Monday, August 31, 2015

Phase 8 - make the right choice easy(er)? - continued

36 x 24" mixed media collage -
framing this by myself was enough of a nightmare to
push me to consider alternate display options,
but for now - it's done (whew!)
A busy week in Artlandia!

First off - framed and delivered another Angel of Loss - this one will be on display at Limner Gallery in Hudson as part of the show Strange Figurations - opening Sept. 12th 5-7 :)

Then...(drumroll...) I etched my first plates at home!(!!!)

New plates! 3 x 2.25 each - aluminum etched in copper sulfate
Continuing with the tiny tarot series, I started with the emperor:
proof in Akua, Prussian blue ink on unsized kozo paper

I almost can't believe it worked! I am incredibly grateful to have had the chance to learn about green intaglio printmaking at Zea Mays this summer; still...there's a lot of things to remember and keep track of, and I was (with good reason) nervous about mixing the mordant and remembering and executing all the steps of plate preparation and etching. (*No process photos because I didn't have enough spare attention for documentation this go round, haha).

Still have a long (long) way to go learning more about and practicing this technique, but I think it's very different things to learn about something, then to do it under the supervision of an expert, then to do it on one's own, and my first independent plate - feels like a major milestone (whoop! :) )

I was so happy that I decided to go on an art-field trip. Where do Little Arties go to celebrate? The museum of course ;) In this case - the taxidermy collections of the Berkshire Museum. I'd been meaning to go for a while, but I was intimidated by the drive. Now, the time had come, since there's some specific information I need for work, so phase 8! Trying to make it easier, I broke the drive down into parts. On the way there, I stopped half way at a favorite familiar place and on the way back at one of the conservation areas to photograph. 

 While I would never kill a creature for photography, I wanted to study the feet of raptors and rodents in particular, and taxidermy provides the opportunity to see the feet still and up close...

And! I got some great additional views of a brown rat and a good chance to study squirrel bone structure...then got home to discover that maybe I didn't need to go to the museum afterall, since my neighbor's outdoor cat has decided to "assist" me by leaving tokens of her love (Eep! I mean...Good Kitty...)

On the one hand, it was an extremely productive outing! On the other hand, this is one of those times when I try to imagine explaining my day to an acquaintance. The dramatic dialogues goes something like this:

[meet in line for coffee, chit chat ensues, after typical greetings are exchanged...]
Acquaintance:    So, what did you do today?
Me:     O, I had the most wonderful day! I got to see and take pictures of lots of dead rodents - 
and I learned something really helpful - did you know that rodents have really long metacarpals?
Acquaintance:   [silently.takes a sip of drink, walks away]


But it wasn't all paws and claws and rodents - there were also wings (always wings):

 And! In an unanticipated bonus...

I'd decided to do the Empress card next, but...the most common iconography, of the Empress shown in frontal view on a throne wasn't really resonating with me (I think it looks too much like the high priestess and/or Justice and doesn't seem to relate to the Emperor)...

Then, at the museum I saw this:

Yes- there it is! It's Penelope, who is an archetypal queen, and it reminded me of another of my favorites - the queen of swords from the Visconti-Sforza deck:

Franklin Summons, Penelope, marble 1873, Berkshire Museum

I used both to create a version of the Empress in profile
3 x 2.25" printed in Akua Prussian blue ink on unsized kozo paper

Finally! A process photo :)  This is after etching with the B.I.G. ground partially removed
(I just like the way it looks - then in a nerd moment realized - O, it looks like a Champleve enamel (lovely medieval art-nerd delicacies that they are ;) ). Also, I built /assembled the drying rack in the background - thumbs up!
All those photos being put to "good" use - continued work on the winged rats - attached the wings and 
added the bells on safety orange cords around their necks. And in yet another "somewhat atypical things I did this week" moment - the bells didn't have clappers (??) So, I stuffed 
airdry clay through the openings so they'd jingle. Did I mention that the whole bell is 6mm - so the holes - pretttttty tiny (oy.) Worth it though - sonitory joy.

And in non art news - I saw this in the park:
So it begins...

In reaction, I started trying to finish the floors (got to get it done before it gets cold).

