Saturday, November 26, 2011

Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop

I do most of my etching work at the wonderful Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop (RBPMW) on 39th street in NYC. The top photo is me at RBPMW working on one of my latest etchings. The photo underneath is also at RBPMW and shows a view of two of the Charles Brand presses, artist Beth Sutherland working on one of her etchings, and beyond her is the aquatint box and door to the acid room.

Over at Tom Cathey's blog he has a post about his visit to RBPMW which features shots of the workshop, including one of Beth's prints in the drying rack and a photo of me describing my process to botanical artist, Mindy Lighthipe and artist, Patricia Wynne. It was a pleasant surprise to see Mindy there as I hadn't seen her since my days at the botanical garden in 2003, training to become a botanical illustrator (a short-lived dream of mine back then).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Fine Art of Polemic Politics

"Title Page" Sandow Birk first came to my attention a few years ago when I was introduced to his woodcut series, The Depravities of War, in a book by the same name.

 I just read an article about a new project where he and his wife, artist Elyse Pignolet created two maps of the world, one from an American, politically conservative point-of-view and another from an American, politically liberal point-of-view. I had a few chuckles reading their maps.

Here's a link to the article I saw online at the Huffington Post. And also there's a great post about it over at the New American Paintings blog.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carrier Pigeon Magazine

Monotype, © 2010, Elana Goren

My work (including the monotype, "Scream" seen above) is featured in the current issue of Carrier Pigeon Magazine which is celebrating its 1st Anniversary! Stop by the reception for the 1st anniversary exhibition on November 18th (see detailed info above) and check out this beautifully crafted magazine and some of the original works that have been featured in Carrier Pigeon during this past year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

White Ground Experiment

Cattle Car
Etching, 9" x 6"  © 2011, Elana Goren

This was a test plate where I mixed different techniques together to see what effects I could get: strong hatched lines mixed with the crayon aquatint as well as white ground effects. I usually don't do alot of crosshatching and rarely combine this with my usual aquatint tonal shading but since I was experimenting here I wanted to see what would happen. The jury is out on whether I want to do more with it, perhaps if the subject/composition dictated more expressive hatched linework, but for now I am much more interested in what happened with the white ground.

I used alot of water when applying the white ground. In fact, I wet the areas on the plate where I wanted to apply the white ground and then let the ground swirl around in the water as it was drying. I had to let go of any notion of control over where the ground will be thickest and thinnest in the watery swirls but I found this to be a general feature of white ground that I like, yielding results that are surprising, unexpected. The resulting smoky, hazy atmospheric effect came from repeated applications of the white ground in the same manner in between etches.

White ground is a bit tricky, there are so many factors involved in how it will yield results you are looking for. The formula used to create it will determine if it's more pigment-heavy or more soapy which in turn determines how it responds to water and after plate application, to the acid itself. I used a recipe from the book Etching, Engraving and Other Intaglio Printmaking Techniques, by Ruth Leaf. It's a great recipe for ground that can be stored in a jar and activated easily with a wet brush each time you need to use it. 

If you are interested in white ground or any other etching techniques, please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I am still experimenting with white ground and I welcome insights from others who have used this. I hope to post more about it in the future as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Upcoming in October

Got some upcoming shows if you are in the New York metro area. See calendar on the the right for more details.

From October 15 until October 25, I'll have work in a show at the Sacred Gallery which highlights artwork contributed to Carrier Pigeon Magazine. Some of my work is included in the upcoming issue 4 of Carrier Pigeon. 

From October 16 until October 29, my work can be seen at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop member show.

And from October 22 until November 19, there will be a show of my work at the Field Library in Peekskill (see invite above).

I'll be posting some thoughts on white ground techniques in my next post, but unfortunately right now I've gotta run. Please come to any/all of the shows above if you are interested.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Dangers of Auto Pilot

For the Kids
etching on paper, ©2011 Elana Goren 
12" x 18"

Above is the second state of an etching that I had been working on for months (not continuously but I started this back in April). I decided that the shadows under the truck needed deepening and I figured this would be a quick finale to a long process of working on this plate.

