May 16, 2013
After a looooooong absence, I finally made it back to Trükimuuseum in Tartu for another residency stint. If you’ve been following along, ‘part one’ was all about linocut, but it soon became apparent to me (see my post titled ‘problem-solving 101′) that linocut would not work well for the thin and delicate drawings I needed to reproduce. I wanted something non-toxic, which ruled out a lot of printmaking techniques, but not drypoint. With drypoint there is a plate and ink and paper and a press. It is the simplest printmaking method, and there is no acid bath. It does, however, take a rather long time to produce one print.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I mentioned in ‘problem-solving 101′, I wanted to try a plate made of illustration board coated with wood varnish. Partially because I really like working with all things paper, and because it is a cheap option and it’s less upsetting if I have to trash a plate and start over. So I bought two large sheets of illustration board when I was in Austin, which my father cut into smaller plates for me. I brought the plates to Tallinn and began the hunt for wood varnish. Considering the ample forests in this country and the common use of wood for both home interiors and exteriors, I assumed it would be a short hunt. But no. I visited store after store, but could not find simple glossy water-based wood varnish. I finally settled on Le Tonkinois, though a small tin cost 10€.
I brushed a layer of this varnish on 16 plates in preparation for my trip. They were dry by morning, so I packed them up and headed to Tartu. I worried that the normal method of transferring images would damage the varnish, so I wanted to try a type of carbon copying, but couldn’t find the materials I needed in the studio. So I focused on other aspects of the project until I figured out what to do about that.
When I had wondered aloud to a friend how I should produce the text, he right away suggested typing. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so I used one of the typewriters at the Trükimuuseum (one that previously belonged to Jaan Kaplinski) to type out the text. Man, what a pain in the ass. Not to mention I felt a little weird writing such a simple story with a typewriter that had been used for important writing in the past. In any case, I had to press the keys hard, and it was weird not working with a flat keyboard like I’m used to with my laptop. I also chose a difficult method for typing. Instead of just typing letter after letter, I decided that the book would look better if I s p a c e d o u t t h e l e t t e r s l i k e t h i s . So a single space between each letter and a double space between each word. All lowercase, with only a minimal use of punctuation. Any mistakes and I had to start over with a new sheet. Eventually I got into a rhythm with it and got it all done. And then I realized an hour later that I should have the book in a horizontal layout and not vertical. Pff. I’m figuring out most of this as I go along, obviously. So I retyped everything. And then an hour later I realized that the method of binding I’m going to use (a Japanese stab binding called Kikko Toji or Tortoise Shell Binding) requires larger margins, so there are a few pages I need to retype. But the text part is basically done. Yay!
With that (mostly) done, I needed to get back to the plates. So I transferred the image from a paper printed with an office printer by applying a liquid (causing the black printer ink to liquify and transfer), and the varnish wasn’t damaged. I then scratched the image onto the plate and started to ink it up. And the whole plate turned black and I couldn’t remove much of the excess ink, so I was left with a black plate. I don’t know if the varnish wasn’t thick enough or what, but that experiment was a failure. I added an additional layer of varnish to some of the remaining plates and left them to dry overnight. I left the studio quite frustrated that evening, but that’s part of the learning process.
So the next day, I grabbed one of the double-varnished plates and transferred the image as before. This time the varnish was damaged, so I guess it wasn’t fully dried or was too thick. But I thought that it could be a beautiful mistake, so I’d still try to use the plate. But scratching removed large chunks of the varnish and I had to admit defeat. I was disappointed that this method I had somewhat been counting on for four months didn’t work out in the end, although the most annoying part is not knowing exactly what didn’t work (since the method has worked for other artists).
The studio uses polyester plates for drypoint, so I finally gave that a try. And, surprisingly, I like it. Maybe I like it because it actually works, but the ease and fluidity of drawing on the plates also felt really nice. And because the plates are clear, I can simply have the image to trace underneath. Very simple.
