lördag 27 augusti 2011

Stretch, stretch!

Patience needed. When I started painting in gouache about two years ago i had so much problems with stretching the paper. I tried my best but most of the times it looked like this (picture above) when the paper started to dry. This results in crappy looking artwork when the paper turns all bubbly and ugly. At the same time I saw an exhibition with original Tove Jansson illustrations, and was secretly happy to notice that SHE HAD THE SAME PROBLEM. Ha! She was a genius, but still she couldn´t make the paper obey her every time.

I found different tutorials in books and on the internet, and by combining these, asking in the art shop and trying out different methods, I can finally stretch a paper (almost every time). There´s no fast track, I´m sorry to report. And even if you do exactly as described below, sometimes it just doesn´t work anyway. It must have something to do with the percentage of moisture in the air when the paper dries, or on the evil bubbly paper-god who plays tricks on us. So don´t blame me. Here we go:

Step 1. Be neat. Clean hands, clean table... no chocolate crumbs or pizza stains anywhere in your workspace! If someone walks past your table with a doughnut, there will be little doughnut-shaped grease marks on your paper, I promise. Cut your paper in the size you want. Draw in pencil the outlines of your painting, I use a 4 cm marigin which is more than enough for the tape and a white marigin around the painting. (I used to paint to the borders of the tape but I noticed that then the tape gets soaked again which makes it loosen easily). I sketch on cheap sketching paper, and then draw very thin outlines on this final one before I soak the paper. I try not to make mistakes because every eraser movement makes the surface of the paper a little broken.

Step 2: Soak the paper in water. Use clean, new water in a basin that is big enough for your paper. Make sure there´s water on all sides (air pockets under the paper disappear if you lift it and soak it again). Don´t use hot water. I soak this bamboo/rag paper for 20 minutes (different time for different papers). Sometimes it´s difficult to wait that time, but if you don´t, the paper behaves strangely later. Soaking makes the fibers in the paper expand, meaning the paper is a little bit bigger now.

Step 3. Lift the paper, let the excess water drop into the basin. Place it on a strong drawing board. It has to be thick enough so the drying paper doesn´t make it curl up. Paper is strong, believe me. The bigger the paper the stronger the pressure on the tape.

Step 4. Smooth the paper gently with your hands or with a special watercolor sponge, it has to be perfectly flat on the board. Use a CLEAN cloth or rag (or like here, toilet paper...) to dry off all extra water. If you look at the paper from the side you see the wet spots. Now let the paper be for a few minutes, while you cut the gummed brown tape. Cut it slightly longer than the sides. Take your time, read a newspaper or work on something else for at least fifteen minutes. Letting the paper rest is important, because it shrinks a bit, making the job a bit easier for the tape.

Step 5. Use an old brush (not the one you use for painting) to moisten the glue side of the tape with water. Don´t use too much water, it will make the glue less strong. DON`T SOAK THE TAPE, if you do that, the tape will be useless.

Step 6. Glue the paper to the board with the tape, one side at a time. Glue opposite sides first. (Here: first front, then back, then right, then left.) Smooth if bubbles appear. One third of the tape should be on the paper, the rest on the board.

Step 7. Now you are done, and should leave the paper to dry for several hours. But, you can also tint the painting area while the paper is still wet, this way you get an even surface. Mix a light color containing two or three different colors but not black or white. Here I have mixed some ochre, green and some sepia, and lots of water. Mix enough color for the whole surface at once. Hold the board a bit tilted and start painting from the top, from side to side in even strokes. An hour later or so, when the surface has dried a little, you can add colour to the parts where you don´t mind if it blends a bit. DON´T lift the board up for the night or something else stupid, it has to dry flat to dry evenly.

There, done. This is the tutorial I tried to find some time ago, so I hope it helps someone!

Edit: An easy way that works. Take a dry paper, place it on a board of plexiglass or on a table surface that doesn´t absorbe water. Tape it to the surface on all four sides with transparent packaging tape. Paint, let it dry, remove the tape. Works, but creates a bit of rubbish...

tisdag 23 augusti 2011

A photographer who can draw!

Out of the closet. It´s always nice to notice that someone who you have known for a long time has hidden talents. Someone is a kick ass food guru, someone else does medieval embroidery and a third someone talks ten different languages. So today I was happy to notice that one of the photographers I´ve known since say five years back, Kristoffer Åberg, now at Hufvudstadsbladet, can draw. Simple, raw lines. I like!

tisdag 16 augusti 2011

Goodbye weekly agony

Last one. Finally I can read the newspaper in peace again, without hunting for a story to build the weekly illustration around. I´m on vacation, so you will have to do with just a photo of the page, along with my terrible photoshopping skills.

What I have learned: 
1. It´s difficult to be funny. My jokes need too much explanation. I´m a dull person. Actually I hate jokes. No more jokes for me. 
2. It´s difficult to be consistent in style and colour. When I did the first illustration for this column I thought I would keep that style. Make the illustrations a series that belong together. No success there. Some belong, some are from a different planet.
3. Good ideas make me happy. Sometimes the ideas came easily, and they were easy to complete. One sketch and just one completed color illustration. 

I´ve been to Oslo and walked around the Vigeland park. Ohlalaa, I wish I had time to sit down sketching there. Rain on the way and my kids trying to climb the statues (and loudly commenting on the male statues penises) made that impossible. One thing was weird about the statues. Even though they are stylized and not totally realistic, the male organs are visible and detailed. But not the female. The bottoms of the female statues looked like the bottoms of a Moomin troll. 

The photo is from the Vigeland park official website.

måndag 8 augusti 2011

Sketching kids...

... is almost impossible. They move around all the time and the only way I can do it is taking pictures of them and sketching from the photos. I try to draw quickly anyway, to feel like I was (almost) drawing from live.

edit: no Monday illustration today. It disappeared somewhere at the news desk (or then it was total shit and impossible to understand without explanation). I prefer "disappeared".

måndag 1 augusti 2011

Shit happens. The Baltic sea has severe health issues due to nutrients from agriculture and disposal of untreated human waste (read: shit). Now, when the weather is warm the water turns green from toxic algae (called algae but actually cyano bakteria) and the kids can´t swim. The countries around the Baltic have put millions into building sewage cleaning facilities in for example St. Petersburg, and the farmers are payed extra for actions to minimize the amount of nutrients that flow to the sea. There is one business though that profits from this beautiful sea, but still dumps the sewage in it, and it´s the cruise ships. It´s FREE to leave the sewage water in Stockholm and Helsinki, but about half of the international cruising ships choose to pee in the sea. As long as all ports can´t offer this service, the cruise ships are allowed to dump sewage.

Living and farming are essential activities. But cruising around in a big white boat sipping drinks is not. So if you are planning on buying a ticket to a cruise in the Baltic sea, please ask how your ship handles sewage. When on your trip, take your cosmopolitan to the capitains table and ask him/her. If you get an ignorant glance, hold a speech for the whole restaurant and tell everyone about this problem. Maybe then things will change, because the laws and regulations come really slowly, if ever, in this matter.

Thank you for your time.

Wondering what the viking ship is doing in the picture? Some history nerds in the Åland islands are going to build a viking ship (to go with their viking village in Saltvik), that was the odd news story I based this illustration on. I guess the vikings peed in the sea as well, but the sea was so much cleaner back then. It breaks my heart to even think about it. Clear water. Healthy fish. No radioactive cesium in the sea bed. It´s really a shame what we have done to our sea in just a few decades. Shame on us.