Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plaque Process!

I made this as a wedding gift for friends Jessica and Casey.
People often ask me about how I make these things, so I thought you folks might be interested in a little process post!
On first glance, many people think it might be wood inlay. Oh heavens no, I don't even know how to do that. It isn't pyrography either. It is actually a great deal simpler than either of those methods.

Here are my materials, a wood plaque from the craft store, cheap liner brush, Speedball ink, more tiny cheap brushes for the stain, ordinary wood stain in various colors, satin varnish, sandpaper. When I was first developing this technique I tried several types of ink and Speedball was the first I found that would hold a line and not bleed all over the place. Sometimes when its a new bottle it still doesn't behave, so i might let it sit out with the lid ajar for a day or so to let it thicken up. I like bringing cheap/craft materials and techniques into "fine" art because 1. they are cheap and plentiful, 2. sometimes you can get interesting effects from unconventional materials, 3. I've found I am not the sort of person who should have nice things.

When doing illustrations or larger paintings I usually start with a tiny thumbnail and gradually enlarge it as I add detail, but with the plaques I tend to do the sketching at actual size. Here we have the initial sketch, laying in the main compositional points and overall concept.

Then I scan it into photoshop for tweaking. Whenever I have an image I want to be symmetrical, like the birds here, I draw one side then just flip it in ye olde Photoshoppe. Or I fold it over on the light box, whichever is quicker. In this case I resized and scooted stuff a little too. Then I print it out and continue adding detail.

Here we have the finished drawing. I smear the back with powdered graphite and trace it onto my wood surface. With the more complex designs I might feel the need to work out the color placement in watercolors first, which is what I did on this one. I only have about four colors (plus black) that I work with.
Next I go about the long and often nerve-wracking adventure of inking the plaque. I have to be careful because there is very little I can do about it if I screw up. I have had to scrap a half-inked painting before because I absentmindedly started filling the wrong part with black. About six hours of work down the crapper, uuuggghh.
Then comes the careful application of stain with my tiny brushes, which goes much faster. After that I varnish the front, sign the back and paint it black, varnish that, then attach the hanging hardware. I wish I had pictures of these stages, but I guess I was too wrapped up in the glorious whirlwind of inspiration to think of it.

Let me know if you guys found this interesting, I'm thinking of detailing the process of my print plaques too. My life is a non-stop plaque party!


Zaina Anwar said...

Beautiful!. I love your palette for this piece.

Brian Truesby said...

Really really awesome!!!

Kristen Hildebrand said...

I still think it's some sort of witchcraft voodoo magicalness. But I love it!!!

Kerry said...

More, please. :)

michelle said...

Thanks everybody! Glad you like it :)

Shobo said...

Very cool... but weird, because I'd been wondering for a while how you made these and meant to ask what your process was.

Stay out of my brain!

michelle said...

Aw, but it's so warm and cozy in there Shobo...

I'm glad people found this interesting and I'm planning to do some more posts like this in the near future, feel free to ask me about anything in the meantime though!