Let the Beauty of what you Love be what you Do...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Eleventh Hour

Wikipedia describes The Eleventh Hour as  a colloquial expression meaning  "a time that is nearly too late."  A perfect title for my Final Print... as that's when I got it finished! I was experiencing a few setbacks late in the quarter in terms of consistency & results... but through much diligent effort & persistence, I pulled off this Final Print the day before our final portfolios were due. Turns out, it was one of my favorite prints of the quarter! I feel it retains a bit of the photographic quality that I like, but also enhances the textural elements and detail found by utilizing various printmaking techniques. (The final print is actually sharper than what appears here.)

A closer view... I had fun trying out different colored inks & papers on this plate to create slightly different feels.

This was the original image I took last summer of the window of San MIguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Of the many photographs I took of this church, this was one of my favorites... and made for a wonderful template for my explorations in photo etching.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Altering the Image

Now that the quarter is coming to a close, I finally have the chance to update my blog! I've had fairly equal parts of frustration & delight in this class. I've found that when I get consistent results, and come up with an image that I like... I really don't want to mess with it. But, for our classwork... it was all about messing with it! Here are some examples~

Above is the original photographic image that I took of the church at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. And below, the image etched onto a copper plate & printed~

I liked this one (the first etching,) but our assignment was to add text, and in order to do that I needed to lighten the sky... which means I needed to go back in & scrape the plate to try to remove part of the etch~

Then, for the addition of text... new film is applied & re-etched/aquatinted, after a hardground is applied to the church & sky to protect the original image from etching into darkness as well. For my text, I borrowed a line from John Lennon's Imagine~

After all that work... I like the first etching the best!! This is part of the frustration of taking classes for grades. What makes me happy is not necessarily what makes my instructor happy. And while my primary goal is to learn, and come up with something I like... well, I also like my grade to reflect my efforts. And for me, that usually equals putting in much more time than most of my fellow students. So be it, then. Here's one more example of an altered plate~

Above, one of my earlier results from a previous post... and below, the plate after it has been altered to add a stormy sky and a bit more detail to the structure.

I got lucky on this one, because I actually like both the unaltered & the altered print!
Coming soon... the FINAL PRINT!

Printmaking/Photo Etching~ Setting up a Tableau

For one of our final prints, our assignment was to set up a tableau consistent with our body of work, mine being the old adobe churches of New Mexico. Here's the set up~

One of the many photos taken to create the idea I was looking for~

The first two copper plates were total failures, but on the third, I had enough to work with that I could rework the plate by further hardground applications, use of the needle tool to "draw" in fine lines, and "spit bite" techniques. Here's the resulting print~

I still find it odd that I was having excellent results with some of the earlier images, but had lots of trouble with the Photo Etching late in the quarter. The lack of consistency was frustrating! However, it did give me the opportunity to keep at it... working & reworking plates until I came up with something. This print went over well during critiques... so it wasn't a total loss!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Never Know Until You Try...

Looooooong and late hours have been spent in the print studio... I've been up working far past my bedtime and I have simply been too tired to blog! It is just a tad frustrating, too... when desired results are far from being achieved. Long story short, for our final prints, all our images had to be altered in some fashion so as not too look too photographic... so I found myself spending MANY hours working & reworking plates. Here's the first print from an earlier post~

In order to "save" part of the image, a hard ground substance is carefully applied to the copper plate & allowed to dry~

Then, I went through the whole aquatint process again and added the moon with applications of ground & aquatint in between etchings~

At first, I thought it turned out pretty cool... and was rather happy with it. But, it didn't get the most rave reviews during critiques... even though I didn't see anyone else really pushing the boundaries of alteration. My instructor felt it would be better without the moon, and just a solid black sky. So, I reworked the plate again, & got this~

You can't really tell, but in the print there was still a faint outline of where the moon was... and I didn't like it. I tried making a brand new plate at this point, but the etching acid was weak, and the entire plate was scrapped. Boo Hoo! So, I went back to the original plate & reworked (burnish, scrape, sand, hardground, re-etch.) By this time the acid was REALLY weak. Normally you get a decent etch in 25 minutes... I left the plate in the acid for 4 hours after reworking it! After all that work... this is what I came up with~

All that effort... and this print won't even go in the final portfolio! But, it's true... you never know until you try.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coffee, Anyone?

