Archives for the month of: October, 2010

My most recent “inner” post was about a new large-format carving I did on MDF. Here’s what happened next:

Carving into MDF isn’t that hard – it cuts smoothly and cleanly. Before printing with it, I suspected I should treat it with something, because it’s porous, like wood (really more like cardboard). I learned from Theresa Haberkorn that the typical treatment for woodcut blocks is Polycrylic protective finish. Since my studio isn’t ventilated, I took the board outside and applied two thin coats with a paintbrush, letting the first one dry for several hours. The board turns shiny, as I expected, as if I had coated a piece of furniture with a finish.

Then I jumped right in with my first print! First, I mixed up and rolled out a bright yellow from Speedball ink:

Then I rolled it onto the MDF block, just around and inside of the hand – I’m thinking that I’ll cut out this large hand, so I don’t need to ink the whole board:

I used a hand-held baron to print the hand onto two pieces of newsprint (taped together – I don’t have paper this size!):

And the final product, which reveals a lot to me – first, it’s inconsistently printed, so I need to pay more attention to that next time – I suspect this is partly because Speedball printmaking ink isn’t the greatest and I should be using something that dries slower. I also noticed some areas that I wanted to carve out a little more, so I did that (and then reapplied Polycrylic).

What a learning process! Sometimes I think my work would move along a little faster if I was in an MFA program, learning from the instructors how to avoid mistakes before I hit them, but I’m also having fun experimenting in the unknown…

Elizabeth Dee was featured in an article in the October issue of Vogue magazine, titled “Dee’s Day”. The article primarily highlights her accomplishments in the art world, including owning her own gallery and launching a unique project called the X-initiative – a one year project including “durational artist interventions, site-specific projects, historical in- depth exhibitions, one-night performances, lectures and weekly events”.

Her gallery, and the X-initiative, features younger artists, carving out new territory, responding to the economy with less permanent mediums and with collaborations that stretch into the unknown. All of this is very cool. Collaborations are just one of many systems that help me plug into the world. What piqued my interest in particular was something she said about the meaning of art:

“Art is not meant to answer questions. It’s meant to demonstrate possibilities.”

This made me wonder – what is the difference between answering a question and demonstrating possibilities? Strangely enough, my response comes from my business background. A leader does not answer the question for you, forcing only one right way. Instead, a true leader is one who enables those around them to thrive, investigate, discover.. She leads you along, so that you may find the answer yourself. It seems that this is what art is always doing, and it seems funny to acknowledge this in the face of a long time trend of asking the question – what does art mean?

Then I can ask more of this thread (and of course it could keep going…). Does this then mean that is art less “finished” because it’s demonstrating possibilities, instead of answering questions? Because artists are purposefully not making the answers clear (if there are any at all)? Because they are creating in new mediums, exploring boundaries and possibilities just in the process, forcing curators and collectors to help “finish” the piece by placing it somehow in a space?

One day this summer, I found myself up in my studio, looking at all of my random hand prints, and I just picked up the scissors and started cutting. I cut them all out (as seen in an earlier post) and had them spread out on the work bench. What do they have in common? What are they holding? What is holding them? Hands holding hands – the support of one life by another, the gentle squeeze that is encouragement, love, small fears, a greeting, an indication…

Next step – draw and carve a large cupping hand – one that contains, holds, supports, and lets go.

I used a large piece (2 x 4) of masonite as my sketching surface, drew a hand (using my own as a model) and then went over it with permanent marker, so that it would show clearly through tracing paper.

I put two large pieces of tracing paper of the drawing, traced it with pencil, and then flipped it over onto the same sized piece of MDF.

To transfer the trace onto the MDF, I rubbed pencil on the opposite side of the trace. The pencil marks on the side faced down will transfer to the MDF. The dark areas in the above picture are where I already rubbed along the trace, the faint marks are the pencil from the other side showing through.

Then I carved out the MDF along the transferred pencil drawing.

Next post – treating and printing from the MDF plate.

I finished grad school a few years ago and then work kept me quite busy, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to turn my STUDY into a STUDIO, so last year we tackled that project. We:

  • Tore up the carpet and put down click-together flooring that would be easily cleanable.
  • Installed a stainless steel sink in the nearby 1/4 bath, turning it into my “art sink”.
  • Ordered 4 table legs from a local design shop and made a desk.
  • Designed and built a work bench table top – two sheets of plywood stacked on top of each other, separated by two-by-fours (to store flat work in between) – that sits on top of the guest bed.
  • Found a couple tall and skinny bookshelves for storage.

To make it official, printmaker and friend Theresa Haberkorn recently gave me this sticker for my door: