Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My first semester in grad school

School turned out to be much more intense and demanding than I had originally thought it would be. I had hoped to keep an online diary of my progress on this blog throughout my grad school experience but I felt like I barely had time to sleep and eat, let alone do anything beyond the endless assignments required of my first semester.

I had expected more time to develop my ideas and explore new media such as lithography (an example of my latest lithograph is pictured above). And though I did learn how to create lithographs, I expect it will be a while before I will really feel comfortable enough with the medium to embrace it as fully as I do etchings and monotypes.

I am hopeful that the next semester and 2nd year of school will prove more flexible in allowing me to develop my work more independently as I had before I enrolled in this program. I also hope to be able to follow through on my resolve to discuss my new printmaking discoveries on this blog during the school year. It has been disappointing that I was unable to so this past semester.

So to all happy holidays and I will try to check in again after the new year if not before then.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

After a long while

10" x 6.5" lithograph

Sorry for the very belated post. My schedule has been insane and I've been struggling to fit sleeping and eating into my school schedule, so the blog was neglected for a bit. But I'm back, hoping to close the gap in between posts.

The above lithograph was my first attempt at this medium. I used a stone for this particular print and I must say that I like the texture and freedom to scratch back into the image when using a lithographic stone. I need to practice a bit to avoid the filling in of detail that happens frequently when etching the stone but I am attracted to the variation in tone that can be achieved using litho crayons and tusche.

I will post a more recent 2-color plate lithograph when I have it back from my professor, but I wanted to be posting again and I thought I'd use this one to get started.

I'm on a tight schedule and I do need to get back to work now, but I hope to record experiences at school in upcoming posts (sooner rather than later).


Sunday, September 5, 2010

First 2 weeks

I've just finished the first two weeks of my first semester in grad school and it's been a pretty intense time. It's been an big adjustment going from setting my own schedule as a freelance artist/designer to adhering to one that requires me to be in class 5 days a week and there late most nights of the week.

The exciting thing is that I am learning alot of new stuff. One project involves creating an installation that incorporates my printmaking work into the concept. This is quite a challenge since I've worked in 2D for most of my career with the exception of a few package design projects that came up here and there. My attempt to be an installation artist will be interesting, to say the least. I'll post pictures once the installation is up.

I'm also working on stencil, trace and watercolor monotypes. It's not the way I usually approach monotyping and perhaps it will launch new ideas and change the usual way that I work. So far it's been a bit challenging since I wasn't ever really attracted to these monotype methods before.

Lastly, I'm taking lithography for the first time. It's a lot to take in since we are starting with stone lithography which I understand requires more steps than plate lithography. But since I am an etcher and I embrace the process of working on a plate in many different states, I can appreciate the nuances to the steps required to prepare a lithographic stone. We'll see how the one I'm currently working on comes out.

So that's my update on what's been happening of late. Once I really get going with my work, I plan to post images and help chart my progress that way.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Altered Direction

"Altered Direction"
Monotype on Lama Li paper 

I'm to going to soon start graduate school in printmaking. This marks a big change in my career direction as well as my life. I'm going in as a non-traditional student due to my advanced years compared to my fellow grad students. It should be an interesting experience since the last time I was in college was in the mid-80s.

Even though I have a very full schedule, I will try to continue to post to this blog and offer insights as well as offer new-to-me techniques that I anticipate I'll be learning along the way.

I know that my posting schedule hasn't always been like clockwork and I guess that will continue with the new direction I'm going in my life. But I am dedicated to this blog and will try to post as often as I can. I think it may be interesting to offer it as a diary of a printmaking student for the next 2 years where my life will be going in a decidedly altered direction.

Happy creating!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone

Quick sketch from my visit to the Grand Tetons last week.

I visited Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons last week and it was really beautiful. The sky was cloudless during most of my stay there and the temperature rarely went above 73 degrees according to my rental car's thermometer. During the day the sky was bright blue and windy for a couple of days leaving me mercifully bug-free during the windiest of times on the trail.

