Monday, December 28, 2009

New Monotypes

"Taken," plate size 6" x 9"

“Awaiting Their Fate," plate size 10" x 8"

"Dairy Cow II," plate size: 28” x  20”

I have been experimenting with monotypes and I find the process pretty addictive. I work on a plate from anywhere between 1 and 3 hours (depending on the size of the plate) and I get a unique print with qualities that I can't achieve any other way. Also, it's a such an enjoyable way to draw. I use mostly the subtractive method, utilizing things like paper towels and cotton swabs to remove ink from the plexiglass plate. This helps yield expressive strokes in the highlighted areas, adds textural qualities in shadowed areas and shows the drawing process with every streak and lightly inked area created with these soft, blunt tools. I can also manipulate the ink on the plate with my fingertips to form the shadowy figures that I tend to include in my compositions.

These monotypes have been a great break from the rigors of the intense and detailed work that goes into my etchings. And the satisfaction of pulling prints so quickly makes this a seductive way to work. I also plan to experiment with monoprints where I hope to combine the expressive effects of monotypes with the fine linear work of etchings. This is a yet another thing about printmaking that is so appealing: one technique leads to another and then to a combination of those processes and on to more discoveries down the road. Printmaking never fails to light up my mind with creative possibilities.

Friday, December 11, 2009

From the Inside

"Interiors," a group show presented by the Flat Iron Gallery that is hanging at the Upper Gallery of the Paramount in Peekskill opened last night. The etching above is included in the show. It depicts a recurring dream I had as a child and fit the theme of the show nicely since it reflects my interior mind and is staged in an interior. It was a good thing this piece was finished when I was invited to contribute to the show since it is the only one that I've done that literally fits the theme.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jacob Ram

My solo show came down today and I thought that as a celebration of a successful run, I'd post a drawing from the show. This is a magnificent ram of the Jacob Sheep breed. I loved photographing and drawing him as well as his little son. His son was featured in a couple of previous posts here (with mother) and here (scroll down for photo).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mexican Prints

I just discovered a cool ephemera blog that has many vintage photos, drawings and prints. Check out the latest post of vintage Mexican prints at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Etching Series

I've been working on an etching series featuring animals being stalked by human shadows alluding to the deadly fate that they face daily in the human world.

By experimenting with textures and different acid resists I was able to achieve the eerie atmosphere in the prints that define the series.

This series was created with a mixture of effort to tap into my most gut-wrenching feelings about the plight of non-human animals in a human world as well as hints of satisfaction that I am finally dealing with political issues in my artwork that deeply matter to me.

It's not always easy to deal with deeply emotional and/or political issues when my muse is calling but again it's not very satisfying for me to skip lightly on the surface with little to say about what's down deep. I wonder how many other artists deal with this struggle.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post has been running a series of articles on a new book by Jonathan Safran Foer
called Eating Animals. As Huff Po contributor, Dr. Andrew Weil, puts it, "Foer makes it clear that factory farming is the exceptional human activity that debases and destroys everything it touches: land, people, communities, and most of all, the innocents at the nexus, animals."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Solo show coming up

I realize it's been a while since I posted but I've been getting ready for a show coming up which has kept me pretty busy. I'll be showcasing a new print series of etchings along with some of my drawings and paintings. The show starts next Sunday, September 27 and runs through to November 14. If you're in the Peekskill, NY area, please come to the opening on Saturday, October 3 from 3-6pm at the BRC Gallery at the Bean Runner Cafe, 201 S. Division St, Peekskill.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eyes Void of Hope

I've been experimenting with textures in my aquatints and the results can be surprising and interesting. I used a burlap texture for this subject, a cow who spends her days with her head locked in bars that do not allow her to turn around, move very much at all. Her eyes are truly void of any hope, or light, or anything beyond her misery.

UPDATE: For a good article on the plight of farm animals in the U.S. look at this in The Atlantic.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony with the Mayor

We had a great day at Brown Street Studios. The Mayor of Peekskill, Mary Foster, officiated the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new building sign. The pic above is of John Ford (the building owner) and me cutting the ribbon. Mayor Foster is on the left and the people surrounding us are mostly the rest of the artists at Brown Street Studios.

After the ceremony, we invited everyone up for a tour of our studios and had the studios open to the public for the rest of the day. We had a steady flow of people come through and the day was very successful.

