60 Prints in 6 Hours!

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 My arm is throbbing from pulling the prints through the press, but I had a productive day!

Not everyone is familiar with the old ways of Intaglio print making so today I will show you the printing process.  Keep in mind hours have already been spent treating and etching the plate – this is just the inking process!

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First you take a rubber squeegee and push the thick ink into the lines of your drawing.  You need to push the ink into the grooves from all 4 directions.

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Next you take a special fabric called a tarlatan and you rub the plate in a clockwise direction. This removes excess ink while rubbing desired ink into the plate.  It takes quite some time to carefully remove unwanted ink.

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At this point as hard as you worked, there is still a film of unwanted ink.  You now very quickly, in a circular motion, rub the plate with newspaper.  It almost feels like a heated friction.  You are lightly skimming the surface to remove the last of the unwanted ink.  If you are good you are still keeping the ink in those lines… we won’t talk about getting good…there’s lots of trial and error!

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OK. all 8 plates are inked and ready to be printed…

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You place them image side up, center them and then carefully center your paper on top of them (Did I mention the struggle to keep everything clean at this point?  Think of this sticky ink all over your fingers no matter how clean you try to be!)

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The paper has needed to soak in water for 20 min – to an hour so that the metal plate will not tear the paper when squeezed through the press.

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You put newsprint above and below your plates and paper.  This keeps the messy inks off your press.  In this photo I have already put the paper and blankets down on the plates, rolled the press over it and then opened it up to see the plate marks on the paper.  Plate marks are the creases caused by the force of the rollers when metal meets paper.  This is how you can tell it’s a real print and not a photocopy!

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Alas the new prints are left on a rack to dry.  All in all, I am astounded at how labor intensive print making can be.  We take for granted our new electronic friends spewing out images at the press of a button!

But there is a difference.  It’s how you feel when you lift the printing blankets and flip your piece of paper over to catch first glimpse of your print.  It’s thrilling!  And it really looks hand crafted.  Going through the entire printmaking process allows you to connect with the artisans that came before you.  The true work involved gives you new-found respect for their advances and artistry.

A lesson wonderfully learned.

Intelligent Design

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I look no further than my back yard for proof that their has got to be an intelligent life force working around us and through us.

How could this little pod know when to break open and release this amazing child into the universe?  How could this butterfly weed plant design this extremely delicate filament to carry its seed most magnificently?  The seed is so graceful and hovers over the earth until it finds the best place to begin its life.  To settle in and put down roots.


How do it know?

I See The Direction of My Future

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So for those of you late to the party, I stopped painting (which is currently my true seriously excited passion!) and changed hats around September 1st of this year. Reasons being: I inherited 4 massive UHAUL boxes of jewelry components from someone who passed away, I designed jewelry for over ten years, stopped so I could work on painting, but have been asked over and over again to make more jewelry.  I kept saying “yeah, yeah, yeah” with no serious intent, but after inheriting someone’s life long passion, I sort of felt a responsibility not to let this persons things rot in my basement along with my own most-likely-6-UHAUL-boxes worth of jewelry components.

I mention this, because in speaking with other artists it’s always on our minds.  Do you create what you want which most likely has no customer or do you create what others would like from you in order to have any type of economic viability in this society?

It’s a tough question and it breaks my heart.  For instance, my new print making teacher submitted one of her own prints into this art exhibit.  The print was beautiful and she actually won an award for it. However, she walks into the show with a bunch of tiny reproductions of her work with the assumption that no one will actually buy the gorgeous hand-made print, but they’ll buy a $15 notecard reproduction if she’s lucky.

How does this affect the psyche of an artist? 

I’ll tell you, it makes a lot of artists hold back.  One amazing etching may take an artist 40 hours to complete.  What is the dollar value of that many hours devoted to anything? It’s hard to take up the cause of “artist” when there’s no one to buy the work to help you pay your rent.

My question is can people really not afford it or do we have an instant gratification / throw-away society that wouldn’t value art enough to buy it even if they could afford it?  Do people somehow find the money for the new phone, TV, dinner out, new  garb and a vacation to a tropical island?  Were generations before us taught to appreciate and value art and now – not so much?  or am I just hanging out with a bunch of paranoid and insecure artists?   …..which is it?

I know this question isn’t new.  Van Gogh and his contemporaries were completely undervalued in their society and only functioned and produced art by the graces of those who paid for their existence. In Van Gogh’s case he had a loving brother who paid his bills so that his brother could paint instead of work in a factory.

220px-William_Morris_age_53[1]I just finished reading a biography about the artist and home décor guru William Morris.

He wrote poetry and many books on this subject.  His major complaint of the 1860’s was that the artisans of his time could only create for the rich, for it was only the affluent that could afford the artwork.  How could William Morris get his artwork into the hands of the working class?  He began to design furniture, fabric and wall paper to contribute to a beautiful aesthetic in the every day home.  The only kicker, was the more successful he became, the higher the prices for his everyday items. Thus in the long run, the market excluded his target audience, the every day middle class person. So here’s a thought, in the olden days the middle class copied the wealthy.  You tried to look like something you deemed you wanted to be.  Maybe in modern days, the middle class feels secure enough in themselves to not want to copy the homes of the rich. Thus no need to invest in art…

Why am I going on and on???