I tried to visit as many places as I could during my week there and I took the opportunity to explore as many different hiking trails as I could discover. The terrain changes vastly from the Tetons up to Yellowstone where thermal areas seem everywhere. Hence the proliferation of geysers that draw the crowds (like Old Faithful). Below is a pic I took of the "Grand Geyser" which goes off every 8-9 hours or so. I was lucky to catch it when I did.

Grand Geyser, Yellowstone National park

I also saw alot of buffalo along the roadside as well as deer, antelope and even a wolf. It was good to see animals in their natural element and not harassed or imprisoned by self-serving humans.

On one of my hikes I saw a moose with her two calves and on another hike, an antelope being pursued by a coyote. The antelope came bounding out of the woods, up the hill from me and ran down the hill, crossed my path not 5 feet from me and then disappeared down the hill. By the time the coyote arrived at the top of the hill, the antelope was long gone and the coyote turned around after seeing that it was only me left on the hillside. It all happened quite fast and I had no time to take pix.

Buffalo along the road in Yellowstone

I loved taking long hikes away from the crowds and was able to do a 9 mile hike up into Cascade Canyon and back. The trailhead for the canyon was most easily reached by taking a ferry across Jenny Lake. It was a long and beautiful hike. Lots of waterfalls and this was where I saw the moose and her calves.

Waterfall along the Cascade Canyon trail

Cascade Canyon Trail

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another from the Primate Series

Monotype on Rives BFK

Here's another monotype from my primates-held-captive monotype series. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New Woodcut

Plate size: 13 1/4" x 12"

I am attempting to expand my printmaking focus and create more woodcut prints. One reason is that I love the way the wood grain comes through on the print. I also find the act of carving the wood very therapeutic, almost meditative. The wood also guides me, helping me with the direction that I take the work and I love aspect of the creative partnership with the medium.

I try to find discarded scrap wood, if possible, so that I can try to minimize my impact on the trees used for plywood, etc. It's not always easy or practical to do this but I think it's worth the effort to find scrap when and where I can.

I find that my approach to carving the wood is similar to my approach to creating aquatint etchings where I tend to use multiple strokes to add depth to the image. With etchings, I use a brush with stopout (both asphaltum-based and acrylic-based) to create the varied layers of tints. And with woodcuts, it seems natural to me to make the same type of marks with my carving tools. I'm not sure if this is the best approach to use for wood since it lends itself to yielding more bold and graphic prints than does etching. Yet, it seems that my style leans more towards the subtle and a focus on detail (unless I'm working on monotypes), so this comes through on my woodcut work as well as with my etchings.

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Long Ago

Digging through some boxes, I came across this note that I haven't seen in years but kept because it's part of a story that I always wanted to remember. When folded the front reads, "To the woman with the long brown hair on the parlor floor..." and the inside reads, "There's a duck in your backyard, this isn't a joke. Please take care of him." It's a story that partially inspired this etching entitled "Free."
Plate size: 9" x 6"
Aquatint Etching

Here's the story:
A very, very long time ago, I lived in Brooklyn, specifically Cobble Hill, in a strange 1-block neighborhood that was wedged between the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and the Hudson River. The block had been cut off from the rest of Cobble Hill in the 1950s when the BQE was built and it was part of a strange area on the waterfront that ran from Cobble Hill to Redhook where there was a mix of apartment buildings, brownstones, varied businesses and warehouses. I had regularly heard talk in the neighborhood about a poultry slaughterhouse that was among the warehouses near the river.

One day, I came home from work to find the note pictured above taped to the front door of the brownstone where I lived. I guessed that my reputation as an animal rescuer (I regularly rescued strays from the street) had reached beyond my circle of friends and subsequently resulted in this note being left on my door. Though I really didn't know anything about ducks.

I went into the backyard and sure enough there was a bird in my backyard, though not a duck, but a beautiful white goose that I assumed was an escapee from the local poultry slaughterhouse. I tried to approach her and she just kept moving away in fear, so I let her be.  I really knew nothing about geese either.

I went to the kitchen and looked for whatever vegetables I could find in the fridge and left them out for the goose hoping that something might catch her fancy. I realized that I was going to have to figure out how to take care of this goose properly so I searched for a place where I could buy goose food and other goose necessities. Not surprisingly, I could not find a store in New York City that supplied such things.

