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.

Collaboration One with consummate printmaker and paper artist Lauren Kussro.

Lauren and I embarked on a collaboration — each starting with one piece of paper. As we printed layers, we exchanged the papers back and forth. Collaboration One was created with monoprinting, stencils, screen printing and colored pencils. This one came home to live in my studio. I need to work on a better title.

Collaboration Two with Lauren Kussro.

Collaboration Two was created using monoprinting, poster board stencils, screen printing, frosted mylar (printed with both litho ink and screen printing) and paper cutting. Deciding to cut this work was very nerve-wracking, but I was pleased with the results. This one lives with Lauren in Houston. She said she was going to add some pencil work to it, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Collaborative works by my studio. Amazing how the sum of many parts can lead to such vibrant wholes.

April and Lauren also facilitated a broader collaboration with our entire studio. 11 x 11inch papers were posted on the gray fabric-covered display boards, inviting us to print something, or cut, or sew… The possibilities were infinite. The final prints were offered in the silent and live auctions at the end of the session, with the proceeds benefitting the Penland scholarship programs.

I’m not sure when I will have the opportunity to collaborate again, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Stay tuned!

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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…

Learning to cut rubylith film to make stencils. The red part blocks UV light and doesn’t allow the emulsion on the screen to harden. You wash this part out, and then ink is printed through the screen.

I spent a good portion of time learning about screen printing. My last experience with screen printing was during my studies at IU, where we were limited to using drawing fluid and screen filler (think liquid clay here) to create imagery. Now I had access to an exposure unit, so I could create patterns using an opaquing pen, rubylith film or just plain thick paper stencils.

A screen I created. The large leaves were cut out thick paper, and the honeycomb was created with a red opaquing pen.

I also printed on everything except my studio mates. I am fascinated with translucent materials, so I worked on frosted mylar, as well as thin mulberry. I’m still working out the kinks of printing litho ink on the mylar, but screen printing works like a champ.

Oil-based monoprint on frosted mylar, topped with a silkscreen pattern.

Now the question is how do I use this new-found knowledge? For now, my creations reside in a comfy box in my studio, quietly waiting for the next idea to germinate…

A snapshot of my tables. You can see layers of things I have printed…
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What do you take to a workshop?

I’m about to depart for another workshop at Penland School of Craft. I went to a monoprinting workshop last summer with Andy Rubin, and it was transformative. This year’s workshop is with April Flanders entitled Singular Prints and Alternative Presentations.

The workshop promises to work with monotypes and screen printing, plus explore unusual ways of presenting the work — installations, sculptural prints and shadow boxes. Plus new techniques (to me) including paper cutting and sewing. With such an open-ended agenda, I’m tempted to bring everything from my studio — just in case. Restraint has prevailed, so here is what I’m taking to the workshop.

Tools to move ink around. The studio does have brayers and ink knives, but sometimes it is great to have several to yourself!
A new sketchbook is ready to capture my ideas. New pens await inspiration.
I’m bringing 12 x 12in and 18 x 24in polycarbonate plates, plus a mylar registration jig and mylar cutouts.
Cutting tools! Safety tip — always use a metal ruler when using an Exacto knife.
TAPE! (of course)
Stuff to add embellishment.
MAPS! (You never know…)
Things to control my mess. Penland is very careful with disposing of solvent soaked rags, and wants to reduce other waste. So the towels are for hand-drying.

I’m also bringing lots of paper: Rives BFK, Stonehenge, Masa and Thai Unryu. Plus my pack of large tracing paper.

Now to pack lots of clothes, a rain coat and a clear mind….

Back next month!

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Experiencing Penland School of Crafts Withdrawal

I have Penland withdrawal. Penland School of Crafts is an artist retreat in the mountains of western North Carolina. It was originally established in 1929 to train local women to weave and market their products. Over the years it has evolved into one of the premiere craft schools, increasing its offerings to include media outside the traditional craft realm, including printmaking.

Penland is an artistic bucket list destination

Participating in a Penland summer workshop has been on my bucket list for some time, so when a monoprinting workshop showed up on the schedule, I signed up as soon as the application site went live. (Some of their courses are so popular that this is a very good idea.) For almost two weeks you are taken out of your normal routine to a stunning mountain campus. You are fed three meals each day, at which time you can chat with over 200 people who are there to make art, just like you. You can see a Youtube video about Penland here.

