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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Trials & Tribulations

Its been awhile since I've had any worthwhile block of time in the studio.  It seems as though life is throwing curve balls my way.

The summer was busy as usual with visits from the grand-kids and time spent at the beach. (Anyone with little ones around know how all consuming they can be, but so much fun.) By September , I was back in the studio beginning a few new projects and participating in a couple of local group shows; all was well.

My husband surprised me with a trip to Jade Mountain St. Lucia in October so we could relax before the holidays. We had a lovely time and once we got back home, I was ready to get back to work.

However, our arrival home at 2:00 AM on a Sunday morning wasn't so sweet. A strong odor hit us as we opened the door and we found that our fully stocked refrigerator/freezer had "died" while we were away. Lots of spoiled food!

Fifteen years ago when we remodeled the kitchen, we opted to install a built in refrigerator. It looked great and ran well. But, come to find out, it’s not easy to replace. It took almost 2 months to get a new fridge; nothing like living without one for a couple of months! Fingers crossed that the panels from the old one fit the new.

Anyway, things were falling back in place when this tree caused the next catastrophe.

After an early November wind storm had wrecked havoc on a few trees on our property, my husband grabbed his chain saw and headed out to clean up. Halfway through a cut on this dead tree, it split vertically, struck him and threw him against a nearby stone wall. When I hadn't heard the chain saw running for a few minutes, I called out to him and found him bloodied and lying against the wall.

My heart dropped when I found him!

I called 911 and he was rushed to the local hospital and then transferred to the Bone & Joint Center in Hartford. After running numerous tests, we were relieved to hear there were no head or back injuries or broken ribs. The worst injury was a nasty tibial plateau fracture and badly stretched ligaments in his left shoulder.

His facial lacerations were stitched up and he was taken to surgery where they applied an external brace to his leg.This needed to be in place for 10 days or so until the swelling went down enough to operate and repair the bone.

Because hospitals now discharge you in as few days as possible, he needed to be sent to a rehab home to recuperate. Let me tell you, you don't want to spend time in one of those facilities - especially for 10 days! Depressing environment and not always the best care. Because he was in such pain, I ended up spending 7 to 8 hours there each day to make sure his needs were met and the wounds on his leg, (where they drilled pins into his bones to support the brace) were cleaned properly. All but one or two of the care givers had ever seen a brace like this before so no one was sure what to do. Thankfully, they had shown me what to do before we left the hospital.

Once the swelling was in check, it was back to Hartford and into surgery again where permanent pins and plates were inserted into the tibia; we were told the fibula would take care of itself. The shoulder would be on a wait and see what develops kind of thing.

A few days later it was back to a rehab home (we switched to a different one) and had a slightly better experience. However, I brought him home after a few days because I could take much better care of him there. It was just a matter of figuring out new daily routines and how to handle a wheelchair and walker.

This mishap occurred the very beginning of November.

I celebrated my birthday by being grateful that I still had my guy around. Thanksgiving was low key and we missed our annual get together with the grand-kids. It looks like Christmas will be a quiet celebration as well.

Right now I'm his "legs" and have been doing what needs to be done: lots of care giving duties, normal household chores, outdoor chores, going out to cut down a Christmas tree and getting it set up, decorating for the holiday, shopping, etc. Boy am I tired! Definitely no time in the studio.

The good thing is we're at the point where every day gets a little better. He's able to get around more with the walker and the focus is on physical therapy and getting the knee and ankle loosened up so that after Christmas, when he gets the go ahead to start applying weight to his leg, things should improve. Thank God for the chair lift we installed! Without that, it would be a real struggle getting him up and down the stairs.

Needless to say I'm not sorry to see the end of 2017 and sincerely hope next year will be better. I'm going to look at this time as a period of hibernation. I'll count my blessings, enjoy the season and look forward to a fresh new year... and some much needed studio time.

I wish everyone peace, love and a fabulous holiday.