture is transferred to the paper (which you can control when rolling).
*Tip: You can continue to use your woodblock print over and over again! Try making 2 prints without adding more ink. The second print is called a ‘ghost print’ and will be lighter and ‘softer’ looking.
*Tip: Remember to clean the foam print with water & paper towel after you’re finished because ink dries fast, and could dry in the etched lines after many uses.
*Tip: You can also cut shapes out of the craft foam (like stars, hearts, etc) and glue them to the wood block… it doesn’t have to be a drawing.
*Tip: Try experimenting with different colour inks and paper for different looks. See what works for you!

9) Treat yourself to a nice snack after all your hard work. ♥

Painting: Zombuki Kimi

I was recently commissioned by a client to paint a portrait of her doll Kimi. Kimi is very special because she is a “Zombuki” doll, an original handpainted custom doll by Brigitte. These dolls are not mass-produced, they are one-of-a-kind. The client saw the paintings I did of Zombuki sisters Hanami & Ume, and wanted a portrait painted of her Kimi too. It was fun to revisit the Zombuki again. I don’t get a to paint on flat surfaces often, so it was a nice change. 🙂

[Kimi The Zombuki, acrylic on canvas, 22 x 26cm]

I always start a painting with sketching what I want on paper first. I wanted to stay within a the style of my previous Zombuki paintings, so I brought up a pic of them while I sketched Kimi. Kimi’s ruffled collar was changed 1/2 way through the painting process, as I thought a tight vertical collar would work better than a big swooshy one. And of course there is the real Kimi below (photo by Brigitte)!

Miss Kimi up-close and personal:

I took a moment to snap a pic of Kimi in progress on the left, and her completed on the right.

Drawing/Painting: Totoro

I was recently commissioned to create my version of the much loved Japanese character Totoro, created by Hayao Miyazaki. I love Totoro (who doesn’t!), and I drew him from my favourite scene in the movie when he is standing at the bus stop. First I sketched him out, then inked him, then cut him out + fused him to a painted canvas. 🙂


Paintings: Monsters

The past couple weeks I’ve been busy painting monsters on canvasses!

I really wanted to get back into painting again, so I chose to go for a flat surface instead of my usual 3D forms because painting on canvas is easier and quicker for me.  It was a fun way to get out some ideas fairly fast.

Here are some in-progress shots. First I sketch what I want directly onto canvas in pencil, then prime and start adding colour in layers.

Lastly I add the finishing touches like the face, outlines and highlights.  Below are my final canvasses. I really like how they turned out, and can’t wait to do more!

Painting: Lettering With My Dad

Yesterday I painted with My Dad.  He’s retired now, but he used to be a sign writer.  He hand painted signs for over 10 years until computers were introduced and he had to switch to vinyl lettering.  My Dad actually taught himself how to letter. Now that’s discipline and drive!  We spent several hours painting together. He shared information about lettering, colour and compositions, which I will try to incorporate into my own work.

My Dad uses ‘1 Shot’ sign writing paint. It’s called ‘1 Shot’ because you can lay down the paint in one shot without having to go over it. The paint is oil based, so it stays a bit wet and tacky. It smells strong, but I like it as it brings me back to being a kid and watching my Dad paint. He taught me an old sign writing trick: if the paint has chunks it, you filter it through nylon.

The brushes he uses are made specifically for sign writing. They are made from Russian Squirrel hair (!) + assembled in France. I love the little wires that hold the brush ends together, you really don’t see anything like that nowadays.

Dad showin me how it’s done. He’s left handed, but was showing me how to maneuver my hand (as a right-handed person). His control and lettering with his ‘wrong hand’ was way better than my right hand! lol. This was our practice board. Dad’s stuff is on the right, mine is on the left. He painted the sign above as reference when he was lettering signs. I love the font, it’s very comic-book-like.

I’ve done a few test strokes, and now I’m ready to paint it for reals. I found the brushes a bit difficult to use as they have really long hair, and I’m used to brushes with shorter hair. I find I have more control with shorter brushes. I’m using a ‘Mahl’ stick, which is a painter’s tool for keeping your hand away from smearing the paint and for maneuverability. You rest your painting hand on it and can go from thick to thin lines and make a nice curve just by moving the Mahl stick around with your other hand. It takes some getting used to.

My Dad freestyles some letters. He hasn’t painted in a while, but he’s still got it!

Art Show: “Art Jam 5”; live painting at the 9 Lb Hammer in Seattle

This past weekend I went down to Seattle to participate in ‘Art Jam 5‘; a live painting event with a bunch of local artists hosted by artist Augie Pagan. It was held at a pub called the 9LB Hammer. “To keep the event affordable and open to the general public, no piece of artwork sold for over $50.” (more info + pics in this article). The place was jam packed! Lots of art apprecianados bumpin’ to the music, chattin’ over drinks and watching the artists paint. The place had great energy, and was perfect timing for me to start painting again after fracturing my drawing hand (blog post on that coming soon, I promise)!