 And bonus pictures! from this week's art adventures:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Phase 8 - make the right choice easy(er)?

A busy week here in Artlandia!  
I individualized all the rats by drawing on them with ink and colored pencil, then I sewed whiskers on. But they weren't standing out I ironed them to get them to stick out properly (that's right,  I spent time this week ironing the whiskers on collages of winged-rats - silly human.)

 Studio update - I broke in the new space! It's successfully transitioned to being an active space :). 

I didn't think I'd need any more flat space to store wet prints since they'll only sit out for a short time...but [of course there is a 'but' ;) ] I ended up filling the shelves in an single afternoon (and adding a temporary shelf as a result) - ah, 'the best laid plans of mice and men...'                                                                                                   The drastic under-estimation is actually a good thing though - it's because in the new space, I can print much faster - that's about 50 pieces from 16 blocks in a single afternoon. I'll take a drying rack issues due to productivity any day, and it inspired the theme for Phase 8: make the right choice easy(er) :)!
But I'm getting ahead of get to that point - New blocks this week!
I carved those beautiful hands in July...only to decide that I actually
want a different gesture for this piece (doh! - will have to come up a different piece for those :) )
I tried a new transfer technique for this block -
I photocopied a picture of my hand onto water soluble paper,
then transferred it to the block with gel medium and heat.
At first, it looked like it worked great!...
But, then as my hand moved across the block, it rubbed off.
I was disappointed because I had thought it worked
well initially, but I'm not giving up - there are
a few variables I can think of to try adjusting, and since,
 ultimately, it's about the result...about half way through,
 I ended up wiping away most of the transfer and free
 carving the rest.

I also carved this because, it turns out the
small rats are too small for the wings I had....
(sometimes I feel like Goldilocks when it comes to
matching the blocks)

And on the topic of Phase 8...I tried some new things with the paper as well this week.

 by printing on painted or marbled paper,
each one is unique and irreproducible.
I wanted to print the wings and tails on marbled paper and the fur and crown on painted paper -increasing the overall complexity of the piece and adding to the individuation to each element.
It occurred to me (admittedly, somewhat belatedly...:p), that to get the marbling denser, instead of adding more paint, I could just shrink the container [hand to forehead- duh!] For less than the cost of a fancy cup of coffee, I got a container just a little larger than a standard sheet of paper...
Maybe because of the small container size, I finally got the white paint
to show up! This is fantastic because up until now, I've only been able to
marble dark onto a light surface, now I can also marble light onto a dark surface
- this doubles the number of options for the color of the paper (Whoop!)
Still working in the bathtub though ;), but clean-up was much easier.
And! Turns out the print drier works great for drying marbles paper as well
 - two big thumbs up!

And in other Phase 8 developments...

Finally got a full-scale support up onto the wall[!!!] It's not exactly pretty, and I'm sure there will be changes as things develop, but this was one of those "done is better than perfect" things where I just needed to get something (anything!) up onto the wall and functioning so I can move forward... 

standard D rings, 2 thumbtacks, a piece of wood, pet screen
and some quality
time with the staple gun

In addition... 

Also trimmed the edges, framed, packed, and shipped this one: Angel of Loss is headed to New York where happily it's going to be included in the upcoming 126th Annual Member's Exhibition of the National Association of Women Artists at the
Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery - opening September 10th 6 - 8 pm
Lastly - a kitty story.

So...I mentioned last week, that it seems like my feline assistants particularly like the rats. 

But then, I told myself "O, no, it's probably just confirmation bias...maybe they'd be drawn to anything that I was working on in a cool, comfortable space and was getting lots of attention.    
And Yet...

 I almost couldn't get a shot of the rats without Jr.'s assistance.

"Well, maybe Jr. has just missed being a 'helper' while I was working at Zea Mays..."

Then, one of the rats went missing. This is unusual - active parts of collages do not often go missing...

It turned up later out in the hallway. "That's weird...but it has tape on the back; it must have gotten caught on something and tracked out here..."

That was a good rationalization...until later that evening, when Jr.trotted into the bedroom with the same rat between her teeth and proudly dropped it on the floor next to her toy.

