Tom Huck Woodcut Bootcamp Day 5: The Water Park

This is Huck’s $30,000 handmade press after two bootcampers take it over. Part art desk, part grocery aisle. And yes, that is an empty wine bottle in the back right by the roller. I’ll take the blame for that one.

This is Huck’s $30,000 handmade press after two bootcampers take it over. Part art desk, part grocery aisle. And yes, that is an empty wine bottle in the back right by the roller. I’ll take the blame for that one.

As far as Huck lectures go, this day was light, no lectures planned, and most of the day was spent carving. Well, carving…and the water park.

In our bootcamp instructions, one item we were required to bring was a swimsuit. Since arriving, there had been rumors of a trip to a water park. The Six Flags water park had been mentioned, or a city water park hinted at, all with the promise of getting cleaned up. None of it made sense to me. There was simply no time for an excursion to Six Flags. I couldn't imagine a city water park letting us quasi-shower among playing children.

Around midday, Shannon announced we were to change into our swimwear and line up. Nice! We were finally going to see what this water park was all about.

Look who’s first in line, and with a bar of soap. Wanting to be fresh does not make me a princess.  (Pic by Ian Chalgren)

Look who’s first in line, and with a bar of soap. Wanting to be fresh does not make me a princess. (Pic by Ian Chalgren)

After much waiting, speculating, and joking, we were led, single file, through a series of doorways and long halls that ran along the back of the building and eventually outside to a parking lot. Here was the great water park. “Water” being a kiddie pool and a hose; “park” being a parking lot. And to be honest, after 4 days of no real bathing, it was amazing. Several of us jumped in, lathered up, and had a wonderful time as Huck's daughter blasted us with the hose, Pulp Fiction style. (Later Huck said the film gave him the idea.)

If you were hoping for swimsuit pics, cell phones were not allowed (thank god). But Shannon Cousino caught this pic of Huck and his daughter preparing the water park.

If you were hoping for swimsuit pics, cell phones were not allowed (thank god). But Shannon Cousino caught this pic of Huck and his daughter preparing the water park.

After the great hosing off, I spent most of the day finishing up the record player and fire around the devil’s face. You can see my very crude attempt at crossing hatching on the right side of the record player and around the devil’s fingers.

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To see what you can do with well executed cross hatching, here is the crazy mad skills of my desk partner, Trisha.

Some exquisite cross-hatching drawn on the board.

Some exquisite cross-hatching drawn on the board.

It’s one thing to draw it, but quite another to carve it. She’s a technician on both counts.

It’s one thing to draw it, but quite another to carve it. She’s a technician on both counts.

Trisha turned out to be the perfect table mate for me. She was strong in all the skills I was not. She taught me many tricks and tips. My favorite being the mantra, "adapt." “Adapt, Matt. Just adapt,” she would say when I’d groan over a misstep. Wood is not a forgiving medium. You must internalize the mindset of 'adapt.' (Kind of works in life as well.)

Something else that helps when carving isn’t going so great: The bar next door has a wonderful selection of local brews. Here are two of my favorites. If you like IPA’s, see if you can locate these gems.

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Now back to my board. Initially my intention was to make a border around the main composition made up of repeating eyes (the spirits are always watching), skulls (death, a bit too obviously), and hour glasses (time is running short, my friend). But once I went to carve the border, it struck me that what I really needed was something very simple and crude, the opposite of the high contrast craziness going on within the picture. I started calling my little mini scenes, voodoo haiku. This added a bit more creative work as I wanted each border scene to be unique. But it also allowed me to procrastinate on the devil’s face, which at this point, I had no idea how I was going to handle and was very leery of.

Other ways to procrastinate…

Walk around and see what everyone else is up to. That’s our den mother, Shannon, throwing the devil horns, btw. (Pic by Bryan Raymundo)

Walk around and see what everyone else is up to. That’s our den mother, Shannon, throwing the devil horns, btw. (Pic by Bryan Raymundo)

Check out the websites of other artists, like Michael Sommers (more on his work later), and Kellen, sporting the wireless headphones. We always had music blaring in the print shop. Kellen decided to opt out. (Pic by Bryan Raymundo)

Check out the websites of other artists, like Michael Sommers (more on his work later), and Kellen, sporting the wireless headphones. We always had music blaring in the print shop. Kellen decided to opt out. (Pic by Bryan Raymundo)

Another way to procrastinate carving is to admire shop signs. This is one of my favs.

Another way to procrastinate carving is to admire shop signs. This is one of my favs.

Pro Tips (this section is for those interested in the technical aspects of woodblock printing):

Today’s Pro Tip is actually a review of the Futatsu Wari Moku Hango To 1.0mm U gouge. Because I broke the Josei Moku Hanga To 1.0mm U gouge, I decided to spend the money on the ‘professional grade’ version of that size. (Huck felt I broke the blade because I was abusing the angle of that particular size. 1.0mm is very tiny and therefore somewhat delicate.) I bought the Futatsu Wari gouges from Mcclain’s Printmaking Supplies. They carry individual gouges as well as sets. They are hand made. From what I can tell, the Japanese steel in the Futatsu and the Josei are the same, but the handles are crafted differently and of different wood (birch for the Futatsu, Silver Magnolia for the Josei). The Futatsu also has a brass square ferrule (below the steel blade itself) which can be pulled off, allowing the handle to split apart. Inside is the blade, which can be re-positioned or replaced. As you can see, the gouge is already cut short to fit the hand. I love this gouge. It’s extremely comfortable. The brass ferrule does make it a bit tricky to sharpen as the angle required to swipe the blade against the leather (or stone) is nearly matched by the bump out of the ferrule. I did get the hang of it. If (god forbid) I break any of my current Josei Moku Hanga To gouges, I will probably replace them with the Futatsu.

That being said, I’m writing this review a few weeks out from getting home. The block I’m currently working on was cut almost exclusively with a 3.0mm V gouge. Huck uses a V for almost everything. I saw many bootcampers using the V (including my desk partner) in amazing ways. So I decided it was time for me to embrace the V. (For some reason I started with the U gouge and just never looked back.) Well, now I’ve turned completely around. If you’re just starting out, learn on the V. You can get very small detailed lines or nice thick lines with the same blade depending on the depth you go. You can lean it on it’s side for quick large cuts. I just find it to be very versatile, so much so, that I don’t really need the 1.0mm U gouge. I can do all it’s work and more with a 3.0mm V. Live and learn. My next Futatsu will be a V.

Futatsu Wari Komasuki, u-gouge knife, 1.0 mm

Futatsu Wari Komasuki, u-gouge knife, 1.0 mm