Though I was really guessing (there was no internet then to google "goose care"), I figured that I needed some hay and some goose food to start. I found an Agway in Connecticut and went on a road trip to get the needed staples and hopefully some sound advice about how to care for a goose.

Once I had the goose supplied with goose pellets and hay for a bed, I enlisted my friend to build a wooden "house" which as I far as I can tell was never used by the goose. I also had a kiddie pool which was a leftover prop from a photo shoot and I filled it with water which the goose immediately took to.

The goose never let me get near her but I liked to think she was happy splashing around in the kiddie pool, having her fill of goose pellets and settling happily in her mound of hay. But one day, after a couple of months had gone by, I came home from work and she was gone. My unemployed neighbor downstairs, who was home all day and who gave me daily goose reports, told me, "I watched as your goose just flew away."

I never saw the goose again but I wanted to believe that she flew to a nicer place away from the city where she was able to live out her natural life unmolested by anyone who would use her and/or do her harm. But I am not naive and I know that a domestic bird would probably not fare well out there in the raw city or even beyond if she got that far. Still, I wanted to imagine her flying and living Free.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another in a series

"Lab Animal"
Plate size: 15" x 11 3/8"
 Monotype on Rives BFK

This is another monotype that is part of a series that I'm doing on primates used for vivisection in the labs. My work on these monoprints has been difficult in two ways. Firstly, and more poignantly, I have to work through the anger and disgust that I feel at the scientists who torture primates, sentient and sensitive cousins to our species. And secondly, I have work through my learning curve in creating monotypes. 

I can see that I am getting better at this as I work, but it does get frustrating when they don't all come out as well as I'd like. Hence, the previous post on what to do when faced with that particular challenge. You may also want to read the comment that Aime Roman made on my last post. She offers some good advice about other media to use besides pastels on monotypes. 

And by the way, kudos to Aime for making the list of 50 Incredibly Inspiring Printmaking Blogs!

Friday, May 14, 2010

When It Doesn't Work

"Not Alarmed Yet"
Pastel on monotype, Rives BFK

There are times when monotypes don't come out the way you planned and that can be a good thing resulting in a "happy accident" where you end up with something both wonderful and unexpected. However, this is not always the case with some monotypes, sometimes they just don't come out well at all. So what to do?

I had been taking all my failed prints (monotypes, etchings, woodcuts, etc) and storing them in a drawer with the hope that I would figure out what to turn them into at some later time. Perhaps tear then up and make them part of collages or paint over them and see if there was any more I could get out of them. But the pile in my drawer just kept getting bigger until I decided it was time to dig in and see what I could do with my failed prints.

I started experimenting with mediums that work on top of Rives BFK (the paper I use most for printmaking) and which will work on top of the oil-based inks that I use for my prints. I pulled out my pastels and started playing with layering color lines on top of one of my monotype ghost prints (a second print from a monotype plate that has already gone through the press once). I have been working towards loosening up my drawings and I thought I'd practice a bit with the pastel lines on this monotype. The result is what you see above. A loose pastel drawing that has a monotype "underpainting." I still need to work on this and I suspect I'll improve with practice, but I kind of like the effect that's achieved by using this technique. It also gives me hope that I will finally be able to do something with those "failed" prints stacking up in my drawer. I might have some future successes just waiting to be discovered in that stack.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How I Create Monotypes (usually)

 "Nowhere to Hide"
 Plate size: 10" x 8"
 Monotype on Rives BFK

Amie Roman let me know about great idea by Carol Nunan over at Horsley Printmakers. Carol has a post on her blog, Carol's Original Prints, asking printmakers to post their techniques for creating monotypes and monoprints. Amie has a great post about how she creates monoprints, please go check it out. Also, you should take a look at the work of Bruce Waldman who creates monotypes by drawing with the edge of his brayer (among other techniques). Bruce is an incredible artist and was the first one who taught me how to do monotypes. Amie had a great post about Bruce where he describes his way of working which you can see here.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here's my humble contribution:

I create monotypes using oil-based litho and/or etching inks. Oil-based inks give me alot of "open" time (several hours) in which to work into the ink before it dries. Using a brayer, I completely cover a plexiglass plate with ink until I achieve the density of color that I am looking for. I can moderate how opaque or transparent this ink layer is at this stage by controlling how much ink I apply to the plate. It helps to hold the plate up to the light to see how much ink coverage I have before I start creating my image. This is one of the advantages to using plexiglass for your monotype plate rather than metal or other opaque material.

