Adjusting a hand-drawn psychedelic poster to riso printing – Part 1

Well, it’s been a good while since the last riso experiment blog post and hence high time to do something about it. And this was simple enough – as I’m organizing open live drawing sessions, I also make a new poster every Sunday to advertise it on Facebook. (Still not sure how well it works, but never mind that right now.)

Anyhow, with the last one I decided to ditch the ‘modern’ poster aesthetic and go with the style I actually love and make it look like the flat colorful psychedelic 60’s posters that couldn’t care less whether the viewers can read them or not.

So, first I made a sketch, inked the lines, scanned it and colored it in Photoshop and was done with the poster for original purpose. Fine, fine. However, the original line drawing was still there, so I figured there can be no harm in coloring it a bit. Besides the super-multi-color psychedelic style, I’m a great fan of its Art Deco predecessor – mono- and duo-chromatic images, that are colored only with different tones of the same color or different tones of two different colors that form a mosaic instead of mixing or overlapping. Having in the back of my mind that this technique is in many way perfect for riso printing AND that my only usable drum at this moment is fluo orange, I went ahead and colored the poster with three different orange markers (and black, which I intended to add to riso print later with stencil).

Here they are – the original, the colorful and the monochrome version.

triple1

*The monochrome one is on peach-colored paper.

Now, the question arose – how to turn the monochrome version into a riso-printable one. Just converting the scanned image into grayscale is simple but does not print well, because the marker-colored parts are not evenly filled. Quality-wise it made better sense to use the monochrome version as a guide and color the ‘clean’ version again digitally for better quality. My original idea was to go for the Art-Deco style duo-chrome and print it on blue paper (as I had some). This way blue would act as the darker contrast to the fluo orange, lighter tones of fluo orange would overlap blue and soften the contrast. At least that was the idea.

In order to make the process easier, I started by filling in the original clean background areas with blue. The rest are different tones of the original “Live Drawing” text orange. (I use the super-handy site 0to255¬†for finding tone gradations.). I replaced all black parts with white (in my CS2 – Image -> Adjustments -> Replace color), as those I wanted to add with stencil later. Next step, I replaced the blue parts with white as well, because that was to be the color of paper and finally converted the image to grayscale.

triple

And made a couple of test prints on different papers.

Test prints revealed a lot – mostly design mistakes. The blue paper was way too intense – I had underestimated the natural semi-transparency of riso ink. (After all it’s not acrylic or tempera.) All the softer tones were completely overpowered and even full coverage looked rather weak. Yellow and peach-colored papers produced delightful surprises. Yellow, that I had not even considered as viable option and only tried because it happened to be at hand, produced the best contrast and color combination of all. The scan unfortunately doesn’t do it justice. Peach-toned paper came in second, although the background tone blended at bit too well with the softer tones of fluo orange and hence the contrast was not the best.

triple_final

The last test print was on white paper to allow for corrections. So, here’s what I’m going to change in round 2 (left is test print and right one with corrections) – get rid of most soft tones and go for maximum contrast (and fix the “shift to the right” that my printer tends to do…)

double_final

To be continued…

About the benefits of life drawing

I’ve now been organizing open life drawing sessions here in Athens for over 2 years. It’s been a slow but steady progress – from 1-2 people the first year to 5-6 on the second and now occasional bursts of 10+ alternated with 1-2. It still puzzles me that in the city the size of Athens there seems to be no tradition or knowledge about this type of life drawing classes. Even the usual word for quick sketching, the French “croquis”, denotes a certain type of architectural drawings here.

About half of the crowd we draw are foreigners – people who are familiar with the practice and actively looking for this type of sessions. The Greeks who take it seriously have either studied abroad in art schools where a strong base in live drawing is expected or professional artists who find it useful. From the rest I still get the question that’s really become a pet peeve of mine: “What’s the use of life drawing?” What I hear is a sportsperson or musician asking: “Why should I train?” “Why should I practice?”

If an artist wants to be any good, to reach a level of mastery that is higher than plain mediocre, she needs to practice. Practice constantly and practice with thought – ideally with a teacher who can point out the weaknesses – but if that’s not possible, with a critical mind, pushing oneself to new areas if the old ones are getting too comfortable.

What does this training finally achieve? It achieves to build up a full 3D model of a human body in your mind, a real moving body that allows you to draw believable dynamic figures from fantasy and eliminates a great deal of need for references. Once you have this model, you can focus on it and make it move as you wish, then freeze it in time and draw. That’s what live drawing practice can do for you. It sets you free.

 

Portraits, and more portraits

Human faces are fascinating things. You can draw them for years and still find them fascinating and fresh. Technique needs to be shaken up now and then though, as that is surely something that can get boring after a measure of repetition.

I was honestly planning to do the Inktober challenge this year as well ( I almost completed it last year). However, things did not go exactly as planned. I did three black-and-white pieces… and it started to bore me. The strange thing is that my “inherent” (yes it is strange to call it that, but I’ll explain) style seems to be different from the style I’m quite frequently trying to do. Meaning that my brain pushes clean linework, more attention to details, etc etc and yet, those times where I’ve just gone about making a piece without much thought, it’s always coloured, rather loose – even painterly, or mixed media and collage, layers of different media on top of each other.

Occasionally it feels like a dilemma – should I follow one or the other? Or try to conjoin them into an amalgam? I’m still not sure. Perhaps the artistic style is simply the reflection of my way of being – interested in a multitude of things, a natural generalist. Nevertheless, during the years the main interests have crystallized, become reasonably clear; the rest, while still there, has resumed lower priorities. Hopefully the style follows the same route – sheds the unnecessary and keeps what should be there.

 

Sketchnoting is fun

And just to prove it, I tried to “translate” a conference preparation list into images (+ some words, all right). However, it’s not just a random exercise. I went to THATCamp Lausanne in November 2011 and have been a huge fan of this format of organizing conferences ever since. To this day I’m pretty sure that I was the only participant whose work was not connected to digital humanities at all – at that time I was still working as alumni coordinator at my university.

However, it did not matter. It was fun – as the “outsider” I didn’t need to impress anyone, so I could ask all the potentially stupid questions about things I was interested in. Another extremely fine memory from THATCamp Lausanne was the evening reception – I do not remember having had better food in my life. It was a huge selection of appetizers, most of which I had no idea what they were, besides being absolutely divine-tasting.

Ahem… pardon my digression into salivating…

thatcamp checklists_web