Monday, August 27, 2018

Favorite time of year

For me, the summer is always hectic and I end up having very little uninterrupted studio time, but as September approaches I feel a renewed sense of energy. I attribute this to decades of teaching and
the approach of the new school year always promised a fresh start and I'd feel a surge of excitement and anticipation. It's no different now that I'm retired; there's still that feeling of rejuvenation.

I had been working on numerous sketches and recently, while I was home in my studio, I felt compelled to start working on a new plate; even if its completion will be put on hold until after the Labor Day holiday. I just needed to get something going.

I have a few older Solarplates and decided to see if they were still viable. 

After playing around with exposure times, I ended up with 45 light units for my aquatint screen and 35 for the image. As you can see, even though the plate was wrapped in its original black plastic, the edges of the plate had been compromised and didn't expose as well as the center. I still think I can work with this.

I printed on Arnham cream paper with Akua carbon black; one sheet wet and the other dry. I much prefer the contrast on the dry.

This looks promising. Now to see where it takes me.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

New Toy

It's been a L-O-N-G winter; not only because of the weather but my care giving responsibilities have derailed my studio practice. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and Spring is finally here.

For months, I've been thinking about purchasing an Xcut Xpress. I've seen a few printmakers on line using this die cutting craft machine for a printing press. One artist, Colin Blanchard has done a lot of experimentation with this small machine and has even put together some great YouTube videos. Check out his site. Anyway, I finally ordered one.

I found it on Amazon for a decent price because they said the box was slightly damaged. That was an understatement! I was concerned when I saw the condition of the box, but after unpacking and checking it out,  the unit seemed fine.

Since today is Print Day in May, I thought it was the perfect time to spend some time in the studio playing with my new toy.

First I needed to find some blankets. Digging through my fabric stash I found some scraps of hot pink craft felt that I had used to make a cape for my granddaughter.

My first test was with a Sintra plate. This lightweight PVC board can be used in a number of ways and for this test, I laid a few objects on the surface and ran it through the press. I inked the plate up as a relief using Speedball water based relief ink. After some experimenting, I found that the 5 setting on the Xcut worked perfectly.

Success! The bed rolled through the press fairly easily and I ended up with a decent impression with one pass. I printed on a dry sheet of Arnham paper. Next test, an intaglio plate.

This is a small 3" x 3" Solarplate mounted on matte board. I inked it up with Akua Ink and printed on a damp sheet of Arnham paper. I needed to change the setting to 4 to get enough pressure and ran the plate through the press twice to get a decent impression. The important thing is that with some tweaking and experimentation you can use this press for intaglio plates.

Finally, I tried a relief Solarplate . With the setting back to 5, I ran the plate through the press and got another fairly successful image. Again. I printed on a dry sheet of Arnham and used Speedball relief ink but I think I under inked the plate.

The bottom line is this small "press" does a decent job printing relief and intaglio plates. The bed measures 12" x 8" but you could easily make a new longer bed. 

For anyone who's interested in printmaking but has shied away because of space issues or cost of equipment, this could be an affordable alternative. (I paid $133 for mine.) The press folds up into a neat compact unit and weighs about 13 pounds or so.

I purchased the Xcut Xpress so I could take it on the road for printmaking demonstrations. Looking forward to sharing the pleasures of printmaking with others.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Last Print Exchange in the works

I'm working on the final print exchange that I had planned on participating in this year; 9 IN HAND PRESS' 3rd Annual International Print Exchange.

This one caught my eye because it's a much larger format that the average print exchanges, which usually require the paper to be 5" x 7" or smaller. The paper for this one is 11" x 14" and image size is up to the artist. I've been working on the image off and on and finally started printing the edition of 15 today. The March 31st deadline is looming but I think I can pull it off.

The image is based on one of my body prints, which was photographed and reduced in size using Photoshop. I'm using a Solarplate and printing with Akua ink.

 I'm happy with the stark simplicity of the falling figure in a field of black.


Having Fun

I find that working on miniature prints, for print exchanges, are a great way to play around with ideas and have a bit of fun. I just completed my edition for the Green Door International Print Exchange.

The small size requirements allow me to use up small scraps of plates and papers and the actual printing goes quite quickly. It wasn't long before I had the edition completed.


The plate itself is 2.5" x 3.5" and the required paper size was 5.5"x 5.5". 

I created a drawing based on sections of an old corset, scanned it into Photoshop, sized it and printed out a positive on Mylar. Once the edition was completed, I decided to machine stitch a strip of cotton lace to the image.  The final result, "Underpinnings".

Friday, January 19, 2018

Changed Direction

So I thought I had something promising in the works, but I ended up not being happy with the image.

I tried different inks and even added some chine colle' but it just wasn't working. I've often found that with exchange prints, the small print size can be problematic for me; some ideas just don't translate well.

So I decided to work up a different sketch and focus on a different exchange challenge to see what developed. The maximum paper size is 5" x 7" so I made my image is 3" x 5".

The image was in response to feeling frustrated by the never ending entanglements and manipulations made by our government officials, as highlighted by the daily news. Each day there is more drama as an ineffectual administration tries to govern. I envisioned a master puppeteer trying to control those around him but failing miserably as lie after lie shrouds everyone in a web of chaos.

Exchange prints give me a chance to use up scraps of photopolymer plates; perfect for the Leftovers VIII Exchange by WingTip Press. The trouble is, I never know if these scraps are still viable so I'm always happy to end up with a successfully processed plate.

I was much happier with this image and by noon I had an edition of fifteen. Now to trim, add a bit of hand coloring with watercolor and then sign.

I'll revisit ideas for the Emerald Print Exchange later.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Second Print Exchange for 2018

Wing Tip Press has an annual print exchange called Leftovers. Two prints are reserved for traveling exhibitions and one print is reserved for a silent auction to support Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force.       
I've participated in Leftovers for a few years and find it a great way to use up studio leftovers; small plates, papers, inks and even leftover ideas. Also, I do this to jump start my productivity after a break and to use the deadline to keep myself focused on putting in some quality studio time.

I worked up a few sketches and scanned them into Photo Shop for experimenting and tweaking. Once satisfied, I printed them out on transparencies and exposed a solar plate.

The plate looks pretty good but you never know until you pull a proof. I'm planning on using color so I decided on two plates. I'll trim these and see what develops.

All in all, not bad progress for a laid back Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Finally Printing

Spent a rainy afternoon in the studio and actually got something accomplished. After spending the last few months in caregiver role, it felt good to grab a block of time to print.

Since its been awhile, I decided to start small. I enjoy participating in a few print exchanges so my focus was to produce an edition for the 2018 Emerald Print Exchange.

I had a sketch ready to go so it was a matter of creating the plate. I tried a couple of different adjustments in Photo Shop, burnt a plate and pulled a proof. Came to the conclusion that sometimes you can tinker with an image too much and less is best.

After pulling a couple of additional proofs I was ready to go.

The guidelines for the exchange state that the image is restricted to a paper size of 5" x 7". This plate is 3" x 3". By the end of the afternoon, I had the required edition of 10 completed.

For "Incognito", I went with Akua Intaglio Carbon Black on Arnhem heavy white and added chine colle' for the shade.