Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year.

Even though this days end is like any other, one can't help having thoughts this evening that are different from the other 365 nights. The thin veil between the old year and the new offers a profound opportunity for reflecting upon all that has been accomplished in the past year and to contemplate new challenges and fresh beginnings in the year to come; hopefully using all of your past experiences to move forward with renewed energy and bold confidence.

I wish everyone the very best for a happy, healthy and creative 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It was a busy but wonderful holiday. Decking the halls, getting together with friends and family and best off all ... seeing Christmas anew through my grand children's eyes.

I even dug out the count-down tree that I had made for my daughter when she was small and passed it along to her little ones. Pressing on one embroidered piece a day, until all the Velcro dots are covered, seems to help the children mark time. But I'm sure that time still didn't pass quickly enough for them.

With all the gifts unwrapped, cookies devoured, and children departed, Christmas 2014 is now part of our collective memories. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. Best wishes to you all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A few new minatures.

Unraveled (2" x 2")

Lineup (1" x 4")

Attitude (2" x 2")

Ho, Ho, Ho!

My focus this week was on making a second stocking. Time has been flying by so quickly and with Christmas day bearing down on me, there was no more procrastinating.

Just finished my granddaughter's stocking today. (Made my grandson's last year.) Now the little ones each have their own, which I hope they will enjoy for years.

One of my fondest childhood memories is waking up on Christmas morning to find my stocking hanging on my bedpost. All sorts of little gifts were hidden inside and it was so much fun to sit in bed and explore those treasures.

I'm looking forward to filling these this year.

Their stockings are hung by the chimney with care ......

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Continuing Miniature Prints

Today I finished making film positives for the rest of my sketches.

Positives on light box.
Feeling a little cocky after yesterdays successful plate making I decided to lay several positives on one larger sheet of Solarplate and expose them all at once. I know I was taking a chance but I was pretty confident that the exposure and wash-out times would work for all of
the images.

Processed Solarplate with multiple images.

Once the plate was dried and cured, I carefully cut each plate to size. The advantage to doing it this way was that it made it much easier to work with the tiny compositions on one large plate, as opposed to doing them individually. Of course, it saved time as well; just two exposures.

These are my favorites from today's session. (Please excuse the quality of the photos which were taken quickly at the end of the day's printing.)

This one measures 2" X 2". There's so much information crammed into such a small space that it actually feels larger than it actually is.

 This one's 1"x 4". I have a series of rock studies that I did while at the beach when we were re-doing the dune after super storm Sandy. I liked this one little slice and decided to hit the one tiny rock in the center with a bit of watercolor.

Standing Spaniel

Another 2" square print from my Springer series. The last two I did of the dogs were roughly 14" x 16" so I thought it would be interesting to see what I could come up with in miniature. I like this composition a lot.

There's an unfortunate light streak across the background, probably from when I squeegeed the plate off when I finished developing it. It kind of looks like he's standing up to pee.

Sit. Stay.
Simple composition with no background. Again, I think it works in this case. This measures 2.75" x 1.5".

Yesterdays favorites are below.


Long bath


I played around with adding machine stitching to this piece and I like it much better than the hand stitching I tried yesterday. I need to be patient and wait until the prints are dry though or the machine's foot smudges the print as seen here around the nest section.

Now I have to decide which three to send to the miniature print competition. With the exception of the dogs, the prints are all so different. Is it better to send a variety or a series of related pieces? If I go in that direction, I'll need to come up with a few more pieces. What to do, what to do?

I'll have a bit of time to think about it because tomorrow it's back to mundane chores and holiday preparations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Small, really small.

Printing tiny plates can be challenging; not what one would assume at first glance. Basically, the hardest part is holding on to the darn plate as you wipe the ink off. This is what I ended up doing.

I picked up a package of magnetic sheets from my local office supply store. I slipped one under a page of an old phone book and the tiny Solarplates stayed put (pretty much), as I applied the ink and wiped the plate. To keep things neat, I just flipped to a clean page each time I re-inked and wiped.

Registration guides for the different sized plates I made were laid out on a sheet of newsprint sized to match the printing paper. I slipped this under the Lexan sheet that I have on the bed of my press.

Once the plates were inked and wiped, they were lifted into place using an angled palette knife and I carefully "scooched" the plates into position.

For some reason, I thought it would be interesting to create a tiny diptych. One plate measures 1.5" x 1  3/16", its mate 1.5" x 1.5". To add to the challenge, I decided to do chine colle' on one plate; talk about crazy! Anyway, this is what I ended up with and I like the effect.

