Saturday, February 09, 2013

A little knitting, a little scratching

I have been knitting, its just that I've also been distracted. There is a visiting exhibition on at our public art gallery (DPAG -Dunedin Public Art Gallery), of etchings, GĂ©RICAULT TO GAUGUIN Printmaking in France 1820-190, which is on from the 15th Dec 2012 - 17th Mar 2013.As always the community education program is excellent, and as part that  a serries of talks, lectures, and guided tours was organised. Also in keeping with their long tradition of encouraging people to get active and 'do' art, explore the media, there was a three day workshop. Three days of print making --- count me in. Some where I had a vague notion of learning more about printmaking so I could explore adding title pages or book plates to my books, after visiting the exhibition I was also inspired by the highly naturalistic nature of the prints on show.  I do appreciate abstract art, and mix-media collaged works, but deep down I'm in stop and look with jaw dropping awe at a lifelike drawing, or street scene captured in detail by the hand of a talented artist.
 So until Thursday I knit, on the long purple lace with the moss stitch edges -- its over three feet now, and should be five. I'm expecting to get to five sometime this week, at which point I will have to make some decision about what to do with the remaining yarn. Thursday morning I abandoned the knitting and headed off to class.
 The first day, Thursday, we played with dry point etching, on plastic sheets. We scraped and scored and sanded and made all sorts of marks that would capture ink. We inked up, and used the etching presses, we had fun. Well I had fun, and the rest of the class all said they were having fun.  The second day I went armed with more knowledge, and an idea. Dangerous things ideas, but better used than ignored. The second day, Friday we were introduced to zinc plates, which meant etching - and allows for a wider range of tones.  which brings me back to my idea - of something I could print.
For as long as we have known Yoyo, our cat,  she has liked to sit in containers. Not any container but in pot plant containers, again not just any - but ones that are shallow and just the right size. Weird what cats will do, in summer and winter she seems happiest sleeping, sitting or even crouching in a dirt filled bowl outside. I've long given up trying to understand what goes on in that wee fur covered head, now I just accept that is what she does and we leave a few garden pots half fill of dirt just for her to use. Over the years we have all learned to spot 'Cat-in-a-bowl', and admire how well she takes command of such a small space. I went armed with a blog photo from way back in December 2011, and drew my Cat-in-a-bowl. Then because I was thinking of printing in terms of books, and books have text - I added the words Contained like a cat in a bowl. I played with other words, and adding a frog, but kept coming back to cat in a bowl. I liked the suggestion that a cat is not really contained in the bowl, but sits watching - ready to leave.
Keri, one of the tutors made use of modern technology to reverse the image so my text would be readable when printed.
Friday was spent preparing the plate, beveling the plate, covering the plate a protective ground (hard ground if you want details), transferring the image, scratching the image through the ground,  etching the pate in acid (in a well maintained ventilated fume box), and cleaning off all the acid and ground. I finished up on friday with a print of my line drawing of Yoyo, and plans to add lighter and darker grey tones the following day.
The third day, Saturday was spent learning about how spray paint and shellac can be used to create tones with the etching process. Then we were asked to proof our final plate - here it is compared to the line only version.

Once we were happy with the result we were challenged to print an edition of three on good cotton paper. Apparently there is a huge skill in  reproducing prints from a plate such that each print looks like the first print. I don't have that skill, yet. Every print is a result of fresh ink being applied and the excess wiped away, wiping a little more or a little less and the  print is a little lighter or darker. Saturday I developed a huge appreciation of the engraver and printers craft and a desire to learn more. Three days was not enough. There were other media, and other techniques that were introduced but that I just couldn't include in this work without turning my cat in a bowl into a propper dogs breakfast.
 In case you were wondering about the small embossed mark on some of the prints. Neil Emmerson , the lead workshop tutor called this the shop Chop. He explained that not only was it important to note the artist who made the image, but also the print studio in which the image was printed. As part of that he has a Chop which he makes available to all those who use his studio at the School of Art. Neil being Neil - tends towards the subversive, and he loves to call his teaching studio the P-Lab, short for The Print Laboratory, at the Dunedin School of Art.
 I enjoyed myself, and while I recongise that etching and printing etched pates is far too time consuming to become part of my bookmaking practice on a regular basis - I want to do more, I have no idea where this will lead, but the etching and printing process fits nicely into the kinds of line and tonal drawings that I like to work on. I enjoyed this so much so that I have enrolled in the night class. Eight weeks of classes, Tuesday nights, six to eight. There are spaces - if you are keen please join me, classes start on the 18th. When we began to work on zinc, I cut my plate in half, with the aim of using the first as practice, and the other half to do something when  I understood the process more. Now I have enrolled in the evening classes, I've coated the remaining plate in a hard ground and begun to etch the Cat-in-a-bowl again.  The practice plate is on the left, the second time around plate on the right. This time I think I will make the background grey so Yo-yo's whites can be white, and I won't have such a hard time removing ink from the plain areas of the plate.

There will still be knitting, I even have plans to print something knitting related .... how could I not?
There just might be a little bit of printing mixed with the knitting for the next eight weeks.
na Stella


Suzanne said...

That is a very cool adjunct to your bag of tricks! and you did a very nice job on your first efforts at making a plate. Sally is also a container cat - but not with a predilection for terra cotta.

KathyR said...

The printing process is, indeed, an interesting one. Part of my Thursday was spent, unintentionally, learning a tiny bit about using an old type of press (a linotype press). Fascinating. Love your Cat in a bowl print. Very nice!

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