Monday, March 30, 2009

Attempting Plate Lithography...

Tonight was my first attempt at a type of printmaking called Polyester Plate Lithography... and the first time using the blankets on my press! :o)


Let me just say that the day started out pretty crappy (wasn't feeling good), then it started snowing (SNOWING... I was wearing capris and a T-shirt with sandals on Saturday)... anyway... it was a Blah start to the week.


So...



I suppose I should start this post out with a brief explanation of a few terms, at least described to the best of my knowledge. You can skip it if you want... I'm not the best at describing things.






Drawing on a Bavarian Limestone, from Wikipedia




Stone Lithography: This is the traditional way of lithography, in which huge, specially-prepared Bavarian limestones are drawn on with litho greese pencils or Tusche (a special paint of sorts), etched with a gazillion chemicals, inked up, and run through a special press to make prints. I took a course on Stone Litho in College and it was difficult, to say the least. The stones weigh hundreds of pounds, even the small ones. Here is a link describing the process in detail, if you are interested. Needless to say... Stone Lithography is out of my scope, with my little Etching Press! And I probably couldn't even lift a 5 x 7 inch Bavarian stone, much less a good-sized one. They are HEAVY suckers. And they cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Gulp.







Process Lithography: This is lithography done through a computer of sorts from a photo, so people can have reproductions of paintings. It's not "real" lithography or real Printmaking, either... it's digital crap. I'm not a fan (if you can't tell).







Plate Lithography: This is pretty new, within the past couple decades I think? Instead of using a hundred-pound Bavarian stone with tons of chemicals, special plastic/polyester plates have been developed to mimic the stone. Sometimes they are called Pronto Plates. You draw on the plate (which kind of looks like a thin, white plastic) and then ink it up and run it through an etching press. Here is a picture of a Z*Acryl Plate with a drawing on it, ready to be inked up and run through the press (courtesy Dickblick.com):






This evening I decided to experiment with my new Z*Acryl Polyester Lithography Plates. They arrived Friday and I've been dying to try them (although, as I mentioned in a previous post, some, um, reading got in my way). Anyway... it has been a bit of a learning curve.

First of all, I watched a demo of Z*Acryl Plate Litho printing on Mirka's Printmaking Blog. It seemed easy enough... do a drawing on the plate, keep the plate wet with a mix of gum arabic and water, ink up the plate, run it through the press. So I did a quick drawing of Clifford on the rough side of the Z*Acryl plate using special Lithography Pencils. They are greesy and feel... strange... drawing with them. Kind of cool.



I then spray the plate with a mixture of 5 parts water: 1 part gum arabic (the brownish liquid in the spray bottle) and sponge it over the plate evenly. But... hmmm.... my Clifford begins to disappear. Is this supposed to happen? It happens in STONE litho, I think, once you apply certain chemicals... but then you add other chemicals or something that bring the image back?? But plate litho? Is that supposed to happen??

Disappearing Cliff....


Well, regardless... the pencils are made of a greese so they should grab the ink when I roll the plate. But the ink didn't seem to grab the greese lines. I rolled with Graphic Chemical Burnt Umber Etching ink and put it through the press. And....


... I get a partial Clifford. A Clifford Ghost. Hmm.

Okay, so then I decide to experiment with a more simple drawing. A line experiment. According to the Z*Acryl instructions, you can also draw on the plate with ballpoint pens and Sharpie Markers. So I did a few lines of a #1 Litho Pencil, then a pen (who knows if it was ballpoint or not), then a #2 Litho pencil, the mystery pen again, and then a red Sharpie:




I then spray the plate with the gum arabic/water mix and... everything disappears except for the Sharpie marks! WTH?



I roll the plate with ink several times (keeping the plate wet in between rolls) and then print it out:



Again... everything is gone except for the Sharpie marks! The picture above shows the plate (bottom) and the printed image (top). Where are my litho and pen marks? How come only the Sharpie showed up-? Arg!
So final experiment... a Greyhound Doodle, done in red Sharpie marker:



I spray the plate with my gum arabic/water solution and then use my sponge to wipe it evenly over the whole surface:



I then ink the plate....


... and turn it upside down over the paper to print:



... and out comes the First Proof!....




It is kind of fuzzy, but I re-ink and print a few more times, each getting a bit better:




So that was it for tonight.
Does anyone know why my Litho pencils aren't working on this stuff? I wonder if Pronto Plates (which hopefully I'll be receiving soon from Graphic Chemical!) are different then the Z*Acryl plates, and will work with the litho pencils?? I am going to try Tusche next time, too.
Can't wait to work more with this stuff!
Jen

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Biz & Twilight

Bridget, Trace and Jo

Malcolm, Lucy and Cliff


Potty Break-5 of the 8 pups in Bridget's backyard



Bridget with Cliff, Maggie, Cosmo, Mal, Sophie and John- wiping paws! Rimmy was still lollygagging outside and Lucy was on the futon beind me. :)


Weekend News ("news" is stretching it, though):
On Friday I was stoked to arrive home from work and see my Dick Blick order had been delivered.... lots of paper and my Z*Acryl Litho plates! Yippee!

