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.