Sunday, May 31, 2009


While I was working on my first book in the spring of 2008, I stopped by the Book Arts and Printers Fair at Fort Mason, where I found a booth for the San Francisco Center for the Book. They offered letterpress classes, but they were often when I was not available and filled up quickly. By the spring of 2009, my interest in book-making had only grown and I happened to find an open class on a Saturday when my normal printmaking class would not meet for Spring Break. I jumped on the opportunity to take Letterpress I:

I gained a new appreciation for the printed word and left/right justification. Incidentally, I will be taking Letterpress II today. After I complete Letterpress III, I will be able to rent time on the machines for my own projects!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Belize book

In the spring of 2009, I started a somewhat ambitious project of printing a small book using a single plate. With twelve 3x3 squares on my planned plate, I selected some photos from the trip that Anthony and I took to Belize in December 2007:

I did a simple line etching and then watercolored the print, which adds quite a bit of labor.

Once printed and watercolored, the print is cut into strips and glued together into one long strip that can be folded.

I used a monoprint for the cover and added the title with chine colle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random mono series

With only a couple days left in the semester, I didn't want to start another big project and I had been itching to play with colors, so I decided to do a couple monoprints:

Using the same image for the Float plate, I created a quick drypoint etching on acetate. I made a little hummingbird stencil and loosely rolled out some bright colors (ohh do I love red):

I kept working the ghosts, playing with the effects of dripping oily inks across the plate:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Continuing to add techniques to my repertoire, I tried a mock mezzotint in the fall of 2008. A true mezzotint creates a black plate by rocking a gritty surface on the plate, but without the necessary tools I just double aquatinted the plate to make it really, really black.

The idea with mezzotint is that you start with a black plate and burnish out the image. To make it a little easier on myself (and enjoy the nice black that I had created to start with), I used a photo taken at night aboard the SS Red Oak Victory in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. A friend was performing a play on board the ship about Rosie the Riveter, who was based on the women who worked in the Kaiser Shipyards during WWII.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Float" On

After summer break, I decided to ease myself back into printmaking in the fall of 2008 with a basic aquatint:

Anthony and I had visited the Huntington Gardens over the summer and I used a photo of the water lilies as my source material:

Printing black ink on white paper seemed a bit harsh, so I experimented with inking in different colors and printing on different colored paper. I also printed a couple with chine colle to add a bit of color.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Goodwill" book

After completing the two-plate linocut series, Anita asked me if I would consider binding a set of the prints into a book. I liked the idea, but didn't think that four images was enough, so I decided that I would insert pages of text between each image:

There was no narrative story for the series, but the theme of functional buildings lent itself to economic themes. During the spring of 2008, the storm clouds of the impending financial disaster and economic recession were gathering on the horizon. Oil prices remained high, food shortages threatened political stability in many nations, and the collapse of the housing bubble was beginning to take its toll on financial institutions.

I consume a vast amount of news in my day job as a financial analyst, most of it about specific corners of technology, but I headlines about global issues, social change, and green technology are often too interesting to me to ignore.

I sifted through articles that I had read and bookmarked during the months that I had been working on the print series and found a set of articles that fit with my functional building series. The most obvious was an article on wind turbines to go with the windmill print.

Themes that I found across all the articles were notions of scarcity and hope. As a fundamental tenet of economics, the idea of scarcity reflected the economic role of the functional buildings represented. 

Hope was just what made the articles exciting to me. While all the stories dealt with the challenges of scarcity, they offered a glimpse of progress. 

I considered titling the book Scarcity, but felt that it didn't capture the optimism I wanted to convey. Goodwill (and other Intangible Assets) is of course an accounting pun, and hence loosely tied to economics, but it is also undeniably positive in tone.

The text was added using a monoprint method for transferring printed material, which means that the book is one-of-a-kind, for now. I used proofs of some of the darker tone plates for the inside covers and recycled some wrapping paper for the outside cover. The wanted the natural imagery of the cover to contrast the symbols of development in the series.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Two-plate linocut series

In the spring of 2008, one of our assignments was to create a series of two-plate linocuts. Initially, I had no intention of trying to do an entire series, but wanted to try the technique:

Like reduction linocuts, multiple-plate linocuts allow for color images, but production volume does not have to be decided at the outset. For the simple two-plate print, the plate designed for the darkest color is prepared first, and then the image is transferred to the second plate: 

The second plate carries the medium tone and only needs to be cut where the white of the paper should show through, as the darker color will cover the medium tone. Like multiple-plate aquatints, a system of registration is required:

For my first plate, I used an image of a windmill that came on a tin for Trader Joe's stroopwafels. I was so pleased that I decided to attempt the series, using functional buildings as the theme. 

I wanted to do the Rua Reidh lighthouse in Gairloch, Scotland, where I had stayed a night on my way to the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any pictures that I liked, but Anthony told me about the beautiful Split Rock Lighthouse in his home state of Minnesota:

On that second set of plates, I also began experimenting with a rainbow roll-up for the medium tone plate. It added some nice depth to the image and became a standard for later prints.

My third set of plates was for a barn and silo, which lacked some of the interesting shapes and patterns from the first two, but I began to explore making the lines from the cuts part of the image's texture (see the cloud above), rather than trying to create solid blocks of color.

The last set of plates in the series, the factory, embraced the cut lines much more in a way that I think added to the composition. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Oops! Forgot the salt

After basic line etching, but before learning aquatint, I tried another line drawing technique that used soft instead of hard ground. While hard grounds are fairly impervious and are removed with the point of needle for creating clean lines, soft grounds respond to more subtle touches. Touching a soft ground will expose the grooves of a fingertip, allowing acid to bite a fingerprint on the surface. This means more care must be taken when handling the plate, but it also allows for more natural looking drawings, with thin and thick edges of a pencil:

I wasn't particularly excited about my soft ground self portrait as it lacked punch. So when we learned a salt etching technique, I reused the plate:

Melting salt on the plate removes hard ground in a grainy pattern. The salt can be arranged on the plate to create the desired image, but I chose to use the salt as if it were resin for an aquatint. It created a looser, grainier dot matrix, that I exposed in several stages with lighter areas progressively protected, much like an aquatint.

I actually laid a second salt ground to get even darker areas and more contrast. I then tried printing with a transparent color rolled over the plate.

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