Elegy, part II


Here is the latest print from the Elegy series.  I made this by tracing the actual tree/photograph, editing/ simplifying quite a bit, and using transfer paper to transfer the design to the Speedball speedy cut plate.  The first concern that I saw immediately was that the design on my original tracing was more interesting, almost ornate, and I feel it’s oversimplified here.  The 2nd concern is that what I thought was a problem on the 1st plate (not including the smaller, test plate) the white/ uninked areas where I had carved away inside the tree, is actually graphically interesting and I can use more of that here.

On Monday I am taking a monotype class with the amazing Pam Lawson, whose work with rollers is just incredible.  Take a look at one of her red-winged blackbirds.  And I’m thinking about signing up for a web design workshop at the Danforth Museum with the inimitable Jeanne Williamson.  It’s called “Creating a Web Presence and Making the Most of It.”  This would be great because Jeanne is one of the most professional artists I know, from a marketing standpoint.  She simply does the best job of managing her web presence that I’ve seen.  I just saw a few of her pieces in the “Cotton” show at Fountain Street Art, and since she showed her work in the Owen Shuman Gallery here in Groton, she has continued to find new approaches to her material, working in 3 dimensions, deconstructing the material into lacy tatters, etc.  I never get bored of seeing what she does with it, and it’s a real lesson for artists who are trying to build a cohesive body of work to just look at hers.  It takes a real single minded dedication to a subject.

I spend a lot of time looking at other artist’s websites.  This is excellent for keeping one’s ego in check.  Do you have any idea how many awesome artists there are in the New England area alone?  Just here, in Massachusetts.  It’s astounding, it really is.  I think we may well look back on this period in time as a Golden Age, from a creative standpoint.  Seriously.





There was this beautiful old tree in Shirley Center, healthy and vibrant, a twin trunk White pine tree that was probably not an intended planting.  It’s roots were extensive, they were shifting and even engulfing some quite striking 18th/ 19th century gravestones.   Despite protests, the selectman cut down the tree.

These prints are part of a new experiment with carving into a Speedball speedy cut plate, a journey which began with making stamps for gelatin printing.  Unfortunately, after these prints were made, I washed the “plate” and set it out to dry in my dish rack, but it broke in half when I moved something else and it got knocked around.  I would have been more upset but I was already thinking that the negative spaces don’t quite work, and I’d like to do it over.  I’ll try again this week.

I’m now using Golden Open acrylics for these prints, and they are delightful, everything the speedball inks weren’t.  These are slow drying acrylic paints, suitable for monoprinting. The paper is a lightweight Rives BFK, which is also pretty perfect, although it came with labels right over the watermark that are difficult to peel off without taking some fiber with it.



Ursula/ Ustrasana with stamps

I bought some Speedball Speedy-cut and a set of lino cutters and experimented with combining stamps with gelatin printing using the pose of Ursula, a photographer herself and a dedicated ashtanga practitioner, doing Ustrasana, or camel pose.  The smaller stamp from yesterday is Peg Mulqueen in laguvajrasna.

Here are the stamps:



And here are some of the prints.  You won’t believe how I got the background:





Here I cut out a masking stencil to change the dimensions and see a cleaner edge:



Not a bad day, after all.  I rolled Indian corn gently but with a little pressure over the jello.    Then combined a few other things with it.  I could use some different size pans to make gelatin plates in.  I could also cut them down to size.

So these are all Speedball inks, which come in “brown” and “yellow”  instead of “burnt umber” or “hansa yellow.”  I like a little more specific information about the pigments I’m using so I’m thinking of trying Golden Open acrylics, which are slower drying acrylics and which I could also use to paint with and use my good bristle brushes, which generally you can’t use with acrylics.  Then there’s Daniel Smith block printing ink, which is oil based but water soluble I think??  The consistency of the Speedball inks can be a bit gummy and I wonder if that is due to filler.

The annoying thing is that nothing holds the delicate nuances of pattern like the jello itself, so it’s hard to get patterns onto the stencils, and even if I do they don’t always release from the stencil.  I’m sure that Linda Germain wrote about this somewhere on her blog, and next I want to try freezer paper stencils and see how that works out.  After I carve a few more stamps.


Cutting the Gelatin

Last week I made some headway with these prints:


This one (above) was overprinted with white to emphasize the contrast between the figure and the background.



I’m a little frustrated here with the stencil, but I still like how it came out.



