Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Exposed Plate

Here's the finished plate. This one has two layers of Imagon film; layer #1 a dot screen exposure and layer #2 the image. I could proof the plate now but it's getting late and I'd be better off starting fresh in the morning.

There are good step by step instructions for using Imagon film in Keith Howard's books. Book one is titled Non-Toxic Intaglio Printmaking (one of my prints is on page 26) and his second book is The Contemporary Printmaker.

It's important to remember that you need access to a good exposure unit with a vacuum frame. Look on line and you may get lucky like I did and find one with plenty of life left in it. Also, most classrooms and print studios usually have one these days since there's been an emphasis on less toxic printmaking processes.

Final Steps

When the plate has developed for 9 minutes, remove it from the soda ash bath and rinse it under running water for a minute and GENTLY wipe it with a SOFT sponge. Spritz the plate with white vinegar to stabilize it. Finish up by blotting it with newsprint and dry with heat gun. Your plate is now ready to print.

Image Exposure

Once you peel off the protective layer, after your film has been exposed to the dot screen, apply a second layer of Imagon the same way you did the first. It's VERY IMPORTANT that you remember to peel off the protective layer from the first layer of film! Return the plate to the exposure unit, lay your negative over the film - emulsion side down - engage the vacuum and exposure the film.

Take the exposed plate, peel off the protective acetate layer, and place the plate face up in a solution of soda ash and water. (10 grams of soda ash to 1 liter of water.) Cover the tray so light doesn't affect the plate and let it sit undisturbed for 9 minutes. I use a simple kitchen timer to keep track of the time.

Aquatint Screen

Once you have your photopolymer film adhered to the plate you're ready to make an exposure. I like to expose my first layer of film to an aquatint screen (dot screen) to ensure that I will get strong darks in my print.

I lay my plate in the exposure unit, place the dot screen over the plate (emulsion side down) drop the glass and start the vacuum. For my unit, I expose the screen for 20 light units.

Once the exposure is complete, I remove the top protective layer of acetate from the Imagon and I'm ready to apply a second layer of film over the first.

Imagon Film Application

I have always used Imagon film for my photopolymer prints and have good luck with it. There are many who find it difficult to work with but I don't find that to be the case. (Now, lets hope since I made that statement I don't start having problems!)

Remember to work in a safe light environment. Cut film slightly larger than the plate and be careful not to put any "dents" in it. Place your plate on a clean flat surface and spritz the plate with water.
Carefully peel off the soft layer on the inside curl of the film. I find that if I tape a piece of duct tape - upside down - to the edge of my counter, I can touch a corner of the film to it to get the peel started.

Lay the film over the plate being careful not to get any wrinkles. Spritz the surface of the film with water and using a squeegee, start at the center of the plate and squeegee out toward the edges. Trim excess film from the plate's edges and finish up by rubbing the surface with a soft rag. Heat dry the plate from the back with a heat gun.

Preparing a Plate for Photopolymer Film

I like to use sheets of roofing copper for my photo intaglio plates. They are easy to cut to size on my old paper cutter and not too expensive. Besides, with photopolymer film, the plate can be reclaimed by soaking it in a strong soda ash solution and used again and again. Once I have my plate sized, I spritz the surface with water and sand it with very fine wet/dry sandpaper. When this is done, a quick rinse under running water and a spritz of isopropal alcohol to remove any traces of grease and I'm ready to apply the film.

Morning's Work

I spend the morning sketching and working out ideas for my next exchange project.

The Littlest Print Exchange is a juried trade of tiny 3.5" x 3.5" art prints. Each accepted artist is invited to submit an edition of 50 prints and will in turn receive a complete portfolio of 50 prints from all 50 individual artists.

Once I settled on an interesting image, I played around in PhotoShop and worked up a negative. Because the print size is so small (and 50 prints are due by September 1st) I decided to try something different. I'm making a plate with 4 of the same image so I can print 4 at once and have a more manageable sized plate to work with. It was always my intention to do a bleed print and since I'll be doing a photo intaglio plate, this should work well; I'll trim the prints to size when I finish.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I was pretty happy with the completed print which I titled "Snagged". I liked the idea of adding an actual feather to the image by just making a couple of slits in the paper and "snagging" the feather in place. (For some reason, whenever I see a feather, I pick it up so I had a number to choose from as I finished up the edition.)

The edition of 22 was printed for the 2009 Art House Exchange on Hahnemuhle-Copperplate using Akua carbon black ink. Prints from the exchange will be on exhibit at the Art House Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia on August 28th.

Now to get them packaged and in the mail!

Inking the Plate

Lately I have been experimenting with Akua water-based inks (http://www.waterbasedinks.com/) and find they work great. There is no strong odor, the colors are vibrant and they clean up easily without harsh chemicals or solvents. I would highly recommend you give them a try if you are looking for a safer, less toxic studio.

Creating a Plate

Once I had my concept in place, I decided to do a photo intaglio print using Imagon film.

