Last night was the opening reception for the Mini Prints show at Manhattan Graphics Center, where I take printmaking classes. The place was packed to the gills, and I was pleased to see that my two prints had already been claimed by someone! (The red dots indicate the pieces are sold.)
This was the first time I’ve entered artwork into a juried show in years, and it was exciting to received the email that my pieces were accepted, so seeing those little red dots was the cherry on top.
As ever, I skip around from medium to medium, and this semester at the studio is no exception; I’ve been taking a screen printing class, I’ve not used this method since I was in school, so it’s been great getting back into it. I’m undecided yet whether I’ll return to etching or stick with this in the new year, but I have time.
I have some time to make more prints from my plates, and finesse them before choosing the best ones to send in for the exhibit.
Meanwhile, I’ve decided to mix things up a little, take a break from the copper plates, so next month I’ll delve into screen printing for the first time since I was in school. Time to work on concepts and sketches for that.
I’m feeling scattered and at a loss. I have a lot that I could be doing, preparing, working on, reading, and yet I’ve been sitting at the computer sort of flitting in and out, here and there— utterly unable or unwilling to choose a project or task, something upon which to focus. It’s driving me mental. Further adding to the frustration, it’s a summer Sunday that could have been a beach day, for example, yet I’ve chosen to use at s a day of getting things done, and still— nothing is getting done.
For now, I’ll offer up these two etchings that I’ve finished recently. They are very small— only 3″x3″ each, and were inspired by photos taken during my trip to Barcelona and Lisbon back in May.
Here is a scan of an initial proof of my line-etching of the witch-boy. This is the result of scratching my drawing into a waxy coating over the copper plate, called a hard ground. After coating the plate, you can transfer your (reversed) image onto the surface to guide you as you make your lines into the coating with a scribe tool..
Once you’ve finished, the plate is ready to go into the ferric-chloride acid bath. The places where you’ve scribed into the hard ground coating will be eaten away by the acid, thereby “etching” the lines into the copper plate.
Here is a picture I took with my phone after working the drawing in the hard ground, then immersing the plate for three ‘bites’ in the acid. This plate will serve as my re-entry to the world and techniques of etching, since it’s been over 7 years since I took my first class, so I didn’t spend a ton of time on it
The way this process works:
1. Coat copper with ‘hard ground’ which is basically a sort of wax
2. Draw into the hard ground, exposing the copper
3. Immerse the plate (carefully, wearing gloves) into a bath of ferric-chloride solution. The longer it is in, the deeper and the acid ‘etches’ your lines into the copper, so they hold more ink.
It’s very similar to the photographic process in that way. So if you want some lines to stay very thin, you do a ‘first bite,’ then mask off some areas. Immerse for a second bite, etc.
This means that even though I used the same scribing tool on the whole plate, the result is three different line weights in the image, which will be more apparent when I do my test print.
Below is a sort of preview that I did just by inversing and using photoshop to fake it, but as this can’t show the depth of the lines, it’s not a true preview of a print.
Here is the cleaned-up inked version of the house. Next is time to trace it and then transfer the revered version of this to the plate, below:
Here is the tracing paper after transferring the image. As you can see, I replaced the original trees. I used a white charcoal pencil on the tracing paper to show up on the dark surface of the ‘wax’ ground into witch I’ll scratch the drawing. (I’m hoping the pre-made transfer paper I ordered will leave crisper lines, as this is fuzzy.)
After finishing the transfer to copper, I realized that I left all of my etching tools at the studio! So, I guess I’ll be working on that portion at class. I’ll try to take some decent photos of the line work in progress. You’ll see how impossibly fine the lines can be compared to pen or pencil. Stay tuned!
Tuesday I went to my first class in over 7 years— returning to the art of copperplate etching (intaglio). I’ve a small plate ready to work on before my next class on Tuesday. This is the wee sketch I did for it today.
It needs finessing, and then I’ll transfer it in reverse to my plate. I may change those trees to pines, and add some snow. We’ll see. I want to keep it fairly simple, but use this to re-familiarize with the studio and processes after such a long hiatus. Gotta wake up the muscle memory.
After I’ve got into a bit of a groove, I’ll embark on something more complex. I really want to design images with the various techniques in my mind from the start. Work to the medium’s strengths, not just mimic ink drawings or some such. More to come here as I progress!
I’ve just signed up —at long last— for another printmaking class! Difficult to believe it’s been seven years since my scholarship to learn copperplate etching (intaglio) at Manhattan Graphics Center, which was my first and only foray into this fantastic ancient method of picture-making.
The class begins in November, with my same instructor as last time. I’ve still got a huge slab of copper which I didn’t get to last time, and I hope it’s still in good nick. Gotta check out my supplies to see what else I’ll need to resume the practice.
This time, I’m keen to get more exploratory in my work. In 2011 I focused on pieces that were intricately detailed and traditional (as you can see from these two prints). My approach involved a lot of hand work, using a magnifying glass to see as I worked. It was incredibly time-consuming, even before the acid-etching stage— which is where a lot of magic can happen, much like going into the darkroom with one’s negatives.
I want so much to write. I’d like to be still for a day or two; to draw. To draw at a rate more like I was in October— daily. Or nearly so. To have space for things to percolate and bubble to the surface from below.
Instead, I’ve been kept moving, pulled in multiple directions— and good ones. I’m feeling positive and interested in both the work and other pursuits I’ve been drawn to lately. But I miss the drawing, and its attendant writing.
I look forward to my week upstate at Christmastide, to be still some. And of course to time spent with my family and the animals. Wanders around the Farm to say hi to the Dudes*, take photos, and listen to the quiet of winter up there. Walk the fields. Watch murder mysteries with Mom; talk books and politics with Dad; see a movie with the brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. (Probably the odd game of euchre or gin rummy.)
Some quiet nights in the second floor with a big orange cat lying on the bed as I read or type away on my laptop. Maybe he and I will get lost in the attic for minute, time traveling through old things, cast aways in an uninsulated room where the occasional bird finds her way in but not out— leaving behind, at length, a pile of airy bones in the low-ceilinged space beneath the pitched roof. A room mostly neglected and filled with the memories of several generations. (My kind of room)
All these things will make me feel rested and calm; remind me that no one is ever at the helm in this world. Not for long, anyway, and there is a comfort in that. Just as there is comfort in watching slow snow falling on the grass, gone brown in the fall in preparation for the long winter’s sleep.