Paschimottanasana, wrist clasp


Recarved the paschimottanasana plate.  Printed over impressions from the tile pattern I carved a few weeks ago.  The problem with projects like this is that once I start, it’s hard to stop.  Not a bad problem to have.

I’m hooked on carving these plates now.  I was just reading somewhere that linocut prints are looked down upon in the printmaking world.  It was on the MOMA website:

“Prejudice grew up against linoleum block printing, as suitable only for children, amateurs and the uncultured. The linocut’s popularity also fell with the rise of commercial collaboration between printmaker and publisher, which encouraged more technically complex media.” -M. B. Cohn, From Grove Art Online

While that’s interesting, don’t overestimate its importance.  Medium doesn’t matter at all per se, it’s what you do with it. Louise Hamlin told me she knew an artist who made potato prints that were as good as anything she’d ever seen.

Potato prints!

Whatever, I don’t have a press and this is what speaks to me right now.  Who knows where any of it is going?

I was thinking today about what feeds this process, what elements might add to it.  I keep thinking about the detritus of modern civilization, but it seems so contrived.  I don’t want to make the pictorial equivalent of mass market fiction, but I don’t want to be edgy, abstract, or conceptual just because…

There has to be a reason, a point.  The work has to bubble up from within.  It needs to happen because it’s necessary, the inevitable result of…

Nevermind.  Just get back to work.




Linoleum + Gelatin

Today I carved this plate from unbacked linoleum.  I still have a lot to learn about carving plates because although I thought it came out alright, it didn’t print the way I wanted.  I want the lines to be dark, not light. Duh.  So the first bunch of prints I pulled were disappointing and I switched gears.



Thanks to Claire Grundy for the photo I used for this plate.

Below we have the David Swenson Trikonasana stencil.  I have two, one in mylar and one in coated paper.  The “flower” stencils come from a book called The Art of Decorative Paper Stencils by Kanako Yaguchi.  I’m working with Linda Germain’s exercise on inking the stencils, and I also cut a registration plate and found it easy to work with.  Although I like the clean edges, I’ve long been a fan of the wavy edges of the gelatin plate.  I guess in my own way it seems a bit subversive, not so much escaping the tyranny of the rectangle, but gently subverting it. Gentle subversion is more my style.

GhostTrikonasana Reachingforwisdom Reaching

Eventually I wanted to try again with the new linoleum plate.  It was calling me.  So I tried a few different things.  What finally worked better was to cut a piece of paper out the shape of the central portion of the linoleum plate.  Then I inked the plate directly, removed as much ink as possible using the paper, and pressed it into the gelatin plate.

Mixed results I think.  But still.  It had been a week since I’d been able to work in the studio.  So it’s a sweet relief to get in several hours of work.  Loosens the knot in my chest that grows when I can’t get to my studio.

Trikonasanafeet Trikonasanafeet2 Paschimottanasana

It’s a funny thing.  I thought that spending more time in the studio would cure me, would release the monkey on my back.  But instead I want more.  More time to play with ink and paper.  More uninterrupted hours in the studio.  The artist within does not sit easily with the mother of three, who has many responsibilities.

For today, however, it is enough to be able to work.  I recently watched an interview with the artist and teacher Steven Locke.  He spoke about not being an emotional artist, not waiting for inspiration.  Rather, he comes from Detroit and going to work is what you do.  So he goes to his studio and works, that’s it. No melodrama, no whining.

This is my model for artistic practice.  I wish I’d heard it years ago, but perhaps I heard it when I was ready to hear it.





Layering Prints

This started out as an exercise, but what started out as a few hours in the studio became a whole day, a whole school day that is, and other things were neglected while I played with paint and paper, stencils, stamps & rollers.

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A shape print is the first print you pull off your plate.  The 2nd print is a detail or a “ghost print.”  In gelatin printmaking, the yummy details are often in the ghost, so it was a challenge to make interesting compositions by layering shape prints.  Mostly I was easily tempted to add detail with stamps, which was cheating a little, but I did a few straight up.

In the midst of all that, each shape print yields a detail print and I found myself layering detail upon detail.

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The poses here are trikonasana and parivrtta trikonasana, a subtle difference in silhouette I’m afraid.  The model is David Swenson.  Okay, so David Swenson wasn’t literally standing in my studio posing for me but I have his book you see…

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I wish I remembered exactly how I got the detail on the butterfly here.  It’s a mylar stencil, it might be easier with the mylar than with the paper stencils coated with matte medium.  This is exactly what I keep trying to do with the yoga poses in different ways, but it’s tricky.




Stencils and Stamps

All week I’ve been watching my class mates post their prints from our online gelatin printmaking class.  I confess to a certain amount of envy as I have been busy with work and family  life.  I was still busy today, went to the studio anyway.