Since I don't have an etching set up in my studio, I need to etch at one of the several printmaking studio/workshops that I use in New York City. To prepare ahead of time, I applied the resist directly to the plate at my studio so that I could bring it to the etching workshop to coat with rosin for aquatint and then, etch. It was a great time-saving plan, except that it's not the way I usually work. I almost always coat the plate with rosin first and then cover it with resist.

So, I went to the workshop, saw the usual crowd and chatted with my fellow printmaking buddies and then did several rounds of etching the plate in the nitric acid (zinc plate). But at some point I realized that there was something very, very wrong with the plate. It wasn't until it was way too late that I realized that I had neglected the crucial step of coating the plate with rosin for aquatinting. I had disastrously ruined my plate by not paying attention to what I was doing and relying on my own little auto pilot who was used to applying resist-coating to plates that are already pre-coated with rosin, ready for aquatinting and acid.

This mishap happened a week ago and I'm still kicking myself for it. Months of work down the drain because I zoned out and missed a crucial step. So this is my word to the wise, don't rely on your habitual way of working to such a degree that you stop paying attention to what you are doing. I suppose there are much worse accidents that can happen beyond a ruined plate since we etchers work with toxic substances, so my advice is focus and avoid a printmaking disaster or worse, a personal tragedy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Russian Constructivism

As someone who has worked as a graphic designer I've seen how the Constructivist and succeeding Bauhaus movements influenced designers tremendously in the 20th century. My work has also been inspired and greatly influenced by these masters of graphic communication and I am always eager to see more from this genre.

So, I thought I'd share some info on this show in NY at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery of Russian Constructivist posters plus a model for the Monument to the Third International by constructivist artist, Vladimir Tatlin.

It's listed at NY Artbeat:
"Revolutionary Film Posters: Aesthetic Experiments of Russian Constructivism (1929-33)" Exhibition
Venue: Tony Shafrazi Gallery 
Schedule: From 2011-05-06 To 2011-07-30 
Address: 544 W 26th St., New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-274-9300 Fax: 212-334-9499

If you can't make it to the show, there is another website that has featured some of these great movie posters at Enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Successful openings

aquatint etching on paper, ©2011 Elana Goren

Well, I had a two openings this past week, back-to-back on Thursday and Friday nights. They both had great turnouts and the artwork in both of these group shows was first-rate, really great work.

It was great to see many of my fellow artists (and friends) and their incredible work. If you can make it to either of these shows (listed in the calendar section here), I highly recommend you check them out. Especially if you are a printmaker or someone interested in prints and works on paper, as there is a lot to see in these exhibitions.

The exhibition at the NY Coo Gallery was curated by Bruce Waldman and I think he did an incredible job pulling this show together.

Reverse Graffiti

I just discovered this new art form and I think it's pretty fabulous. It's reminiscent of reductive monotyping and it also draws attention to environmental concerns. The "graffiti" is created by cleaning dirty walls in strategic ways to create art reductively.

Though the police are seen harassing these artists in the video, I can't see anything illegal about cleaning a wall. Even so, it seems the powers-that-be saw fit to wash off the work before it even got an extended viewing. Luckily there was a videographer on hand to document the piece before it was washed away.

And here is a link to the Reverse Graffiti Project which shows another video using stencils and a powerwasher: This time, the artist got obvious sponsorship. Again, the technique is pretty cool, though I find the prominent product advertising, unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Best Blogs by Printmakers

Spider Ink Studio blog has been listed as one of the 50 Best Blogs by Printmakers. Please go to and see all the great listings they've got for all you printmakers out there.

Thanks to Tracy for including this blog in the top 50.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Non-Toxic Etching Update

I just received an e-mail from someone who read my non-toxic etching post from last year. I realized after rereading the post that the information there needs to be updated. It was written after just one test with a copper sulfate solution and I erroneously reported that the etching time for zinc in copper sulfate was the same as with nitric acid. This is definitely not the case. The copper sulfate solution etches zinc much, much faster and the bite is much harsher than etching with nitric acid.