Considering whether or not to add some stitching, I took one of my trial proofs, pierced some holes and hand stitched across the two images. I like the idea of the added thread since it plays into the netting and cats cradle and I want to carry that across to the nest.

However, after my initial try, I'm not happy with the hand stitching so tomorrow I'll try some machine stitching instead.

I also realized that if the stitches are too closely spaced, the holes create a perforation effect and I worry that the print might split along the stitched line.

Lots to consider before I call this one finished.

Making studio time.

The weather outside is frightful, but the studio's so delightful ... so with that holiday tune in mind I decided there's no better way to spend a gray, rainy, cold day than hibernating in my favorite space. With the decking of the halls well under way, I put the garland aside and spent the day at the press.

My focus was on an upcoming international miniature print exhibition hosted by Norwalk, Connecticut's Center for Contemporary Printmaking.  I've always wanted to participate in this juried show and I find I actually have time to do so. 

For some reason, I've always been intrigued by the challenge of working small. A few years back I  participated in The Littlest Print Exchange and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of producing an edition of 50 tiny prints and in return, receiving a collection of 50 prints, perfectly presented, from the other participants.

2009-2012 Littlest Print collections.

The CCP exhibition is a similar challenge but the prints are even tinier; no more than 4 square inches! My assorted plates measure 1"x 4", 2"x 2" and 1.5"x 2.75".

I've been accumulating a series of ideas and sketches and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get down to business and focus on tiny compositions. The images were so small I was able to arrange several of them on a sheet of drafting Mylar, run them through my printer, and then cut them apart. I print two copies on the Mylar because I've found that I get better results when I double up the transparencies before exposing the plates; denser blacks foster better plates.

The advantage of working so small is that its a great way to use up Solarplate scraps and play around with exposure times. If something doesn't come out quite right, it's not a big loss. After making several plates, I spent the day printing.

Today's experimentation's also provided the perfect opportunity to try out new printmaking paper  sent to me by Speedball after I had participated in a test for the company's new water based relief ink.

Arnhem 1618 is a 100% rag, acid free paper made in Holland. It has a beautiful surface, lovely color (both white and warm white) and comes in two weights. I used Akua intaglio ink,  printed on dry paper and was really pleased with the results; beautiful surface quality which accepted the ink perfectly. If you're looking to try a new paper, you won't be disappointed.

Sample pack of Arnhem paper.
By the end of the day I had a nice collection of working proofs to assess and decide which ones had the most potential. Tomorrow I'll single out my favorites, play around with inking options and decide whether any are worth submitting to CCP.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sand & Shadows

First this this morning I pulled a proof from yesterdays plate and was happy to see that it printed as I had hoped. These last two plates hold a lot of ink so it takes awhile to wipe them but by mid- afternoon I had an edition completed.

Sand & Shadows
The fourth print in my Springer series; Sand & Shadows. (Since my subjects are Springer Spaniels I'm trying to keep the "S" thing going).

So here is the series so far. My goal was to create bold, graphic compositions that didn't look too "cute". Hopefully I'm heading in the right direction. I'm considering working on a few smaller sized plates next but for now I think I'll put the dogs aside and focus on a few new ideas.




Monday, November 3, 2014

On A Roll

I feel like the flood gates have opened and I can't seem to stay away from the studio. Ideas and projects incubating in my mind all summer need to emerge; in a hurry. And, as any card carrying Scorpio will tell you, once we focus on something we take it head on; its almost impossible to divert us from our path. So, the weekend was spent printing an edition, framing a print, and finishing up sketches for new pieces.

I couldn't wait to get started this morning but had to clean up and organize a bit. My "Searching" edition was hanging on the line by the window but because of their size I kept bumping into them.  My solution was to move them to an out of the way location - the treadmill; guaranteed not to be disturbed.

The morning was spent adding finishing touches to my drawings, creating transparencies and proofing and calibrating exposure times for the various film positives. By mid-afternoon I was ready to make the plates.

Just when I thought I had used up all of my Solarplates and would have to put things on hold, I found a box with a couple of forgotten plates tucked away. What's interesting is the color of the older Solarplates. I can't remember from where I had ordered them and I don't know if the color is related to the supplier or age. When I print tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if there's a difference in how the plates perform.

Here they are, ready to go. The large plate on the right is another piece for my Spaniel series. The other two plates are the start of a new series which I'm thinking of calling "Pressed & Stitched". Time to call it a day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


OK, so I couldn't wait until tomorrow.

By late afternoon the plate was obviously dry and I was anxious to see the results. The first proof printed very dark. (Boy does this particular plate and image hold ink!)  I have a tendency to under-wipe the plate when I print the first proof because Akua inks wipe so much easier than traditional oil intaglio inks. I need to familiarize myself with the idiosyncrasies of each new plate before I get a feel for what it can take in the way of inking and wiping.