I spent most of Friday cleaning up my studio and so my husband, Rocky, decide to document "the clean" by taking pictures. This is about as clean as my studio has been in a long time:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Silk Aquatint

I just took a silk aquatint workshop with Kathy Caraccio and it was a great experience. The technique uses only water-based mediums to create the plate and was printed with Faust AquaLine water-soluable inks. It was great fun and a more eco-friendly and inexpensive alternate to traditional aquatint techniques. I should say though, the results of working on this kind of plate differ greatly from the effects you get with traditional aquatints. It will be interesting for me to experiment with this technique and see what I can do with it when I find the time to do so.

The image above is a 15" x 20" plate that I made in the workshop. Kathy says that up to 250 impressions can be made with this type of plate. I plan to experiment with ink colors and transparencies to get the most out of the grey tones from the plate.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Etching with Z*Acryl

I did a test plate using the water-soluble hard-ground, Z*Acryl. I just freehand sketched this goat kid onto the plate feeling out the differences between the way the etching needle cuts into the Z*Acryl hard ground versus the traditional asphaltum-based hard ground. I found that in the areas where my hand was light, the point "skipped" yielding a dotted line. Yet, overall the line was even and thicker than my lines are when using traditional grounds.

In the spirit of fully testing the Z*Acryl products on one plate, I did the aquatint version using the Z*Acryl stop-out. The brush-strokes didn't "spread" the way they can when using traditional hard ground as a stop out. Even when hard ground is mixed with asphaltum to thicken it up, it still is tough to control brushstrokes sometimes. So, there was an advantage to using the Z*Acryl stop out in this regard. However, the Z*Acryl stop-out is a green color that wasn't easy to see on a zinc plate.

I plan to do more experiments with these environmentally-friendly, water-soluble mediums but unfortunately I can't say that I'm ready to give up traditional hard ground yet. There's still nothing like it that I've come across.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Open Studios

After a long process of internal deliberations, town approvals and the actual physical creation of it, the Brown Street Studios sign was finally installed above the door just in time for Open Studios.

The weather was beautiful and we had a steady stream of visitors all weekend. Most of the artists in the building had their studios open and there was a festive feeling in the air as we came together to support each other and direct visitors to each other's studios. There are alot of great artists in this building and I feel privileged to be part of this talented group.

This year was the first time that I opened my door for open studios from my new space which I have occupied for a bit less than 2 weeks. I love the new studio and this weekend it provided a nice "gallery" for visitors to come in see the art. But more importantly, I have a much better layout and more space to do my work.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sketching at the Farm

I've been going to the local farm alot lately sketching new subjects and compositions for upcoming work. It's an exciting time there now since it seems all the animals have had children and these babes are running all over the place.

And I love to visit the donkeys who are always so expressive in their body language and are usually pretty active. The larger of the two donkeys walked over to a spot in front of me and plopped down on the ground there. He then put his head down and looked at me in a way that was reminiscent of the way my dog lies down and watches me to see what I'm going to do next. It's an endearing pose and I was inspired to capture it in this sketch.

Usually I use Micron pens and watercolor since that is the most portable but lately I've been using pen and ink for sketching. It's not as convenient to schlep the ink bottles and pen nibs/handles but I love the feel of the pen tip gliding on the paper with very little drag. The Micron pens don't move as smoothly on the paper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Experimenting with Monoprinting

Sorry for the temporary lapse in posting here, folks. Tons of crazy and frantic stuff going on in Spider Ink land. I just finished designing and organizing the production of a new building sign for Brown Street Studios where I have my studio in Peekskill. I think it's going to look great once it's up, hanging under it's bracket, but alot of work went into getting the town permits as well as the color-corrected printout which is being used for our sign.

After being laid up with a bad back, I'm about to move to a bigger studio (my back is groaning at the thought) and get it ready for Peekskill Open Studios on June 6. I'm also going to teach a new etching class which I am looking forward to but has required alot of preparation and set-up since it's the first time in a long while that this class is being offered at the Garrison Art Center. Added to work and my other daily obligations, it's been pretty hectic and stressful. To pile on, my mom's in critical condition in the hospital. It's alot of physically and emotionally draining stuff, but the art helps keep me focused and navigates me back when I'm feeling lost and overwhelmed. So, in my quest to keep my restless and worried mind occupied, I started experimenting with monoprinting.

