Monday, August 30, 2010

And The Winner Is...Justin Soenksen!

See the line of pink ink on the floor in the foreground of the picture above? Undeniable proof! Justin's ink-covered squeegee did a back flip. It won't be the last time it happens in class this semester, but Justin wins the award for being first. The prize? Unfortunately, it's having to clean it up.

Screenprinting is lots of fun, but there can be pitfalls. One of them is the Squeegee Backflip, which happens when that tool's precarious balance against the back wall of the screen, a part of the printing maneuver, goes haywire.

I must say, in Justin's defense, that he is one of the first students to print this semester. And he is in the advanced section, so he knows what he is doing most of the time. We could probably even suggest that Justin did this intentionally so the new screenprinting students wouldn't have to face the embarrassment. An act of human kindness, pure and simple.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And, Now, Matthew Richardson's Collages

In the New York Times this morning, this collage illustration by Matthew Richardson accompanied a book review of Alan Furst's new book, Spies of the Balkans.

A new discovery for me, I checked out Matthew's website and found a wide range of exciting collages, divided into categories including Editorial, Books, Design, Advertising, and Self-Initiated Work. Here are some samples:

Matthew Richardson works in printmaking, photography, drawing, assemblage and digital media. He says on his website that inspiration comes from "a diversity of out-of-the-way places such as folk art, outsider environments, 1930s studio photography and choice finds in bric-a-brac and secondhand book shops."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Examples of the Work of Hannelore Baron

Hannelore Baron said of her work: "Technically, my collages are made of rice paper and/or cloth that have been drawn on with etching or India ink and at times contain printed images or areas of patterned cloth. Accidents are incorporated and appreciated, in the form of spots, creases or torn areas. The overall impression must be that of a spontaneous but preserved and cared-for work. The thoughts and feelings that underlie the collages are those of concern with the social issues and problems of the century, as well as the precariousness of existence at any time.

...I can only add that I have always worked only for my own satisfaction and if the work is shown and accepted it is a wonder and coincidence to me because it was never intended for that."

 - from the book Hannelore Baron: Collages & Box  Constructions assembled by the Barbara Mathes Gallery and the Manny Silverman Gallery.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Anne Ryan's Collages

No. 237
Anne Ryan
fabric, paper, postage stamp and thread collage

Artist and poet Anne Ryan worked primarily in paint and printmaking until she saw the collage work of Kurt Schwitters for the first time at a New York gallery show in 1948, when she was 57. She then began making her own, completing 400 by the time she died six years later in 1954. A show of her collages is up currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and you can see more examples at the website for the Washburn Gallery.

Anne Ryan's collages remind me a bit of the work of Hannelore Baron, which I love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Senryu, Number Three

Tired, so tired.
I think I will take a nap.
Snooze, snooze, zzz, zzzz, zzzzzz.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another of Joe's Finds From the Swap

I don't know what this is, but it is beautiful in a well-used way and very heavy, so we'll use it as a door stop.

I'm hoping that Cathy, this blog's Honorary Internet Researcher, can solve the mystery...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Letterpress Class Ends

I've enjoyed getting to know the world of letterpress through my August class at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Now used primarily for art printing, the letterpress method was once the primary way to print newspapers and commercial matter. Setting individual type pieces into lines, paragraphs, and pages was a career.

Since letterpresses, type pieces, and type cabinets are not routinely produced these days, the remains of that era are all the more valuable now. At the Armory, there are rows of cabinets holding vintage type and steel imagery. Beautiful small sculptural artifacts in steel and wood.

Today's post is a survey of some of them:

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Second Senryu

A fast full day and
Home at last. Reward waiting:
Night blooming Jasmine.

Writing a senryu is so much fun! Maybe I'll do all future blog posts in senryu...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My First Senryu

The image rising
Grandly in my mind eludes
My hand on paper.

(see yesterday's post for details...)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5

I have been introduced this week to a very inspiring book, recently published by Azalea Books, of the Senryu poetry of Shizue Harada, whose pen name was Sanae.

Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5, is edited by her daughter, Aiko Uyeki. The book also features beautiful haiga images by Sanae's granddaughter, artist Amy Uyeki. Haiga images are visual companions to poetry rather than illustrations.

Senryu is similar to Haiku in structure - one line of five syllables followed by a second line of seven syllables followed by a final line of five syllables - but differs in terms of subject matter. Haiku focuses on a fleeting moment in nature while senryu is about the human condition and is often funny.

Here is Sanae's senryu about coming to America in the 1920's to meet and marry her husband in an arranged marriage:

A single photo
Clutched to my bosom; on this
My future depends.

Wonderful, isn't it?!

Aiko Uyeki and Amy Uyeki will be reading Sanae's poetry and showing Amy's haiga images at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on Saturday, November 6th. After that, a workshop will focus on writing senryu and participants will try it themselves.
The whole event is free and open to the public.

Addendum: I've been asked where the book may be purchased. You may buy it here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Artist Who Created Screenprints

Snowy Egret
Charles Harper

Trumpeter Swan
Charles Harper

I'll add Charles Harper to my list of artists to show my screenprinting class next week. He created a series of screenprints of stylized birds for the Ford Times magazine in the early 1950's. Hugely popular, these serigraphs were later reproduced in a book called Birds and Words. Charles Harper said, "When I am asked to give a name to the way I work, I call it minimal realism. Wildlife art without the fuss and feathers. I don't try to put everything in - I try to leave everything out. I think flat, simple, hard-edge and funny...I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. And so I have never counted the feathers in the wings, for that is not what my pictures are about. I just count the wings."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

dt LA

Angles, Textures and Rich Colors in Buildings Near MOCA

untitled, 1943
Arshile Gorky

Just returned from a great outing to MOCA in downtown Los Angeles to see the Arshile Gorky retrospective. An inspiring show of paintings, drawings, and studies followed by an excellent short film about his life and artistic influences.

We're on Quite a Roll

for eleanor, 1964
Corita Kent

My introductory screenprinting students are off to a good start. They are focused, productive and ahead of schedule. Next Monday is a work day, but they'll not need all that time. So, I think I'll slip in an earlier-than-planned printing demo so they can see how those "simple" paper stencils they've been working on can lead to exciting results.

It will also be a good time to share some great books of artists' screenprints. They'll love seeing the work of Jacob Lawrence, Ben Shahn, Corita Kent, and Andy Warhol.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sophie, the Kitty, Dreams...

Whew! What a Day!

Yesterday was a jammed packed day, beginning with the letterpress class I'm taking in Pasadena in the morning and ending with the first session of the intaglio and screenprinting classes I'm teaching at night at Long Beach City College. Finally home at the end of it all, I wound down by watching an episode of Hung. Seemed like a nice counterbalance to the day.

Behold above, my first letterpress print. I got to use the fabulous Vandercook 4, pictured in an earlier post. Sixty prints in about half a minute, it seemed. Here's the routine: Step on the foot lever to open the paper clamp, slip in the paper just so, take foot off the lever to close the clamp. Turn the handle with the right hand to move the roller assembly along the track. Walk beside it as it moves while using the left hand to hold the end of the paper against the roller until it catches on the tape. Listen for the click at the end of the process, stop the roller and remove the paper. Roll the assembly back to starting position, ready for a new sheet.

It was a thrill.

Total student count between the two classes: 33. A good group. I had to turn many, many waitlisted students away, as did most of my colleagues across campus. These are sad times for education, especially in California where massive budget cuts are tearing huge holes into what used to be a good system.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Semi-Annual Tradition

Just before the semester begins, I take my freshly updated syllabi to the neighborhood Office Depot to make copies at the self-service copy machine. Today was the day.

I've been doing this twice a year for ten years and I've noticed changes over that time. It used to be that you'd write the number of copies you made on a slip of paper and then pay the clerk at the counter. Now, the machine takes your credit card, counts your copies and spits out a receipt at the end of the session. An insignificant change, probably. But it meant that I didn't get to have my usual "how are things going?" conversation with Tiffany as she rang up my bill. I looked over at her; she was tremendously busy multi-tasking at the counter and the copiers behind it. I'm sure this little change in the self-service area was a huge sign of progress in terms of her job challenges.

