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!
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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 | More: blog, news, reading
April 15, 2013
Last year, I found two large pieces of cardboard (roughly 21.5×13.5in/51.5x34cm). I knew immediately that I wanted to draw on them, and eventually I did (on one, so far). The drawing is in my usual style, just larger than usual, and it was my first time using marker and ball-point pen together. It was really smooth and easy, and I was happy with the results. And yet… I knew I wasn’t done. There was too much blank space, and it just didn’t feel complete. So I set it aside for a while while figuring out what to do. My first instinct was to add text, but what and how? Eventually, I settled on a quote from ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ by Roland Barthes, which I had been reading in bits and spurts.
I am caught in this contradiction: on the one hand, I believe I know the other better than anyone and triumphantly assert my knowledge to the other (“I know you-I’m the only one who really knows you!”); and on the other hand, I am often struck by the obvious fact that the other is impenetrable, intractable, not to be found; I cannot open up the other, trace back the other’s origins, solve the riddle. Where does the other come from? Who is the other? I wear myself out, I shall never know.
A lot of my work these days is inspired by Jonas (see FIFTY THINGS, for example). This quote, in spite of its dry and impersonal philosophical tone, describes pretty well how I feel about THE OTHER (in this case, Jonas). Sometimes it feels like the more I get to know him, the more I realize I don’t know him and never will. There are always more layers unfolding; more to explore. Which I guess keeps things interesting, but it is sometimes frustrating that he will always be THE UNKNOWABLE.
Back to this piece. I had settled on a quote, but I still wasn’t sure how to apply it to the cardboard. Just writing it on seemed a bit dull and too easy. I was working on this at the same time I was working on FIFTY THINGS, and when looking at the portfolio of Sam Pickett (who ended up drawing the illustration for #21) on Flickr, it suddenly clicked.
Embroidery! Embroidering on cardboard isn’t the same as embroidering on fabric, so I had to puncture the cardboard first. Which meant I had to write the letters first, and figure out if I wanted straight lines, etc. There was a lot of trial and error and time passing. But eventually I figured out how I wanted the words, which needle was best for puncturing, and I made a push pin (with a needle, a scrap of denim, and a tiny plastic teapot lid) to protect my fingers. More trial and error there, not to mention blisters. It was a painful and long process, and even once I was done with that, I still had the embroidery to do. That took months and months. It took a couple hours to do about 1/3 of a line of text using a basic back stitch, so it was very boring and laborious work. It’s exactly the kind of work I love/hate to do! While the results of any project are important for me, I’m so much more interested in the process.
A few things I learned about embroidery on cardboard: I made way too many holes and they were too close together. Sometimes the small bit of cardboard between holes broke, and part of the reason it took so long to do was because all of the holes I had to work the thread through. And it was completely unnecessary because the final result would have been just as good with fewer holes. Live and learn. When I started out, I didn’t have a method. The needle would come out in whichever direction (to the right OR the left of the thread already there), but over time I developed a method with looping on one side only. As a result, the text looked better and better as I progressed, plus I finally got into a rhythm with it.
So… as much as I complained to Jonas and my mom and whoever else would listen, I will be doing embroidery again! I don’t have a specific project planned at the moment (I really need to focus on my residency project for now), but I’ve been doing some research. Check out the Embroidery board I created on Pinterest.
Thoughts on this project, embroidery tips, and suggestions for embroidery/thread artists to check out are always welcome! I’d also love to know what YOU are working on at the moment.
Comments (0) | Tags: art, cardboard, drawing, embroidery, love, unknowable | More: drawing, projects, text art
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 | More: blog, projects
March 25, 2013
A number of years ago, I featured Aimee Lee as a friday artist. Unfortunately, the content of that particular blog post seems to have been lost, but Aimee and I have stayed in touch (and finally even met in person earlier this year!) and I have continued to be inspired by her art and research. She was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship in 2009 and spent time in Korea learning the traditional art of hanji, which is Korean handmade paper. Since that time, she has been sharing what she learned via demonstrations, workshops, lectures, and now the first English-language book on the subject — Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking (The Legacy Press, 2013).
It’s a beautiful book worth owning if you have an interest in handmade paper, Korea, or cultural studies. And if you want to attend an event (some of which are hands-on), do check out Aimee’s tour schedule.
Comments (2) | Tags: aimee lee, art, handmade paper, hanji, korea, paper, paper art, papermaking | More: paper art
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).
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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 | More: blog
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:
November 13, 2012
A few pieces of news:
I finished a big illustration project called FIFTY THINGS at the end of September. I was so thrilled with the results and am exceedingly grateful to the 39 illustrators who contributed to the project. It was also the first big anything I have completed in years, so it was both encouraging and gave me momentum to keep going. You can check it out on facebook or pinterest.
And with that momentum, I have begun a new project. I have written a story that is being illustrated by Beryl Foo, one of the artists who contributed to FIFTY THINGS. Next week I begin a linocut residency at the Trükimuuseum in Tartu, Estonia, where I will be hand-carving linoleum plates, relief printing the pages in an old press, and hand-binding the pages into a book. I’m really excited!
I also joined Women Printmakers of Austin. I don’t live in Austin, but I am there for an extended period every year and this way I have access to their studio. My mother is working on prints of four of my drawings, which will be part of WPA’s Multiple Originals exhibition beginning in December.
I have also finally updated all the pages of my website. Yes, all four pages! Can you believe it?
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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…
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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:
Comments (0) | Tags: acoustic, avant garde, estonia, experimental, improvisation, improvisational composition, music, new music, piano, taavi kerikmäe, tallinn | More: blog
March 30, 2012
I need your help! I’m collecting words for my next project, currently titled whatever you say. Specific words: words of criticism directed towards mothers — things you have been told or overheard or said yourself (either to someone else or silently to yourself). I’m working on a performance piece to convey the effects of these words, and what you share with me will be the foundation and will direct the course of the project. Head over to the Submit page to participate.
Your involvement (whether you submit a few words or share this project with your friends) is crucial and much appreciated!
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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.
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September 08, 2010
I picked my logo, with the help of feedback received here and on facebook. My site is complete and you can view it (and the logo) here: http://rjkg.com
I’m thinking about restructuring fade theory. There will still be (a rarely updated) blog, but it’s going to be moved to its own directory so that it will be only one component of the site. I have a few creative projects I’m working on that I’d like to host somewhere once complete, so I’m thinking this is the place. I also have one project that requires submissions, so I’ll use fade theory for that too. I don’t know how long this will take, but you can expect a new site within the next few months! I think.
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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.