Severe storms are a gift to the Midwestern artist, providing lots of time to hang out in the basement getting work done. I have been somewhat impatiently waiting for my latest linocut to dry, so my dear husband and I have been making frames.
I should explain that my husband is a woodworker at heart, and loves good wood, especially maple. We get the raw boards from Northwest Lumber in Indianapolis, and transform them into framing stock. This process — with about eight boards — takes an entire Saturday. Luckily we have all the machines to do this, and the working style to tolerate the tedium and sore muscles. Continue reading “Make sure to give your framer a hug”
My trip to the Southern Graphics Council International’s conference in Portland, Oregon was transformative. The conference is a combination of traditional academic activities (keynote speakers, panels, etc.) along with demonstrations, lots of gallery shows and a vendor fair. Since I am neither a student nor an academic, I delighted immersing myself in only the activities that I chose — a rare occurrence in anyone’s life. Several demos provided new ideas to me, and I will share them briefly here. If you wish more information, please use the link provided to visit each artist’s website.
Elise Wagner, assisted by Master Printer Jane Pagliarulo, demonstrated creating encaustic collagraphs. The melted encaustic medium (a special blend of beeswax, resin and titanium white that Elise has created) is applied to a plexiglass sheet. Using both heated tools and other implements, Elise created a dynamic matrix that she used to print an image onto damp paper. Because petroleum will react with the wax, she used Akua Intaglio inks and a wiping method similar to intaglio. I found this new option appealing. Creating the plate is much faster than with linocuts, but you have much more control and can take your time in creating — different from when you print wax directly onto paper in encaustic monotypes. I came home with a can of Elise’s medium and am looking forward to giving this new technique a try.
Fake Chine Colle: Alternative Adhesive Processes
Throughout my artistic practice, I have wanted to use other papers and elements in my work. Traditional chine colle requires a delicate and skillful dance of making wheat paste, applying just the right amount, and drying flat. My efforts have only been marginally successful. And I find when I try to glue with anything water-based, my support paper buckles. Masha Ryskin demonstrated how she uses Gudy-O and Gudy-V adhesive films to create chine colle and collage elements in her work. These films — which can be obtained from Talas — are expensive, and a bit tricky to use, but when adhered are invisible, archival and permanent. You could even print over the collage elements you have created.
Akua Colors take on Natural Pigments
Akua Ink creator Susan Rostow did an interesting demo where she compared modern synthetically derived inks with the pigments they are designed to imitate. She personally collected the pigments she was working with, including the tiny cochineal beetles that make up a purple-red color. You could clearly see that natural pigments could not create the same intensity of color that the new inks could. At some point, she said, the amount of pigment in the transparent base was so high that the ink would become chalky. I have some very old Akua inks that I believe are past their prime, but the kind folks at Speedball (which now mass produces the Akua Inks with Rostow’s collaboration) gave me a sample of new inks, and I am eager to try them out!
Learning about Pochoir — Making the Stencil Brush Fabulous Again
Pati Scobey used both the positive and negative parts of a polyester plate to demonstrate the technique of pochoir — or stenciling. She used watered down acrylic gel medium, plus salt and carborumdum, to create textured plates. From these plates she cut out shapes, using the cut outs printed positively, and using both the shape or the negative space to print gently around a shape using a stencil brush. With these techniques, Pati creates repetition of shapes, patterns and textures that she uses to create handmade books. Here you can see a selection of her finished work, ready to be bound.
Gamblin Inks — Carefully crafted by Chris
Gamblin very kindly hosted an open house for the conference one evening. Here is a very tiny video of the Gamblin process for creating their printing inks. The pigment and the burnt plate oil are mixed together and are then fed into a three roller mill which slowly pulverizes the pigment to the consistency that printmakers need. Use your imagination to see Chris on the right side of this machine, gently guiding the finished ink down a short metal slope into the familiar Gamblin ink cans. He fills each by hand, and will do between 200 and 400 cans each day. Thanks Chris!
Now my brain is full of new ideas, and I must decide which new technique to try first… Stay tuned for the good and the bad of my latest experiments.
