I have recently been sharing some new prints that I have completed. I mentioned there was quite process behind them over on Instagram and at least one generous soul wanted to hear more. Today, I am going to try and put this process into words.
The super long story is that I graduated from college in 1992 with a BFA in Photography, but I discovered printmaking late in my schooling. I fell in love, but I didn’t complete enough credits to get the degree. I took a lot of alternative photography courses as well, and was very interested in the happy accidents during exposure of film and in the dark room. I completed my final full year of college with a semester in Florence, Italy. While I did focus on photography there as well, I was able to also work in the printmaking studio and I think that is when I artistically transitioned over to being a “printmaker.”
During the time period that has passed, I have rented studio space in a printmaking studio, and even owned my own small press. Also had a few kids, so I took a break from working with toxic materials like printmaking ink and etching grounds.
In 2016, I bought a gelli plate and got back into printmaking that way using acrylic paint. I completed a body of work in 2017 that was born from this exploration and followed that up with another series in 2018 using the gelli plate and blockprinting stamps that I had carved. This series of work-shared here- was done in sort of a collage-y fashion, breaking through the boundaries of the gelli plate - kind of using the gelli plate like a huge stamp pad. I joined a local group of printmakers and exhibited with them in 2018. Meeting this group and being a part of this exhibit was such a treat, and has been very inspiring on the road to taking myself more seriously.
In 2018, my mom gave me a stash of oil paints and something I came across online drew me to exploring cold wax. This is a medium you add to oil paint, which gives it a little more body and also a matte finish. To work with these materials I set up a space away from the living area of our home, where I could make more of a mess and not worry about the smell. I started some paintings, but after talking with an artist from the printmakers group, I was even more inspired to explore working with oil and cold wax in printmaking.
I set up a folding table in my painting area, put an old piece of glass on it, and started messing around with the oil paint/cold wax combination on glass and printing it with a barren. I brought these to one of our printmakers group meetings at the very early stages and was advised to make 100 prints and see where they led. I made print after print, explored adding pattern, marks… overall just adding MORE of everything. Truly, making a ton of pieces and also pushing them past the normal point of stopping has been the process for developing this current body of work.
I discovered that I love the dots and lines created by the tool (a catalyst) that I use to apply the paint to the glass surface. Also the subtle resist that is happening between the colors, which I emphasize by scraping away areas of paint. I truly feel like this body of work was an exploration and that my artistic muscle was stretched in this process. I loved it… going to make more!
My five key takeaway thoughts about “working through it”… are:
1) Make a lot, do not worry about “wasting” supplies. Use them up! When I head to the studio like to say “I’m going to go use up some paper!" A joke, but something that helps me get over the hump of feeling cheap about it.
2) Explore what happens when you push the pieces farther than you think you should. You should be able to replicate them with enough practice, and back off to find the layer you loved. Every piece will not be a masterpiece. You have to keep pushing through and make a lot of ugly stuff!
3) Get input from people you trust, but not too much input. You know what you like, and this is your work. Keep it to yourself for a little bit. It is good to share, but too much comparing yourself to others is the death of ensuring this is your creation.
4) Pause… take time to look and think. To let it “simmer.” I’m speedy in the studio, so working with oil paint and cold wax formed me to slow down because it needs to dry! If I print over an image that is wet, the glass plate picks up some color and texture that I want to keep. Even if you work in acrylic, let it sit overnight and come back to it. I enjoy the knowledge that I have a little golden gem of an idea I want to explore next time I get to the studio.
5) If you follow these steps, for as long as it may take, you will KNOW when the work is done. It is a crazy gift... the feeling of knowing. So wait, relax, it isn’t going anywhere. You have this wonderful thing you love to do and the DOING is the best part.