Archives for posts with tag: melissa’s creations

I’ve been working on a new project, but it’s not even ready to carve yet, so to satisfy my desire to play with richly pigmented ink (and to prepare for an upcoming event at the Denver Art Museum with my friend Theresa Haberkorn), I made a small batch of business cards.

A lightbulb goes off.

Each card is hand pressed. I cover the whole thing with scrap newsprint first, so that I don’t get ink on the spatula. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

When I say small batch, I mean it.

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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 my last post, I started to describe the screen printing process that I learned in a class I took this winter. In that post, I described how I picked out an idea and transferred it to the screen. Here, I talk about the printing and end result….

As you can see, there are two images on the same screen – you can utilize your screen to maximum capacity, as long as you leave enough room at the edges to press the ink in. I taped over one image while printing the other, and then vice versa. Then I mounted the screen onto the work surface, which has two clamps with hinges, allowing the screen to be lifted up to place paper underneath.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures while I was actually printing, so I’ll just have to describe it. Basically, you put a decent amount of ink at the top of the screen (from this perspective, above the right image), and then use a squeegie to “pull” the ink across the screen. Anywhere that is open (in the image above, anywhere that is white), the ink will go through.

I did several variations of color, one was yellow for the right side image, and blue for the left side image (reversing the whole process: cleaning the screen, taping over the right side, and pulling the ink across the left side). I printed a run of the right side first, then I let them dry, reversed the setup, registered the paper, and did the other.

Here’s the resulting print – I’m pretty happy with it, for a first try.

I had some trouble leaning onto the squeegie while pulling the ink, because of my broken rib, so I’m going to create my own screen printing surface with clamps and try the whole thing again here in my studio. And, as I mentioned in my last post, I made a mistake when initially prepping the screen and I didn’t get all of the polymer out – you can see an imperfection in the top left corner of this image where the yellow doesn’t fill in the corner all the way. In the future, I’ll have to fix that by hand every time I print this – live and learn! That’s what this blog is all about….

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One of my goals this year is to learn new printing techniques, so I signed up for a screen printing class at the Art Students League of Denver, with my friend Theresa Haberkorn. Side note: one ulterior motive was to check out the League and see how it felt to drive to Denver for a class. I love the building and the atmosphere, and the instructor, Mark Friday, was super knowledgeable, clearly a professional. I’ll definitely take a class there again.

Here’s what I ended up doing:

First, In class we “prepped” the screen (wood frame with mesh) by applying a photo-sensitive emulsion. In a dark room, we applied several coats and let it dry. From this point forward, the screen had to be kept “in the dark” (haha) until it was time to expose it.

Then, at home, I created transparencies of the image I wanted to print out. On a road trip last fall, I took this picture of a truck carrying a huge load of pipes. I love it!!

So I altered the picture to give it more contrast (remove detail) using <unpaid plug> Adobe Photoshop products, and then I created another copy of the image and reversed the black and white, to create a negative. I asked Kinkos to print both images onto transparency paper. (If you want to draw, you can also use a Sharpie on the transparency, but I don’t think it works to run transparency paper through most home printers.)

So now I was ready to “expose” the screen. I placed both transparancies onto the screen, and put it under a super strong photo light (500W, I think), for about 20 minutes. Trust me, you didn’t want me to take the picture with the light on – it’s like looking into the sun!

After 20 minutes, the “pink” emulsion that was exposed to the light hardens, and everything underneath the black areas stays unexposed. You have to wash out the unexposed area as soon as possible, and thoroughly – something I didn’t quite achieve, as you’ll see in the finished product.

This is what the screen looks like when it’s done exposing and washed out. All of the white areas will allow ink through, and the pink areas are all blocked. And now the screen can be in full sunlight and it won’t get damaged, in fact I think it can stay this way for years, for future use.

The screen is now ready to be printed! Stay tuned for my next post, where I show you how to screen print (and with a cracked rib no less!)…

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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 haven’t taken a figure drawing class since college (and even then I’m guessing it was a workshop, not a full semester), so to say it’s been a while is an understatement. So when a friend let me know about a drop-in figure drawing class, I was both excited and nervous.

The daunting challenge of drawing people – or worse, drawing faces! What is it about this that is so intimidating? The face is the connection with the inner soul of another, and so capturing that seems to be of the utmost importance. And it stands to reason that the face also seems to be the most intricate (intimate?) part of the body – lots to capture in that drawing, explicitly and implicitly. Good thing I didn’t think about any of this before I started going to the class.

Also, I brought some tools with me that I learned from a past art professor, Robert Spellman. The most important instruction is to not worry about the outcome, but instead enjoy and experience the process. The second is a cool tip that I like because it helps me get started by going through a “back door” of sorts: keep your eye on the thing you are drawing at all times, don’t look at the paper, and practice really drawing what you see, instead of what you think you see. Harder than it sounds. Sometimes this means that the drawing doesn’t look “realistic”, but they tend to look “real”.

I use Prismacolor markers – I have a gray-scale set and a color set, and I draw on 60lb paper. In a three hour session, the model takes breaks about every 20 minutes (the position is marked with tape), and I flip through my sketchpad doing about 5 to 14 sketches in the whole session.

I also enjoyed drawing hands, so I’ll upload some of those images in an upcoming post.

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.