I put the paper to soak before I started making the plate, since the drypoint paper needs to be wet before printing. Then I took the paper out of the water to dry slightly before I started inking the plate. Inking a plate takes a while. Or rather, removing the excess ink takes a while. And it’s messy. I’m still figuring out the best method for that, but again that is part of the learning process and I’ve managed just fine so far.
So after preparing the paper and inking/de-inking the plate, I made my first print. I wanted some of the lines to be darker, so I worked on the plate a bit more. And then another print. And then I worked on the plate some more. And then another print. At this point, I decided I didn’t like the pouch pattern and tried a traditional cross-hatch (which had actually been my first instinct that I had promptly ignored). But the previous pattern still showed up. So, that’s a test plate and I will make a new plate (with the image reversed, so the final print is as the artist drew it). I’m a little nervous that Beryl (the artist) isn’t going to like the textures/patterns I added to her images, though I think it’s normal for printmakers to add their own touch to images they work with.
It was a bummer to have such a short stay in Tartu (I really only had three days in the studio), but that’s how it goes. I’m so grateful that the good people of Trükimuuseum are flexible and patient regarding my schedule. I will go again in June, but in the meantime I really don’t want to lose the momentum, so I will look for a press in Tallinn (and perhaps in Ghent, as I will be there for a bit soon) to continue my work.
On another note, I met some really great people in Tartu and was busy with activities every evening. And the home where I stayed this time is in a good location for walking to the studio. Hopefully I can stay there again in June. Can’t wait!
April 17, 2013
I may have finally finished The Unknowable, but I’m rarely working on just one project at a time. And I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration (to enrichen whatever I’m working on and generate new ideas). So, without further ado, a few things that I’ve been listening to and reading/studying of late:
Composer/pianist David Burge passed away…
I’ve also been listening to Lubomyr Melnyk’s new album, though I can’t find it streaming online anymore. :( Really lovely continuous piano.
I’m liking Abigail Doan’s new post series called Make It Monday, which is basically a dose of what she’s working on and what’s inspiring her.
I’ve also been reading through The Art of Balance, a series of short interviews with artists who are parents. And, similarly, We Who Are About To Breed, a series of short interviews with writers who are parents. I’m thinking of starting something similar.
And this slightly off-topic bit: I was very pleasantly surprised to see The Unknowable featured on the Feeling Stitchy blog. So sweet!
Comments (0) | Tags: art, drypoint, embroidery, inspiration, music, piano, reading
March 28, 2013
Since last year, I have been thinking about creating a support group or website that is all about/for parents who are (or want to be) artists. This would include residencies, funding info, practical advice, interviews, etc. I was thinking of making this separate from fade theory, but today it occurred to me that it doesn’t have to be separate. I can create a dedicated blog category, plus a resource page with helpful links and info. Thoughts? Comments? Is there even anyone still subscribed to this blog?
And more recently, I was thinking about starting something focused on sustainable art. Figuring out my values and aligning my life with those values is a continuing process, but I do know that issues of sustainability and living simply are important to me. And to live a life of integrity (another value), that has to apply to all areas of my life — including art. I don’t want to do it in a preachy way — sustainable art would be a starting point and not a goal — so it would be more about creating a community, showcasing all the amazing work that is already being done, as well as innovative ways to make the most of the materials and resources that we already have. That could also fit within the scope of this blog, which seems to be more and more about art, anyway. What do you think?
Comments (2) | Tags: art, artists, ideas, parenting, sustainability, sustainable art, work
March 15, 2013
“I never work with the intention to decorate things or to make them look prettier”, Bettina Speckner points out. “I try to discover the soul of an object or the essence of a photograph and want to shape something new which appeals to me and to other people far beyond the optical appearance.”
“Daphne” from the other side
A friend invited me to an exhibition opening tonight for “an amazing world famous jewellery artist”. So I checked out Bettina Speckner’s website and liked what I saw. I tend to be drawn to art that contains some reference to history, whether in terms of materials or techniques, and I also like art that reuses something pre-existing (rather than using virgin materials for everything). Speckner’s work has both, in that she often uses old photographs. I didn’t love everything at the exhibition, but there were a few pieces that I kept going back to. “Daphne” in particular. I asked Speckner where she gets the old photographs, and she told me in the US. She can’t find them elsewhere and doesn’t know why. (I think that would make an interesting research topic, btw.) The other photographs she uses are ones she shoots herself.
