Saturday, March 28, 2015

Yeah! CMYK

Over the last few days I've been researching color separation for photopolymer film. I've always wanted to experiment with this process but just haven't had a span of uninterrupted studio "play" time.

Transparencies, plates and inks ready to proof.

Since I don't always know what I'm doing when it comes to Photoshop, it's best to just focus on the nuts and bolts of "how to" and experiment as I research over a period of contiguous days. The Akua site had a great video and a clever process for making color strips. Color Overlays  I also picked up good info from the Vimeo site about color separation. 4 color process separation The Non-Toxic Print site Non-Toxic Print has a lot of great information and a section dealing specifically with registration and color separation. Color Separation Four color intaglio-type

It wasn't long before I managed to break down an image into CYMK color channels, make transparencies and create my plates. For this trial piece, I used Akua intaglio Phthalo Blue, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Carbon Black. I mixed a little transparent base into all the colors except the black.

Rock #1

This is my very first multicolor proof. As you can see, I have to focus on better registration but over all, I'm pleased with how far I've come over the past few days. Now to tackle the registration issues.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Plastic Plates

I spent the day in the studio working on "cracks & crevices" and ended up with a couple of strong proofs. Adjusting the curves in Photoshop before I make my transparencies makes a world of difference!

I really like the individual compositions of the two proofs below, but I especially like them together so I'm considering presenting them as a diptych. I'm in the process of figuring out my color options; the left is printed in Akua's Carbon Black and the one on the right in Graphite. This series should offer a variety of options that will be fun to explore.

I found out something interesting today. I started out this morning by adhering ImagOn film to a piece of Plexiglass scrap that I had on hand. Even though I was using my new and improved transparency and the same exposure time as my last session, I ended up with a really poor, washed out print.

Plexiglass plate and proof.

This didn't make sense. So just for the heck of it, I adhered film to a different surface; some thinner flexible plastic dry point plates that I've had forever. I ended up with great proofs. There must be something about the thicker plexiglass but for the life of me I can't imagine why the ImagOn won't work when they're used. A puzzel to be solved another time I guess. 

I ended up ordering some plastic plates from Dick Blick. Akua Plates The nice thing about ImagOn is that plates can be reclaimed and used again by placing them in a strong soda ash solution over night to strip the film.

Standard Plexiglass & old plastic plates from Rembrandt Graphic Arts.

Before I called it a day, I exposed both images to a new plate. This time I adhered two layers of ImagOn to one of the larger flexible plastic plates. You can see that after processing, the images look strong. I'll let the plate set over night and see how they print tomorrow.

Flexible plastic plate with double ImagOn layer.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Successful Experimenting

I'm beginning to finalize an idea for my rock piece. Just like the dune is comprised of carefully placed individual boulders, I'm thinking of creating a series of small individual plates focusing on cracks and crevasses and then assembling them on the press bed to print as one unit.

First, I need to do a few test pieces to get my positives and exposure times correct. This is always the trial and error period before I can get down to business.

I'm a self taught novice when it comes to working with Photoshop. I learn as I go along and try to pick up tips and techniques from various sources. There are some pretty good tutorials online and it's just a matter of taking time to sit at the computer and experiment.

Film positives. The one on the right with curve adjustment.

I was having trouble getting details in dark areas. Even though I was using an aquatint screen there were areas of open biting. I decided to take the time to experiment and see if I could solve this problem once and for all. Dragging out my Photoshop books I came across a section on "curves".  It sounded as though the blacks on my film were too dark.

Because the image is translated into a dot structure, the blackest areas need to be reduced from 100% to around 70% for ImagOn and 80% for Solarplate. With this information, I created two transparencies on Mylar. There were no adjustments done to the one on the left. The one on the right  had an adjustment using curves. The adjusted transparency looks lighter and has a gray tone.

ImagOn plate, transparencies & proofs.

To keep exposure and processing times the same, I exposed the two transparencies to the same surface - ImagOn adhered to a sheet of plexiglass . Using a NuArc exposure unit, the plate was first exposed to an aquatint screen for 20 LU's and then the image was exposed for 35 LU's. It was processed in a soda ash bath for 9 minutes.

