Thursday, May 25, 2017

Etchings in process

I am starting a series of prints of hands, holding and helping. It is my quiet way of encouraging kindness, understanding and simple humanity.

After the giant wood cut I last posted I decided this time to do some small scale etchings. I began by cutting down a zinc plate to the 4.5x6 inch format I wanted. I then coated the surface of the plate with Hard Ground, a material that seals the metal. I transferred my drawing onto the dark surface of the Hard Ground, leaving the outlines of areas I wanted to break the image into. I then used a Whistler's Needle to scratch lines through the hard ground, revealing the plate below. I have varied the density of my lines according to the map I have created for myself in my key drawing. The density of the lines will create different values.

When I was satisfied with both drawings I placed the plates in a vat of nitric acid. The acid eats away the metal only where my lines have exposed plate. The longer the plate is in the acid, the deeper the grooves beneath  my lines become.

When I was pleased with the depth of the grooves in my plates I removed them from the acid and removed the Hard Ground. I proofed the plate in order to see how the image turned out and check if there are things I want to change. I'm sorry I didn't take photos of the printing process, but I draw sticky ink across the surface of the plate, making sure that it is worked into the groves that the acid has eaten away. I then wipe the upper surface of the plate clean, place it on the bed of a press, place paper over the plate and crank the press. The bed of the press moves under a large cylinder that applies an even pressure across the plate and the paper on top of it, and the ink transfers to the paper.

I printed several proofs to see how the plates behaved and to get to know them. I spent time looking at the images and felt that I was off to a good start, but wanted to enrich the line work and refine the drawings a bit. So I again coated the plate with hard ground.

Looking at my proofs at the areas I wanted to further develop, I once again drew into the Ground to expose the plate.

The shine of the metal shows where I am enriching the line work.

The Whistlers Needle is a twisted length of metal that comes to a point on either end.

Here you can see the plates next to the proofs. Notice that they are the mirror  reverse of one another.  You can understand why if you envision that the print is a result of having been placed face down on top of the inked plate. Imagine the photo above folding in the middle and the 2 images come together like pages in a book.

Because plates are always backwards from the printed image, and printmakers are constantly working on plates to achieve an end product that a will be the reverse of what they see I'm pretty sure we are the least likely pool of people to ever suffer from Alzheimer's. We spend countless hours doing remarkable mental gymnastics keeping our synapses limber!

I touch up the edges of the plates to protect them from the acid. And they get another half hour  bath in the acid.

This time when I proof the plates I am satisfied with the drawings. However, I am not done. I plan to put a middle value behind the hands in order to create more depth. I will not use lines, but do an aquatint that will create an overall tone. I will protect the drawings by coating them with hard ground and then sprinkle rosin across the surface of the plate. I will then heat the plate so that the rosin melts into small dots stuck to the plate. When I again put the plate in the acid the open areas will etch all around the little dots of rosin and the surface will become pitted. The longer I leave it in the acid the rougher the plate will become, creating a deeper and deeper value as it will hold more ink.

That step will not happen until fall when I again have access to the magnificent print studio Vinita Vgood has created at Golden West College. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Giant Wood Cut

Over the course of the last month I've been designing and carving a wood cut that is 28x38 inches. I had never before produced a plate this large, in any technique, because my press won't accommodate anything larger than 22x30. Recently my printmaking tribe had a date on the calendar designated "steam roller day."  I decided to hop on it since I'm all about playing with different art challenges right now!

My subject is a reaction to our times. The division in our country breeds animosity in our communities and families. My wish is that we reach out kindly to one another and remember our countless connections. The power of listening, the calming quality of touch and the transformative effect of simple kindness can't be underestimated. Let's be nice to one another, we're in this together!  

Brace yourself, I took lots of photos of the long process of carving a large block and the unusual method of printing!

I began by doing a drawing of hands and then scaling it up to the size I wanted. I then attached it to my block. 

I had blackened the surface of the block with India Ink, and because of this I transferred the image by placing white Seral Paper between my drawing and the block and tracing all my lines.

Then the long process of carving began. I started with my areas of pure white. Now you can see the advantage of blackening the surface of the block, you instantly see your image emerging very clearly.  

Here I begin to carve my contour lines in the arms, keeping in mind value transitions. 

Now I move to the hands. 

And then the fingers to complete the subject.

Then I moved to lifting out a whole lot of wood in the background. 

Carving in my studio with my reference drawing at my elbow. 

And 57 podcasts later, the block was complete! 

I selected a block size that would just fit on the largest press in the extraordinarily well equipped Golden West Printmaking studio, so I was able run a number of prints before steam roller day.

I printed on fabric because it's cheap, colorful and I can sew a pocket for a dowel and hang the piece without the staggering expense of framing something this size. 

One day I printed in solid color fabrics, 

and another day I printed on patterned fabric. 

On steam roller day we set up an inking station where we all helped one another ready our blocks.

After placing them on top of sheets of plywood, covering them with our fabric, then 2 layers of padding the steam roller slowly rolled over 2 plates at a time. 

We then lifted the layers of blanket and foam 

then carefully lifted the imprinted fabric 

And we celebrated one another's magnificent images all day long. Smiles, giggles and pats on the back were everywhere.
In the foreground is our fearless leader, Vinita Vgood, who planned and choreographed the day perfectly, including the luxuries of a DJ and lunch!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gelli plate monotypes on black paper

I attended a workshop a while back that was lead by a representative from Golden paints.  I was interested in Geli printing and that was the main topic of the day. I've since stocked up on all the materials (Golden, your plan was genius!) and have hosted several groups in my my own studio. Gelli printing is a fantastic introduction to mono typing. And though it is easy,  fume free and easy to clean up, the basic additive and subtractive methods are the same as in traditional printmaking. And the results are quite lovely!