In related news, IIDA Gallery, where this exhibition was held, will no longer be hosting such exhibitions. Seems they aren’t profitable enough, so only commercially-viable exhibitions will take place there in the future. This is such a shame and seems to be the direction all the best art is going in (and by that I mean out the door). A Gallery will be the only venue left for art jewellery exhibitions in Tallinn, and considering it is just a tiny vault it isn’t the most suitable space for exhibiting (though it is certainly a cool concept).
January 07, 2013
My previous post was about my first linocut residency stint at Trükimuuseum. I was planning to visit the studio again in early December before my trip to the U.S., but all the stress and hard work of November left me pretty sick and I couldn’t manage it. In the weeks since then, I’ve been problem-solving. The first “problem” was that I couldn’t find linoleum to carve in Austin. Seems that the art supply shops are not always well-stocked here, and things were of course even worse post-Christmas. My mother found out about a linoleum alternative called Sintra, which is a PVC plastic board, and we were able to buy a large sheet of it from a plastics supplier for low cost. But I didn’t like the feel of the material and found it quite difficult to carve for a relief print. So no linoleum or lino substitute. The next “problem” was that the illustrator I’m working with (the lovely and talented Beryl Foo) sent in the first four illustrations and it turns out they are not well-suited to linocut. The drawings are sweet with rather thin lines, and they would have been a bitch to carve out. It became pretty clear that these illustrations would be much better suited to etching. But I don’t want to use toxic chemicals or complicated processes, so intaglio and similar methods were out. I was pretty much left with drypoint, which is perfectly fine with me. It’s what the Old Masters used, and the more I learned about the process the more suitable it seemed. The thing is, drypoint etching traditionally utilizes copper plates. I need to etch 16 plates (approx.), and one 4×6 copper plate is $8. No way. Besides, I don’t need to make a hundred prints as this is a very limited edition project. I really don’t need an expensive, highly durable plate. So what’s a girl to do?
My mother does a lot of her work by printing on polymer plates. We made some small plates from the illustrations and did a few test prints at the studio of the Women Printmakers of Austin over the weekend, but I found the process unsatisfying. It was litho without the stone, but I need a more physical, tactile process, and the carving/etching is important to me. I need to work more with my hands and less with a computer/printer.
Time for more research into drypoint options. I discovered that some people use plexiglass or different kinds of plastic plates, but that idea doesn’t appeal to me. I have a really strong dislike of synthetics (this applies to all areas of my life), and I naturally gravitate towards organic materials. I would LOVE to work with copper plates, but that isn’t a realistic option. So when I read Jenny Robinson’s description of her drypoint plate experiments and how she finally settled on illustration board (basically cardboard) with a layer of wood varnish, she had my attention. I really like drawing on cardboard, so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine working with cardboard in the printmaking setting. I’m going to pick up some illustration board tomorrow and begin experimenting. I’ve got to admit that this idea has me super excited. I want to get started RIGHT NOW. I’m hoping that once I feel a bit more confident with these materials that I will be successful in using discarded cardboard, since it is thrifty and less wasteful. I also like that I have found creative solutions to the problems I’ve encountered, and especially that I can continue with my project.
Oh, one more thing. Check out what comes up on Google when you type in ‘drypoint cardboard’. Some gorgeous work there.
Comments (1) | Tags: art, printmaking, residency
November 21, 2012
My linocut residency at Trükimuuseum in Tartu, Estonia, started this week. It will be lasting for several months as I’ll be going back and forth between Tallinn and Tartu to complete my project, so this was just the first part it. I met the good people who run the place, familiarized myself with the space, learned the linocut process, and even tried carving and printing a few lino plates.