I’m a bit behind on assignments, hoping to catch up a bit this weekend.  For the layering of shape prints, I chose 3 colors:  graphite, gold, and Indian red.  I also used some of my better paper, although I’m running out.  I believe it’s a lightweight version of Rives BFK.  Cream.  It’s supple and thin and perfect for gelatin printing.  Some of these stencils are older, a mix of mylar and coated paper.


I could work with registration a bit to even out the edges, but I sort of like the overlap and the unevenness of the aging plate.  Not a perfect rectangle.  Also here I forgot how thick the stencil on the left was, later I worked harder to regain the detail on her face.



More soon…




Mold and Butterflies

Spent a day in the studio, or the better part thereof.  Mostly I carved tiny pink worms from a Speedball plate.  Made mistakes but learned how to do it better next time.  These Islamic patterns are endlessly fascinating but devilishly tricky to reproduce.  This time I used an inverted drinking glass for the circle.

Playing with stencils, I traced a Swallowtail from a butterfly book, modified it, used clear mylar.  I think the stencils are nicer if they’re cut from heavy paper and coated with matte medium like LG suggested, but I can’t quite find my matte medium.  The pine needles my daughter gathered were a pleasant surprise, they held onto ink and reproduced the color in surprising ways.  I thought they would be more blobby.

Looking at my prints from last year, I need new photographs to work from in order to make new stencils.  So the next project is to invite a yogi friend over to practice, and hope she doesn’t mind if I take a few pictures.  Volunteers?



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This is the plate I spent a few hours carving.  Already I need to start another as I can see how it could be better now.


While cutting stencils I made a corrugated cardboard version of the butterfly.  It didn’t work so well here, but I’ll try again with more colors.


Warning- not for the faint of heart.  This is what happens when your gelatin plate (no glycerin in this one) goes BAD:


Eew!  Beautiful too though.  Reminds me of a story a roofer told me about a guy in New Orleans who closed up his house and left. Came back to a mold colony that was unbelievable.  I think they had to seal off the house in plastic and go in in haz mat suits.  Still, it was beautiful in it’s own poisonous way.

I could spend days here… love the new studio!




Gelatin Printing with Linda Germaine

New house, new job, it feels like a new life!  I’m still setting up my studio but meanwhile I signed up for an online gelatin printmaking course with Linda Germaine.  I originally learned the technique of gelatin printing with Linda Dunn, and she learned from Linda Germaine.  I also have an out of print book on the subject by Nancy Marculiewicz.


These prints are part of a warm-up exercise Linda uses to get started and develop muscle memory.  I confess I was skeptical at first, since I have a bad tendency sometimes to think I know enough to jump ahead of the preliminary exercises, but this was worthwhile and my daughter and I had a lot of fun following along with her video presentation.  Basically she has you make prints with some simple stencils you make in advance from different materials and some bits of string you can find around the house.  Here I have used cardboard, milky white plastic from a 1/2 gallon of milk, and a textured folder.


Working quickly, you make a pile of prints, and then you turn the pile over and overprint the prints you just made.  I used Golden open acrylics, but the black was too thin necessitating a switch to Speedball for the last part of the exercise.



I love how the corrugated cardboard picks up the ink.  IMG_4218

It felt wonderful to be working with ink and paper in a way that didn’t require a whole lot of thought or planning.  This would be a good exercise to return to on a day that I’m feeling stuck.

My toolbox of basic art supplies got packed away in some box and I can’t find it.  It was the box in which I put my pencils, my exacto knife, my lino cutters. So, I’ve started replacing, which necessitated a visit to Van Gogh’s Gear in Lowell.  They had some linoleum that wasn’t mounted to a board so I’m going to try carving that.  I’ve been using the easy carve plates but they can break  with rough handling.





Another Backbending Print


It seems an age since I’ve gotten any paint under my fingernails, so this print makes me happy.  It’s another image from the back bending series and it was done using a stencil, a gelatin plate, and some hand carved rubber plates that I’ve used for previous images.  There is so much more to do in this series, but it’s all on hold while we sell our house and prepare to move.  Not far, only the next town over, but the new house is bigger with a bedroom for everyone and a studio space for me.  I could even put an etching press in the basement, which I just might.

Many changes coming with the new year, so many it makes my head spin but it’s all good and once the dust settles I’m going to start this series in earnest.

Meanwhile, a recent trip to MFA Boston to see Sargent’s watercolors was beautifully illuminating.  A few examples to tempt you- go there if you can.  No one, and I mean no one could draw like Sargent.  I know, they’ve done all these studies about expertise in the arts having more to do with the hours you spend than any sort of gift you might have.  But then there’s Sargent.


IMG_3896This one was called The Tramp, but it might have been a friend of his that posed.  If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed you could a paint such a likeness in watercolor.  The focus here isn’t great because it’s behind glass and I wasn’t the only viewer so enamored.


One of the last pictures as you’re leaving the exhibit and heading towards the giftshop.  Nearly abstract, just enough detail to hold the center.  So if you go, pace yourself and save some energy for the end- it’s worth it.