While we are on the topic of "plein air printmaking" (and we are - remember the Low Tide Seat story and Wave on a Perfect Day?), this birch tree is outside my window. When I created the block for this print, I worked from direct observation. I often sit in the same spot when I print from it too.
This particular impression is from May, so bright sunny greens fill the background. Fun to look at on a cold day like today!
Odiorne Point State Park, in Rye, NH, hosted an event for artists a few years ago. We could have access to the seaside park for a week to paint or draw or whatever we liked. On the last day, there was a small exhibit of finished pieces.
Instead of painting, I completed two white-line woodcuts from start to finish - plein air printmaking!
While I was drawing and deciding which rock and tide pool combo to immortalize in wood, I noticed that this gull stuck around for a long time. Long enough to sketch for sure. But I was certain that if I started drawing him, he would fly off. So I tried to interest myself in other things.... and he stayed on that rock....
Inviting or teasing?
Finally, I turned to a blank piece of paper and scratched away with a pencil. The gull didn't move until the drawing - rocks, water, weed and all - was complete. He flew away before I carved the block, but that was fine. I had what I needed and in the final print, he'll sit there forever.
Yes, I made a video when I was printing Bright Day.
Printing jigsaw reliefs is such a complicated exercise - the only way to clearly explain that is to show you how it works.
This little demo shows you my tools, piles of ink, paper, and workspace. Plus, you can see all the pieces of the block, from the large and simple to the teeny tiny nub that actually did get lost down the drain when the edition was done and the block cleaned for the last time.
Just because there are unfinished prints all over the place around here, doesn't mean new things aren't happening.
This is that soft kut stuff you've seen before - I used this for Bright Wave and Marsh Spring. It started as a 9"x12" rectangle. But after some quality time with a utility knife, it has been transformed into a set of interlocking shapes.
This is what blocks look like before printing starts. Ink has not yet touched its grey surface.
Just like the other two jigsaw prints from this rubbery stuff, the final print will be one layer of many colors on kinwashi paper. That's the kind with the little fibers in it.
Since this print and Bright Wave are in the same printmaking family, there will be a special surprise tomorrow.
First things first: To all veterans and active military folk who happen to read an art blog, thank you.
Because you do what you do, I can enjoy the natural world and create big messes in my studio trying to make ink and paint replicate what I see. You are appreciated and honored all year, not just on this day.
As far as printmaking is concerned, the plan for last weekend was to let the bottle jack press show off its mad skills during the open studio.
What really happened was that every time I picked up roller, pallette knife or print, a visitor walked in the door. Welcoming visitors is the true goal of an open studio, so I am not complaining.
I finished printing the latest layer on this piece yesterday. Looks good so far, if I do say so myself. There might be just one layer left.... We will have to see.
(Hey! I just noticed that the green in this photo looks fine. The last two times I have shared this print the green in the wave looks radioactive. It doesn't in real life, I promise.)
I painted at the coast A LOT in August, September and October - driving all the way over there at least twice a week.
July was so cold and rainy that I wondered if the whole season was over early. Even a snow lover like me wants a tiny bit of summer.
In August, the sun and warmth returned, and I jumped on it. Nothing like weeks of icky weather to motivate a painter to drop everything else and seize the day when the skies finally clear. Plus, I had a buddy to meet up with almost every time.
Most of the work from those weeks is sketchy. It was great exercise and the results will lead to some exciting prints, but not much of it can be called "great painting."
This one is different - just that much above its compatriots in quality and “doneness”. I haven’t touched is since it left the rocks and it is still standing up as a nice painting.
While I was painting this piece, my friend and I remarked that the tide seemed to pause at high for a while. We didn’t talk about it long - we still worked furiously to take advantage of the phenomenon It might be the only evidence you will see on the blog that I was painting as much as I claim.... But if you come by for the open studio this weekend...
Last time I worked on it, I couldn’t decide if the lower part of the wave was dark enough. Just like our last view of this print, the green looks very strange on the blog, but fine on my computer. Just trust me when I say that I slapped down any urge to go neon on this piece.
But even the tamer, darker green/purple mix in the real life print needed the lightest light next to it to help me make a solid, confident decision.
Instead of carving anything, I masked off part of the block with a stencil and added white, the lightest color in the whole print.
I was also unhappy with the saturation of ink in the rock area, so I reprinted it - I just added another layer of the same brown. What will happen to it next? You will see for yourself if you come by this weekend. Other than that, you will have to wait until the next post about it.
"À la poupée (literally, "with
the doll") describes a method of inking
intaglio prints in which two or more inks of different colors are selectively
applied to different parts of a single copperplate. The inked plate is then
printed in a single pass through the press. The method takes its name from the
poupée (doll), the small ball-shaped wad of fabric that is used
to ink the plate."
This is one layer color printmaking, like white-line woodcuts, so it feels familiar. But the way the ink gets to the paper is very different.
number 6 off the press
White-line woodcuts are reliefs - the ink is on the raised portions of the block. When we apply pressure with a baren or spoon or a press, the ink from those raised areas is transferred to the paper.
In contrast, solarplate etchings are (like copper etchings) intaglio plates. This means that ink accumulates in small grooves and is then forced into paper under very high pressure. We really need a press to print.
To ink an intaglio plate, we cover the whole thing with color - smearing it all over the surface with a small card or our doll. Then, using a series of wiping techniques, we force the ink into the little recesses while removing most of it from the smooth areas.
If we are comfortable with a little bedlam on our plate, we can gob on as many colors as we want. These colors mix and spread out all over the plate when we wipe.
For this print, I chose three hues - brown, blue and yellow. I mixed some of the yellow and blue on my pallette to give myself a bright green. I mostly put yellow and green in the wave, blue in the background
(top) and brown on the bottom in the foreground rocks. After printing
the plate nine times, I had nine different images.
number 9 off the press
I knew this would happen and I like the surprise involved in this inking method. Which means I am going to keep printing them.
This autumn I'm playing with a different printmaking method. One that uses the power of light to create plates.
I had done one little print of Hattie as a puppy using a Solarplate a few years ago, but I want to explore the process a little more. When everything works out well, it seems miraculous.
"Solarplate" printmaking starts with a drawing on something transparent - some artists use frosted glass, others print something off their computer onto a transparency. I use frosted mylar and pencils.
Of course, there's nothing new about pencils on a smooth, 2-D material. It's during the next step that things get interesting.
The plate goes into a box with a special UV bulb - the same kind a tanning place would use to bronze your skin in preparation for your winter Florida vacation. The surface of the plate is water soluble, but it hardens when exposed to UV radiation.
When a frosted mylar drawing comes between the plate and the light, the radiation is partially blocked by the pencil marks. UV light hardens all the little bits of the plate it can reach. A little water washes away the softer material, corresponding to your drawing. Now the plate works like an intaglio copper etching - it has cracks, grooves and divots to trap ink. Tomorrow, we'll talk about how that ink transfers to paper.
At first, I used a sepia color for some prints, like the one pictured here.
I always intended to do something else with this image, though, so the next time I printed, I messed around with color.