And yes, I’ve got the injuries to prove it. I was smart enough to keep my hand out of the path of the carving tools, but I didn’t realize that the edges of the linoleum are so sharp. I’m sure I’ll develop a good technique to avoid those cuts in the future.
I’ll be heading back there in two weeks if I have any illustrations for the project to work on by that time. Carving is of course the most time-consuming part, but it’s also the part I enjoy the most (thus far). My plan is to do most of the carving at home, and head to Tartu with the plates to print them. This time I made three prints (but my phone/camera died before I got a pic of the third one).
It is totally possible to use linoleum flooring for linocut. Everything I’ve read said it’s too hard, blah blah blah, but that’s what Trükimuuseum uses so that’s what I used. Maybe “special” linoleum for linocut is better/easier. I’m sure I’ll find out eventually. To make this linoleum easier to work with, I heated it up a bit with a hair dryer. That made it much softer and more pliable. Providing leverage also helps. You don’t necessarily have to buy a bench hook. Any kind of resistance will help (a wall, a block of wood on a table that’s against a wall, etc.).
Oh, and any ideas I had about using letterpress for the text of the book are gone. For the cover, sure. But there’s too much interior text for that to be realistic. Oh well. I’ll figure something else out. But let’s end on a happy note:
September 13, 2012
You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.
You start dying slowly
when you kill your self-esteem;
when you do not let others help you.
You start dying slowly
if you become a slave of your habits,
walking everyday on the same paths…
if you do not change your routine,
if you do not wear different colours
or you do not speak to those you don’t know.
You start dying slowly
if you avoid to feel passion
and their turbulent emotions;
those which make your eyes glisten
and your heart beat fast.
You start dying slowly
if you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
if you do not go after a dream,
if you do not allow yourself,
at least once in your lifetime,
to run away from sensible advice…
April 04, 2012
Taavi Kerikmäe is an Estonian musician and improvisational composer. He is part of the Estonian new music ensemble U: and is an instructor of experimental music and improvisation in the Estonian Academy of Music. Before this particular performance (which was held in Mustpeade Maja during Tallinn Music Week), Taavi was pacing along the side of the room, watching as people sat down. After a brief introduction from the organizers, Taavi took the stage and gave his own introduction about how he is coming back to the piano after a number of years focusing on electronics and that this particular piece would be completely acoustic. You can see the performance for yourself above. I hope to post more about Taavi’s solo work and his work as part of ensemble U:
March 20, 2011
So, my fine and cultured readers (who have hopefully not abandoned me), you have probably already heard that the House very recently voted to defund NPR and PBS. I can’t imagine my life (past, present, future) without these important sources and the programs they air. Seriously, think of Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, or The Joy of Painting (with Bob Ross). Pivotal. What would my childhood have been without them? I also know for a fact that I first heard my favorite piece of music nearly 14 years ago on NPR: Brahm’s Piano Quintet in F Minor. I guess I wouldn’t know what I am missing, but my life is richer for having encountered that opus. Some current NPR programs that I love include This American Life, Fresh Air, All Things Considered… Please take a moment to sign this petition: http://pol.moveon.org/nprpbs/?4
And TALK about this with your friends, families, acquaintances. The argument coming from the right is that NPR and PBS have a liberal bias, but I just don’t see it. Do you? I think what the right doesn’t like is that they deal in truth and fact, and that the progressiveness of their staff causes them to cover stories that people with a conservative bias consider unseemly or immoral.
Listen to what my sexy boyfriend, Ira Glass, has to say on the matter:
And if you REALLY want to show your support for NPR and PBS, get a tattoo. I’ve heard that the Senate will protect funding if a mere 5,000 people get NPR or PBS tattoos, so I hope you’ll do your part.
July 22, 2010
I’ve been hard at work on creating a portfolio site for myself this week. One of the necessary elements is a logo. It’s not going to be a big front-and-center logo, but more of a design element that contributes to the whole aesthetic. If you hop over to my Facebook album, you can take a look at the different logos and vote here or there.