Well I am sitting here, working my tail off to make smaller ticket items.  I am making pottery pieces, mini etchings and jewelry so that I can actually create things at a low enough price point that people might actually buy them.  There is joy in this, because I actually get to see my artistic endeavors in the hands of others.  On a soul level, connecting with other people and creating something that makes people happy – feels really good.

But there’s another side of my soul.  This side wants to go deep within itself and use its imagination and call for freedom in a way that society doesn’t really want to support.  For me I want to work on 6 foot canvases and spend 40 hours on one piece that I work and work until my soul deems it to be complete.

When I’m done, no one may want this thing I created.  That creates a feeling of no-value.  There’s no connecting with people and sharing something that might make them happy.  Where do you go with that?  Into the basement?  My basement is getting full.

How do you pay your rent when your soul 100% tells you it wants to be an artist?

Come January 1st, I am going to drop all of the things that I am working on and I am going to dive head first into my pool of paints.  It’s a little scary.  From a societal perspective I worry.  Will the world treat me like a frivolity?  When I come out of my little spiritual bubble toting what I assume will be fairly strange canvases will they have a place in this world or will they become yet another layer of my basement?

I don’t know.

Luckily I have enough courage to tell my thoughts to shove it and go take a hike… but there’s still a small essence of creeping doubt…  why bother? who cares?


Oh pardon me… was I ranting again?  You know you give someone a blog where they can sit all by themselves and write and somehow it winds up sounding like a personal journal…   Bobby Smith is sooo cute will he ever like me??? … yeah…to be continued… ;)

Here are the layers of the painting:

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The Portal   – Acrylic and charcoal on Canvas   4 ft x 4 ft

This spring and summer were my first ever attempts at abstract painting.  Some really weird pieces came out.  REALLY WEIRD!

Above was one of the last before I stopped painting.  Besides the strange portal in the painting, (which I love I’m not even sure how that got there!) There are some really pretty painterly elements.

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The colors are soft yet really bright and exciting.  Your eye moves throughout the canvas, there’s tons of texture. There are definitely aspects that work.  I think when I take up painting again in the new year I will take a lot from this painting.  It’s a direction I can see my painting going towards.  I think the landscape genre lends itself nicely to my mark-making and I like the small elements of human cultures.  Maybe bridges, more ladders, buildings and transportation vessels???  It should be a great stepping off point.


OK. Time to switch hats again.  I have spent this week in the print shop and the pottery studio.  I should have a lot of work coming out in the next few weeks and I do love to share it!  So, thanks for watching and listening. Really –Thank you!

Learning Intaglio Print Making

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As a gift to myself, after my 365 Creativity Challenge, I bought a small printing press and some etching needles.  I had never done it but wanted to desperately.  Well, the box came and I went to the library and grabbed a ton of books on etching. The books might as well have been written in Greek because I could not figure out what they were talking about!  Next I went on You Tube.  I thought seeing might be the answer.  Nope too confusing.  So I dropped the press box down in the basement and went on with life.

Until two weeks ago.

I got a brochure in the mail which of course opened to the page “Intro to Intaglio Print Making”.  It had “SIGN FROM THE UNIVERSE” written all over it. Ok not really, but it started in 2 days and if I jumped on it, this could be my opportunity to try to understand how Intaglio etching worked. So, I went for it!


Dear me, there are SO MANY steps that go into this process. No wonder I couldn’t figure it out!  I actually needed a human being to run through the process and then re-run through it 5 more times before my brain could even process it all.

In a nutshell, you take a zinc plate, you paint this toxic goo on top of it, you then draw backwards with sharp needles into the painted surface, following that you drop the plate into an acid bath and carefully rinse off the acid.  Any place the surface was scratched then gets eaten with acid. From there you take turpentine and remove the toxic goo from the top and then you can start the next step, loading the plate with ink and running it through the press.  The inking has so many steps in itself that I shall share that with you on another day.

All told, I am working on a bunch of tiny 2″x3″ zinc plates and plan on making an entire collection of small prints titled “Christmas in Rhode Island”.


This was my first attempt and the only one I have had time to pull a print of.

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The black and white is what you get, but being a color addict, I plan on water-coloring them.  I think the effect is beautiful.  This is a lobster boat with Christmas lights.

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Here is our state bird the “Rhode Island Red” decked out for Christmas.

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And of course I had to do a seagull by the Narragansett Towers.

This week I will pull prints of the two birds.  I also hope to create two more whimsical plates in this series.

I shall keep you abreast of my progress. Tally-ho or shall I say Intagli-ho!

Yeah that was bad I know it :)