[My card suit monsters meet Lawrence’s heart pantied Alice]

I collaborated with Lawrence Ruelos on an Alice In Wonderland themed piece. I haven’t really done a collab before.. and definitely not in front of a crowd. It was fun tossing around ideas with Lawrence and watching our pencil sketches come to life as we lay down the paint in our different yet cohesive styles. I was a bit nervous going on stage at first because I’m not one for the spotlight, however the excitement of both the opportunity to paint + to collab with Lawrence outweighed any apprehension I had. My first time painting in front of a crowd + my first time painting after my hand fracture = big accomplishments for me! Lawrence had painted in the previous Art Jams so he was a pro. 😉 We painted for about an hour and unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to finish our piece (we had to wrap it up to let other artists have a spot at the easel), but I’m happy with how our piece turned out anyways. 🙂

The last time I was at a live painting event was this summer at the San Diego Comic Con where I watched Dave Flores, Joe Ledbetter, Angry Woebots and Yoskay Yamamoto breathe life onto large scaled canvasses at Munky King’s Omi mask launch party. I was glued to the spot at that event… it was hypnotizing watching my art idols create their signature styles right infront of me. So to have the opportunity to be an artist in an event was huge for me + I can’t thank Lawrence and Augie enough for having the confidence to give me a chance. 🙂 Our piece sold to one of Lawrence’s awesome girlfriends who skates for the Jet City Rollergirls (derby girl, wut! wut!). It makes me happy to know the piece is going to one awesome chika! 🙂

Dev, Augie and Shane White collaborated on this sweet monster piece.

Yet more awesome paintings! It’s exciting to me that everyone has the same tools… canvas, brushes and paint + yet there is so much uniqueness + variety in each individual piece. /art dork   This event is such a great idea. I hope there are more in the future!

[Moi Painting my monsters, Photo by Lawrence Ruelos]

Mish Mash: Plush, Designs, Paintings + new camera!

Here’s a shot of my craft table today with 4 commissions in the works. I’m having a lot of fun with these ones. 🙂

Below are my entries for Matt JOnes (AKA Lunartik)’s Lovely Cup Of Tea design competition. Check out the finalists HERE, and all the entries HERE. It was fun creating a design from a blank template (although I much rather work on a custom in person). My theme for the one on the left was: black + pink, drips and gothic lettering. The one on the right was obviously inspired by Alice In Wonderland. 🙂

My Mom found a stash of my old art projects from high school, and this one was my fav in the set. I drew/painted this in Grade 11 (mid 90’s) for an “album cover” art project. I chose the band “Tokyo Ghetto Pussy” because I was really into their song “I Kiss Your Lips” at the time (haha). I also really wanted an excuse to draw anime-inspired characters, cause I was totally into Asian design. I omitted a “T” in “Ghetto” so the design would be symmetrical. Haha, how “ghetto” is that!!! LOL.

Below was an assignment for Life Drawing class.  First we drew the model (I drew her twice because I was bored :P), then using pieces of construction paper, I ripped off sections to block out shadows, highlights and midtones. I did this in highschool (mid-90’s). I kinda like it.

And last but not least… my Dad gave me his old 35mm Canon TLb camera (made in 1974)! Wooo hooo! It’s got a 50mm 1.8 lens and a 135mm 3.5 lens. I used to shoot with this baby in highschool (yes, I’m that old). It’s pretty good. I shot about 95% of my Toronto Graffiti pics with it. I’m really looking forward to buying some 35mm film and shooting with it again.

Graffiti: Sketches + Pieces

I drew this in 1997 for my 1st graffiti piece. I used blue and purple pencil crayons for the lettering and yellow paint for the arrows.

I was really into graffiti back when I was in my senior years of high school (’95-’97).  I wasn’t into the tagging crap you see on mailboxes, I was into the full out colourful mural pieces.  Graffiti is generally thought of in a negative light because of the illegal aspects, but for me it was a very empowering art form.  It was a way for me to explore my own creativity because it has no boundaries.  I already had a huge appreciation for artistic and stylized lettering from my Dad who was a Hand Letterer/Sign Writer (I talked about this in a previous post), so being able to express myself through my own lettering was exciting.  However, not everyone was so encouraging.  I’ll never forget the time my high school art teacher exclaimed: “It’s not art if it’s not in the textbook.”.  Can you believe the close mindedness?!  Ugh, it’s insane.  That basically shuts out most art on this planet!  I remember how much her opinion completely frustrated me.  Thankfully my good friend Air33 (who was as much into graffiti as I was), teamed up with me and we went out to paint walls together.  Female graf artists are rare, so we stuck together, but we were usually not taken that seriously by other artists.  We weren’t looking for approval though, we were doing it for the fun of it.

