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Showing posts from June, 2014

An Explosive Read

I’ve never been a soldier, and I’ve never wanted to be a soldier. I was a staunch pacifist beginning in my teens, though I modified that later when I read more about the history of the Second World War. But WWII remains, for me, the single war of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first that I think was justifiable, worth fighting, and that I would have volunteered for. Every other war – at least, the wars initiated by European and American governments – I believe to be absolutely unjustifiable in terms of a direct threat to the security of the nation, and that they were started for mainly political and ideological reasons rather than as a response to the sort of existential threat posed by the Nazis.
I hold these beliefs despite the fact that both my parents were in the British Army in the 1960s, and that many of my memories from my first five years of life are of army bases, military housing, a father in uniform. In other words, I have contradictory impulses on th…

I just finished teaching a monoprint class

Last week, I went to the Interlochen College of Creative Arts to teach a 3-day intensive course in monoprint printmaking to a group of 6 adults. A monoprint is a type of print you make by painting or rolling ink onto a surface (a metal plate or plexiglass, for instance), manipulating the ink in different ways, then pressing paper onto the plate and applying pressure, either by hand-rubbing or a printing press. You usually only get one print at a time this way, hence the name "monoprint." (Strictly speaking, there is a difference between a monotype and a monoprint, but I'm not terribly purist about that.)

It was a great class, very tiring for all concerned, but we got some great prints out of it. On the first day, we spent some time outside making contact monoprints while doing some blind contour drawing:

Here are a few prints from that session:

The next photo shows a plexiglass plate on the bed of my portable printing press, the image painted freely with Akua intaglio i…

Visit to an artist's studio

Last week, I visited the studio of an artist who I became acquainted with via Facebook. It turns out his studio, which is in his home, is only five blocks from where I live in Chicago. The artist's name is Robert Porazinski, and he makes these interesting paintings that appear to be quite flat and abstract at first glance, but which on repeated viewings reveal organic shapes and a variety of painting textures.

There's a nice pushing together of the strict manipulation of technology with observational painting. The photo above shows a table in his studio laden with flower-like sculptures he constructs out of different materials. He then photographs them, stretches and alters them on the computer, and then makes paintings based on those altered photos. Mostly the paintings begin by following the 'map' of the photo, but he always seems to throw in different colours and shapes and marks, depending on what the painting needs.

Robert is showing at the Chicago Art Source beg…

Collagraphs and drypoint, cont.

Back in the world of the non-toxic printmaking, I got some great advice from printmaker and blogger Aine Scannell a few days ago. I've been looking for ways to reproduce aquatint tones on a collagraph plate. I was experimenting with different strengths of acrylic resist mixed with carborundum, but she suggested I use pastel ground. Pastel ground already contains minute particles of grit which will hold a lot of ink when dried on a printing plate. On the following two plates, I used straight pastel ground for one of the figures, and a tiny amount added to water for the background shapes:

Result: a beautiful variation in tonality, pretty similar to an aquatint. Adding some lines scratched into the Lascaux resist in other parts of the plate leads to even more variety and lusciousness of mark making.
I am heading out of Chicago next week to go and teach a monotype class in northern Michigan, so I will mainly be brushing up that technique. But these prints represent another breakthro…

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…


I am not a lateral thinker. If I am stuck when working in my studio, and something just doesn't seem to be working, it takes me ages to work out the answer. Sometimes it doesn't even happen. Either way, I usually spend a long time hammering away at slightly different changes to a technique -- say, the right mixture of materials to etch a lino block -- experiencing long bouts of frustration as I wonder why the thing just won't bloody well work. Some people, when faced with a problem that seems intractable, can get around the block by turning the terms of the problem upside down, or inside out, turning a positive image into a negative image and, by confronting the problem from a completely different angle, suddenly see the solution.

I am not that person.

But a few days ago, I actually had a lateral thinking moment, and it seems to have worked.

I have been experimenting with caustic soda etch on linoleum, with what I consider so far to be unsatisfactory results. Here is an e…