Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finished the New Print! ...plus other printmaking adventures

Why hello there. The printmaking adventures continue. I've been doing lots of fun stuff with Tiger Lily Press: for one thing- observing and helping out a wee bit with the lovely Ms. Tory's first screen printing class at TLP. We have a great bunch of students, some even driving over an hour just to come learn about printmaking! I sure hope to see them back for more classes. Stay tuned for more details, as tonight they will actually be printing.

After exposing screens, Tory shows students how to tape their edges

Another grand adventure happened just this past Saturday, as Theresa and Sarah joined our friend with a local letterpress shop, Erin B., as she drove us to Rising Sun, Indiana in her truck. What's there you ask? Well, a lovely couple, Donna and Steve who run an eBay store that sells all sorts of letterpress equipment (and also refurbishes lovely presses looking for a new home- just send me a note if you'd like to check out their online store).

Susan N. and I struggle to slowly roll the cases down the hill

We brought back lots of goodies and amazing finds, from metal furniture, composing sticks, an enormous slug cutter, a whole cabinet of wood furniture, some awesome assorted wood type, and a full-sized, 24-drawer type cabinet so we can finally get our cases of type off the floor!

Erin and I wheel the cabinet down to TLP

Then we get to assemble everything in our printshop!

Erin slides in the cases

Doesn't that look grand? I love the assorted drawers and still can't get over the whole cabinet of furniture.

TLP is almost letterpress-ready!

My other current adventure is beginning to teach and print for another local artist, Jimi J. We finally met last week to discuss tools and techniques, and as soon as the order comes in, we'll get started! It will be the very first time he does intaglio work, as he has only done relief and mostly does painting.

And the last bit of news: I have finally, finally (after having to put all aside for contract printing deadlines) finished my new print! It's my first big etching in a good while (and is also the only one completely done with the new copper sulfate etch). Since I last blogged about it, I added a bit more linework, scraped and polished some more, decided to use a different ink on the left, light 'window' side than on the rest of the plate, and tried monoprinting, but ended up doing a little hand-coloring with watercolor and gouache (*gasp!* I know, Evan would be sore). But here it is, ladies and gents, ready to edition! I still have to decide on paper, though- this is ivory Murillo. I've also tried the pearl gray and the warm white Hahnemuhle Copperplate.

Ya'll Come Back Now, etching and aquatint, 24 x 19 1/2, 2012

All for now, folks. This weekend, I'll be attending a Vandercook Maintenance workshop up at Kent State with many of Ohio's amazing printmakers. Can't wait! So come back for details. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Special Report! Marathon Printing Details

Hello hello there. I have a newsflash, a just-in report to detail that crazy picture with a pipe and a press that you may have just seen on Facebook. This past week has been a marathon session of sweat and tears (so far no blood) in a very hot studio, but the results are finally paying off. I've been working for Jay to get some initial prints ready for exhibition in a museum show at Smith. And the deadline is soon! For the past month I have spent some good ponderous time, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out the best way to register a woodblock and an etching together on dampened paper, with barely any room to spare on a medium-sized press. Thus far it was all theory and so I had to put it to the test!

Here begins my crazy registration. I have the dampened paper size traced on a sheet of newsprint, then place a mylar taken from the woodblock on top, to line up where the copper plate goes (lined up inside that blank rectangle area, having to match the images that overlap). Then, I trace the copper plate's position on the newsprint.

Lining up mylar for registration of woodblock with copper plate

Next I place the woodblock where it fits underneath the mylar and trace its border exactly. This newsprint gets placed under a clean piece of mylar and onto the press bed. I don't tape it down, as there is such little room to work with on the press that I have to place the paper first, then scoot everything right up to/underneath the roller. Otherwise, it won't come far enough through to the other side.

Tracing the border of the woodblock on the registration

Next I am ready to print! But this is no ordinary copper plate. Jay has written all of the lettering in reverse with hardground (I know, it's astounding!). So, the plate is actually etched in relief, with the text raised. However, we do not print it in relief but rather in 'intaglio-manner.' Being trained in traditional intaglio printing I proudly went at it with tarlatan and silk, only to be deflated by a very crappy and washed-out looking print. So I asked Jay to please demonstrate what the heck he did to get such nice results. He wiped the whole thing with a piece of paper!