Not, perhaps, a total success, but I love the edges on the gelatin prints.  The figure needs more… more something.  More visual interest.

But then I tried this technique from Nancy Marculewicz’s out of print book on gelatin printing, which involves cutting into the gelatin.  Here’s something you can’t do with a Gelli plate.  Well you could, but it’s cost prohibitive.  With this technique, it’s often the ghost or cognate print that comes out best.


This one is my favorite.  The letters printed upside down don’t read so letter-y.  The stars and moon pattern is from a cardboard plate from the Provincetown workshop.  I probably should have reworked the bottom before printing, but I love the detail in the figure.  That’s what I’ve been trying for all this time.  How did I do it?  I need to take more notes while I’m making these because I forget.  Let’s see.  Oh yes, I made a stencil and carefully saved all of the pieces.  Unfortunately it was on this horrible curling when wet translucent paper I bought this Summer, so I had to throw it out after one use.  But I was able to ink the plate and block the area outside the figure, than press the pattern onto the inked figure that was cut into the gelatin.  You see?  Maybe not.  I can really see the point of making videos of these processes.


In this one you can see the lines that are formed by the gap between the cut-out gelatin shapes.


Now this one, you see those black lines?  Trying to get those fine black lines with a gelatin print is not all that easy.  I’ve been reading about a method of offset printing with an acrylic plate, but haven’t had that much luck with my Provincetown plates and I don’t have any more acrylic plates.  This figure is the ghost (or second print) from the gelatin plate.  The hand and foot area is fuzzy because it’s tricky cutting fine detail in jello with a regular exacto blade.  I need something akin to a pumpkin carving blade.  Come to think about it, perhaps I can find them for cheap at Target or CVS!  I’d be willing to bet those cheap knife sets work a whole lot better with gelatin than they do with pumpkins.  I’m also thinking of buying some plates, either acrylic or they have these foam plates.  Or perhaps I’ll try my hand at cutting linoleum plates.

The possibilities are truly endless.  It’s funny.  My daughter said: no offense Mom, but all you do is yoga poses?  Well, that’s okay daughter.  Stubborn-ness is my worst vice and my greatest asset.


Monotype Guild of New England

Today I submitted 3 images to the Monotype Guild of New England for their annual national show in early 2013.  It’s a bit out of my league at the moment, and I have reservations about submitting to anything when I feel like I need this year to build a body of work.  It’s not cooked yet, the flavors haven’t melded.  But it was hard to ignore that monotypes and monoprints have been my primary output lately so, what the heck.  I won’t hear until 12/10.

After serving as a juror on a week long murder trial, which was quite a wringer let me tell you, I managed to get back to the studio (a.k.a. my kitchen turned print shop) last thursday with the kids and, not expecting anything, I got some images I liked.




This is a riot.  All I did was trace a picture of an elephant from a Jane Goodall book for kids, on acetate, ink it up and print away.  You can see that I’m obsessed with the alphabet stencil.  I love the way the letters and symbols are the building blocks for a language, in a similar way that yoga poses are the building blocks of a yoga practice, and simple images can be the building blocks of a visual language.  I’m still having problems getting the ink to adhere and release properly from the acetate stencils so I’m going to have to come up with something better.  I can try a sturdy paper and coat both sides with gloss or matte medium.  That’s next.

Did I mention that I think I need to buy a printing press?  This is Pamela Lawson’s fault.  I saw her monotypes at Lawrence Academy’s gallery in Groton, MA last thursday and they are gorgeous and bright and cheeky.  Take a look out her red-winged blackbirds, done mostly with rollers.




Better Day

Better day printing today, and I also improved on the other day by turning a lackluster print into a collage.

But first, I started a process journal with an idea I had while walking in the woods with my dog the other day.

Then I did some gelatin printing.

I need a few more tools.  I’m having trouble getting the detail I want with the gelatin, which perhaps means this medium isn’t suited to my long term vision, but it’s a great way to get started and I love love love turning my kitchen into a print studio for few hours.  It’s a joy to work with ink and paper.


Tough Day in the Studio

Nothing went quite as I planned.  The things I thought would look great fell flat.  Luckily there were a few surprises.





I don’t know.  The stencils aren’t behaving as I’d like, and I can’t seem to get any detail onto them.  Or I can, but it doesn’t print.  And I know, there’s no contrast in these images.  Maybe I should try to carve a stamp of some sort for them, or try carving into linoleum.  There are a million printmaking techniques but not so many that you can do at home without a press.


