Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sugarlift Transformed

This print reflects the first state of a sugarlift plate that I did of the Hudson Palisades (for color version of final print see previous post, Hudson Line). I added aquatint and drypoint lines to the etched sugarlift plate before printing because I was too impatient to print the sugarlift alone knowing that I would take it further with aquatint.

I really like the painterly quality of the line that sugarlift yields. I admit that I have not used this technique extensively but I wish to do more. It seems fresher and more immediate than some of the more deliberate drawings that I have done on hard ground with a pin tool.
The second state of the plate still shows some of the sugarlift lines which I had wanted to keep visible but the trees and shrubbery surrounding the Palisades cliffs needed more depth as did the cliffs themselves. The plate for this print was overwiped in some areas but I knew that it was a trial proof and I was going to change the plate again so I didn't make another (better) print in this state.

This shows the third and final state of the plate. Unfortunately, the sugarlift lines are now barely visible but the additional aquatinted shadows add depth and more atmosphere to the print.

Even though the final print has pretty much hidden the original sugarlift lines, I am still a pretty big fan of sugarlift work and hope to post more in the future that retain the original painterly lines that are characteristic of sugarlift prints.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Etching techniques that I like - PART I

I've found that I love most printmaking techniques that I know but up until recently I felt more drawn to linocut and woodcut printmaking. It may be because I am a graphic designer and these techniques yield a more graphic image than etching and monoprint does. Or it may be the therapeutic way I can "zen out" when I am carving a plate.

Recently, though, I have been doing alot more drawing/sketching by working with line as a reflection of what I am seeing. Since etching lends itself to linework more expressively, I have been doing that almost exclusively and I discovered techniques that yield a unique quality to the print that I had been previously unaware of.

[*Alert* - I'm about to get very technical here so I hope this isn't boring]
The print above was created by first open-biting the plate which creates a bubbled texture on the surface of the plate. I used a litho crayon to draw the image directly onto the plate, without ground, and then open-bit it in acid. Then I created the second state of the plate by adding shadows and midtones with aquatint. The grainy and gradated value of the tones was achieved by a combination of the textured plate from the first state and by using a litho crayon as a block out for the acid during the aquatint biting process.

I like working this way and I plan to create more aquatints with this technique. But since I haven't done a woodcut in a while, I'm itching to go back to that as well. I've got a 3 wood plates just waiting for me to cut into at the studio. Maybe I'll do a 3-plate print since they are all the same size. Eh, we'll see what the muse has in store for me...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Motion and Energy

One of my challenges as an artist is trying to depict the energy that comes from a subject in motion. Releasing my line to flow with fluidity and abandon is difficult for me at best. It's such an alluring trap to tighten up as I draw and there is always the danger that by doing so I can suck the life right out of my drawing. But if I manage to stay loose and let my lines be expressive, I can sometimes relay the energy and movement that I see in my subject. Sketching regularly helps.

I envy people who can draw with fluid and energetic (and sometimes seemingly erratic) lines while maintaining the integrity of the subject's essence and likeness. I marvel at artists like Henrich Kley who use such an expressive line and depict motion with ink line drawings. His compositions are fascinating and sometimes disturbing but there is no mistake about his imaginative, strongly individual style and vitality that he brings to his drawings both loosely drawn or tightly rendered.

Another amazing talent, my friend and mentor, Bruce Waldman, has taken monoprint drawing to a level all his own. He is an amazing etcher as well and has work in many public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. I aspire to draw with as edgy a line style and as beautifully as he does.

Yeah, I'm working on it...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Hudson Line

The printmaking studio that I use is in New York City and I have to commute to get there using the Metro North train - Hudson Line. The ride is spectacular as the tracks stretch along the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Across the river are the Palisades, cliffs that jut out from the tree-filled hills that rise above the river. I've always loved the view of the Palisades cliffs and as I passed them while on the train, I would sketch them, trying to capture their magestic beauty as well as the quirky way they they thrust out from the the trees that surround them. I decided to use one of my sketches as a starting point for a sugarlift etching with aquatint. This was my first landscape etching and I was pretty pleased with it. It isn't accurate but I think it is recognizable.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the sugarlift etching technique. I love it because it allows you to use a painterly, flowing line in your etching, a quality that is difficult to achieve otherwise. The aquatint for this partcular etching has obscured the original sugarlift line and this print reflects the third state of the plate, but I hope to post some simpler versions of sugarlift in the future.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Books I want to have

As I mentioned in a previous post, Danny Gregory has come out with a book that I can't wait to get, An Illustrated Life, which includes sketch images from artists of all stripes and should be inspirational in addition to a feast for the eyes.

I have also come across a new book that looks very interesting, Exhibition 36: Mixed-Media Demonstrations + Explorations. A first book by Susan Tuttle, an artist living in Maine. She has come up with a very creative way to market her book and create buzz on the internet. Ms. Tuttle has launched a contest whereby bloggers who visit her site can have a chance to win a copy of her new book if they mention the book and contest on their blogs. And though that is an incentive for me to post about the book here, I am very interested in seeing what looks to be a beautiful book and another source of inspiration to draw from.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Digital Watercolor Painting

This is one of my holiday cards based on dogs that I've met at the dog park when I've been there with my dogs. It's called "Running through the Snow."