One of the advantages of the workshop was having access to loads of supplies that I don't keep in my own studio. In the case of these 3 prints I used Golden iridescent acrylic paints. The effect was very different than the standard spectrum of colors on white.

I thought I'd share, and encourage you to seek out a fun day of slopping paint, ink or clay around just for the sake of it.  You never know what you are going to discover! 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gelli Plate Printing

The process of mono typing on gelli plates is fast, easy and encourages experimentation and a certain amount of giggling. It is just what I wanted some months ago after emerging from a very focused several years of painting a specific subject matter in a specific style. I cleared the studio surfaces, invited friends in and began cutting stencils, rolling acrylic paint and generally making a mess.

Turns out it was just what the doctor ordered! Piles of leaves, ribbon, textured wall paper, the net bag my avocados come in, and anything textural that is flat enough to run through my press became covered in color. Each lent its magic to print after print, changing character time and again. 

This was done the week before Valentines Day, so of course I had to make a heart using a glue gun on wax paper to ink up and profess my love to the world!

Next week I'll share a few of the prints I made on black paper using metallic inks. They're weird and wonderful!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Getting Inky!

My drying rack is full again!

I haven't posted in months, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been making artwork! After wrapping up my residency in early December I dove into the comings and goings of the holiday season with gusto. We traveled, hosted and made merry all over the place. Mid January I finally stepped out of the social swirl (a bit thicker around the middle) cleared the wrapping paper, ribbon and assorted boxes of my studio table and decided it was time to start making some art again.

The first thing I did was welcome some art friends into my studio to play. I had been so quiet and solitary there for the past 3 years that it felt lovely to fill my space with chatty creative friends who took to mono typing and printing with gelli plates like ducks to water. Over the course of several sessions we had generated literally hundreds of bright, beautiful prints, and a new band of budding printmakers.

Approaching art more playfully for a while has been a delight. I have experimented with some different painting techniques and materials with no particular end result in mind. I have also dipped back into my love of printmaking,  joining a group of printmakers who work out of a remarkably well equipped studio overseen by Vinita Voogd at GoldenWest College. There I have enjoyed returning to my long standing love of etchings.  Technical and process driven, creating plates and editions is delightfully different from the painting I have focused on for the last 6 years.

In following posts I will show you the variety of prints and paintings I have been having fun with lately.
See you again soon! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Late Summer Volcan View

Late Summer Volcan View
18x24 oil on panel

This piece completes my 10 painting series examining the plant life on Volcan Mountain in Julian California over the course of the last year. In late August the grasses on the mountain have been bleached by the sun and and rustle in the hot breezes that move about the mountain. The grassy ridges and meadows seem to bounce the brilliance of the of the sun back to the sky. Light and heat seem to come from everywhere. 

Walking down the trail after the long hot hike to the 5,500 foot summit I was struck by this lovely long view up the westerly face of the Volcan Mountains. It's a timeless sight, a succession of ridge lines and valleys, habitats in large part still untouched. 

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to spend a year scrutinizing this beautiful environment under the sponsorship of the Marjorie and Joseph Rubenson Endowment for Art and Science of the Volcan Mountain Foundation. My lifelong love of the wild lands of Southern California has become a driving mission to preserve and protect wherever we can. As my knowledge and understanding of the the importance of wild spaces has widened, my commitment has deepened. The hard work of the Volcan Mountain Foundation is a gift to the future. It's fight to preserve and protect over 17,000 acres since 1988 has protected the headwaters of the watershed that feeds the San Diego Basin, and has preserved the incredible biodiversity of wildlife and wild lands.

The soul opens watching a hawk circle in an updraft, startling a doe and her fawns in a grassy meadow, hearing the throaty jumble of sound a wild turkey unleashes from it's perch high in a tree top, and knowing that all of us are carefully observed by a thriving community of mountain lions.
Knowing that the Manzanita, Oak, Cedar, grasses and shrubs move through their reproductive cycles, producing flowers, seeds, nuts and berries in an unending cycle of regeneration is deeply reassuring. It is in the natural setting that the continuum of time is felt as much as it is understood. 

We are forever in debt to those who combine conservationist though with sustained hard work to preserve and protect our natural world. I offer heart felt thanks to the Volcan Mountain Foundation for their exceptional good work, and to the Marjorie and Joseph Rubenson Endowment for the opportunity to develop paintings that express my gratitude for all the Foundation has accomplished.

I will present the series to the Volcan Mountain Foundation and their supporters at a fund raising dinner on December 2. It will move to the Julian Public Library, where I will conduct a "Conversation" about the paintings and the experience of being an Artist-in-Residence on December 3 at 10:30. The show will continue throughout December and then move down slope to the Ramona Library. The exhibition will continue to move down the watershed to San Diego. Specific dates to be arranged.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cedar Grove

Cedar Grove
Volcan Mountain
12x16 Oil on Panel

Roughly three quarters of the way to the 6000 foot peak of Volcan Mountain the trail plunges into a stand of Incense Cedars. For most of the year the deep shade is welcome, and at others the shelter these enormous trees offer is welcome when wind and rain descend on the mountain. In the hush that the trees and their feathery branches create, powerful trunks rise like ancient doric columns holding up the sky. Their erect and powerful presence is counterbalanced by curving branches and soft, feathery greenery. In late summer when pink and green immature cones nestled in the rich green arching right and left I couldn't resist making the scene the subject of a painting.

The completed painting is at the top of the post.