Friday, June 29, 2012

Interlochen Printmaking: Day 4

Day 4 of the class shifted to reduction linocut -- making a multicoloured block print by printing everything from the same block, and cutting away the previous layer of colour before inking up for the next one. Once again, everyone in the class had a lot of fun, and within half a day were moving on to try some pretty complex things.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Interlochen Printmaking: Day 3

Day 3, in which I helped the participants complete a 5-print edition of their solar plate images.

Next, reduction linocuts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interlochen Printmaking: Day 2

On the second day, we had another person join the class, and we were quickly doing two plate prints of solarplate intaglio, with me acting as studio boss and master printer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interlochen Printmaking: Day 1

It was solarplate intaglio all day, in the bright sunshine of northern Michigan. We were indoors and outdoors all day long, starting with drying off the ink drawings on the acetate (click on any of the following images to display larger versions):

Then we exposed the solarplate for a few minutes with an aquatint screen over them, to create that first 'tooth' for the image to adhere to:

Next, exposing the acetate image over the aquatinted solarplates, for just over three minutes:

I posted online earlier a picture of Ava's plate drying afterwards in the sun. Here is Ashley's:

And then the prints (these photos show their second plates):

On the lower image, there is a grey circle created by a drop of water hitting the solarplate before it was exposed to the sun. It turned into one of those errors that gets incorporated into the final plate and ends up looking quite good. We printed two plates for each participant, and they all came out with a great, dark etch that produced these deep-toned prints. All printed using Akua Intaglio inks, by the way.

This was a great first day. Tomorrow, overprinting the plates and creating an edition for each participant.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interlochen Printmaking: Prelude

This is where I will be teaching a printmaking class this week. It's the Mallory-Towsley center for the arts, purpose built for the Interlochen College of Creative Arts for their adult programs:

It's at the north end of the Interlochen campus, which means in order to get there from my cabin in the woods, I have to walk past all the cabins in which the musical students of the young people's summer camp are practising their instruments.

I'm teaching solar plate intaglio first, and the weather forecast looks good for the next two days. Pictures of the first prints to follow...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Six of the Best: Part 18

When I discovered the work of artist Shu-Ju Wang (from Portland, Oregon) on Google Plus, I thought: wow, I would really love to hear her talk about her art. So I asked her, and she said yes. Don't forget to go to her website when you've read this so you can see more of her beautiful prints and artist's books.

Bamboo Mountain, Potato Hill 2012 Gouache & acrylic on paper, mounted on birch panels 12"x24

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Shu-Ju Wang: I work mainly with gouache on paper. In the last couple of years, I've been mounting the paper on boards and finishing the pieces with acrylic so that they can hang without glass.

I find gouache to be an incredibly versatile medium -- it's reworkable and can be mixed to be more transparent or more opaque. It's also important to me that I don't use toxic cleaners or create plastic waste (unused, dried up acrylic paint). The historic aspect of the medium also plays into my work, as I'm very influenced by Medieval manuscripts, East Asian, Central Asian, Mughal and Islamic art, and gouache is the medium used. Formulation might have changed over the years, but the basic idea of 'opaque watercolor' remains.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

SJW: I'm working on a series of diptychs called Red Bean Paste & Apple Pie. It's part of a series of projects about immigration that address public & private issues of immigration. 

Snack Attack! 2012 Gouache & acrylic on paper, mounted on birch panels 12"x24"

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work? 

SJW: The most recent surprise is that I can physically hurt myself by painting. I injured my painting hand due to the long hours and continuous days of painting. So now I have instituted some routines that will prevent that from happening again. As for creative surprises, there are little ones and big ones. Little ones -- finding different color combinations that work so well, and why hadn't I thought of that before. Or if I had thought of it before, how did I forget? Little surprises go on like that. Big ones -- I'm always surprised at how difficult the work is.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

SJW: I'm also a book artist. I don't typically work on books in parallel with painting, so while I'm working on this series of diptychs, the books are on hiatus. I finished a book last September before starting Red Bean Paste and Apple Pie, and I have another book in the planning stage to be started when I'm finished with the paintings. I find that there are ideas that I want to pursue that work better in the book format or in the painting format, and I love that I can do both.

I also garden. I do an hour or two everyday. I have 1/4 of an acre and it's all garden that I've put in over the last 20 years. Lots of trees, shrubs and some veggies. I don't do a lot of flowers (other than blooming shrubs), and I don't do annuals (except for veggies). I mean, what's the point, really?!