It's kind of fun and frustrating, spontaneous and deliberate, versatile and rigid. All the contradictory combinations that make experimenting with it seem like you'll get somewhere if you keep at it. I need to practice a bit but the print above is an initial attempt. It kind of forces me to be less detailed, more general in my rendering. I used the edge of the brayer to render the contour lines so I didn't have as much control as I would using a brush. But I like the line that the brayer makes. The energy of the rendering almost feels like it's moving since multiple lines run over each other and the mixture of positive and negative contour lines has potential in my mind.

I also printed a ghost (second, lighter) print of the lamb and decided to "paint" over it with oil sticks. The oil sticks were easier for me to make direct marks than the brayer edge and I was able to add more detail. The added control tightened up the drawing somewhat and I'm not sure that's really what I wanted to do. I always seem to gravitate in that direction, though. Additionally, the oil sticks are really too oily for this purpose and the oil seeped through the paper. What do you think? Any suggestions about working over a print to enhance it? This inquiring mind would love to know.

UPDATE: Here's the reference photo. He's got such personality, I find him irresistible. But as always, I worry for his future. It can't be good being an animal on a farm.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Multiple Plates

I've been playing around with multiple-plate etchings and it's an interesting process that yields interesting results. There are many printmakers that use this process to register intricate work with aquatints, overlaying color fields to create new colors from the overlapping colors.

For me this process is a way to experiment with multiple plates each done with a different etching technique, to yield overlapping and varied textures rather than focusing on complex color mixing. The print above was created with 2 spitbite plates and a softground key plate. I like the effect of the spitbite with the linear drawing of the softground plate.

As usual, printmaking leads me on paths to all kinds of experimentation and sometimes I wonder if I will end up settling on one technique for all my work. But, I hope not.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Working through it

There's been alot of things going on in Spider Ink land and it's been tough to squeeze everything I want and need to do in between everything I have to do. Sometimes when the schedule gets crazy like this I have to find a way to carve time out when I can just create in the studio and shut everything else out for a while. The problem is that my muse doesn't always show up on schedule and the creative juices that were flowing freely one day might not be there the next when I've got the time to do my artwork. So what's an artist to do? Well, as a good friend advised me, you've got to just work through it.

My way of working through my creative slumps is to take a huge sheet of paper and do a large charcoal drawing or sketch. Standing at an easel in front of a 3 foot piece of paper helps loosen my arm and I use my whole upper body to move and create the marks on the page. It gives me an uninhibited freedom to get the ideas flowing again. And the charcoal never ceases to make beautiful and interesting marks. It works like magic on me, I feel transformed and back in the "groove" again.

The reclining sheep above was one such drawing. I have since used this drawing to make a soft ground etching which I will post later once I have the print finished. I'm planning to make it a 2-plate print and I'm very excited about how this is turning out so far. In my future related post I plan to discuss my process in creating the 2-plate print using soft-ground and spit-bite.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pronto plates and Z-Acryl

A friend of mine, fellow painter and printmaker, Kevin Kall, sent this link to me and I thought I'd share. There is a wonderful video demonstration by Mirka H showing printing process with a Z-Acryl plate. I just wish there was a closeup image of the final prints made. I am curious about this process since it allows one to make lithographic prints on an etching press and with a lot less complexity in preparing the plate then with traditional lithography. I haven't tried this myself but I'd be interested if anyone who has would like to leave a comment and/or more links related to this process.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Etching techniques that I like: Part III (or yet another use for the litho crayon)

For this Hudson River landscape, I used a technique that Bruce Waldman (check out Amie Roman's great post on Bruce over at Burnishings) showed me that involves drawing with a litho crayon directly onto the plate (without a ground coating). The plate is then open bit and the image comes through the texture of the crayon's marks.

As I've said before, I love the freedom and freshness of the mark that comes from using a litho crayon. It is conducive to creating bold and loosely drawn images that have been traditionally uncharactistic of etching printmaking. I find it especially useful when drawing landscapes where the subjects don't require too much detail and can benefit from the "life" of the line.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Etching techniques that I like-Part II

I don't believe that I've discussed soft-ground techniques before, but it's fast becoming one of my favorite ways to etch a plate. I've spoken about the use of litho crayons in etching in a previous post as well as my penchant for sketching and I'd like to expound further on how useful I find litho crayons (and pencils) to be on a soft-ground plate. The above etching was created that way. Though it's rough and I will be working further on this plate and will add color, I like the way the freshness of the line and the immediacy of sketchwork is evident. And using a zinc plate can make a "dirtier" print than a copper plate which also adds to the feeling of a rough sketch.

