Monday, May 26, 2008

new work

the entanglement
The Entanglement

a memory of flight
A Memory of Flight

These are two of my more recent pieces. The first was my submission to BIMPE, which I was delighted to learn was accepted into the show. This is my very first submission to a print show, and also will be my first experience being included in a catalog.

The second print will get more burnishing... some lightening in the hands, some refining, but it's mostly done.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

my mom is on cnn

She's the pilot in this video. Yay!

Friday, April 11, 2008

work continues

I think I finished up a couple of plates, but I'm still mulling them over a bit. I have a handful of unfinished ones that are proving to be a bit of a struggle still. Here are the two I'm thinking might be done, in any case.

new etching


We also got down to Skagit Valley to see the daffodil fields, and hope to return to see the tulips some time this weekend. This time I'll bring along my little tripod so the photos are less blurry!



I'm still planning the aquating substitute experiment with pressing sugar into soft ground, but I haven't had a chance to do that yet. I'll post images when I do!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

art advice from long ago

As I struggle with a plate that just won't come out right, I'm reminded of a piece of advice an art teacher gave me when I was in college. She was small and spry and wore hats made of bright yarn that came to a point on the top of her head, like a Hershey's Kiss. She had a German accent and paint under her fingernails.

One day in class she watched as I painted out a large section of something I had been working on for a week. "Why did you do that?" she asked.

"It didn't look the way I wanted."

"It's not important that it look the way you want it to look. It's only important that it say the thing you want it to say."

And it's true, I think. I almost never make something that looks the way it looks in my head, a perfect copy of an idea or hope or aspiration. I make the best representation of that idea that I am able, and I stop when it begins to give off a sense of that feeling that I have when I imagine my idea, that feeling beyond words and my own capacity as a draftsman.

So that's where I'm going with this one. It won't look how I want it to look, and it won't be anything I planned on making, but if I'm lucky, it might speak to the viewer of the small truth I had in mind when I decided to make it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

lots of work, no results

This last week has been a lot of work with no results! After editioning both of the plates that I had ready to go before my press came, last week provided the opportunity to begin developing new plates. I have 3 small portrait plates in the works, in addition to continuing work on the portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi (I think I'm almost finished; may have pics later in the week) and preparing to start the second image in that series, Rachel Carson. However, none of these things are really at the photographing state, so as far as this blog goes, there are no results quite yet.

I also have decided to try and submit to a few print exhibitions. I have 2 in mind so far, both of which have a deadline in May, so I'll need to begin at least 2 prints for that. I have a few sketches of content ideas, but I haven't done any work for that other than actually ordering the plates and researching the exhibitions a bit. I'm not very hopeful about my chances of being accepted, as this is my first few months of serious printmaking, but I am enthusiastic about the process and ready to learn all I can to come back next year and maybe make the cut!

I've been struggling a bit with aquatinting. (Aquatinting, for those who aren't familiar with the process, is a technique in which a fine grain of acid resist is applied to a plate to create a uniform tone over large areas, instead of lines.) I have a few lung issues which make me quite afraid to use rosin, which is the traditional way aquatint is achieved. Rosin is very bad for lungs, and I don't have the capacity to safely handle rosin here at home. I've used spray paint a few times, which is okay but the lack of control over the grain has been quite frustrating to me. I read somewhere online that some success in duplicating aquatint can be had by pressing castor sugar into soft ground and then dissolving it away in water... I'll be experimenting with that this week and will post results. I really hope it works!

Since I have no printmaking photos, here's a photo of henna instead. I did this one last fall. ;)


Sunday, March 23, 2008

what is etching?

Etching is a printmaking process dating back to the 15th century, using metal plates and pressure to make images. Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Goya, William Blake and Picasso all made etchings, as well as countless other artists through the centuries.

Basic etching involves six key elements: A metal plate, an acid bath or other corrosive substance, an acid resist, ink, paper, and pressure.

First, the metal plate. The plate must be prepared, which involves cleaning and polishing the surface of the plate and filing the edges of the plate to a bevel. This is done so that the edges of the plate don't cut through the paper when it's being printed.

etching 3

Next, the plate is cleaned, and when it is free from all oils and dirt, an acid resist is applied. This can be any number of things, but for the purpose of this explanation, we'll say it's hard ground. Hard ground is a liquid varnish of sorts that is simply painted on the metal plate and left to dry.

etching 6

Once the plate is covered with hard ground and dried, the artist uses a small sharp tool to draw a design or image onto the metal plate. Here you can see that where the drawing is, the metal plate is exposed.

etching 8

Once you have a drawing on your plate, it's time to put it in the acid bath. The metal plates I use are zinc, and they dissolve in nitric acid. The acid is very dilute (a 35% solution diluted at a ratio of 1:10), so the zinc dissolves slowly. Once you place the plate into the acid bath, the tiny exposed parts of the plate begin to dissolve, leaving behind etched lines.

etching 9

When the acid has dissolved the right amount of zinc, the plate comes out of the acid bath and gets rinsed off and cleaned. At this point, the work is assessed and either the process is repeated to make more lines on the plate, or it's time to print!

Printing is started by inking the plate. Ink is applied using a small card, and the ink is scraped across the plate surface. It's important not to get too much ink on the plate, but there must be enough ink to work down into every one of the tiny etched lines.

inking the plate, step 1

Next, the excess ink is wiped off the plate using a piece of tarlatan, a material similar to cheesecloth.

inking the plate, step 2

After this, the surface of the plate is polished clean with a scrap of newsprint or newspaper.

inking the plate, step 3

Edges are cleaned to ensure a good print.

inking the plate, step 4

After that, the plate is ready to print. The plate is placed face up on the press bed, covered with clean, damp paper, and then covered with a sheet of newsprint. The press blankets are lowered over all of that, and the print is ready to run!


On its trip through the press, the plate and paper will be subjected to an incredible amount of pressure. Enough pressure to squish the paper into every teeny tiny little crevice of the plate. The paper gets pressed down into each crevice, and picks up the ink, and that's how an etching is made!


Etching is a complicated process and there are many different techniques that can be used, but this is a brief explanation of the most basic technique. Whew!

Friday, March 21, 2008

prints to work on

Today I printed a copy of the portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, and a few copies of an absolutely tiny butterfly plate. The butterfly plate is only 1 3/8" by 1 7/8", and it's printed in prussian blue. I haven't decided on a title for it yet, but I will be doing an edition.

tiny, tiny butterfly


The portrait is very much a work in progress. This is the first time I've seen it printed, so it's nice to have a better idea of which areas I need to work on. Specifically, I'll be working up the neck (which I completely forgot!), evening the background a little, burnishing out parts of the face shading, and fixing the ears.

first print of this plate

The portrait is large, 8" by 10", and all of the shading on this plate is done with lines. Little tiny lines. I used both hard ground and soft ground, and will most likely keep it that way as I go forward with the plate.


Hope you all have a wonderful, inspiring weekend! Next week I hope to get a brief explanation of the etching process up here.