After a quick check of the packages, Lucy, Cliff and I packed into the Scion to spend the evening at Bridget's house, having a wonderful dinner with her, her big sister Jo, Trace, 8 greyhounds and 2 husbands (who spent most of the time watching some sport on TV. Basketball maybe?). I forgot my nice camera- only had my pocket camera- so the pics didn't come out too good but we had a really fun night! Lucy behaved herself wonderfully. Cliff was his usual happy self and seemed to love hanging out in a sea of greyhounds. He didn't even try to steal food off the table, so I was very proud. Jo had flown in from Ohio for the weekend and it was so nice to meet her, and of course see Bridge and Trace too! I didn't get home until almost 11, and I am usually in bed by 8:30 so that was quite an evening for us LOL.


Saturday we all met up again (minus men and greyhounds) to shop at the Outlet Mall in Waterloo. We had a fantastic time and did our parts to stimulate the economy LOL. Bridge, Trace and Jo all found some great stuff. I got some clothes for work at Eddie Bauer and Coldwater Creek, some shirts and cargo pants for around the house and was happy to find a nice pack for day-hiking. I've been looking for something just large enough to fit my camera, telephoto lens, cell phone, keys, compass and poop bags, and I found it! I'm kind of picky about my bags- all I need to do is find some kind of patch to cover the "Eddie Bauer" logo because I hate wearing stuff that has the store/company/designer name on it- makes me feel like a prep? I just flash back to middle school where all the well-to-do kids showed off in their hundred dollar Guess Jeans and the rest of us minced around in our brandless cheapies from K-Mart. I think that scarred me for life, LOL, although I think middle school scars everyone. ;o)


I meant to try out my Z*Acryl plates this weekend too but unfortunately Bridget lent me 4 books, the "Twilight" series, and man they have eaten up my whole weekend outside of our shopping trip and a few dog walks. I've heard a lot about them over the past year and wanted to try them, even though they are teenybopper romances (and anyone who knows me, knows I am the most un-romantic person in the world, EVER). The fact that they have vampires and werewolves involved have totally made up for the romance part, though. I have eaten through Book 1 and most of Book 2. They are incredibly addictive and fairly well-written although in some parts, not very plausible. Okay, they have vampires and werewolves, which aren't plausible, but beyond that... Book 1 centers around a girl who moves to a new high school and eventually falls in love with an albino kid who is 1 of 4 vampires at the high school. The vampire kids have, of course, lived for centuries but at this time are just living in the area pretending to be school kids. 1) The main character, Bella's, experience moving into a new high school didn't ring true at all to me. I moved to a new school in 9th grade and just... well... I think the author must have never had that experience because it was just beyond cheesy and WAY too easy. 2) It is explained, over and over, that the vampires love the smell blood. In one science class, the project for the day is pricking their fingers with pins to test their blood type, so the vampire teens skip class so they don't go apeshit and start killing everyone. And at one point, Bella visits her boyfriend vampire at his house and gets a paper cut, and all the other vampires go apeshit because of the tiny bead of blood and try to kill her (or have to really restrain themselves from killing her) -the smell of the blood was so 'delicious' to them. So methinks, how do the 4 vampire kids attend high school and walk among dozens of menstruating females on any given day of the month?? How come they don't go apeshit over that? I mean, not to go all Judy Blume or anything, but as a book written for teenagers shouldn't this be explained? Wouldn't it have been more plausible (and easier) for the blood-crazy vampire family hang out in, say, a nursing home atmosphere with post-menupausal women?? It really seems that the author, when crafting her characters and plotline, missed this huge... glitch... in reasoning. Or maybe I'm just the one sicko reader in the world who would remotely think about it. :oP Dunno. Anyway... beyond that, I'm totally addicted to the books (and, yes, secretly hoping the Vampires-Who-Go-Crazy-Over-Papercut-Blood-But-Ignore-Period-Blood thing will be explained in Book 3 or 4, ROFL.
And now it is almost time to watch Amazing Race and Celebrity Apprentice. And then I will read some more, go to bed, get up tomorrow morning, and another work week will begin.
Jen

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To sum it up...