Wiping relief intaglio plate with stiff, medium-thick paper, folded in eighths. The paper must be constantly re-folded to get to a clean surface

This way, only the surface and a good distance away from the letters is actually wiped clean, leaving a nice, dark halo around each letter (although you really have to push around and manhandle the plate- not for the fainthearted!- I am using a mix that includes stiff Portland Black). Next is the final 'buffing' and polishing wipe with phone book pages.

Phone book wipe

It really helps to get a nice clean wipe after I scraped, burnished, and polished all of the edges of the plate, as well as going over the surface of all the letters with a charcoal block and a little oil.
Here is a close-up of the wiped plate:

Intaglio-wiped letters in relief

Next, I place the plate on the press, lining it up with the traced registration marks.

Copper plate on press

Then, I get the woodblock all inked-up and ready to go.

 Inked woodblock

To start printing, I line up the blotted paper with my registration lines and print the copper plate. I have the paper with a long tail on the side of the press furthest from the roller. This method is commonly used for printing multiple intaglio plates.

Now that the tail of the paper and the registration mylar are all still caught under the roller, I flip the blankets and print up over the roller and switch out the copper plate with the inked woodblock, lining it up with it's own registration marks. I also repeatedly mist the paper with water so that it doesn't dry out and change sizes too quickly.

Woodblock lined up with registration while caught print and felts lie over the roller

Next I hold the paper taught as I flip it back over the roller and place it onto the woodblock, smoothing it down with my hands so it stays in place. Then, I have to change the pressure, as the woodblock is much, much thicker than the copper plate. This is a huge challenge as the felts and paper are still caught under the roller! So I have to enlist the power of leverage via a huge metal pipe, which is of course, excessive and heavy, simply completing the printmaking circuit-training workout.

Loosening the pressure with a pipe

Then, the two-handed simultaneous pressure release- tricky! I have to get it correct for the printing pressure of the woodblock (and yes I am wearing a wrist-wrap so carpal tunnel doesn't come back for revenge).

Two-handed pressure change

Then, I insert a piece of newsprint and blotters on top of the paper and woodblock for firmer pressure. With all of this fussing around, the paper should not move as it is stuck to the tacky relief ink on the block.

Placing blotters over block

And lastly the full-body arm-and-hip shove while simultaneously cranking to get the whole print sandwich moving under the roller. Is it just us women that work this way?

Full-body bed engagement

And as I sweat more bullets, I lift the print, crossing my fingers that the registration has worked. Tada!

Pulling the print

Here is a close-up of the print. The woodcut is the image of the figure, and the intaglio is the text. Hooray, I think Jay's work looks great!

Close-up of print

So after much trial and error, we finally have results. One major change was from Hahnemuhle Copperplate paper to Arches Cover- the Copperplate was not quite the right size in sheet form, plus we needed rolls for an even larger print which I may or may not explain later (a double-spread of these blocks and plates, 62" long, printed several times, folded different ways, each time 'eyeballing' using the mylar). And besides, somehow the woodblock looked even more rich and delicate and the plate had more punch on the Arches.

This intaglio registration method of catching under the roller was the only practical thing I could come up with as I had to use dampened paper. Registration pin holes would have stretched, and eyeballing wasn't quite cutting it (although as said, I am forced to do so with the larger prints as there is no room for a 'tail').
If anyone has suggestions or thinks I'm off the deep end here, feel free to say so, but hey- so far so good! Happy editioning to all, and better keep those print muscles in shape!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Fabulous Trip with Fabulous Prints

Why hello again lovelies. Time for another post here and so much has happened! I am still busy working at various presses, teaching a bit and putting serious hours in the studio each day for Jay (and oy, it's getting to be a warm studio right now!) I'm doing some pretty darned tedious registration and hopefully getting buff in the print muscles while I'm at it. But in the meantime, I was able to go on a fantastic trip to PA and parts beyond last week to see many of my favorite friends and family. Oh, if only there was time for everybody!

So firstly, I went with my good photographer friends Katie and Alison to an amazing old coal breaker up near Wilkes-Barre. It's to be torn down this year...supposedly! So we had to get in. A bit scary at first as there were scrappers on the prowl, but we ignored them as they ignored us, and they went on their merry way in a little car loaded down with metal.

