2020 has been dark, so whenever we have bright sunshine, my heart lifts. When a clear day is forecast, I burst into action to capture art from the sun. I quickly sensitize paper in a windowless bathroom with only a 40 watt incandescent bulb to see by. Images are most brilliant when you make your exposures within 24 hours of sensitizing the paper, so planning is critical.Continue reading “Delight (and printing) from the sun”
Printmakers love to collaborate
I usually work by myself in my home studio. Collaboration is difficult as my cats simply are not that motivated. During my recent workshop at Penland School of Craft I had several opportunities to collaborate with other artists. I found it to be both delightful and challenging.
The workshop was led by April Flanders, a professor at Appalachian State University, who creates large-scale installations using paper and printmaking. We also had a vastly qualified studio assistant in Lauren Kussro, who is a professor of art at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Both artists encouraged us to find ways to collaborate, seeing how the imagery of one person could compliment that of others.Continue reading “Printmakers love to collaborate”
The Delight of Learning Something New
Here are some snapshots of some of the new things I learned during my workshop at Penland School of Craft this summer. The class was filled with ideas of how you could push printmaking beyond the traditional. Rather than creating one finished idea, I spend much of my time trying things that were novel to me, and following ideas down rabbit holes…Continue reading “The Delight of Learning Something New”
How much contrast is too much?
I like orange…in small doses. While I own no orange clothing, I do have one throw pillow. I enjoy including a bit of orange in many of my pieces. Orange often provides a needed contrast to the blues that fill my work. But, how much contrast is too much?Continue reading “How much contrast is too much?”
My love affair with painter’s tape begins here
I love painter’s tape.
This is a quick story to tell you why some of my latest work uses masking tape. And to illustrate the maxim that you never know where your next inspiration might come from…
I am not one of those artists (or writers) who is able to go to the studio every day and create. There are seasons of my life where creative pursuits are excruciatingly difficult, like earlier this summer. So instead, I painted the interior of my house. House painting is my form of meditation — even prayer. Two bedrooms later, and I realized that the main bathroom could use a make-over.
What to do with all those sample paints?
I realized that I had ten small sample cans of paint from my various projects, and set a challenge for myself to create a mural in this otherwise nondescript bathroom. The design must also harmonize with the 1970s vintage gold tiles which are sadly staying.
I am fascinated by nature patterns and their mathematical foundations, so while doing some internet research, I came across Delaunay triangulation and Voronoi diagrams. (Click on these links for more mathematical explanations.) These constructions explain many patterns in nature including air bubble packing and leaf cellular structures.
More people would love doing math if it involved tape and paint
I started the process by drawing random dots lightly on my white wall. A mathematician friend pointed out that humans can’t actually be completely random, and he’s right. I just tried not to make them regular. Then I used 1/4 inch painter’s tape to connect the dots into triangles that had the smallest sides possible. I overlapped on the mirror a bit so that my design would seem to grow out of the mirror.
Next I used a clear ruler to find the midpoints of each line of each triangle, and marked this on the masking tape. Then I lightly drew pencil lines perpendicular to each of these midpoints. The intersection of these perpendicular lines was a new point — usually inside the triangle but not always.
I connected these new points, and they created polygons. My intention was to paint these polygons with the various colors of sample paint, which were surprisingly harmonious. I traced the polygons with Sharpie marker so I didn’t get lost.
My sample paints are surprisingly harmonious
I chose seven colors of sample paint, including a new gold paint that would harmonize with my tiles. The darkest color reads as almost black in the images, but is really a dark purple. It took two coats of paint to make sure the polygons were saturated with color. Now the fun part begins!
About an hour after I finished the second coat, I began carefully peeling off the painter’s tape. From all I have read, this is the best timing to avoid pulling up the paint. I needed to touch up some places where the paint bled through the tape.
Here is the completed wall. It is amazingly difficult to take an accurate image of this narrow space. See the video below to get a glimpse of the entire wall, including where the design wraps around a corner.
Is my bathroom great art? Probably not. Was it therapeutic during a time when I couldn’t do my studio work. Absolutely.