Next, I use any number of tools to remove the ink from the plate. This process is referred to as the "reductive" method of creating a monotype. My tools include paper towels (made of recycled paper), cotton swabs, fabrics of different textures, brushes and anything else that I can find that will leave an interesting impression in the ink. But I'd say the tool I use most is a paper towel piece wrapped around the tip of my finger.

After I finish creating the image, I hold the plate up to the light since the plate is transparent and the light that comes through gives me a more accurate "read" on how the plate will ultimately print onto the paper. I see a big difference between the way the plate looks on the glass table I work on and when I hold it up to the light.

The final step is to create my print by running it through my etching press. I use pressure that is light enough to transfer the ink to the paper without mushing and spreading the ink and heavy enough to emboss the paper with the edge of the plate as with an etching.

As I've mentioned in previous posts here and here, I find this method of working addictive. I encourage anyone with an interest to get started as soon as possible. I predict you'll never want to stop.

Happy creating!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dealing with Vivisection

 "Vivisection Victims #809,689,432 & 3"
Plate size: 18" x 24"
Aquatint Etching

Keeping with themes that define my work and that mean the most to me, I am working with an issue that invariably cuts to the heart of how misguided and immoral we can be as humans. I am specifically referring to vivisection, torture of animals in the name of science. The word "vivisection" literally means "the action of cutting into or dissecting a living body."

Non-human animals are so completely at our mercy that they become easy victims of a multi-billion dollar industry that profits from and justifies its horrific practices by using the defense that it is all done for the good of humanity. I find it ironic that one of the practices that turns humans into monsters, vivisection, is referred by some as necessary and good, proclaimed as something done in service to all.

I have nightmares after seeing hidden videos of what goes on behind closed doors in animal laboratories. It's amazing that we're into the 21st century and these barbaric practices that date back to ancient times still exist and constitute a profitable business for corporations, universities, animal dealers, cage and food manufacturers, animal breeders and transporters and scientists receiving grants.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that "crush videos" are legal. I am compelled to make a declaration of my own. Cruelty in all its forms needs to be prohibited and not promoted in any civilized society of humans.

You may be familiar with the quote by Gandhi:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." 
Or this quote by George Bernard Shaw:
"The Anti-Vivisector does not deny that physiologists must make experiments and even take chances with new methods. He says that they must not seek knowledge by criminal methods, just as they must not make money by criminal methods. He does not object to Galileo dropping cannon balls from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa; but he would object to shoving off two dogs or American tourists."
I just couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monotype Addiction

Plate Size: 8" x 10"

When I just want to get into my studio and work spontaneously I've been turning more and more to monotypes to get my creative juices flowing. I find the work addictive since it's such a fast and satisfying way to produce a print. It's also a way that I can quickly experiment with different ways to ink the plate and helps give me ideas for other printmaking media. 

I also find that I can be much more emotionally expressive with my monotypes. My work is based on an empathy with non-humans and I feel it's important for the personality and energy of the subject to come through. Monotypes are so much more spontaneous for me than painting and it's obviously much more in the moment than etching.

The above monotype is part of a series that I am working on about the plight of animals in zoos, circuses and laboratories.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kiki Smith's Intaglio Processes

MoMA has a very short video featuring Kiki Smith working on a copper plate using a spit bite method. Here's the link: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2003/kikismith/flash.html, click on "Process" and then you get to the video by clicking on her Come Away From Her (after Lewis Carroll) image.

The "Process" section also includes other works including a state-by-state image gallery of Smith's development of Falcon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sugar Lift

I came across a video by master printer, Emily York at Crown Point Press. It explains aquatint and sugar lift processes pretty clearly and succinctly. If you are interested in a primer on sugar lift etching, this is worth a look.

I had mentioned in a previous post, one of my plates where I used sugar lift and then aquatinted over it completely obliterating my original sugar lift image. However, I think it's worthwhile to look into for all of you who are looking for a way to be more painterly with your etching plates.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Z-Acryl Polyester Litho Plates

Back in March of last year, I posted some info on Pronto plates and mentioned a demo by Mirka H. on printing from Z-Acryl plates which are similar to Pronto plates. Well, Mirka H. has a new post up with some great added info based on testing she's done on Z-Acryl plates as well as close-up images of some of the prints based on her tests.

So, if you're interested in this process, check out her new post on what she's discovered using different materials to mark up her plates and how effective her results were. Her blog is at http://www.mirka-h.blogspot.com/.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Etching

Typical Day at the Circus
plate size: 18" x 24"
aquatint etching on Rives BFK

This is one of the latest etchings I've done. It was a big plate and a bit more difficult to aquatint and get the tonality that I was trying to achieve in some areas but after a few etching states, I finally got the depth and atmospheric tone I was going for.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Non-Toxic Etching

For all of you printmakers out there, I've been doing some research on non-toxic (or much less toxic) etching techniques that I can do in my studio without needing to install an exhaust system.

I came across NontoxicPrint.com and they outlined a way to etch zinc plates (which I use) without nitric acid and the toxic fumes it emits. You can actually etch zinc, aluminum and steel in a mixture of copper sulfate, table salt and water.

So, I decided to do a test and etch a small zinc plate (6" x 3") with a 50/50 mix of copper sulfate and regular table salt (not iodized). See print above. The solution was a small amount -- 1L hot water mixed with 200ml of the powder mixture (100ml copper sulfate and 100ml salt).  I used an old plate that had hard ground on it from a long time ago and didn't bother to reground the plate before I drew into it (hence the messiness of the lines and the bitten edges from old ground flaking off). I had no idea how much time would be needed so I sectioned the plate off into 15-minute increments except for the first 10 min section.

What's interesting is that copper sediment forms at the etched areas much the same as bubbles form when the plate's in nitric acid. So you need to brush off the sediment in the same way as the bubbles. I didn't brush anything off during the etch because I wanted to see what would happen. I did, however wipe off the sediment each time I took the plate out to cover a section for the next etch. And in doing so, I inadvertently removed some of the old hard ground so there are some foul bitten areas around the marks in some areas.

For the next test I'm going to use the acrylic, waterbased ground (Z-Acryl) and see how that holds up to this process. It looks like this process etches in about the same time as nitric acid and there are no harmful fumes in the air during etching. So an exhaust system isn't necessary and (yay) I can etch in my studio fume-free.  The solution is considered a marine pollutant as it is toxic to water wildlife and needs to be disposed of properly (NOT down the drain), yet according to NontoxicPrint.com:
The left over copper residues from the etching process are a valuable resource. You may well be able to find a local recycling firm that actually pays for your etching residues - a substantial part of these is solid copper. Or, with the addition of sodium bisulfate to the etching residue you may actually be able to reclaim the solution a number of times.
So, there you have it. No more need to handle deadly nitric acid when there's a much safer way to etch. And NontoxicPrint.com has recipes for solutions to etch copper and brass as well (amongst other non-toxic printmaking techniques).

UPDATE: I've updated the links for nontoxicprint.com since one wasn't working at all and the others didn't direct to the relevant page.

NOTE: There is a comment below from an anonymous commenter who explains a chemical reaction between copper-sulfate and salt. Since I have no chemistry background, I cannot verify whether or not this information is accurate. However, please note that there is always a risk involved in using and mixing chemicals that you are not familiar with. Please use caution and get as much information before-hand when using all etching methods whether they are considered traditional or "non-toxic." I find that nontoxicprint.comZea Mays, and others are good resources to look into for comprehensive information on non-toxic etching as well as other "greener" printmaking materials and techniques.