Processing/ Planning

This was a fun day last week, I had an hour and did some gelatin printing.  What I’m trying to figure out here is a direction.  I really enjoyed working with the printmaking techniques I learned in Provincetown in August with Louise Hamlin.  If I want to mine that vein then I need to rent some time in a printmaking studio and see where that leads.  Then I remembered gelatin printing and thought I’d play with that a bit just to see if I could avoid that trip.

This is from a cardboard plate.  The technique is called “Gravure sur cartonne” (engraving on cardboard).  It’s my reproduction of an Islamic tile pattern that I have loved for some time and used in other ways before:

Adding stencils to the mix yields results like this:

The models here are Ursula Wenzel (camel pose) and Peg Mulqueen (laguvajrasana).

Here is another, a bit more successful I think:

This is my friend John and Christine from Gainesville, Florida.

But there’s another vein as well, the carborundum part with prints like this:

This is John again, on a carborundum plate, dropping back into Kapotasana.  Later I tried to fix a few things and completely goofed up the plate.  Here is one of Ursula Wenzel from Munich.  You can see how I’m combining the carborundum plate of Ursula with the “gravure sur cartonne” plate of the Islamic pattern.  I like how the pattern looks like a sort of veil:

This is Ursula without the pattern:


This is Christine again, larger this time, from a “gravure sur cartonne” plate I made.  This was the last day in Provincetown and I was frantic, so many ideas and so little time, so I rushed the carving of the plate and am not satisfied with it.  I could do it over though, I have some more of these plates already prepped and ready to carve, and I could order more of the board:



This one below is Peg with the tile pattern.  Again, abstracting the figure just the right amount is quite tricky.  I can’t quite figure out whether to work realistically or graphically or some hybrid of the two.

So I think that I’m on to something here, a path with potential.  There’s a lot to work with.  Today the goal is to spend 3 hours in the studio.  This morning.  Before I do the million other things that need doing.  This needs doing.  This is important.  If I’m going to rent time at the print studio in Maynard, then what can I do today is begin getting ready.  Prepare more stencils, order ink and supplies.  Schedule the day at the print shop to get oriented.

One thing I would like to try is this.  What happens if I paint the Islamic pattern?  Just the pattern?  In a way it’s a question, do I really need the figure?  I think I already know the answer, but the pattern is interesting in and of itself.  So one project for today could be to figure out how to transfer it onto some watercolor paper and just see.  Maybe an acrylic support would be better.  I could try a small one.  Or, I think I have more than one print of the pattern by itself, I could paint right on that.

Thank you to all my lovely and brave models.  John, Christine, Ursula and Peg.  You are marvelous and generous!


Between the Waters

I turned 44 in a place between waters.  I turned 44 this week in a transitory community of artists and writers, utterly at home with people I just met.

With a room of my own and the daily responsibilities shelved for an interlude, the studio calls.  I thought that I would go for long bike rides.  I thought I would spend more time at the ocean, a little time shopping.  Passing fancies.  I wake up, do my yoga practice, have a thoughtful breakfast with coffee and walk the short distance to the studio.  Once there, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  The need to eat lunch is a bit of an inconvenience, but I know from long experience that decision making deterioriates without regular meals. So I eat, but it’s simple and brief and back to work.  Making plates, pulling prints, learning this new to me art that feels familiar and right.  It fits in organically with painting and collage.  I love the rich play between media, how one informs the other.

Maturity brings a new perspective, a more relaxed approach.  Having a daughter who is similar in temperament to myself has taught me well.  She gets attached to concepts very quickly, and changes course only with difficulty.  It’s as if in order to chart our course, we latch onto the first star we see, changing tack only with reluctance.

In the studio, I see this tendency to rapidly become attached to an idea.   How unwieldy to change course when reality offers an alternative viewpoint, when other options present themselves.  I notice my own tendency to obsess, and in that awareness, I… relax, just a little.  It’s okay if I don’t accomplish everything I set out to do.

On Friday, it is hard to leave.  I and two other women make prints up until the last minute, when we can no longer avoid the need to clean the studio and be out by 5PM.  One of my partners mentions that she wanted to walk down Commercial Street, or go to the beach.  We laugh, we three.  If you could leave, I said, you would have left already.  And so it is, until we have to, and no one, not one of the three of eight who are left, wants to say goodbye.