May 15, 2012
Adventures in Printmaking
It is a lot of fun, and very exciting, to start on something new. After seeing the Print/Out show at MoMA, which had some prints using unusual materials, I had a yen to try a different kind of printmaking than I'd done in the past. Years ago I did many drypoints, some of which I hand colored. You can see a selection of the prints I did with Ken Tyler's master printer Tony Kirk on the National Gallery of Australia's website. But I'm not doing landscape anymore and have no desire to make precisely realistic prints based on my paintings. I was thinking of something much simpler and more abstract, something closer to my textile work. What could be easier than cutting cardboard, which comes with a built-in texture in its corrugations. Full of enthusiasm, I made some gouache sketches, one of which I translated into the two arched shapes above. I also just started cutting shapes directly, which resulted in the diptych at top and the four part piece at the bottom left. They are small, from 4 x 4 inches up to 8 x 9.
After cutting the plates, I anxiously awaited my new supplies; I had to purchase inks and brayer and baren and paper. When they arrived, I made proofs of each image on newsprint. I liked the funky quality of them, the irregular edges and ink coverage. It seemed to me that imperfection was part of their character.
There's got to be a steep learning curve while doing something new. For me the biggest difficulty has been figuring out the paper: what paper to use, and what size to print on. I ordered some nice Japanese papers from McClain's Printmaking Supplies and tore them down to a size that looked good, with a two inch border around the printed area. One problem for me, which you might not believe, is that I'm technically sloppy and find it hard to get everything straight, so tearing paper to size at the beginning might not work for me. After printing my three plates, I wasn't quite happy with the results: the images looked constrained, things were crooked, I wasn't crazy about the papers I was trying. So, I went rummaging in my flat files to find the Japanese paper I'd bought 20 years ago for a monoprint project. And I loved it! and I have no idea what it is!
What was very clear to me was that the work needed a lot of space around it to breathe, maybe to compensate for its irregular nature (not quite as much as the space above, but a 4 to 6 inch border). Do you agree?
It's hard to believe that it would make such a difference, but it does to me. Unfortunately, along with my current sloppiness comes the fact that the paper was badly creased in the drawer. I'm going to try to find a similar paper at NY Central Supply where I originally bought this paper. Maybe it'll be something simple like kitikata.
In this closeup you can see the way the different papers take the ink. The white paper on the right is a very beautiful hand made paper, but I wasn't happy with its coverage, while the thin paper at left takes the ink beautifully.
There is also something very suitable in the thin, translucent paper to the forms of the print. They seem provisional, subject to change, not solidly present. I'm not sure where this new work will take me, or how I'll feel about it in the near future (never mind judging its quality), but for now I'm completely enjoying myself.