Archives for posts with tag: handprint

Experimenting with writing poetry, and then printing over it to see the effect of type showing through in the white spaces.

Original two-color print:

Prints with poems woven in:

[Note: I have a backlog of posts that I didn’t publish – I’m backdating the post to around the time that I worked on the print. Current date: 12-2015]

In the same way that we go through our days and lives integrating all kinds of stimuli, verbal and non-verbal information, to create a whole picture, I want to integrate my writing and my printmaking. It’s hard to make sense of the whole that is presenting itself at any given time without getting input from many senses and sources in our lives.

In that way, I’m experimenting with typing onto my prints. I have some lead type used for letterpress, and I arranged a word, ink it up by hand (no pun intended), and stamp it onto the print.

Here’s an example, using one of the large hand images that I printed a while ago.

Just as eyes are an access point into our inner selves, hands are an access point inside-out – they are a versatile appendage that can feel and grasp and hold and take – and give. Hands possess, and they show our possession to others. Fingers are binary digits, but are so sensitive that they can convey unlimited levels of interaction.

Close up of the type added to the print. I like being able to integrate small bits as I feel moved to.

[Note: I have a backlog of posts that I didn’t publish – I’m backdating the post to around the time that I worked on the print. Current date: 9-2015]

I finally finished one of my largest pieces (48″ x 24″) of work to date, a multi-media arrangement with various hand prints and cut paper, and instead of feeling satisfaction, I feel dread. Ugh! I do NOT like this thing at all.

Honestly, I haven’t liked it for quite some time. I was all over the place with technique and materials, and I never really had a vision. But I usually don’t have a vision, so perhaps that’s not quite it. It’s that I never felt connected with it – there was no underlying energy making its way to the surface. But I kept going, because I was supposed to, because I wanted to finish a piece (even though I finished a few other small ones in the meantime), because the intention was to “play” and let the work “emerge” on its own.

Unintentionally merging all of those things – play, practicing technique, practicing with materials, pushing forward without vision or energy – resulted in one confused piece.

One reason I don’t like it: it doesn’t feel like ME. I resonate with most of the other work that I’ve been doing, the blueprint piece, the red hand, etc. With this piece, it feels like I am trying to be someone else.

Which leads to the other reason I don’t like it: I’m pretty self-critical, which has no place here. While the criticism is probably justified, in that it is true that this piece just doesn’t work, it is also true that it’s time to let it go. I don’t like it, end of story, so move on and try again. I’m learning to listen to my creative voice, using different receptors, and it takes patience. I know that all of our fearless leaders have gone this route – observe, reflect, learn, integrate, … repeat.

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Ok, it’s been a warm and glorious summer, and I haven’t exactly been wanting to hang out on the computer – probably since I spend most of my day at work on one. So, no blog posts lately, but lots going on and several things to share.

Here’s a project I’ve been working on, more with hands – right back where I started at the beginning of this blog one year ago. I shot some photos of my hands and the hands of my family members. I’m working on a series that will incorporate various angles and looks into each of us through what we use to touch and sense the world.

Here’s a carving of one of them. I’m still using MDF. I love how cheap it is for the size, and it works well for what I’m after – in a way, it has some grainy-ness that’s reminiscent of woodcut, but it’s much easier to work with.

Here is the first one, inked up and ready to print. I use Akua Intaglio ink, which is washable with water and theoretically less toxic. The size is about 16″ x 21″.

And here’s the first proof, on some bleached mulberry paper. Interestingly, I bought it a store called Kozo – and kozo means “mulberry”. You learn something new every day.

The one year anniversary of my blog makes me wonder about the effect that working on my art has had on my life. What am I learning through this process? How to accept imperfections and make them into, if not strengths, at least into admitted parts of my life. I’m definitely making progress on some of my visions too, although it feels unclear because my big challenge remains finishing a work, or more specifically a series.

Oh art gods – I most humbly retract any moments when I said or even thought to myself, “I can do that…” when looking at someone else’s work. As an artist, I totally know better, but it has slipped through on occasion. Hmmm, doing it is a lot harder than thinking about doing it!

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In between trying to perfect my process of printing the very large hand, I’m trying to distract myself with another piece.

I grew up around big buildings and construction sites – my dad is in the construction industry. I have a strange love for the smell of sawdust and melted sotter. For me growing up, being around large buildings was natural, so I grew used to tramping around jobsites with an oversized hardhat on, looking at pipe & steel girders, and riding dirty construction elevators. I love the way a building represents so many things in our material and social worlds – shelter, community, work, intricate parts fit together by so many different workers, upholding our society for so many generations now. There is something comforting about the ability to put something so complex down on paper in coded image form and then slowly over time hundreds of people stitch the whole thing together. Kind of like art.

So, I’ve started working with scraps of blueprints that I’ve collected. I began this piece by collaging the scraps onto a piece of plywood:

Tapping into the figure drawing class again, I cut out one of my sketches – the shape of a hand resting on a leg – and attached it in the lower right corner:

Next I pulled out another big scrap bin and cut up pieces of financial outlook statements. I love the blues that are showing in here, and so I also added some other loose long scraps on the left, not shown:

Finally, I printed an image that I created last year of an airplane engine, onto a large sheet of sheer paper, and then pasted the whole thing on top, so that all of the images I describe above were obscured:

Strangely, all of these images came to me separately, but this whole thing weaves a story of 9/11 that I wasn’t expecting. I’m from the east, and I’ve been on the construction sites of several huge buildings in NYC, including the new World Trade Center (expect a future blog post on this). And the WTC resides in the heart of the financial district. Somehow the hand seems to be one at rest, calm yet strong, our people? And then the overlay of the plane, taking down what was once structural and whole and sending it back to the beginning.

I realized that I needed to practice with some technique before I could move forward with the larger handprint ideas. An image of layering and depth was coming to mind, so I started putting pieces together to craft my vision.

First, the background. Working with text, pages, images of past, one type of reality – science, I layered pages from an old Biology textbook onto a piece of plywood. Then I obscured that language with a layer of natural handmade japanese paper, sheer, soft, textured – not texted. I used Nori – a Japanese paste used in printmaking to thicken ink and glue paper – to adhere each layer.

Then, I cut two pieces of plexiglass to the same shape of the plywood, and started layering: hands, paper, plexiglass – a clear and protective layer. Since this was a test piece, I didn’t try to get too complex – I just placed 4 handprints in between varying layers of Plexi.

Finally, I clamped all of the layers together and drilled holes into each corner, all the way through each layer, and then bolted the layers together. This too was a learning experience: since I didn’t clamp close enough to the drilling location, the plexiglass had room to move up and down as the drill went in, and the top layer cracked a little. If you look closely at the top corners, you can see it. Here’s the finished product:

And for kicks, some trivia:

Plexiglass is the marketing name for Poly(methyl methacrylate) – PMMA! Some interesting facts about Plexiglass that artists might care about, brought to you by Wikipedia: PMMA a is strong and lightweight material. It also has good impact strength, higher than both glass and polystyrene. PMMA transmits up to 92% of visible light (3 mm thickness). It filters ultraviolet light at wavelengths below about 300 nm (similar to ordinary window glass).

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…

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 started doing printmaking about 2 years ago, after taking a class with Jonathan Nicklow called Printmaking on Fabric. I was engaged immediately, loving the combination of hands-on carving, drawing, ink, and mixed media!

My first prints were simple, such as these hands:

So I printed a TON of these hands, and then I didn’t know what to do with them. Next step – integrate them into a larger mixed media project. More to come….