Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Three color stacked drypoint

I haven't posted in quite a while. The projects that I've been working on are large and have consumed more time than I had anticipated. I have 2 paintings, each 2x4 feet, that I have been working on for months and months, and I've been working on a 5 plate etching series that has taken the same length of time. I'm nearing completion on both projects, and look forward to soon sharing them here in my step by step way.

But I must confess, my life hasn't all been work. My 3 big art projects have been interrupted countless times in the last 6 months by marvelous trips. We've been called to northern Europe,  San Diego and Paso Robles for the weddings of family and friends and we've joined friends in Mexico and Hawaii. My heart is full, my head is swimming with new images but I find that it's hard to remain productive while living like the rich and famous!

In response to feeling a bit bogged down I popped off an experiment that I was interested in trying. In the past I spent years on a series of 3 color stacked mono prints, winding up focusing on head studies. I was interested in seeing what a 3 color drypoint, creating color and value using line rather than tone, might look like. 

I didn't belabor the development of the image or the drawings. I acted on impulse, and am quite pleased with the results!

This is the first plate, where I'm establishing warm yellow tones, and anywhere I want green or orange.
This is my second plate. Here I'm drawing line where I want pure red, orange or purple.

Here is a print of those two plates, the red printed over the yellow. I like what I see, but am surprised to see that I'm not getting many secondary color mixes.
Here is my third plate, establishing the deepest darks on the face and hair and creating the environment.

And here are all 3 plates printed on top of one another! I like the result and it's raw feeling. Playing with a new technique was really fun and a perfect antidote for my long and labored projects.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Salad Days

Fresh Picked #1
8x8 oil on panel

I've spent so much time in recent years looking closely at plant forms in both gardens and in the wild that the natural next step is to look at them in the kitchen, right? It occurred to me how beautiful the food we now routinely eat is, and I felt moved to record a few beautifully abundant salads. 

Fresh Picked #2
8x8 oil on panel

I grew up in the time of Tang and TV dinners. Fortunately my mother didn't believe in frozen dinners, but she sure did believe that the only trustworthy vegetables came out of a can. How lucky I am to have lived in California enjoying the produce of the Central Valley as cooks have made it a more central and satisfying part of our meals. Not only is our new cuisine delicious and nutritious, it stunningly beautiful!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Three Florals

Seeing Stars
8x10 oil on Panel

I have not been posting as regularly lately, and I have some catching up to do!

Living in Southern California this spring was a marvelous experience. Thanks to generous winter rains, spring burst forth like never before. Our gardens and parks produced beautiful displays that we hadn't seen in the long years of drought, but the true magic happened in our wild lands. Seeds long dormant drank just enough to rise up in all their glory transforming our arid hills and valleys into broad reaches of color. Many of the blossoming plants were ones I had never seen in my lifetime of wandering and watching.

Flora or Fauna?
8x10 oil on panel

This collection of little paintings, inspired by our explosive spring inspects the wild beauty of individual plants. As always, I am deeply moved by the extraordinary effort nature puts into reproduction. Each plant has developed unique pistils, stamen and petals in its drive to germinate. Endless shapes, colors and textures invite bees and birds to do their devine work of pollination. 

8x10 oil on panel

Spring's profusion of color and beautifully articulated shapes fills my heart. A fleeting display of such delicacy is a magic expression of both the fragility and relentless power of life. These beautiful little flowers plant wonder, hope and humility in my chest. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Drypoint Etching II

These are companion pieces to the seed pods I posted last time. Also 8x10, I created them using the same steps that I described in my past post.

The first print adding a blended roll. 

And the print using the ink remaining on the color plate. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Drypoint etching I

I made this series of 8x10 prints a couple of months ago, but never got around to sharing it, so here we go!
Above is a drypoint etching, a method of making groves in a plate that will hold ink by physically inscribing them. Rather than using nitric acid to etch a line into metal, a sharp tool is scratched across the surface of a plate to both create a grove and to raise a burr that will both hold ink. The modern day printmaker is fortunate to be able to use a plastic film called Duralar which allows crisp lines and the displaced material, or burr, withstands the pressure of the press for a good number of runs. The burr gives drypoint prints their characteristically soft line.

After printing 10 or 12 of the dry point seed pods and letting them dry for a week, I mixed 2 colors of ink and rolled out a "rainbow roll". This is the blending of 2 or more colors on a single roller. I rolled the colors across a smooth sheet of plexiglass that was the exact size of my seed pod line etching. I then placed the colorful plate over my drawing on a light table so that I could see the image through the newly inked plate and wiped away the ink from the areas where my line work was.

 When I had removed the ink from the color plate in the areas I wanted to remain untouched, I carefully placed the inked side of the plate down on one of the black and white prints and ran it through the press. The resulting print had crisp black and white plus an interesting graduated color that I found pleasing.

I ran a secondary print, a "ghost print", with the ink that remained on the plate. I placed the plexiglass once again over another of my black and white prints for a trip through the press to get a softer looking print.

After printing the ghost, I cleaned the small amount of residual ink from the plexiglass, rolled it once again and made my way to the light table to carefully wipe away ink for another two prints.

Each of the 3 has a very different feel and stand alone as variations. According to personality, taste or mood, people choose  which one is most appealing to them. I like them all, and simply enjoy the process of making them!

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!