I'm still in that post-show limbo. I've been teaching a lot, and still coming into my studio regularly, but nothing much is sticking. I am instead reworking old or existing material, such as this etching on a piece of recycled copper plate:
And a 24" x 18" mixed media panel painting that I began (and thought I had finished) in 2014:
And I am recycling proof prints into handmade books:
Ticking along. Waiting for the American holiday season, which lands like a suffocating blanket on the end of the year, to be over.
I just took down a show at the beginning of October, and as usual it takes a while for the impulse to create new work to kick in again. So I undertook a task that I've been meaning to do for ages: organizing my etching studio to be more efficient. Previously, I haven't had enough surfaces in one area to be able to perform all the necessary tasks (plate preparation, etching, cleaning, inking, printing) without having trays spread out all round my studio.
The first thing I did was to buy a new set of shelves. From top to bottom, this now has:
Below the printing press, I finally have some blotter boards for flattening and drying prints:
The narrow work table has a fresh coat of paint, a new shelf above it, and is now free to hold the paper soaking tray:
The large work table has a thick sheet of glass, for adding and removing resists, inking plates, etc:
I did a run through of the new set-up, from aquatinting a plate all the way through to proofing it, and it was a huge pleasure to have everything to hand simply by turning around.
I have a solo next month at Terrain Exhibitions in Oak Park, Illinois. I am working every day on making a new piece or two to install there. The theme is the same as my 2-d work: half-remembered moments from a childhood in the mining town where I grew up. I'm cutting apart and recombining older work and adding new bits as I go along.
For example, I constructed a six foot high tower out of a long cardboard box two years ago, painted and sealed the outside, and printed lithographic transfers all over the surface. I'm turning that into a box for a diorama:
I printed the same lithotransfer images on the interior and sealed it. Next, I'm cutting up other boxes and creating an industrial city-scape:
The backlighting in the photo comes from standing a small flashlight behind the flat of the tall building. One thing I have to work out before the show opens is fitting the box with switch-operated lights.
There's also going to be a small model of a miner suffering a rockfall. Here is the figure:
And here is the giant rock that will be positioned on his back. It's constructed from pliable mesh, covered with papier mache and acrylic gloss medium:
Next week, I will complete some motorised models to place inside the diorama. Altogether, it's like a stage set with moving parts from one of the stop-motion animations I made in the last three years. Here's a link to a clip from the most recent one, A History of Coal.
One thing I love seeing when I visit museums is a printmaker's stage proofs. Here are five stages of one my acrylic resist etchings from the last 9 months (8" x 8" on copper plate). First stage: acrylic spray aquatint, with the cloud created by spit bite, then stopped out, and the figure and extra textures in the cloud created by immersion in ferric chloride.
Stage two: further stopping out and etching.
Stage 3: an acrylic hard ground, line drawing, then etching.
Stage 4: another acrylic hard ground, line drawing, and drypoint.
Stage 5: burnishing and scraping in the figure, and some final drypoint.
Picking up from the last post: I decided that the problem with the soft ground was not drying it thoroughly. To that end, I visited a local printmaking shop that I have access to, which has a hotplate. I rolled up a degreased copper plate with graphic chemical water-based relief ink, and drew into it via a piece of newsprint. This is what the drawing looked like:
I dried the plate completely on the hot plate, at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes. Before I etched it, I did some random dissolving of the resist around the drawing, using some of the water/soda ash stripping solution. And because the resists was now a hard ground, I picked up an etching needle and drew lots of fine lines into the image. I etched the plate in three stages: 15 minutes, then rinse in cold water, 10 minutes then rinse, 10 more minutes. When I proofed the plate, it looked like this:
Conclusion: the soft ground lines came out about 80% etched; the hard ground lines came out perfectly; and the variety of tones in the background is extremely satisfying. The only tweak I would make is to add some acrylic screenprinting medium to slow down the drying time, in order for the last softground drawing marks to register. Other than that, I feel confident that I can now take this ARE soft ground into the classroom.
This is my studio blog. I also have another blog, Praeterita, which contains more general art-related posts.