I used copper as my plate. After sanding the surface with a fine grit wet/dry paper, I cleaned the plate with some rubbing alcohol to make sure it was grease free. A piece of Imagon film was cut to size and adhered to the plate. The first step was to expose the layer of film to an aquatint screen. Mine was purchased from Elizabeth Dove, an artist I worked with in Canada, at a Keith Howard workshop. (http://www.elizabethdove.com/artwork/index.html) With that completed, I applied a second layer of Imagon over the first and exposed the image to the film.

I use a Nu-Arc exposure unit that I was extremely fortunate to find it on Craig's List for an unbelievable price. It has been a welcome addition to my studio and a vital piece of equipment if you work with any type of polymer plates. It's extremely important to have a good vacuum table and light source when using this process.

After exposure, the plate was processed in a bath of soda ash and water for nine minutes. It was removed from the soda ash, washed with water and sprayed with vinegar to stabilize the plate. Finally, I used a heat gun to dry the plate and it was ready to print.

This weekend I finished my edition for the 2009 Art House Exchange (http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/printexchange).

The submission date is August 1st and I was worried about meeting the deadline. My original idea had been put on hold so often that it had become stale and I no longer felt that "creative connection" to what I was doing. I find it frustrating when I have to start and stop and put projects on hold for a month or two. After awhile, I just lose interest. Last week I decided my best move would be to scrap the old image and start fresh. Once I felt a creative connection to what is was doing, everything just fell into place.

The topic for the exchange is "Danger". I played around with some sketches dealing with barbed wire and feathers and liked the concept of coming close to "danger" but managing to escape it's grasp. So... I hit a snag and was dangerously close to missing the deadline for this project but managed to escape disaster and complete the print.

"As soon as there is life, there is danger" Ralph Waldo Emerson

Travel Book

Printmakers Network of Southern New England

I have some new photos of TRAVEL, a handbound artist's book created by the Printmakers Network of Southern New England. As you can see, it's a beautiful accordion book of poems and prints in response to the word "travel". It was amazing to see how well all of the individual work came together and how beautifully the images and poems resonated off of each other.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Diving In

Often the hardest thing I must overcome is just getting started! I know that once I begin, I won’t want to stop and actually resent any interruptions like phone calls, meal time or even bathroom breaks. I have ideas swimming through my head but as I make my way to the studio, to begin a new project, my doubts and insecurities surface and I find myself drawn toward other less threatening and more mundane activities just to postpone the moment of truth; getting started. One would think that after a lifetime of making art, with more than half of that time spent teaching others to be creative, I would have moved past these feelings long ago. But no, it’s always that slightly panicky hesitation similar to how I feel before I dive through the surf. Once I take the plunge and realize that I’ll come to the surface, the adrenaline rush hits and I’m ready to swim. And so it goes with my art; I keep reminding myself to just jump right in, flounder around a bit, try different strokes and techniques and before I know it I’m caught up in the riptide of creative momentum.

“I go to my studio everyday. Some days the work comes easily. Other days nothing happens. Yet on the good days the inspiration is only an accumulation of all the other days, the nonproductive ones.” Beverly Pepper

Missed Deadline

I had recently started a piece for a twitter art show project. But, best laid plans .... well anyway, I wasn't quite finished and then we ended up going away for a couple of weeks and I missed the July 1st deadline.

I decided to finish the piece anyway, just to tie up loose ends. I started out using a proof from an old litho and added collage elements to finish the work. It felt like an extension of the mailART project I just completed but I was glad I took the time to finish the work rather than toss it aside.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making Progress

I finished the two plates today that I will use for the Art House Exchange. The background plate was made using a Solarplate and will be printed as an intaglio with a surface roll. The second plate was carved from linoluem and will be printed as a relief over the background image.

The next step will be to play around with colors and do some proofing. However, in printmaking, plans can change during the proofing stage because you can never be sure how the images will print or if they will work together as intended. Sometimes it's "back to the drawing board" but that's what make the process so interesting.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Travel" Book

I recently participated in a wonderful collaborative project involving the Printmakers Network of Southern New England (of which I'm a member) and 3 Connecticut poets. Fifteen artists joined together with the poets to create “Travel,” a hand-bound collection of accordion books featuring original prints and poems. Started in 2006, the concept was for artists and poets to work in conjunction on a chosen subject over a given period of time. Each poet chose 4 words related to the theme of travel. Each printmaker then chose which group of four words to respond to as inspiration. Shown here, is my contribution; an intaglio print entitled; "As The Crow Flies". The completed book is stunning and was a very rewarding project to undertake.

Thirty copies of the 3-book collection (page size 11”x 11”) were created with eight for sale at $2500 pre-release, $3000 post release.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebratory Lunch

Took a break from the studio and had a celebratory lunch with my daughter, at the beach. This has been a tradition with us forever; we toast the end of another successful school year and the start of summer vacation.Today we feasted on our favorites, cherrystones (my daughter's own delicious concoction), lobster, a nice chardonnay and something chocolate for dessert. Good food and good company - fantastic!!

I'm adding the recipe for the cherry stones so if you are so inclined, you can have your own feast.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MailART Postcards - Received

More #mailart postcards have arrived today. As new cards arrive they will be posted on a group site so everyone can see the work of all 32 participants. If you're interested in seeing the entire collection please visit http://www.flickr.com/groups/1151649@N21/pool/.