Other changes have happened inside the copy machines themselves. The machine now photographs your page and prints exact duplicates. The older machines, non-photographic, made duplicate copies that were just a tad different from the original, often showing random marks called "noise." I miss those machines. We artists used them like creative tools. We'd make a copy of an original, then make a copy of the copy, then make a copy of that copy. We'd keep at it until the image flattened out, blurred, and got eaten up by noise. Then we had something interesting! It could be a finished art piece itself, or could be used toward any of a number of ends. I liked turning those copies into photo stencils for screenprinting.

Ten years of changes at the ol' Office Depot. I made my copies, grabbed my receipt and headed home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

MFSIL: Icing on the Cake

It's sad to see this wonderful summer come to an end. (I'll start teaching again on Monday.) But this week provided icing on the summer cake, so to speak. My favorite sister-in-law (MFSIL, for short), Mary Stromquist, came to visit from the Philadelphia area and we had a great time.

I am Mary's FSIL, too. And her daughter, Susan, is MFN. I'm Susan's FA. These special designations started long ago when none of us actually had any other sisters-in-law, nieces, or aunts. Our families have grown, but the nicknames remain. I like that.

Today's Studio Session: Viscosity Printing

Viscosity printing is a good way to print certain zinc or copper plates in multiple colors with only one run through the press. This innovative printing method was developed in the mid twentieth century by Stanley William Hayter. He experimented with applying layers of inks mixed with varying amounts of oil on a single plate. The differences in viscosity, or oiliness, kept the inks from mixing.

Here is my work station. I'm using etching inks in a variety of colors, and with a varying amount of added linseed oil. First, I wipe the zinc plate in the traditional way with the first color, which has no added linseed oil. Next, I roll out another color, which has a bit of added oil, and apply it over the first as a top roll. I do the same with the third color, which is oilier, or "looser" than the first two colors.

And here is my first print! It is exciting to see it, because there is some serendipity built into viscosity printing and you can't quite predict how it is going to turn out before you print.

By the end of the session, I'd printed seven different viscosity prints including ghost prints, ghost prints with newly added top rolled colors, and versions created by starting from scratch with fresh colors. I added stickies with notes to each, so I could recall procedures later.

Sophie, the guard cat, kept an eye on everything in his usual way while I was working.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm Making Monoprints Today

It has been a while since I've created some monoprints so I thought I should review a bit before my printmaking classes start next Monday. Monoprinting will be Project Two for the Intaglio group, and when I do the demo, I hope to convey how infinitely creative, engaging, challenging and fun monoprinting can be.

To begin, I placed a large piece of clear plexi-glass on my work table with a small cutting board centered underneath. Because the cutting board has inches indicated on it, I was able to easily define a 4" by 4" image area by running some clear tape along the outside borders. Then, I flipped the plexi over to tape (with masking tape) the back side with an outline for the paper I'll use. This is a very easy registration method.

In the picture above, you can see the image I've created in ink on the surface of the plexi-glass. I've used a brayer to roll ink all over, pulled a plastic brush through the ink to create lines and added a light green texture by stamping an erasure covered in rubberbands. Last, I cut some image shapes out of an old file folder, inked them up, and placed them on top.

When I finished the image, I pulled the clear tape defining the image area off the plexi. This left a nice, clean border.

Here, I've place the whole piece of plexi on my etching press. Next, I'll carefully lay the printing paper on top, following the outlines I can see on the back of the plexi. Then I'll cover the paper with newprint and the printing felts and run it through the press.

After rolling the assembled parts through the press, I begin to pull the printed paper off the plexi. This is always a very suspenseful moment, followed either by ecstasy or disappointment depending on whether one likes what one sees.

Voila! This was the first monoprint.

But I continued working with the residue ink left on the plexi to create "ghost" prints. The print above was created by simply pulling the added tag board shapes off and printing what was left.

