The gold rush is on in the studio

My exploration with gold that I admitted to in my last post has actually been going on for a few months…

In November I experiemented with chine collé, where thin papers are pasted down as part of the printmaking process. Read this post to learn more.  For the actual cards, I used green and cream kitakata papers, Rives BFK as the card support, and Handschy gold ink.

New Years cards for my collectors and supporters.
Gold ink highlights ginkgo leaves and pine cones.

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Yielding Somewhat Gracefully to Life and Adding Some Bling

Elizabeth Busey, Yielding Gracefully. Reduction Linocut, 17 x 25″

During my exploration of the sassafras leaf, I was operating under the assumption that the colors I see in the fall were always in the leaf, but became more apparent in autumn. For the yellows and oranges we see, this is basically true. But not for the red. The red that I found so challenging and unfamiliar is in fact produced by the leaves as a sort of battle against the inevitable arrival of winter.

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Adventures in the New Language of Chine Collé

I have been toying with some ideas for a few months. I have visions of layering and new materials. Of well, something different. But something too different can be scary or frustrating, so perhaps something somewhat different would be a good place to start. This was the conversation I had with myself this morning. When you work alone, you have to be your own motivator and artistic therapist.

Pine Cone on Rives BFK with Chine Collé.

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How do you stretch your artistic brain?

After a tough, non-artistic stretch this summer, I’ve not felt very excited to begin the next linoleum print. If I’m honest, I haven’t felt that excitement for a while.

Last winter, I came across encaustic monotypes by Paula Roland in the book Installations and Experimental Printmaking by Alexia Tala.  Roland used long scrolls of sumi paper and printed them with encaustic paint. Encaustic paint is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and dry pigment. This paint is melted on a heated surface and paper is put on top to absorb the wax and pigment. It is a fascinating process that I’ll come back to in future posts.

Melted wax and pigment scraped together after a monoprinting session.

In May, I travelled to Santa Fe, NM to take a four day workshop from Roland. I was the only student who had never worked in encaustics, and Roland was kind enough to let me experiment and make lots of “newbie art,” while providing gentle guidance. I was amazed at how exciting and yet tiring it can be to learn something new. As adults, I think we shy away from trying new things, especially if we sense that we will not automatically be good at them.

Back at home, I finally got all of the accoutrement for encaustic printmaking (more about later too.) Now to begin…

Wow! I find I am still very much in the learning phase.  My original intent was to think about ways that this technique might harmonize with what I am already doing. At this point I have no idea if it will…

 

Experiments from this week.

One of the problems with my studio practice up to this point is that there is very little room for creative exploration. I find reduction printmaking a pretty linear process.

With this problem in mind, I’ve been rereading three favorite books on artistic practice. I realized I need to have time each day to lose myself in the creative process. Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play would call this flow. Encaustic monotypes are perfect for this. Yet I’m still making lots of “newbie” art. So I decided I would spend at least one hour each week day just experimenting. I use small pieces of paper, and gather them up at the end of the day to see what worked best, what was surprising, and yes, what was dreadful.

 

Three great books for all creative types.

I’m giving myself several months to do this. Maybe at some point I’ll have a breakthrough. Or maybe I will become motivated to do new lino prints. I have no idea.

Have you undertaken a new activity, especially one that is scary and unknown?

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Yet another developmental hurdle

I have teenagers in my home now. But I clearly remember when they were very young, that before they made a developmental leap like learning to crawl or walk, they fell apart. Happy children became irrational, weeping, demanding creatures. Child psychologists would call this disorganization. Perhaps this is what has been happening to me.

My newly expanded drying rack.

In my last post, I unveiled the newly expanded press. I knew that the challenges of working bigger were not over when the Rives BFK (30″ x 44″) I ordered would not fit into my flat files. When I began preparations for this new work, I went to hang the paper up and realized that my 12″ wire shelving racks weren’t wide enough and the paper would buckle.  Panic set in…

A trip to Lowes and an evening with my dear husband yielded a new wider drying rack thanks to 20″ wide shelving. Now I would have somewhere to put the paper while I was printing.

The paper trapeze is created with a dowel, rope and zip ties.

The next problem I encountered was how to control the paper when I placed it over the block. I really need another set of hands, but since I work during school hours, these were hard to come by. And my cats were not supportive.  I worried that I would not be able to handle this large (and expensive) paper. After one small meltdown and some pacing in the studio, I came up with the paper trapeze. (I do not recall if I have seen anything like this on the Internet, so forgive me if you are the original inventor!)

The paper trapeze is my silent studio assistant.
The idea behind the trapeze is that I can hang the paper over it while I pop on the registration tabs. The Rives paper is stiff enough that it does not make a crease.
I use four registration tabs on a 30″ side.
With the trapeze I can use both hands to snap in the registration tabs. With my left hand, I carefully begin smoothing the paper down on the block, while holding the remaining paper in my right hand. I try to smooth in the very same spot each time.
After my first printing session today, it is clear that I need to start a stretching and strengthening regimen immediately.  Lifting the 25″ x 40″ block straight up and then on and off the press is going to take some practice.  I must stretch in new ways to get the paper on and off the block, and then hang it on the rack.  10 prints and 4 proofs later I am a puddle of exhaustion. But then I remember why I am doing this — I wanted to create prints that are large enough to get lost in, the way you get lost in Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.
Well, maybe not that big, but you get the idea. Hopefully with a little more practice, this developmental hurdle will be behind me.

 

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If you’ve got the itch to etch

I love relief printmaking. I don’t have a desire to do other media — to paint or to sculpt. But sometimes I crave the textural effects that you can only get with an aquatint. Aquatint is an etching process where tiny pieces of rosin (pine resin) are deposited on a block and then heat-fused. Then the plate (usually copper) is placed in acid, and the places that lack the rosin are etched away.

This technique makes luscious gradations and textures, and I try to create similar effects with my dremmel and many layers of ink. There is a method of etching linoleum, and last spring I gave it a try. I’m posting my results below, and am going to use the etching in my latest work.  But first, an explanation about etching linoleum:

I used ten small blocks, and sealed the MDF with polyurethane. The best instructions for mixing the etching solution are from Warepuke Studios in New Zealand. You are using drain cleaner and creating a caustic solution, so do this outside with goggles, chemical resistant gloves and respirator.

The blocks were exposed for different time intervals. From the left (for both the top and bottom blocks), these were 30 min, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours and 8 hours.

To further my experiment, I used several resist techniques. Running in vertical rows these four techniques were:

Top block
1) Etch held in by a ring of sculpy clay
2) Just the etch in a blob by itself

Bottom block
3) The etch over dried PVA glue
4) The etch mixed with acrylic self-leveling gel (supposed to make the etch easier to control.) I found this seized up like mozzarella cheese.

My personal preference in all of these is the second area down — the etching solution only. The two hour time period made nice textures, without completely etching the area. If the area is completely etched, it is as if you had carved it away.

In my next post I will reveal the block that I will be etching — entitled Perspectives of Plenty.

 

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