I paint digitally only when I'm looking for the immediacy of having the image in the computer to use for printing (such as a greeting card). The application, Painter, has a robust toolset that enables artists to "paint" in a variety of virtual "mediums." Painter simulates media from watercolor, oil, pastel painting to charcoal, ink and pencil drawings. The user can layer color as in real-life painting and can set the background texture to be as smooth as paper or as rough as canvas. The effects obviously do not replace the real thing in terms of tactile depth and texture (and to some extent, color), but one can create some interesting and compelling works using this program along with a graphics tablet.

My digital watercolors are mostly of dogs (and a few cats) that I use for greeting card designs. If you're interested in seeing more cards and perhaps purchasing some, please visit spiderink.etsy.com.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A note about sketching

Sketching is one of my favorite activities though I don't do it as often as I'd like (or should). There is something exciting about the spontaneity of the drawing regardless of whether a close likeness is achieved. In fact, the freshness and lack of meticulousness of the drawing can exude a magical quality that sometimes is missing in more labored and refined works.

I love to see other people's sketchbooks almost as much as (and sometimes more than) seeing their finished pieces. It is revealing and very personal to see how someone draws in "real time" on-site while the event or situation is happening. I find it infinitely more interesting when museum and gallery shows include drawings and sketches of the artists that are featured as well as their finished works.

There is a book that has come out that I am really looking forward to seeing. It's called, An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From The Private Sketchbooks Of Artists, Illustrators And Designers by Danny Gregory. Danny Gregory has written several books mostly dealing with the art of sketching and I am an avid reader and fan of his blog and several of his books. You can see his blog at http://www.dannygregory.com/.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This etching, titled "Begonia," was created using several techniques including aquatint. However the soft, muted branches in the background were done with the spitbite technique of painting with the acid directly on the plate with a brush. It's a nice way to get muted tones and/or subjects into your composition.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Blue Goat

Here is another painting from the farmers market show. This pregnant goat was in the cage with the pig (mentioned in a previous post). The sign above her read, "goat - $100." I worried about her fate as I did the pig in this urban setting. I named this painting "Blue Goat" for obvious reasons but also to reflect the mood of this terrible situation for this unfortunate being and her cagemates.

UPDATE - This painting is sold

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday's Opening

Here's a detail of one of four of my paintings in a local group show entitled, "Interpretations of a Farmers Market." This gentle pig is the same subject that I used for the aquatint etching previously posted. The pig was in a cage at the farmers market and I was struck by the fact that the pig and other animals in the cage (goat, chickens) were not given straw to lie down on and were subjected to grabbing by people surrounding the cage.  The animals were for sale and I couldn't understand why since the market is in an urban setting.  

I am awaiting photos from the opening and will post them when I get them. The opening was a success with quite a crowd buzzing through.  I find it interesting to see the different kinds of people who will come to an art opening. It seems to be a mix of artists, friends of the exhibitors, other gallery owners, local townspeople like the mayor, and, to a lesser extent, people who are looking to buy art.  

I often wonder what's going on in people's minds as they look at art and mull over what they see.  Sometime, if I'm lucky, an observer will volunteer his or her interpretation of my work. This is always thrilling to me, whether or not the interpretation is similar to my original intent or concept when creating the piece.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Milkweed Time

My sister and I headed upstate to the Rhinebeck area to see a friend's open studio as part of an open studio tour happening up there. It was great to see James and his wonderful studio and he helpfully guided us to other notable studios participating. One, in particular, was that of a glassblower who's work was reminiscent of Chihuly and his demonstration of how he works was really fascinating.

I had noticed while driving up to his studio that he had a magnificent stand of milkweed right at the edge of his property.  I took my camera and photographed as much of it as I could since milkweed is one of my favorite subjects.  I love how the seeds burst from the pod using the wind to help them escape and fly away to the wild beyond.

Above the photo is an example of a milkweed woodcut I did last spring.  I plan to experiment with some etching techniques using this subject for a series.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interpretations of a Farmers Market

My work will be in a group show, a mixed media exhibit,  "Interpretations of a Farmers Market" in Peekskill, NY at Gallery 25 N, 25 North Division Street.  The opening is October 25th from 2-6 pm.  Gallery hours are from 1-6 October 24-26 only. It's sponsored by Artists on the Loose, a local Peekskill art organization.

This very gentle and affectionate pig was in a cage at the market. I call this etching "Uncertain Pig" because he was for sale and I worried about his fate. 

Artist jumping in

After being a devoted blog reader (mostly political and art blogs), I am finally starting my own blog. I plan to post new works in printmaking and painting as I create them and I hope to get feedback that will help me grow as an artist. I am a painter and avid sketcher but currently most of my time is devoted to printmaking. I tend to get completely engrossed in my work when in the printmaking studio and the world and its troubles fall away. The whole process of creating a drawing and seeing the metamorphosis of it as I work through various printmaking techniques fills me with a deep satisfaction that seems so unique to this process.

I hope to use the blog to not only post my artwork but to discuss my exploration into the ways that art is made and how I hope it will be an ever expanding and enlightening practice. I also plan to try and clearly explain the different ways that I produce my print artwork for those who are interested and to learn from people who have used and/or experimented with similar or other processes.

Please offer your comments and questions and I will do my best to respond to them.