Transparencies on top - proofs below.

After proofing the plate, I was happy with the results and surprised to see what a difference the adjustment made. The image above shows the two transparencies and their corresponding proofs. The plate that was made using the 70% transparency has much more detail than the darker transparency. More light was able to penetrate the image during exposure to provide greater detail. Eureka!

So, once you have your image, click Image - Adjust - Curves. Pull the right end point of the graph straight down towards the middle of the system of coordinates until the Output field shows 70% for ImagOn and 80% for Solarplate. Then click OK and print your transparency.

Beautiful Boulders

I have always been drawn to rocks and decided that it was high time to make them the topic of my next project. There's something about their forms, textures and colors that speak to me and at times I can't resist playing around with whats at hand. 

For me, rocks also play a vital role in protecting a beloved shoreline home from natures forces. When a hurricane is pushing waves relentlessly onto shore, a sturdy rock dune provides a barrier to natures fury.

Our original family cottage had a small dune and we were very lucky over the decades to not to suffer catastrophic storm damage. Even though the '54 hurricane managed to push in the front wall and deposit sand and rocks in the basement, it was repairable. The old place held up well.

Over the years though, the water has been creeping closer to the dune and we knew it was just a matter of time before our luck would run out when it came to warding off mother nature's tantrums. We decided to rebuild the cottage, raise it up and reinforce the dune. 

It was fascinating to watch the dune building process. Heavy boulders would be trucked in, a few at a time because of their size. An excavator would pick up and carefully place each rock making sure they were locked tightly against each other. I had to admire the skill of the machine operator. He would manipulate the bucket as if were an extension of his hand. I would often spend time watching the progress and must say that I longed to try it myself.

As it turned out, it was a good thing that we rebuilt when we did. Super storm Sandy hit shortly after we finished the house and built the stairs over the dune. This is what the dune and walk-over looked like the day after the storm.

Beautiful blue sky; the calm after the storm but such destruction along the coast. The Atlantic was right up to the remainder of the dune.

It was amazing to see that the huge boulders in the dune had been pushed into the front yard and rolled out toward the ocean. The force of the waves must have been astounding! But the dune did its job and absorbed the brunt of the waters force.

But, because of the dune and the fact that we had raised the building, there was no damage to the house itself. The basement took the hit; sand and rocks in the basement, a couple of break-away walls and a garage door that needed replacing. We were lucky; I don't believe the old cottage would have survived.

After Sandy, we immediately rehired the excavator crew to come back and rebuild the dune so we'd be prepared for the next storm.  I happily got to watch to watch them play with rocks again.

Friday, March 20, 2015


A much needed break did my psyche a world of good.

There's nothing like going from mountains of snow to a warm tropical environment to refresh ones perspective.

The moon was setting as we were waiting for take off.

It wasn't long before I was looking down on the snowy patchwork quilt covering New England.

With all my obligations met and no deadlines looming, I'm back in the studio working on ideas for my next project. My grand-pups Oscar and Ruby will be spending the weekend with me so they'll keep me company.   

So today, even though they're predicting snow, the storm will pass and spring will come. Mentally, it's the perfect day to shake off winter's cobwebs and start fresh. Someone once said that Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. So today, I'll whistle while I work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Winter at the beach.

I love escaping to the beach in winter. Walking alone on wet sand; the beach all to myself with the sound of the ocean a calming soundtrack to my inner voice. That huge sky and open horizon is there to remind me how small I am in the great scheme of things.

The bright winter sky so clear and blue in contrast to the boulders on the dune.

The beach rocks this past weekend were coated in a glaze of ice giving them the appearance of fine gems.

This cold and snowy winter has brought snow and ice right up to the tide line creating beautiful lines and textures.

Inspirational, visual treasures everywhere!

It just felt so good to get away for a few days, leave a hectic couple of weeks behind and decompress.

Gazing off into a late winter afternoon sky brings peace to the soul and a reminder to enjoy natures beauty no matter what the season.