Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gallery Holiday Show

A local gallery holds a holiday exhibition every year called 6 by 6. For a reasonable entrance fee and a 20% commission, artists are invited to submit works that meet the 6" square requirement. The goal is to raise money for the gallery by providing the community with an opportunity to purchase original works of art. Out of curiosity, I decided to participate this year and submitted a few pieces. Because of the economy, I wasn't sure if the work would sell but was pleased to find that a couple of pieces had been purchased. Granted, they were priced at only $35 each but there was something about selling small works locally that appealed to me.

Versacel Plates

After mentioning Versacel in the previous post I decided to dig out some examples to illustrate its versatility. The image above shows the Versacel plate on the right and the print on the left. The plate has materials glued to it (feathers & half circle at top left) incised lines, and embossed chains and twigs. It was inked and wiped intaglio with a surface roll using Akua inks.

This Versacel print was created in two sections. A rectangle was cut from the main plate and the fish image was drawn using a standard etching needle. The rest of the plate was created by embossing netting and using a metal stamp tool to create patterns and textures. It was inked in two separate sections - the fish inked and wiped as an intaglio and the main plate inked as a relief - then reassembled as one plate and run through the press.

This image shows how delicate lines can be scribed into Versacel to create detailed drawings. The scissors were embossed into the plate and small marks were cut into the plate using linoleum cutting tools. It's a two section plate that was inked, wiped and printed as an intaglio.

Versacel is an interesting material to work with and provides endless opportunities for printmaking experimentation. (I've even applied ImagOn photopolymer film to it. Its make up allows the plate to sit in the soda ash bath with no ill effects.) It's fairly inexpensive, easy to cut, and holds up to the rigors of printmaking; definitely worth playing around with.

Background Plate

Now that I'm happy with the intaglio plates, I've turned my attentions to the larger base plate that I will use in conjunction with the two smaller copper plates.

A few years ago I came across a material called Versacel. I believe it's used in the sign business and reminds me of a dense form of styrafoam. It makes a great surface to print from because it is very rigid, can be easily incised with carving tools, drawn into with a ball point pen or sharp pointed tool, materials can be glued to its surface for collagraphic techniques, and objects can be embossed into it. The girdle pictured above was embossed onto the Versacel by running it through the press to pick up some of the details of the garment.

My intentions are to add various materials and textures to build up the surface as a collagraph. I plan to ink this as an intaglio with a surface relief roll and then place the copper plates on top to run the whole thing through the press as one. We'll see how this develops.

I purchase my Versacel from Industrial Safety Supply Co.,176 Newington Road, West Hartford, CT 06133-0720 Phone: 860-233-9881. It comes in 4' X 8' sheets but they cut it down to more manageable sizes to ship.

Prior Proper Planning Prevents .....

When working with photopolymer processes it's extremely important to do test plates to get the light exposure correct for the particular image you're working with. You need to adjust for the density of your negative, the materials used to create it, your particular light source, use of an aquatint screen and the type of photopolymer film or plate. Too much exposure and you burn out the detail in your image and get a very light print. Too little exposure and you don't get enough detail.

Now, I will be the first to admit that patience is not one of my strong points and I love to just jump right in and see what happens. This often works because of my past experience but there are times when an image just wont print as intended and there is no other alternative than to step back and do some exposure tests.

I adhered one layer of ImagOn to a copper plate and exposed it to an aquatint screen. The screen I favor is produced by Elizabeth Dove (I met Elizabeth in 1995 when we were attending one of Keith Howard's Masters Workshops in Peace River, Alberta. She went on to do a lot of research with the photopolymer film and is featured in Howard's books.)

I "step" exposed the aquatint screen to light units in increments of 10. After removing the aquatint screen, I placed the image negative over the plate and exposed that to varying amounts of light. This test plate was developed and printed and I was able to determine which exposure, for both the aquatint screen and the negative, worked best for this particular image. I made a new set of plates using the appropriate exposure times and was happy with the results. Now, if I would just do this with each new image I would save myself a lot of time and frustration.

Enjoying the Season

The end of the year and the holiday season is such a busy time with all the decorating, shopping, baking, and entertaining. It's difficult to follow through on studio projects and it's frustrating for me to lose momentum when I have a piece in the works. This is when I need to remind myself to relax and go with the flow and just take time to enjoy the season and time with family and friends. I know I'll be able to pick up where I left off once things get back to normal.

To get in the holiday mood, I decided to gift my friends with an original print so I spent a couple of days editioning and putting together cards. (It was actually a lot of fun.)
The relief print is based on a photo I took of our garden bench when it was covered in snow earlier this month. I was drawn to the serenity of the scene and felt that it really represented the peace we all seek.

May you all enjoy the best the season has to offer!