A row of brownstones: process part III

I planned to post this Friday, but things being what they are out in the world, I didn’t manage it. With things in NYC going from quasi-normal to lockdown in a matter of days, it wasn’t a priority. I spent part of the weekend in communication with family and friends near and far, a final stock-up (including art supplies), and Sunday I was working on a freelance design project.

Today is the last day restaurants and bars are open; henceforth bars will be closed and restaurants will be pick-up and delivery only. I’m on day two of isolation (and of working from home). I suppose things will begin to take on some sort of rhythm pretty soon.

In that spirit, here is part three of my process on this experimental etching piece.

Image of an etching plate in progress, next to a reference image on iPad

Above you can see my plate (collection of individual strips of copper) It has a very fine layer of melted rosin dust on the surface, and the black masking layer is asphaltum, a thick substance that resists the acid, even in long dips. That will keep the sky area and windows from etching.

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A row of brownstones: process part II

Here is the third proof I pulled after completing my line etches in the acid bath on Tuesday. The first proof was a mess, on account of excess acid and water trapped beneath the contact paper that held the strips together throughout the etching process. I removed it, cleaned the plates, and re-joined them with fresh contact paper.

My second proof was over-wiped, and looked frail. Third time was the charm, and I’m really pleased with the result of this experiment so far. The spaces between the plates can be wiped to a degree that the interior edges of the plates leave fine lines rather than single heavy ones— that was an unexpected and delightful result!

Next phase will be to etch tonal shades using the aquatint method. I’ve already applied my rosin dust and melted it (with help!). Masking out the sky and two windows will be done before my next studio session.

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An extra day in the year

line drawing of the windows of a row of brownstones

Happy Leap Day! It seems fitting that our extra day comes on the weekend, else I’m sure it would be overlooked by many of us. It isn’t as if the world treats this day any differently.

I’ve been trying hard to not allow the relentless news of the world to overwhelm me. It can be difficult. One thing that invariably brings a sense of peace is time in the printmaking studio. It’s one of my favorite things these days.

This week I began work on a new piece. I’m hoping the row of brownstones in the drawing above will work well on some strips of scrap copper; that their vertical lines and those created by the joins of the metal strips will result in a rhythmic sensibility and a kind of visual logic.

Photo showing the drawing taped to copper strips with graphite transfer paper in between

This is purely an experiment. Five strips of copper, collected from the cast-offs bin near the metal-cutter, have been composited into a single ‘plate’ by aligning edges that fit nicely, and holding them in place with contact paper on the underside.

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Cathedral of St John the Baptist

Continuing on last week’s theme— images from Savannah.

Here are two scans of a copper plate etching in progress. Above shows the first pull of phase two, after adding some tones with aquatint. This is a miniature print (3″x3″).

The next phase will involve some burnishing of the plate to create more variations in the tones. I want to brighten up some of those holes in the foliage to pop more, and modulate the darker greys of the spires.

Below is a scan of phase one, a simple line-etch with hard ground. It had three dips in the acid to achieve some subtle line-weight variations.

I had some trouble scribing elegant lines for the spires, because I applied too much hard ground to the plate. Lesson learned!

Two colors on canvas

Above is one of the canvas tote bags I screen printed back in December. It’s a posed picture; clearly I had to print them upside-down to keep the handles out of the way. I just wanted to put it in the context of the studio where I printed them. They came out well, though! Only two had to be discarded (test prints, the ones I learned from).

I printed the red first, and registration / alignment of the black ink was fairly easy to achieve, mainly on account of how thick the lines of the image are. Once I’ve heat-set the ink, I’ll put some of these in my Etsy shop for sale.

And here are some small pencil case or cosmetics pouches that I used the same colors of inks on. I gave a few of these away as Christmas presents, but there may be a couple left that are decent enough to sell. I’ll post the link here when I’ve loaded up the shop.

Happy New Year: some new prints

Above is a finished print from the edition of Lisbon silkscreens I was working on when last I posted. It’s a three-color rendition of a pen-and-marker sketch I did sitting on the balcony of our little apartment there, perched above the harbor.

Below are two variations from several small editions of a cabin scene. This was inspired by a sort fo history / archiving project undertaken by a friend and I. We realized that our inclination to go cabin camping with friends in the off-seasons has been ongoing for about 15 years, and I wanted to commemorate it.

The top print is a five-color version of the planned six-color print. The leaves were left as negative space in the color separations to avoid overprinting the colors, and they had such a delicate look, I just had to allow some of the prints to retain that quiet, more wintry feeling.

There will be more printed items to share, and I’m going to try to return to a once-a-week posting habit here, even if they’re short.

2019 posed a number of challenges, and I wrote so very little all year. I find that writing is ever a bulwark against mental and emotional overwhelm, yet I forget to allow myself the time, or am too lazy to make the time— despite that it’s good for my well being, and so helpful in putting things into perspective.

This is my place to do that, and I must make it a priority once again.

4th Annual NY International Miniature Prints Exhibition

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.

Here are some little “tests” that comprised my first prints in my return to screen printing

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.

These are some prints in progress: two out of three of the colors have been printed, and I’ll finish with the third color Tuesday in class. This piece, like the two mini etchings up top, relates to my trip to Spain and Portugal back in May. This was from a sketch I did sitting on our balcony in Lisbon, looking out at the river.

Miniature Prints Exhibition

left: Alfama, Lisbon. right: El Poble Sec, Barcelona (line etching + aquatint)

The two 3″ x 3″ intaglio prints that I did after my trip in May, with this call-for-entries specifically in mind, have been accepted into the 4th New York International Miniature Print Exhibition. Very exciting!

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.

Summer Sunday blues

An etching of the view from the balcony in El Poble Sec in Barcelona

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.

Etching of a winding street in the Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon.

The Witch-boy: line etch proof

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.

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