I was heavily influenced by DAIM and LOOMIT, as they were both totally groundbreaking graffiti artists at the time. 3D lettering was sort of just emerging, and that was the style that I loved. Every single one of their pieces was totally mind blowing and inspiring. Each graffiti artist uses a fake name to identify themselves and write with. I chose the name STAR33. Stars are meaningful to me because they symbolize hope and guidance. Graffiti gave me artistic hope and inspiration. 33 is a special number in my family. 🙂

^ This is my very first piece ever! It was my first time spray painting, so I was getting used to using the spray nozzle (as you can see it’s quite messy). I found out fast that it’s hard to use if you don’t have strong hands. :S I had to change my initially planned purple to orange because we couldn’t get any purple spraypaint. 😛

^ I got to paint on this wall because I was chosen (along with 2 other people) as one of the winners of the Scarborough Arts Council Urban Art Mural Competition in 1996. Each of us were given a huge wall to paint in a dilapidated factory area of Scarborough that was visible from the RT line. It took many weekends in very cold weather to get it done. We were mentored by Sady, who was one of the Scarborough Graffiti greats. It was an amazing learning experience.

^ This was drawn for my 3rd graffiti piece. I wanted it to look shredded, and coloured like there were spotlights shining down on it. The very bottom of the letters spell out “MANICAN”, which was my brother’s B-Boy name at the time.

^ Here’s the piece in progress on the Keele wall in Toronto that is visible from the Bloor subway line. That’s AIR33 on the left and me on the right just before the cops showed up and stopped our progress before we could even get 1/2 way!  Haha. :S This pic is from 1997 (man, I feel old!) 😛 [Pic property of Air33]

^ Next up I did this mural for the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre (NTMCC) in 1997. They didn’t allow spraypaint inside the building (due to poor ventilation), so I airbrushed and hand painted the whole thing. I sketched everything out on paper first, then projected my sketches on the wall. Then I outlined the letters and characters with pencil, and from there I painted everything. It took a few months, because I only had a few hours to go there after school. My Dad helped me out tons on this project from letting me use his airbrush, projector, scaffolding and of course a few mural painting tips. Thanks Dad! 🙂

^Here are some of the (super shiney looking) characters. They’re supposed to look sporty since the mural is in a Community Centre. If you notice in the pic of me above, I’m wearing the same red shorts as my mural. LOL. I haven’t been back to NTMCC in years, so I don’t even know if this mural is there anymore. 😛

When I got into College I didn’t have any time left to do extra art on the side (they worked us like dogs!), so I stopped doing graffiti altogether.  :\  But I still totally love and appreciate the art form to this day!  If you want to see Toronto Graffiti (’96-’97) from lots of amazing artists, check out my photo gallery here.  My girl Air33 is producing a photography book called T.Oldskool, all about old school Toronto graffiti.  Keep an eye on her site because the book will be available soon! 🙂

Paintings: Zombuki sisters ♥

I recently completed these two acrylic paintings of Hanami and Ume, the Zombuki Sisters. I kept the Hanami painting for myself (because I own Hanami), and I sent the Ume painting to Brigitte (because she owns Ume. Brigitte is also the mastermind behind the Zombuki customs). A few weeks ago Hanami sauntered off to spend some time at the “Zombuki Spa”, getting minor changes to her face-up. When she came back, she was even more gorgeous than I thought she could be! I was so pleased with Hanami’s new changes, that I decided to make something as a thank-you for Brigitte. That’s when I thought of making two paintings of the sisters. I thought it would be fun to make a set of paintings that match when they are side by side (they mirror each other, and the blue/turquoise gradation (that is hard to tell in pics) matches in the background), but they will forever be apart, just like Hanami & her sister Ume. Awww. ♥

[Hanami is on the left, Ume is on the right.]

[Strange Sisters #5, by pbrigitte]

Here are some close-up shots. It’s hard to tell in these pics, but their eyes have a silvery/shiny layer of paint over them.

Here are a few in progress shots:

[First concept sketch]

[First I draw out the preliminary sketch, then I draw directly on the canvas exactly what I’ll be painting. ^_^;]

[Next I just fill it in! I start painting their faces, and then their hair, and after Hanami & Ume are all painted in, I decide on the colour of the background.]

[They’re almost 1/2 done in this pic. There’s my reference pic of Ume, and Hanami thinks this work is very tiring, so she takes a nap. ^_^]

[And after all that painting, they’re finally done!]

More pics here!