I also have not had much luck aquatinting with copper sulfate since I work with subtle variations in tone. And since the bite is much harsher and quicker, it's very difficult to get subtle or delicate effects. Though if someone has had better results with this I'd love to know about it.

If you include thick, bold lines in your etchings, I would say that copper sulfate will give you that more quickly than nitric acid. But I need to do more experiments with copper sulfate before I can give advice about how to create delicate work. So far my attempts at this have been unsuccessful.

If you have had a lot of experience with copper sulfate and zinc, I would very much appreciate hearing from you about your experience.

Monday, March 14, 2011


It's been a rough couple of months with my husband being very sick requiring frequent trips to the ER, surgeries and quite a few hospital stays, but I'm hoping that we're coming out on the other side of all of this. Though we just spent the weekend in the ER yet again and I'm sitting next to his hospital bed as I type this.

I know my postings have continued to be few and far between. I'm not going to make any promises about when I'll post the next one, just know that I haven't stopped thinking about this blog and what I'd like to further relate about my experiences with printmaking.

And just a heads up, I'll be posting info on some upcoming shows that I'll be part of this summer in NYC. As soon as I have the specifics, I'll put them in my calendar section. But for now, I'll be in the Carrier Pigeon show at the Sacred Gallery in Soho (NYC). The opening for the show is March 18, 8-10PM.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Promises, Promises

After reading my last few posts from the fall semester, I realized that I had promised to post work that I had done then. I wish I had been more timely with this post, but I have a few photos that I can share with you now.

Here was my first installation project. It was lit from within so that you could see the shadows of people hovering over the animals (etchings printed on very thin asian paper). When you looked into the "windows" in the box (as illustrated by my classmates in the photos above) you could see the shadows form different points of view depending on which window you looked into. The outside was covered with woodprints from a really great gnarly piece of thrown-away plywood.

Below was my second project for this class where I created "corozas" (caps of shame) from a silkscreened image of one of my monotypes (last one below). It was the first time I had done a silkscreen project in many, many, many years (and I was a bit rusty).

Anyway, sorry for the delay in the posts. This work is not really what I want to do. I see myself as more of a printmaker and illustrator and I have no interest in installation work. But, here it is in all its 3Dness.

Experimenting with white ground etching

The Skeptic
Etching, ©2010 Elana Goren

This past fall, I experimented with etching techniques that I hadn't tried before such as white ground etching. For the print above, I used white ground as an acid resist on a zinc plate.

White ground is a soapy mixture that allows the artist to build up thicker layers of resist where the acid can't reach the plate as well as thinner, gradated areas that are more susceptible to the acid's bite. This ground is more unstable than regular asphaltum-based ground and so it needs to be monitored more closely when in the acid bath. But the instability of the ground adds to the textural and tonal quality that it yields.

It's a little tricky to paint with what is basically soap on the metal surface. But, it can be worked with while it is wet to add texture as you would a soft-ground application or it can be scratched into with a pointy object that's not too sharp to scratch the plate (unless you want to add some drypoint lines to your image). It's also nice to work with a medium that can be corrected easily by washing off the undesired application before starting to etch.

After applying the white ground, the plate is covered with aquatint rosin and it can then be etched. It's recommended to use the white ground before applying aquatint since this makes for a smoother surface to paint on. 

I took the photo of the plate (above) to see what would translate when the print was done. I believe this was taken in the middle of the process where I had already etched the plate and was applying new layers of the soap ground for another etch. You can see how some of the thinner applications of the ground have gone from light to dark grey and the thicker applications remain white. This process is alot like the aquatinting with asphaltum hardground but behaves less predictably in the acid. But the benefit to it is that it allows for a more fluid, gradated image and the white color makes it more visibly straightforward to paint where you want the image to be white.