Her Love of Green Vegetables Reaches Mythical Proportions 2012 Gouache & acrylic on paper, mounted on birch panels 12"x24"

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

SJW: Depends on what you mean by that. I spent A LOT of hours making really meticulously planned out structures with my blocks. I was maybe 3 or 4. After that, the next significant thing I remember was being the class representative for an art competition. I was maybe in the 2nd grade (non-US readers: about 7 years old). I didn't win. My drawing was an oil pastel about a field trip to the Royal Crown bottling plant (this was in Taiwan).

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

SJW: I want to make things that make people ponder, like puzzles that people have to put together. I've always been a visual and hands-on person. It's not so far from the block structures I spent hours making. I could've been a gardener, too, I mean by profession. That is also not too far from the blocks. As an artist, I create work so that people have to think. 

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interlochen Writers' Retreat: Final Day

Here are some images from the final day of the Journal and Sketchbook workshop, starting with me posing with Judy, Ava, Jana, and Gail while they hold up one of their blind contour drawings:

The week ended with a craft lecture by Jaimy Gordon (author of Lord of Misrule), followed by a participants' reading during which each person read a page from the writing they had worked on during the retreat:

Quick impressions of the week: eagle over the shoreline above our heads on the evening of the retreat; furious winds blowing off the lake behind the cabin where we were staying; drinking too much wine in the evenings, staying up too late; talking about opera with Jaimy Gordon; seeing people who don't draw very often growing into the rhythms of the drawing process; hearing developments in people's writing in just four short days; catching Euro 2012 games at the local coffee shop in the woods; taking an early morning walk through the state park and coming very close to some deer; hearing Patty's reading on Tuesday night, when she made herself and most of the audience cry with a memoir piece that revolved around visits to this part of northern Michigan.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interlochen Writers' Retreat: Day 3

It was all about blind contour drawing on Day 3. Here are Judy, Gail, Ava, and Jana doing their drawings:

And here are some of their drawings:

I love this technique and the way that it infallibly produces such beautiful drawings from people who are tentative about their drawing at first. But there was something about the writing, too, that happened today: the students wrote such inward looking, meditative, and moving work that I actually found myself crying after they had finished.

Senility, probably. That's the explanation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interlochen Writers' Retreat: Day 2

In the Journal and Sketchbook class, we had the participants do automatic drawing for a while, followed by a discussion of scene and a free write:

Then in the evening it was the faculty reading. Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule, read first from that novel. Then I showed four of my stop-motion animations, with the sound turned down so I could recite the narratives live. Then Patty ended, but not by reading from The Temple of Air but by reading a piece of memoir called Return Trip, a harrowing and ultimately joyful tribute to this part of northern Michigan:

From top: Jaimy Gordon, Philip Hartigan,  Patricia Ann McNair

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interlochen Writers' Retreat: Day 1

Monday was day 1 of the Interlochen Writers' Retreat, a generative series of workshops, readings, and craft lectures in the beautiful Writing House on the campus of Interlochen. Patty and I have four interested and willing participants in our Journal and Sketchbook class, and we started with quick-fire drawing yesterday to limber up. Here's a collage of images from the day:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Tour: Petoskey and Interlochen

Saturday we were in Petoskey, way up in the north of Michigan, for a book signing at a fine bookshop called McLean and Eakin. Then on Sunday, it was back to Interlochen, where Patty introduced one of the winners of the chapbook competition held by the Michigan Writers group. Here is a collage of the two events:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

It's Father Day here in America. That is also the provisional title of my next exhibition in August, at which I will be showing, among other things, my short films and animations related to the theme. In honour of the day here in the USA, here is one of them:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Literary Weekend

I'm on the road with my wife at the moment, doing some events related to her book, The Temple of Air. Yesterday we were at a reading at Brilliant Books, in Traverse City, Michigan. Today we we are heading to the book fair in Petoskey, which also inaugurates the annual celebration of all things Hemingway. And tomorrow, we come back to the campus of Interlochen, where Patty is presenting the first prize to the winner of the Michigan Writers' chapbook competition, for which Patty was one of the judges this year.

"The Temple of Air" has just gone into its third printing, hot on the heels of its winning a pretty significant literary prize last week.

Here is a collage of photographs from Brilliant Books last night.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Six of the Best Part 17

Part 17 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12, Part 13, Part 14Part 15, Part 16). Today's artist is George Raica, a mighty fine painter who lives on the east coast of the USA (where he is also director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University).