The way I created the plate is that I drew the image on vellum while it was on a zinc plate so that the litho crayon's marks would be seen in the exposed parts of the plate when etched. I love the freedom of line and the variety of tone that the litho crayon yields when drawing with it. It allows me to "sketch" on a plate more expressively than when I use other tools for that purpose. I also find that if I decide to aquatint the plate in the next stage and fill in subjects with tones, the outlines disappear and the effect is more seamless looking.

I'd love to hear from people who use tools in the etching process that were designed for another purpose entirely. I am such a fan of experimenting with different acid resists and ways to manipulate the process to yield results that are unusual for etching prints. I'm experimenting right now with sharpies as an acid resist and I hope to post more about that soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A new acquisition

I just acquired an etching press last week and I am printing to my heart's content without having to be at the mercy of printmaking workshop hours and lines waiting to use presses.

It is taking me some time to figure out how to set up my studio in a way to make the printmaking process go as efficiently as possible. But I am well on my way to getting it all down and hopefully, I will start creating editions (and unique prints) with the ease and speed that I could never achieve in a public workshop. While I am in the midst of this studio transition, my posting to this blog may be a bit sporadic in the coming weeks. But I plan to be posting regularly after that with new work and new insights into the processes I am currently exploring as well as the ones I have yet to discover.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Experimenting with brayers

I'm planning to get more involved with monoprinting and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of effects I can get just by using a brayer loaded with color. I had started a bit of this while working on some woodcuts (as seen with the gourd print) and I am fascinated with the process of combining monoprint painting on a woodcut plate as well as on the customary plexiglass plate.

My friend and mentor, Bruce Waldman creates amazing monoprints with a variety of textures and techniques but he draws the images with the edge of his brayer. The line is so expressive and there is movement and energy in every one of his monoprints. I have been awed by the mastery, spontaneity and strength of the lines in Bruce's monoprint work and when he told me that it was done with the edge of a brayer, I was amazed and inspired.

The thought of the use of brayers to draw and make marks on a plate has opened up many possibilities for future work in my mind. Not just for working with brayers but for using all kinds of tools to create textures and lines even if that was not what they were originally designed for. It is yet another example of how versatile and flexible printmaking is. The seemingly endless possibilities lead to yet more possiblities. So much to try, so little time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Iced in

We had quite the ice storm Tuesday night into Wednesday resulting in us being stuck home for the day. I sometimes like to be home safe and warm while I watch a winter storm doing its thing outside, especially if it's snowing. But that wasn't the case on Wednesday, it was all ice and all day long we heard trees and branches crashing outside in the many wooded areas in our neighborhood. We sadly lost 3 trees in this storm and I hope that caps it. The ice today has not yet melted from the trees and it's started to snow so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Though I had alot to do yesterday and it was obvious that I wouldn't be able to go out and do it, I decided to serve my muse instead and took out my camera to record the beautiful and deadly weather outside. It was also a good day to delve into my recently neglected sketchbook. It's so nice to have the time to indulge in sketching and recording the day when you aren't in a hurry to get somewhere. It's a reminder that, as an artist, it's important to take the time to stop and look, really look, at what's going on around you.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Telling a visual story

I have mentioned the importance and the joy of sketching in a previous post. But I'd like to go further and talk about how a drawing can tell a story about what was going on that day in the form of a sketch or as seen in this post, a woodcut print.

I like to use panels when creating my print plates to suggest a story, a context, for what the resulting print is to be about. Each panel represents what was seen and what has become the inspiration for the piece of artwork. The panels relate to each other since they include elements that are as much a part of the environment as the main subjects are.

I like to go down to the Hudson River in the spring and summer where there are many species of birds in the marshlands that line its shores. Red-winged blackbirds are very common in this area and I have found that they exhibit such strong and sometimes amusing personalities as they squawk at each other and fly from tree to tree or dive after some insect they've seen from their perches. One day, watching them, I was overcome with the power of their beauty and life force. I wanted to try and capture this when I went back to the studio to work on my woodcut.

It's always great when one sees something that inspires in a simple way, just by existing and being. I try to stop and appreciate the common things that surround me and if I'm lucky, my muse whispers in my ear when it seems it is a good time to sit and draw what I see.