Sunset over The Pines at Penland School of Crafts
The view of the mountains and The Pines, where delicious food and good company are served up in equal measure.

The monoprinting class was taught by Andy Rubin, who has extensive printmaking knowledge from his many years of teaching at various universities as well as serving as the master printer for Tandem Press at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Along with studio assistant Jessica Merchant (MFA in Printmaking from UW, Madison), the class began with the basics of monoprinting and using Penland’s etching presses. Monoprinting was not covered in my classwork at Indiana University, so while I know my way around a press, the rest was completely new territory.

Printmaking demo by Andy Rubin at Penland School of Crafts
Andy Rubin demonstrates using a blend roll and stencils on the polycarbonate monoprinting plate, as studio mate Lisa Steffens looks on.

Learning something completely new with monoprinting

This summer has been yet another in my life with many transitions. Adult children moved away and I completely changed how I have been showing my work. I felt strongly that I needed to push my work in new directions, and monoprinting seemed like a splendid way to do this. I was not disappointed. I learned new techniques such as stencils, ghost printing, and the use of solvent on ink. Others included painting directly on the plate, transferring drawing media, and creating a collagraph. Monoprinting can be fast or slow, depending on the techniques you choose. We had a wide variety of painters, printmakers and collage artists in the class, so someone was always doing new exciting work. Working in the studio was the perfect combination of demonstrations with lots of time to work in our own unique styles.

Printmakers take time to explain artwork and technique at Penland School of Crafts
Artists and other visitors would wander through the studios, and my classmates Kendall and Taylor were tremendous ambassadors for the printmaking tradition.

Our studio of twelve had artists from seniors in undergrad programs to people who were embracing art in their retirement. I spent almost all of my time in the studio, so I was able to experience the differing energies of the morning printers, and those who found their groove towards midnight. Everyone brought such generous energy and good will to the studio each day.

Monoprint in warm yellow and Phthalo blue. My first monoprint at Penland School of Crafts
One of my first monoprints (18 x 24in) created with a large brayer, stencil, solvent, Q-tips and brushes.

Did I mention this was my first experience with monoprinting? In the next set of blogs, I will show you some of my early works. I sarcastically call them “newbie art” but there is no doubt that learning something new as an adult can be humbling.

New techniques produce new imagery

The above work was made during my first evening studio session after a day of introductory demos. I chose Phthalo Blue and a warm yellow lithography ink and created a huge blend roll. I cut stencils out of mylar (the small swooping shape) and tried out using mineral spirits to move the ink around on the block with both q-tips and brushes. While the movement was quite interesting, I wanted to use the techniques more intentionally.

Iceberg, both above and below the water, is created with opaque and transparent inks. Created at Penland School of Crafts
Opaque and transparent inks, plus brayers, paper daubers, solvent and masking tape created my first iceberg. More to come?

My next series dealt with icebergs. Above the waterline, I used opaque inks (pigment mixed with white) and a brayer to create the ice. Masking tape defined the edges of the iceberg top, and was removed before printing. The underwater portions were created by dragging a dauber of folded printing paper through the transparent phthalo blue, displacing some of the ink. I quickly used some solvent in a more judicious manner before running everything through the press.

Clearly re-entry into normal life is going to be rough. Suddenly I am in charge of meals once more, plus the myriad of other chores that life entails. I can now receive phone calls and texts again, and it is much harder to achieve that groove that Penland can give you.

Further blogs will talk more about solvents and my new love — masking tape. Stay tuned.

By the way — what’s for dinner?

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A trail of breadcrumbs for art

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.

Demo for BETA
The steps to carving a snowflake are simple — designed to eliminate the “what will I draw?” conundrum.

I had the opportunity earlier this month to be a crumb-planter when I took an activity to the BETA kids of Nashville, Indiana. The BETA program operates out of a three room building in a Continue reading “A trail of breadcrumbs for art”

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Sometimes just a little change will give you a different perspective

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.

Elizabeth Busey, Bromeliad Flower. Reduction linocut on Masa paper, 3.5 x 3.5in, open edition. Printed by many at WonderLab Museum in Bloomington, IN.
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.

Continue reading “Sometimes just a little change will give you a different perspective”

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Showing how you do what you do

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.

Continue reading “Showing how you do what you do”

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