May 19, 2010
I celebrated my 29th birthday earlier this month. It was a tough day (not because it was my birthday, but for other reasons), made better by two birthday thoughts I received. It was actually a little bit freaky how much I needed these exact words. I’m going to share them here because I continue to find them tremendously powerful and beautiful and true.
The first was a poem by Rumi (written in the 13th century) called The Guest House:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I’ll use my friend’s introduction for the next bit, since it explains it best:
“Last week while doing research on a two-page monograph printed by a letterpress guy in Georgia, I found the actual content on the Web. I supply a portion of Fra Giovanni’s words from 1513 as my birthday greetings to you this year of 2010.”
I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look! Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.
I think I need to memorize these so I can have them on hand every day.
May 12, 2010
Phase three it is! I need to figure a few things out before I can say “Full steam ahead!” Such as what kind of music I’ll blog about (everything and anything? focus on a niche?), what kinds of posts to have (videos, reviews, cover art critiques?), etc. But in the meantime, I’ll be posting some music videos and links over at my Tumblr page: http://fadetheory.tumblr.com/
So, what kind of music do you listen to?
May 05, 2010
I am ready to set aside my denial and admit that fade theory is in a possibly irreversible coma. I see two options: pull the plug or enter phase three. Phase three would be the music phase. It would still involve books, to a degree, but I don’t really have much time for reading and I feel increasingly disconnected from the book world the longer I’m in Estonia. Music, on the other hand, still plays a significant role in my life and I have easy access to it.
Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.
January 21, 2010
I finally read and finished Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. My main motivation was a book group (which I missed after all), but I picked up this book so many times without finishing in the past couple of years that it was immensely satisfying to have finally read it.
Everyone knows it’s a bleak story. About as bleak as they come. I was pregnant the first time I really tried to read it, which was STUPID. The next time I tried seriously, Massimo was a few months old. Even MORE STUPID. If you are expecting a child or have a child under one year of age, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO READ THIS BOOK. For you will fail. It felt like McCarthy was trying to tear out my happy little heart and eat it raw.
But this time, Massimo was 18 months old. Still young, but not so young that I’m giddy and on cloud nine. This time, reading The Road felt more like an attempt to peacefully (which is not to say nicely) stop my heart, while leaving it in place. It is bleak. Heart-breaking. Tear-inducing. Breath-taking. Horrifying. Everything you would expect a post-apocalyptic, dystopic story to be. That said, I sailed through it in two days. That’s some quick reading for the working parent of a toddler. It is a story you want to get through as quickly as possible. How McCarthy managed to live within that story for the duration of writing it (how long did it take, I wonder?), I cannot imagine. When I was younger, I spent years exploring dark places of the mind and history. For a while I thought it desensitized me, but I think it actually had the opposite effect. Two days was about all I could handle of The Road.
A note about the ending: Some people say it’s positive. I saw it that way, possibly because I needed to see it that way. However, if I project the story and follow it into the future, I don’t see any real hope. Where the book ends is a positive blip in an ultimately hopeless situation. There were several positive blips throughout the book, followed by terrible things. There’s no reason to think it will change. How’s that for an ending?
Comments (2) | Tags: cormac mccarthy, dystopian, fiction, parenthood, post-apocalyptic, reading, the road
November 05, 2009
This is one of those days when English words look really funny to me. Salt, for example, looks totally bizarre. That notwithstanding, Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky is the title of today’s us vs uk book. Thanks to Meredith for inspiring this post!
From the UK publisher’s site:
Homer called salt a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. As Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates in his world encompassing new book, salt has shaped civilisation from the beginning, and it’s story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind.
If you take a look at Random House’s Salt website, you can see that they have a little animation that relates back to the UK cover design. But I still don’t get it. The hand looks weird, and the desert photo just doesn’t say anything special to me. I do like the Salt lettering, though. Very much. I’m not thrilled by the US cover, but I think it works and makes sense and looks good. But it mainly wins here because I dislike the UK cover and feel somewhat neutral about the US cover. What do you think?