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

George Raica: Currently I am using the iMac computer to do digital graphics because I don't have heat in my studio in the barn across the street during the winter months. I greatly enjoy doing the images I'm generating on the computer because the work is right at my fingertips and I can get immediate results. Plus it takes a smaller amount of space to do what I'm up to. But I consider myself a mixed-media painter and have worked with lacquer over vinyl. In a separate series I used inter-mixed lacquer with latex and oil and waited to see what kind of special effects turned up as the materials dried--which includes curdling, cracking, floating, bubbling, There is also a conceptual element to the work, which I won't go into here because I'm going beyond the parameters of the question.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

George Raica: The digital graphics and-in the barn. Now that it's warmer I'm working on a large piece (7'x 9') made up of configurations of gestural mark-making (triangles, circles, squares, and rectangles). Some of the marks are freehand while others are taped off. This piece is being done in my barn studio where I have a lot of space to move around.

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

George Raica: Gesture and shapes change in order to get the piece to "work" with regard to composition, design elements, shape, size, and configuration, as well as color value, hue, saturation, paint texture, etc.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

George Raica: Walking, running, walking, driving my car, reading and writing poetry, working with found-objects. 

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

George Raica: Monsters, fighter jets, airplanes, and tanks.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

George Raica: I think I was born to be an artist; Inherent in my DNA. I remember always pounding and hammering on objects in the basement as a little boy with no specific purpose in mind. One time I made a teeter-totter for my sisters at Christmas time. They wouldn't "ride" on it because it didn't look much like a teeter-totter.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Solar Plate Success

I've been reacquainting myself with solarplate etching recently, in preparation for teaching a 2-day workshop about the technique in a couple of weeks time. With some invaluable advice from my internet friend William Evertson, I got a great result yesterday on one of the plates.

A solarplate is a thin sheet of metal coated with a light sensitive photo-emulsion. When you place an image on a piece of acetate against the emulsion and place it in the sun, the dark parts of your image get exposed onto the plate. You then simply wash away the unexposed parts of the emulsion under warm tap water, leaving behind an etched image. What I realised in recent experiments is that I needed to make an aquatint on the plate first (basically, creating a 'tooth' on the plate that will ultimately hold more ink). So I made my own aquatint screen by printing out a dot matrix pattern on a piece of acetate, then exposing that against the plate first, followed by a piece of acetate with the image.

As soon as I had washed out the plate, I could tell I had a good result. This is what the inked up plate looked like:

And this is what the print that I pulled from it looked like:

What is exciting as a printmaker is how the solarplate picked up all the marks that I drew on the acetate (in Indian Ink and airbrush pigment), the thick, wide marks, and the thin spidery lines, plus some lighter brushstrokes made with thinner ink. The edges should be cleaner, but this is just a proof print.

Bill Evertson suggested I expose the image for 4 minutes, which was slightly longer than I had done before, so that was an essential part of it, too. There are some things you can't do with this technique that you can do with traditional intaglio -- for example, I can't go back in and work on this image with drypoint or a scraper -- but to retain that depth of dark tone on a thin plate, and to be able to ink and print multiple copies so easily, well, that's something that makes the switch from the old ways pretty worthwhile.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Things I Notice

Posting has been light lately due to all kinds of other stuff, like travelling and writing for Hyperallergic. As an addendum to the piece that I wrote about The Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago, here's something I spotted that didn't fit into the article.

In examining his seminal pop art pictures from the sixties, I noticed that the way they were painted was not completely flat, machine like, and artificial. Not only could you see variation in the brushmarks, but the sides of some of the pictures retained drips:

See that blue drip at the top left of the painting? Now look at one of the shaped canvasses that Lichtenstein was making in the last decade of his life:

Almost exactly in the same spot. It could just be a coincidence, of course. Or it could be one of those apparently insignificant things that an artist remembers, and tries to formalise in his studio practice many years after the first accident happens. In the first case, Roy must have seen the drip over the edge, but decided to leave it there precisely as a sign of human activity. Then much later, he is trying to get his shapes not just to the edge of the frame but beyond, so he constructs the shape of the stretcher to incorporate into the design what was once just a random drip.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mining the Past

I'm spending a few days in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, while Patty runs a writing workshop at the arts center here. This was the center of a thriving lead and zinc mining industry in the nineteenth century, and yesterday I walked along a trail over the high bluff that overlooks the town to see the old mine workings:

The grates are placed over the mineshafts, which were only wide enough to lower and raise one man at a time, and one wheeled iron container at a time. But these are the original winches and bins:

As I've said many times on this blog, my work in the past few years has dealt with my own childhood, including the time that my mother, brother and I all lived in the house of my grandfather, who was a miner. So I always feel an affinity with this sort of thing, even though the course of my life has been conducted as far away from manual labour as one can possibly get. Even the abstract looking pictures I've been making recently derive from memories of coal and coal mountains near the collieries. So it's possible that some of the machines in the pictures above might find their way into my work some time, too.

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