Here is the third monoprint in the series, created by adding a leaf shape that had been re-inked in gray. Often, the later prints in a series are more interesting than the first one or two because the intensity of the colors has diversified and the accumulation of seemingly random ghost marks adds flavor.

I'll leave these prints to dry overnight and assess them. Sometimes monoprints are finished at this point and sometimes they seem unresolved but have potential. Sometimes they are unresolved without potential. In that case, it is wise to simply tear them up, keeping only the happy memories of the creative act, itself.

I think these are unresolved but have potential. Adding watercolor and pencil, for example, might be a good next step. After further development, I can assess again. An accurate critical eye is essential to an artist and is something that can always be honed.

This session, in which I printed these three and a different series of three, took less than two hours. I didn't photograph the other series of three because they fit into the third category: unresolved and without potential. They were the first monoprints of the day, and I've noticed over the years that it often takes a while to loosen up during a monoprinting session. At least that is true for me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I Like Crown-of-Thorns Plants

Despite the fact that I've totally neglected my garden this summer, the bed of Crown-of-Thorns still looks stunning.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Letterpress Class, Day Two

Today's focus was learning how to select and set type:

When creating a text in letterpress, you first pick the type you want to use. The place to start is this notebook which contains pages and pages of type samples. The possibilities are overwhelming! There are hundreds of styles, called "typefaces," and each typeface comes in four "fonts:" regular, bold, italic, and bold italic. I would still be leafing through the book in a daze had not Denise come by and said, "I think Bulmer Italic in size 30 would be perfect for your piece." Thanks, Denise! (I believe Denise knows everything there is to know about letterpress.)

Bulmer Italic is beautiful! It was developed in the late 1700's by William Martin for the Shakespeare Press. Isn't that nice? I am especially enamored with the Bulmer Italic f, which has very elegant curves, and I'm sad that the text for my project includes only one f.

So, this picture shows hand typesetting in progress. You can see in the lower right corner a steel contraption which is called a composing stick. The lever toward the left end of the composing stick is called a "knee" and can be set to a certain measurement according to the length of line you want to set. The wooden box above the composing stick has all sorts of spacers. I'll have to select some of the correct size to put in the open spaces around my line of type to hold it in place.

This is a box of vintage blocks of mechanically produced images for letterpress donated to the Armory Letterpress workshop. Images range from ones made for commercial uses and advertisements to images that seem to have been made for artistic purposes. People who work with letterpress today can use vintage blocks in their work or cut new images into linoleum blocks.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Twelve great years for Joe and me. Here's to one hundred and twelve more!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Joe's Find from Today's Swap

Arm and leg bendie creatures! In pink, green and black! A whole bag of 'em! Fun, fun, fun!

First Letterpress Project

The first project for the letterpress class I'm taking this month is a one-color print involving type and image. I've been working on a lino cut, above, of a boat at sea, which will be combined with text for a New Year's card. On Monday, if I assemble and space the type pieces together correctly, I'll be ready to print before the end of class.

That is one project I've been focused on this week. The other project is preparing for the printmaking classes I'll teach beginning August 16th. My prep activity involves a final review of the updated syllabi, organizing handouts, and preparing the demos for the first class sessions. One of the first projects for the intaglio group is monoprinting. I love monoprints but haven't done any for a while. So, this weekend, I hope to refresh my memory by creating a few monoprints in my studio at home. That will remind me about the sequence of steps and any extra pointers to mention when I show the class how to do them. It is always better to do a good demo rather than a bumbly, unsuccessful one, as you can imagine. We teachers call those "demos from hell."

So, wish me luck for "demos from heaven" this fall!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Great Opportunity to See Art in the Making

Cai Guo-Qiang will be creating one of his huge gunpowder drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on October 5th and 6th. The public is invited to watch and tickets are free! Just register online at starting September 20th. I hope to be there!

One of Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder works being created.

Cai Guo-Giang sits in front of one of his gunpowder drawings.

One of Cai Guo-Qiang's large gunpowder murals covers a full museum wall.