Thinking backwards is what reduction printmaking is all about. Carve away what you want to leave exposed on the paper. My current subject — clouds — takes this challenging way of thinking to an entirely new level.
I started this new linocut using the graphite tracing paper guide I created in my last blog. (Click here to read about that first.) After transferring the marks, I used my Foredom drill with engraving bits to remove the places in the clouds that I wanted to stay the white of the Rives BFK paper.
Like many creative endeavors, preparation for relief printmaking can take a significant amount of time. Unlike the spontaneity of watercolor, where the wet brush can immediately touch the pre-prepared watercolor block, beginning something new in my studio can take days.
THE IDEA: I need to have some idea of what I’m creating before I can begin. My smaller sketchbook drawings are copied and enlarged on a FedEx blueprint machine. A large tracing paper guide is made by tracing and adapting my enlarged drawing with an 8B pencil. There isn’t a way to draw permanently on the block, so this guide will be used to show me where to carve for each color layer.
It has been a few months since I experienced that fabulous feeling of finishing a linocut. I recently put down the last layer of ink — my favorite metallic gold — and the work was transformed. For the final touch, I want to apply gold leaf to a few of the white ripples, so the water will be rippling one way, but the sun is coming from the opposite direction.
I was all ready with my acrylic medium, my red oxide acrylic and my sizing, when I realized my folly. From my last foray into gold leafing I learned that the printing ink must be extremely dry, or the gold leaf will adhere all over the linocut and not just on the sizing. I so wanted to show the finished work in this blog, but you just can’t hurry that gold ink. Here is a partial peek at the work sans the gold leaf…
How do people identify a creative endeavor that speaks to them? Very few people have a driving passion for writing or art or music — one that motivates them throughout their life. Most of us don’t. Elizabeth Gilbert has an insightful presentation where she argues that for most people, life isn’t about one great passion, but rather a meandering path where we find one interest, and then another. It is about our journey where we gather each breadcrumb as it appears on our path, and at the end, hopefully we are filled.
At the printmaking evening at WonderLab I was thrilled to unveil my bromeliad flower. I finally realized that rather than trying to put another strong color on the print, a transparent one would be best. A bit more carving and a transparent blue brought out the shadows of the very pink flower.
One of the biggest challenges of reduction printmaking is registration. We were printing with spoons at the museum, so I created a mini-registration jig complete with pins and tabs. I cut the hole for the block in a piece of foam core — just large enough to hold the block snuggly. My printers did not need to take the block out at all, just use the brayer to ink the block. Then the tabs could be clicked into place and the spoon rubbing began.
I sometimes envy painters. They can demonstrate their magic in real time. Full disclosure: I did watch Bob Ross painting his landscape scenes when I was home with babies. He was so calming and effortless in his movements as he drew craggy peaks out of black gessoed panels.
I have the same challenge on Friday, October 2nd. I am the visiting artist at First Friday Evening Science of Art at the WonderLab Museum of Science Health & Technology here in Bloomington. The entire evening will be printmaking — including letterpress and real leaf printing. And me.
Carving with my trusty Foredom drill makes short work of a small block.
For me, demonstrating on-site is tough. Watching someone carve linoleum can be a dull as dirt. I certainly can’t drag my press with me. We had a wonderful time printing two-layered linocuts at my Open Studios tour in June, so I decided to do a variation of this for the WonderLab event.
I enjoy reading the blogs of many artists. Sometimes a long time goes by without an entry, and I’m left wondering…what happened? It is possible that they just simply weren’t inspired, but probably something happened that was not related to their art at all. Life simply got in the way.
This happened in my studio. Life milestones for one child, and serious medical issues for another combined to render me unable to create this summer. I had started a print in early June for the Bloomington Open Studios Tour, which then hung unfinished — and mocked me — for two months. When I finally decided to finish it, I felt that the early layers of ink were just too light. So I flipped the block over and used the MDF surface to print a bright layer of yellow over the pale yellows, oranges and greens. Then I proceeded with more layers of bright color and a series of purples. Here’s the resulting print:
Elizabeth Busey. Drifts of Plenitude. Linoleum Reduction Print.
Edition of 17, 17 x 25in image size.