I
am
in
a
massive
artistic
rut
and
nothing
I
make
seems
to
come
out
the
way
I
*want*
it
to
.
Oh
Lord
,
please
please
please
send
the
patron
saint
of
creativity
my
way
!
!
!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lucy and Clifford (and Rooster) in the Backyard



It was dark, cold, and snowing (!!) this morning. Quite a change from the beautiful high 40's we've experienced this past week. I guess we got too used to it.


Took a few pictures of the pups in the backyard, though. Lucy got some jollies barking at nothing...



...and Cliff did some easy laps around the yard with Rooster.

... after that, it was back inside to get warm!

Lucy

Cute picture of Lucy in my parents' backyard... to0 bad she has a dirty mouth!!!!!

Lucy and Nightmare Alice


Lucy and Alice (a.k.a. Alice Cooper) in my parents' newly renovated kitchen. Lucy must wear a muzzle because she is, sadly, anti-Pug.

If You Aren't Sick of Clifford and Amos Yet...









Went to visit my parents' yesterday, accompanied (of course) by Clifford and Lucy. Got some cute shots of Amos and Cliff playing. Had a nice dinner with Mom, Dad, and my brother John. Feeling a bit better about life in general.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hola, Estoy aqui....

I try to blog several times a week, but haven't gotten to it since the weekend. The main reason being that I have been in a huge funk, kind of a "I suck at everything and might as well end it" funk. Mom says I take everything too seriously, and she's right, so I'm going to try to re-arrange things on the emotional front I guess.

Anyway...

No great reading lately. I have a bunch of "philosophy" books (not my usual thing, I admit) I got from the library - kind of the zen of art, restoring your creative self, etc. etc. One is called Drawing on the Artist Within by Betty Edwards and lists the Stages of Creativity, which was kind of interesting. Per German Physiologist and physicist Herman Helmholtz, in the late 1800's: Stage 1- Saturation (research), 2- Incubation (mulling- over), and 3-Illumination (sudden solution, a-ha!). This was then succeeded by Jacob Getzel (1960's) who thought a stage preceeded saturation... a preliminary stage of finding and formulating. "Getzels pointed out that creativity is not just solving prooblems of the kind that already exist or that continually arise in human life. Creative individuals often actively search out and discover problems to solve..." So LOL, does this make us Nosy Nellies??? That could explain a lot...

Well anyway.

The reason I picked up some of this philosophical babble is because I have felt a bit confused with my art lately. Not confused, so much as... wanting to go in another direction?? Maybe a tad more illustrative/illustration-like? But I feel very torn at doing this. There has always been a "fine line" out there between Fine Art and Illustration, kind of like that fine line between Art and Craft, and I have this ingrained dread that if I get more illustration-like then I will be bastardizing my art in a way?? But I want my art to tell more of a story, not just be a greyhound portrait. I want to get more into single-color woodcuts to explore pattern and design and composition. I want my art to be more... naive in a way (NOT whimsical, I hate that word) and more visually interesting... but I have been trying to build a portfolio of cohesive art for so long... I feel bound to keep on that road instead of trying something so new and different... I don't want someone going to my website and looking at the gallery page and thinking, "Cripes, it looks like 5 different artists made these images." I mean, as an art student I was taught all along to develop a personal style and to plug away at being identifyable. It's kind of stuck in my brain after all these years.

I guess that is a stupid problem to have. I finally just decided to experiment anyway- it's not like I'll ever be Monet or Van Gogh, so who cares if I have a few different styles or looks? Nobody. Exactly.

Tonight I'm trying to muster the ambition to go to the Third Thursday Art in Syracuse... visit some galleries and museums... try to drum up some inspiration. Lucy and Clifford will accompany me, and I have exactly $5 left in my purse so they can get some hamburgers for dinner at McDonalds or Burger King. I'm trying to find a safe city park for us to walk in so that they can get their ya-ya's out and then settle in the car while I visit the galleries.

That is my boring post for today...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

High Vista Nature Preserve


Today the weather is fantastic! Bright blue skies, sun, and dare I say it?.... WARMTH! Mid 40's!


Saturday is the day the pups and I go for our weekly outing. They get walked every day after work of course, and go on errands with me here and there, but every Saturday is our big day of hiking. They always know when it is Saturday. Always.





It was so nice out, we decided to explore a new area we had never been to before... the High Vista Nature Preserve in Scott, which is on the southeast shore of Skaneateles Lake. Wayyyy out in the boonies. The north end of the lake is pretty built up (the village of Skaneateles & surrounds) but the south end is amazingly wild and beautiful. The southeast side has the Preserve, and the west side is Bear Swamp State Forest, one of our favorite places.