....Or maybe, it seems like she particularly likes the rats - because she particularly likes the rats. [Hahaha!]

This confirms my opinion that the idea of "anthropomorphizing" is inherently flawed (not to mention species-centric/narcissistic) because it assumes that qualities, like aesthetic appreciation or altruism are somehow "human-specific" in the first place.

Jr., at least, has excellent taste in art, and I appreciate her vote of confidence in the naturalism of my work :)!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Still cleaning...

I'm actually not sure "cleaning" is the right word for what I did this week (maybe "uber-cleaning," "exra-super-cleaning," "cleaning-hardcore" ?) 

This was such a big part of the past week, that I'm going to show it first (before the new blocks!) -

Some Before & After magic:

and lest one think it was just adding paint, (unfortunately) no; I had to mix concrete and patch all the walls first - a before/middle/after shot

I think this shot does a good job showing how truly scary it was before.
and not just the walls...I hauled 350 lbs of gravel down the stairs (oy) and
then added a floating subfloor (a kind meant for basements with plastic on the bottom and feet for moisture and drainage).
Here,  mid-install before moisture-lock priming, then painting... 
 Also...before getting to those steps, there was subtraction. Much of the stuff was there when I moved in, and there's something extra-depressing about going through someone else's basement stuff. (Eep! And Double-Eep! ) Next, came adding more light and changing the existing bulbs from warm white to daylight (it seems like a small thing, but it makes a huge difference :) ). Also, I re-purposed the furniture, and most of it needed some work - adding wood and plexi top surfaces, priming, feet...

My goal was to get it done this past week, and while I feel like I made definite headway, there's still a little ways to go. However, it is much better [and not just that it looks better (though it does - yay!), but it is better, and the appearance reflects that - art-thumbs up!]

I've been pushing so hard on this so that I can get started working on new intaglio plates at home in a dedicated and functional space - eager to be done with the hauling gravel part and get back to the mini print-making part...

It wasn't the only project this week -it wasn't even the only organizational project [wrist to forehead + dramatic sigh ;)]. Last week I organized the blocks by theme and put them away in books (figure, plants - stems/leaves and flowers, animals small and large, transportation, accessories, etc.)

I was all proud of myself (uh oh)...until I realized that the books, while excellent for holding the blocks and being able to see each page, weren't strong enough to stand up without putting pressure on the blocks. Sooooo, back to the drawing board, and I came up with this system of using dowels through the spine of the book and then hanging them within a cube so that they hang just a little above the bottom and there's no pressure on the blocks (like each one is chilling in a plastic sheet hammock.) So far, so good...

 And then...[finally] there were new blocks:

proofs of new relief blocks - app. 5 x 7"
 You might be thinking: "Um, gee, don't you already have blocks of wings?" - So true, but...[naturally] the last rat I carved last week is just a tiny bit too big for the wing blocks I already had (and also, I wanted to try a slightly different wing position, so that when they're together there will be some variation...). As ever, inspired by Durer's drawings of wings for these.

proof of new relief block - 8.5 x 11"

 I also finished the crown block (!) I always think after finishing one of these - no more crowns - Enough![For an entire dramatic interpretation of that particular inner dialogue...]... I think "this is really the last one," but then, see, the plants have particular meanings, so...[meep.]

This was challenging. Even though it's based on an Art Nouveau design (in the public domain), I wanted to make the direction of the light and width of the marks match the head it's going there were a lot of "imagine the light source here" moments [fun, fun, fun! ;)]

Preview of things to come...

Now, in para-art news...'s been needing more blue -
first blue morning glory bloom of the season
(and more tomatoes too :) )
The garden helped out by supplying plenty of
flowers as models for the crown and bringing
lots of color to life :).
I swear, this stuff just appears like magic - saw this in a local shop window (and it even has the column in the background
like Pamagianino's Madonna with the Long Neck )
And last, but not least, because I can't restrain myself...
My Feline Assistants never cease to amaze me with their cleverness -
look who figured out that the coolest spot in the house would be the cold bag, as soon as Mom
 finished putting the perishable groceries in the freezer.
"This is even better than a box - thanks Mom."