I’ve been taking a class that’s all about getting unstuck or kickstart a revolution in one’s art. It’s led by artist Louise Fletcher, who is co-host of a podcast I’ve been listening to for awhile now. I took her free one week taster course, and decided to jump in and do the full ten-week program because that first week was so effective in getting me to create images, even if they were just exercises in loosening up.
I’ve been learning a lot about what I like and don’t like when it comes to art and mark-making, but more importantly, Ive been really enjoying it! I’ve also been learning about tools, techniques, and types of paint I like. Anyway, these are just a few of the images that have come from the various assignments or modules in the course.
I don’t think this is emblematic of what all my work will look like in future; I enjoy creating representational work. However, I think all that I’m learning will affect my approach and techniques on anything I make in the realm of drawing and painting. And I’m thrilled to be back in a place where I can start putting marks on paper with no expectation of it at the start. That expectation of creating a successful, beautiful image everytime has been crippling me, and it prevents me from even starting or trying.
Only three weeks into this ten week class, I already feel I’ve gotten so much out of it.
Every weekend I open a “new post” window, and there it sits, staring at me with its blank, accusatory stare. No, the accusation comes from within.
The pressure I put upon myself, the spreading myself too thin, unwittingly, every time a create a ‘weekend’ list— I hobble myself with overwhelm! I did cross lots off my list yesterday but today I’ve been lazy, reading the sunday paper and blogs.
One of the missives from Louise Fletcher‘s Art blog + podcast had an interesting outline of “types” of artist, and it resonated with me immediately. I’m not going to put her words here with the descriptions, but it sounds like it will be a future post on her site, so look out for it there. They are somewhat self-explanatory, but she really nails them in her descriptions (The People-Pleaser, The Disciple, The Perpetual Student, The Critic, The Perfectionist, The Producer, The Artist).
I’ve decided to share my response to her below. It aligns with what I wrote last night after a friend’s zoom ritual of making moonwater for the new moon, followed by jotting ideas around letting go of what doesn’t serve you, and finding new ways to do, to be, to move forward— very timely under the sway of a pandemic which has upended our lives in such far-reaching and often devastating ways.
Over the weekend I undertook a project that I’d originally intended to do when I moved into my apartment, but I was on a deadline with a big project for a museum, and there was no time. Since then, well, I just haven’t thought about it except once in awhile.
Then last weekend I got a bee in my bonnet about it. I thought about waiting until Memorial Day weekend, when I would have three days before it would need to be finished, now that I work from home again. But nope! I decided to rush into it, if only for the feeling of accomplishment that such a project can bring.
It also doubled as a way to keep me from spending too much time on the computer over the weekend— successfully! Below are a series of process pics showing the stripping and re-painting.
So, it essentially went from whitewashed with a grid of metallic gold paper (squares cut from joss paper), to whitewashed with metallic gold stripes! But as the old polyurethane had long since gone yellow, it really does look fresh and crisp now.
As always, these projects take about four hours longer than I ever expect, so the total clocked in at around twelve hours. Below is the full photo of the finished desk, with all the tech back in place.
For this project, I used some of the less dangerous, more eco-friendly (so they say on the label) varnish stripper, which is part of what took quite a bit longer than expected, and more elbow grease. My body ached for a couple of days after this, particularly because I was working on the floor, as you can see in the photos.
It was totally worth it though! Has anyone else done any big DIY or other projects while sheltering in place?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.