The hike was approx. 1.2 miles, so I thought it suitable for Lucy. And I was pretty much right... she handled it great. There was one part that had a long and steady hill, but we had a few stopping breaks for her... but mostly she stayed out in front of me (!!) and was very attuned to her surroundings. Cliff, of course, was his usual gregarious self. The trail was well marked but covered in leaves, a bit more pounded-down then the surroundings, but still a bit tricky to follow. You really had to pay attention to the marked trees or else you could get way off track. Clifford's navigational skills are pretty poor anyway, so I was repeatedly having to reel him back in the right direction. Most of the time, on well-marked trails, I can "zone out" and truly... meld... with nature, daydream, but this time I really had to pay attention to the marked trees and keep Cliff from leading us off into the hinterland.




There was one pretty swollen creek we had to cross. Cliff just plowed on through. Lucy gently picked her way. I tried to jump it and miserably failed, LOL. On the loop back we came to a section with a small gravel island in the middle, which enabled me to jump two small branches of the creek without getting too wet.




Fungus among us...




I couldn't stop looking up and at the trees sillhouetted against the bright blue sky. It was breathtaking!!!




We didn't see any animals on our trip, except for 3 large woodpeckers flying near the parking space. They were beautiful, black and white checkered, and I'm sure they had red on their heads but I didn't see it because they were zipping through the trees so fast. I wasn't surprised to see 2 together, but 3? Do they flock? We also heard lots of Canadian geese and crows, and a strange bird that sounded like a chicken... not so much a "Bawk!" but a "Bak!". What in the world could it have been? Lots of deer poop too, and I was surprised that Lucy was not interested in it much at all... she is a dog that finds poo absolutely fascinating. Thankfully she is not coprophagic, she just really likes to sniff and examine it.


So this was the most interesting (or should I say irritating??) part of the whole trip. On the way back from the Preserve, we were driving through Skaneateles, 30 MPH and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Lots of peeps out enjoying the stores, strolling the sidewalks. I was at a stoplight and an old guy in a truck, with a Brittany Spaniel on the seat next to him, pulls up and starts talking to me... so I roll down my window and he is like, "Lady you shouldn't drive with your dog sticking his head out the window, he could get gravel in his eye and it could cause problems....wah wah wah..."
"Thanks" I said and rolled my window back up.
I can't tell you how irritated I was. Dude, maybe you shouldn't let your Brittany sit on the front seat because if an accident happens, he'll go through the windshield. Jeesh.
I do allow Cliff to stick his head out the window if we're going 35 MPH or less. Could he get gravel in his eyes? Or a gnat? Okay, sure, but he enjoys it and the chance of that happening is relatively small. In the grand scheme of things, I am pretty lenient. If I was Suzy Safety, then I would muzzle or separate my dogs whenever they are unattended. I would keep crates in the car and the dogs would have to ride in crates (an uncrated dog in a car accident could go out the window or decapitate their owner in the drivers seat, ouch). I wouldn't have a dog door. I would never feed my dogs raw bones or anything BARF related. I wouldn't let them run with other dogs or run in the yard as much. Cliff would have to stay buckled next to me on a 6 foot leash, instead of having 20 feet to explore with.
I consider myself a pretty great dog owner. I suck at most things in life, but not things dog-related. Sure, I may over-identify with my dogs too much, and sure, they may be spoiled a bit, but they have a pretty great life. If I could somehow bring them to work with me, then I think they would have it 100%. They each get private walks with me every day, hikes on the weekends, car rides whenever I run errands, trips to my parents' house every other week to see their "Grandparents" and play with the Pugs, the best food I can afford mixed with a variety of home-cooked meats (which I bring into my house for them despite my vegetarianism, the lucky son of a guns), they get Spa Night every Monday (where they each get groomed and conditioned, nails done, teeth done, ears cleaned and a massage), a dog door to go in and out whenever they please, dog beds galore and free access to the bed and both couches in the house. Usually once every month, or once every-other-month, they get to see Trace's boys or Renee and Rich's Mercedes for Greyhound Play Dates. They have the best vet in town (IMHO) and go for complete exams every 6 months. I think they have it pretty much made.
I wanted to tell the old guy in the truck that, so he didn't think I was just some schmuck who didn't give a rat's ass about her dog. Unfortunately you only have a certain amount of time at a stoplight. I mean, he has point, but... I don't know. There was just something about it, and the way he said it, that raised my hackles a bit.
Anyway... afterwards we went to Connie's to pick up a Veggie Burrito Grande for lunch (yumm), did the car wash thing (I love watching the dogs' faces as we ride through it)... and now I'm trying to get psyched up for housework. I really want to take some photos of my art studio and press room, but they are disaster areas. Ugh. We'll see how this turns out...
Jen