Now I have a new tool in my toolkit that was instrumental in my explorations at Penland School of Crafts. Stay tuned for more about me and the painter’s tape in my next blog.
Underprinting. Yep, that’s a thing. I have always envied oil painters who begin their paintings with loose gestures of colors — sometimes in a complementary color. The white of the printing paper can be daunting, and I am always looking for ways to create more depth and texture in my work. Enter the underprint.
When I created my new linocut Treasure of Great Price (see below), along with the companion Pandora’s Paradise, I wanted to experiment with something printed underneath that would provide movement and depth to my topography. I have also been thinking about the topographies that humans create — like mountaintop mining — and how harmful these can be to the earth. So I decided my underprinting block would be a fingerprint.
Underprinting in the world of stamps and fossils…
Underprinting is used in the paper security industry — you might see these marks on stamps or paper currency. It also refers to the impression left by the footprint of a prehistoric creature, fossilized in lower sedimentary rock levels below the level of the initial footprint.
… and now printmaking…
I cut two twelve-inch blocks for this linocut, one that had the fingerprint, and one that would be reduced in my usual fashion. Because I used gold ink, the initial gold marks created a sort of resist as I printed subsequent layers, yielding an interesting texture. The marks are more visible in some layers than others, depending on tone and also hue.
My small underprinting block’s success has led me to create a 25 x 40 inch block filled with seven fingerprints. I can’t wait to see how this will appear on a larger scale. Finger(prints) crossed.
Getting your hands dirty is sometimes necessary
The gleaming white borders of my linocuts mean that I am fastidious about keeping clean hands and fingers. But on rare occasions, getting my hands inky becomes necessary. In one of my latest linocuts, I am using many transparent layers, and needed to join contrasting pinky orange and a cerulean blue layers.
I know that a blend roll combination will yield a sort of greyish-brown, which I really don’t want. So instead I’m using a technique that I learned from printmaker Karen Kunc. Kunc is able to get many different colors and fading techniques from one block by using the heel of her palm.
Dab with the outside heel of the palm
When I use the heel of my palm, I am blending the inks slightly, but I am also removing some of the ink as well. This makes the unwanted blend of contrasts less intense when it is printed.
Reducing unwanted blending
Here is what the block looks like before I printed it. This isn’t an exact technique, but I find that if it is used in the middle of a linocut, or at the end, any variation is not noticeable.
I still have to be careful to keep the white edges clean!
Sometimes it is smart to start small
Sometimes it is important to start small. I have a tendency to be impatient. I want to create an image on a LARGE scale. Unfortunately, I have some works that are large and problematic. If I had just taken the time to do a smaller study, I could have foreseen things that would go wrong later, but with much less heartache and with fewer sore muscles.
This year’s eclipse has been on my creative mind for a while. I spent the event deep in the woods, watching crescent moons dance across a dry shale creek bed. I have been wanting to capture the feeling of this experience, and tried out a few ideas recently.
When looking my eclipse photographs, I noticed two things. First, the crescent moon shapes weren’t sharp, but rather were soft, and didn’t meet at points. Some were larger than others, some more complete. The variation came from the different pinholes made in the forest canopy as the light came down. I wondered if I might distinguish between the shapes with different transparent colors, even though my experience and my photographs were mostly black and white.
Second, because it was not completely dark, you could see some of the tiny leaves and detritus that was on the creek bed. This provided some important 3D cues for the image. To address this issue, I decided to print on Thai Unryu paper. Sometimes called cloud paper, this is mulberry paper with thicker, longer fibers included. I wondered if the long fibers would show through in a way that might suggest the texture of the creek bed.
I’m glad I did this 9 x 12″ test print, because I think neither of these experiments was completely successful. Even while using very small changes in tone, the crescents separate in confusing ways. And when I printed the final darkest tones of the eclipse, the thin paper was completely saturated with pigment, and the long fibers are difficult to see.
I think I will do something I haven’t done for a long time — create an image with only one color — perhaps with only two or three passes of the same color. I will stick with my trusty Rives BFK as well, as the Thai Unryu paper became saturated and began to stretch out of shape as I repeatedly printed on it.
Learning on a smaller scale. It would be great if we could approach other things in life this way!