For those who were wondering... my mug from "When your Apartment becomes your Studio"  just made it out of the kiln this morning... and it survived! Yippee!! It's the little things people... I tell ya! Here it is~

I was really excited to get this back, as I have made four more in various shapes and sizes, and with different stains for the beans (hoping to get a bit darker & more realistic bean.) Sometimes you don't really know what's going to work & what isn't... so I was very pleased! I volunteered to unload the kiln this morning & the pieces were still very warm... literally right out of the "oven!" I got back several pieces... I won't bore you with them all... but I do have to show you the cute little container I made to hold all my ceramics tools!

Much better than the old plastic tub I was using!! The bowl below had to be sacrificed in the name of testing for the big bowl... so it's a bit of a mess! 

Other than that... I had a glazemania sort of day! Looking at my notes, thinking about what glaze to mix with what other, dipping, mixing, wiping the bottoms of countless bowls so they don't stick to the kiln shelves... all in all, a great day!

The wonderful thing about the end of the quarter is that the kilns are going non-stop... so I only have to wait until next week to see the results! Now I just keep my fingers crossed that all goes well in the kiln!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Few of My Favorites!

I'm getting more work out of the kiln, with mixed results... but wanted to show a few of my favorites...

The two bowls in the back have the dark brown clay body (same as my BIG bowl) which I love, even though I've only thrown a couple of bags of it this term, 'cause it has the tendency to tear up my hands~ it's so GRITTY! But I just love the earthy feel it has to it. I did a bit more test glazing today on that clay & am hoping to come up with some exciting results, though I was actually quite excited with these!

This is the back of the bowl on the right. I love the way the second glaze pours over the first... it reminds me of the ocean lapping at the salty shore. The bottom glaze is supposed to be clear... though it didn't really turn out that way!

I've still got 20 something pieces to fire... but am awaiting the results of testing.
I probably put 10-15 pieces in for glazing/tests today... which should give me a good idea of how I want to glaze these remaining pieces on Thursday. I can't wait to see how the tests come out!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Girl+Mud= Happiness

Sometimes I worry too much. I think too much about the future... wondering if I'll ever have my own home with space to garden, and a little studio where I can create. I worry about money, and the fact that I have no retirement plan to speak of. I think about all the things I'm giving up to be here taking classes. How living like a "starving student" is much harder when you're 42 than when your 22! But when I sit down with a big ole chunk 'o mud at the wheel... my worries melt away, at least for the moment... and I am happy.

One of my personal goals for this class, as silly as it sounds, was just to be able to throw a large salad bowl. When I go to potlucks, or family functions... I like to make a big yummy salad! I just thought it would be cool next time to bring a big ole salad in a bowl I made myself! It's hard to center & throw a bowl this large... and usually the clay first beats me up... and then disperses itself into an uncentered glob all over the wheel! Not this time! 

Yippee!!! I have to admit to doing just a little jumping up & down in the studio with my arms in the air...
it's the moments like these that make it all worthwhile!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Photo Etching the Churches of New Mexico

I have had yet another busy week! Between the Print & Ceramics studio, I've logged over 50 hours this week. Which, of course doesn't include time at home spent researching, editing photos for projects, and writing papers! But, I am determined to squeeze every ounce of learning in that I can, and while I feel I am sorely lacking balance in my life, I only have a couple more short weeks to wrap up projects! Here are the results from my latest two plates~

I was absolutely thrilled with this print! I just LOVE IT!! For some reason, I can't get the "add a caption" feature to work on Blogger today, so I will just tell you~ this is the San Francisco de Asis Church in Rancho de Taos, New Mexico. It is such a beautiful church, and Artists of all types have long been drawn to photograph & paint it... including Georgia O'Keefe, Ansel Adams... and ME! Below is the original photograph~

I spent a bit more time on this one in photoshop before printing out the transparency, dodging & burning to bring out the highlights & shadows, with the goal of achieving a more contrasted final print.

And because I can't help but show a bit of process...  as it absolutely fascinates me~
below is an example of an original copper plate (top) and one that has been painstakingly hand sanded~

Look at that copper shine! Once you've got a good transparency, and the plate is prepped, the light sensitive film is applied & you are ready to expose!