This Solarplate is printed on dry Hahnemhule Copperplate using Akua Carbon Black intaglio ink and is part of my "Springer" series. Since I often find myself on the receiving end of a sand barrage when I'm sitting on the beach with the dogs, my intention was to graphically capture the action rather than focus on the details. (Besides, with the sand flying in your face you can't see the details.)

Now, to step away from the image and see it with fresh eyes in the morning.

Another "Springer" piece

Finally finished the film positive of another image in my "Springer" series; a combination of a photograph and drawing that was manipulated in Photoshop and then printed out on drafting Mylar at a local print shop.

The last time I used their services, I found that the blacks weren't dark enough because their large format printer is used for line work and not images. To compensate, I had them print two copies which I went back into with some additional handwork. I carefully lined up the two images and taped them together. In the proofs, the blacks printed much darker so hopefully I'll be happy with the final plate.

The image will measure approximately 20"x14", which is fairly large for a costly Solarplate. I spent the morning using leftover scraps of plates to test the exposure time for this particular image and then crossed my fingers and went ahead and exposed the plate.

The plate looks promising. I have it sitting out on the drawing table to harden. I'm so anxious to pull a proof but I know I'll be much better off letting it sit over night to fully cure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Controlled Chaos - I think.

Walking into the studio this morning, I didn't know where to begin; so many projects in the "promising" stage and so many possibilities. I need to start dealing with one at a time to see if I can bring something to fruition.

My drawing table has collagraph pieces waiting to be finished and Solarplate proofs to shuffle around. The counter has plates waiting to be proofed again and ink left out from the night before. Thankfully, Akua ink allows me to leave things out over night.

Yesterday, I printed a relief plate on some sheer fabric. Ultimately, what I have in mind and have been toying with for months, is to create a series of prints that are stitched together to create "print collages".

At this point, I'm in the process of printings various plates and items so I have an assortment of images to work with. The tricky part will be to pull together a cohesive composition from so many bits and pieces. Once I get one piece completed, I'll see where I stand with this idea.

In the mean time, things are on hold so I can take care of a few necessary errands and indulge in a reflexology session to sooth this type A soul. I'm hoping to come back relaxed and ready to jump back into the mess.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sky Fall

Even though my summer was packed full of activities, every now and then I was able to snatch a wee bit of creative time and work out ideas for possible prints.

The beach is such a great source of inspiration that often times it's almost too much stimuli. The ideas start flowing and eventually you just need to grab one and run with it. I decided to start by focusing on the heavens.

After playing around with a few options, I manipulated images in Photoshop and created some positive transparencies. Solarplate scraps were used to test exposure times and then plates were burnt.

When I'm at the beach, I never tire of the constantly changing cloud formations that having an unobstructed view affords. Being used to living in the woods, surrounded by tall oaks, definitely hinders ones view of the horizon. Looking up through the canopy of leaves provides me with a cropped sky view; always beautiful but nothing as stunning as a wide open vista.

Individual sections on left, single print on right.
Originally, I was going to create one long print on a single sheet of paper but decided instead to work with sections.

First I printed two separate plates as a diptych. It was OK but seemed to lack a connection between the two images. I decided to create an additional narrow plate; just clouds. I cut the sections apart and inked them separately varying the colors slightly and using chine colle' on the moon section. This worked much better.

Having just completed a large edition for a portfolio, I was more interested in experimenting with this piece. I liked the possibilities that arose when the plates were in sections; affording various inking and wiping options. Also, I had been thinking about "collaging" prints together to create variable editions and this gave me a chance to try that out. Most of all, it felt good to be back at work and finally get something completed!

I finished the piece by embossing a shape to surround the three sections and then each print was carefully glued into place. The resulting "Sky Fall" represents the ever changing and unpredictable nature of time, tides and beach.

Sky Fall

Experimenting with a new ink

Speedball is in the process of developing a new relief ink that is a water-washable oil. Emails were sent out asking for artists who were interested in trying the ink. All were asked to use the inks as we normally would and make notations and comments as we went along. Our feed back will eventually be collected through an online survey and possibly by phone. My can of ink arrived Friday morning so yesterday I gave it a try and made photos as I went along.

As a printmaker who's interested in less toxic materials, I'm a huge fan of Akua inks. To hear that Speedball is developing an oil relief ink that is water-washable is exciting and I was intrigued by this new product .

After my experimentation session, I ended up being very impressed with the ink and hope that Speedball moves forward with this new ink line. I would definitely use it for relief printing.