Side of the coal breaker

Inside- old conveyors

One certainly wouldn't want to stand right underneath a lot of it! But such amazing imagery- I am definitely inspired to make new work.

Afterwards we all got together with one of our favorite professors, Evan Summer, at his studio. He showed us some amazing new work, and proofs of his frog prints, soon to be completed at Corridor Press.

Froggie lithos

After many more amazing adventures during the week, my folks and I got to go to the Baltimore Print Fair at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Firstly, there was a most fabulous talk by the 3 fellows of Printeresting (the best news site for print news and miscellany- I read it every morning with the NY Times!). They spoke of contemporary artists and the fine line between the print word/fine art and the commercial realm. I loved the example of Rob Matthews who printed out all of Wikipedia at one point- that one book is only a small part of it! They also spoke of artists that connected with styles of the past, so in a way 'updating' the medium. The dark and beautiful work of Peeter Allik was a great example.

After the talk, we moved onto the print fair itself. I was excited to see Mr. Mark of Clay St Press at his booth. Funny to travel this far to see another Cincinnatian. He had the work of the famous (an especially amazing portfolio of Nam June Paik), of several good friends, and Jay's enormous woodcut movie portfolio.

Clay St Press booth with Mark

Moving on to other printshops, I really enjoyed the work of Amy Cutler at ULAE. Very mysterious and a bit Victorian- all beautiful etchings in a great style of line and color.

Amy Cutler, Casting Lots, 2011

Of course it it always a treat to see Judy Pfaff at Tandem Press. She is still one of my most favorite visiting artists during grad school. And oh Tandem- perhaps I can come visit and drool over the enormous presses again some day...

Judy Pfaff

Other works of interest were lithographs by Chloe Piene at Highpoint Editions. They were lovely gestural line drawings in litho, printed on different layers of translucent papers. Very delicate, yet dark and mysterious.

Chloe Piene litho (apologies for the poor photo)

Another amazing artist was shown at David Krut. They were called 'smoke screens' by Diane Victor. I could hardly comprehend how they might be made, but she really truly just drew with candles and smoke! To see these amazing portraits, just check out Krut's site and there is also a wonderful video of how she made them.

After the print fair, our next destination was informed by Linotype the Film, which we had seen earlier in the week at the Ware Center in Lancaster, PA. Such a wonderful movie! It has me hooked on the notion of going to Linotype University in Iowa- free tuition, 90-some linotype machines, and for fun, you can learn to drive a train while you're at it! My goodness, hopefully I can do that next year.

So our stop at the Baltimore Museum of Industry was because we found out that linotype operator Ray Loomis demonstrates on the machine every Saturday. How sad we were that we couldn't make it until Sunday, but alas- we thought it would be worth a shot just to see the machine.

Museum 'print shop'

But gasp, my goodness- there he was!! Ray came special on a Sunday just to get ready for the movie screening there in a few days- plus he got there late because several streets had been shut down for a marathon. Oh coincidences! Sometimes they can end up as a good thing.

Ray Loomis at the linotype

The machine!

Close-up of the keyboard

Ray generously showed us pictures of himself as an operator at age 16, read us entertaining printmaking limericks (should have copied those!) and demonstrated some of the other equipment. Here is a newspaper stereotype taken from a bed of set type. This makes the impression for a rounded cast (once again in positive) for high-speed printing on a cylinder.

Stereotype- mold made of stiff paper

Now here is a machine that still boggles me. The monotype? My goodness- such a complex machine that uses binary code punches to send to another machine that casts each letter separately. If you'd like to see a video of this sort of beast in operation, watch here.

The monotype

Of course the printshop was just full of all sorts of equipment for letterpress, litho, and intaglio printing. Really a great exhibit.

 Clamshell presses

And hey, what's a trip to Baltimore without a huge table full of crabs? Mmm...

Tasty Maryland blue crabs covered in Old Bay- a childhood favorite! Seriously, I was raised on these things.

And lastly, I am still working on that plate! I think it's about finished, but I'm still stuck on what happened when pulling it out of the etching bath- all of that copper sludge looked like flames along the edges. I must find a way to replicate this on paper! Perhaps monotype (intaglio-manner, not the machine!) or hand coloring?

Zinc plate with copper sulfate sludge

Well next time I will have more tales of my contract printing adventures. Till then- stay cool out there!