The image was exposed for about 12 minutes, then into the developing bath it goes!

In order to tell when it is developed properly, a keen eye & loupe are used to make sure the film is "opening up." It can be quite tricky! Then into the ferric chloride (acid) for etching!

I know, you are wondering... does this excitement ever end?! Not just yet!!!
After the initial etch shown above, it must be aquatinted & etched at least two more times!
Below, an example of aquatinting from last quarter~

The plate is sprayed very lightly with a water based latex & then etched again, which results in more tonal ranges. After all that, you are free to clean your plate & get ready to print! It can be an all day process from start to finish just to get one good print!! But, if you're lucky... you'll get something you like, and once you've got that plate finished... it's only about 20 minutes or so to ink, wipe & print.
Below is the resulting image from another plate that I did, but I didn't have as good of results with the development process. This lovely little church is in Golden, New Mexico.

The white smudgy areas are where the film did not "open up" during the developing process. It's a tricky process to get all the areas to open evenly, I'm tellin' ya... which is why I was so absolutely thrilled with the first print! While I love the look of etched photographs... all our final images for class must be altered, so as not to look so Photographic! LOTS to learn in 8 short weeks!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photo Etching~ Mission Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico

Now that I've finished most of my testing for photo etching, I'm getting started on working on my "Body of Work" for my final portfolio. My tests were all 4x6, but I've moved up to 8x10's for these prints. I'm basing my imagery on Photographs that I took in 2008-2009 while living in Northern New Mexico. I love these old adobe churches, and am drawn to their earthy elements, textured surfaces and soft organic lines.

San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas

Although this class is beyond time consuming, I am fascinated by the process. One of the most exciting parts is watching the film develop on the copper plate. The photo above shows the plate after it has been exposed and etched, but before the blue film has been removed and cleaned for printing.

And...  of course, the original image!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dad's Self Portrait Meets Photo Etching

I'm really enjoying learning this process of photo etching. It is, at times frustrating... and most certainly time consuming, and my results have been all over the board. But sometimes, even the "mistakes" or where I "go wrong" results in an interesting print... which is what happened here. Same story~  image circa the 70's, originally a slide, transferred to a digital image & etched onto a copper plate. I think it was an interesting image to begin with... dad shooting a self portrait into the mirror with an old Pentax Honeywell film camera. Here are the results~

And again, printed with different ink & paper for a different feel~

Even though it didn't turn out the way I had planned, I thought it made for a really interesting image. 
Looking at the copper plate below, you can see how little the plate has etched.

 I would like to redo this plate & try again if I can fit it in this quarter!
Here's the original image~

I just realized I etched it backwards from the original!  :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Photo Etching the 70's

Yes,  I've had an extremely busy & productive week in the print studio! As you may know, I've been doing all beginning work/film tests on old family slides that have been transferred to digital images and have been using them as a starting point for photo etching. This is my brother, circa early 1970's~

Pretty cute, huh? 
Below, the etched plate... inked, wiped & ready to print~

Even though I had some film problems around the edges... I got the exposure, development & aquatint process right on, so I got a nice deep etch, which holds the ink well, translating into a nice rich print.

Have also been experimenting with different colored inks & printing on different paper~

This one was my favorite!

Testing... Testing...

Still experiencing a steep learning curve in Photo Etching! We've been testing two different films~ Zacryl, which picks up more gray tones & Imagon HD, which is a higher contrast film. These were my recent tests... first the Imagon~

It mainly picks up the most contrasty areas, and the midtones fade away. The darker splotch on the left is where the film didn't adhere properly to the copper plate & the acid leaked under the film & etched away.
Next, the Zacryl~

The Zacryl picks up much more of the midtones, which I like, but it can translate those midtones a bit darker than intended. I'm learning that this can be adjusted a bit in photo shop, before the transparency is printed... but I'm still working on this. There are so many place to go "wrong," from first adjusting tones & contrast in photoshop before printing a transparency, to proper film application on the copper plate, to exposure times, proper development and removal of areas of film, and finally to the etching and aquatinting! I imagine it could take quite a while to really get consistent results!
Just for fun, the original image... me & the old VW... a long, long time ago~