Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Month: December 2010


One of the things I love about printmaking is its playfulness. When you work in multiples, you lose the ‘preciousness’ of the image, and (for me) feel freer to mess about.

Earlier this fall, my friend Sue and I met at the Santa Cruz boardwalk to sketch and take photos. She ended up working on a series of prints about the Ferris wheel, and I gravitated to the swings. Here are a few of the results.

This first one is a straight-up etching.


Then an etching with chine colle and inked with several colors. This one feels like a foggy day to me.


And last, a colorful chine collee.


When I was working on this print, I was trying to capture the feel of the spin and speed of the ride. I was also trying to keep the drawing loose and natural; it’s easy to feel like you have to bear down hard on the etching tool to get a strong line instead of trusting the acid to add depth. I tried to keep the work of some favorite artists in my head, as inspiration: Rembrandt, Piranesi, John Sloan, Isabel Bishop.

Holiday Miscellany

This just in:
The Scott’s Valley Holiday Boutique & Fundraiser –featuring 30 local artists and craftspeople, including me– has been extended for five more days! So not only will it be open today, Sunday December 19, but also all week though December 23. Hours during the week will be 10-6pm Monday – Thursday, December 20th-December 23rd. Come on by for some last-minute Christmas shopping! The address is 222-I Mount Herman Road, in the King’s Valley Shopping Center, between Nob Hill Foods & Erik’s Deli.

Besides finding some good gifts, you’ll be doing a good deed: a portion of all sales will be donated to either the Second Harvest Food Bank, or Scott’s Valley schools. Your choice.

In the meantime
I’m putting the finishing touches on the block for my Christmas/holiday/solstice/what-have-you cards. A bit behind schedule, but I believe I may actually get them in the mail before Christmas. Here’s a mysterious sneak preview:

Carving my cards!

And now back to baking and wrapping. Fa la la la la!


I just finished my second semester of etching & intaglio at Cabrillo College, and have a lot of prints to share.  This one is called Hopscotch, and was my last print of the semester:


This is done almost entirely via aquatint, which means that it’s all tone and very little line. To get the tone, I used an airbrush to spray acrylic hardground on a copper plate, and then dipped the plate in acid. The acid eats away the plate around the sprayed droplets, leaving small depressions that catch the ink. The ‘chalk’ on the sidewalk was done by painting on the numbers and lines with the acrylic ground, which blocked the acid, leaving the copper plate intact in those areas. I emphasized the shadow when I wiped the plate, leaving it a little darker than if I had wiped the plate evenly.

Here’s a video showing the spraying process, which might give you a better idea:

As I’ve often mentioned, I’m a bit crazed when it comes to making prints, and this class was no exception. If I count correctly, I created five more plates/prints than I strictly needed to; Hopscotch is one of these extras. And yet, it was the outgrowth of an earlier assignment.

One of the things we were required to do was visit an art gallery or museum and write a report on what we saw. I visited the Monterey Museum of Art to see Ingrid Calame’s solo show in their La Mirada location. (That exhibit runs through February 27, 2011; I would highly recommend it!)

This is my review of the exhibit:

Monterey Museum of Art, La Mirada
In Process: Ingrid Calame

A really interesting exhibit! Ingrid Calame traces our traces, as it were. She places mylar on the ground and copies the marks that have been left: gum marks, tire tracks, footprints, cracks, lines, graffiti, etc. Back in her studio she recombines the tracings to make complex drawings that lie somewhere between fractals, maps, and memories.

The pieces in this exhibit ranged from mylar tracings (about 36” x 24” or so) to paintings on metal (about the same size) to a full wall-sized installation.

The installation covers an entire two-story wall of the museum, and is called Perry Street Projects Wading Pool, Buffalo, New York. It was executed using a pounce, the Renaissance method of transferring a cartoon to a fresco wall using pierced paper and a bag of colored chalk. This gave the drawing a pleasantly uneven application, where some lines were crisp and others blurred, reinforcing the somewhat melancholy feeling inherent in the memory of an unused childrens’ pool.

Calame’s mylar tracings have a similar feel. The tracings at first seem abstract, but when you look at them you experience a jolt of recognition from things you see every day, but don’t really notice (a footprint, a stenciled number, tar lines from a parking lot). The familiar and the abstract play against each other in brightly colored lines. In addition, the lines are reminiscent of fractals, making you think of coastlines and maps and plant growth, furthering the sense of recognition. On close inspection, the lines are often made from several colors as Calame traced and re-traced the same patterns, lending further depth to the work.

The paintings, I felt, were less effective, I think because Calame had filled in the lines, leaving less room for the viewer to make his or her own connections. Even so, it was fun to see how she played contrasts against each other: color opposites; subtle brush strokes on a seemingly smooth surface; sections of smooth edges next to the fractal-ish squiggles; stenciled letters and numbers whose edges were not quite parallel to each other.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one might convey time and movement in a two-dimensional medium, without being too literal or trite. This exhibit was really interesting to me because Calame’s work is so evocative of the ghosts of human presence. There is a sense of time, of a surface being used and marked and then left behind that is really compelling. I also liked the compulsiveness of her work; you have to be a bit OCD to sit and trace and re-trace acres of lines. It reminds me of hermits who sit on a mountaintop and chant their mantras all day long. Which circles around to another of my own obsessions, the link between landscape, spirit, and movement, and how to convey a sense of that through art. Calame’s work is a good reminder that the small and seemingly insignificant can still convey a great deal.

One of the requirements of our class assignment was to sketch a response to our gallery visit. I made my gallery visit the weekend before the assignment was due –what a surprise!– and didn’t have adequate time to really absorb and reflect on this exhibit, dashing off some quick sketches to fulfill the assignment but not really being satisfied.

A few weeks later, in the shower, I had a flash of insight. What about a print about marks made on the ground intentionally? The hopscotch court is a staple of childhood, and what time is more fleeting than that? And if the sidewalk drawing is balanced by the presence of a shadow, further suggesting time and mystery? And set at dusk, a time of transition? I had my response.

What’s up?

Have you noticed something different about Step by Step?

I’m home sick with a bug right now, with a stuffed head, sore throat, and a voice that alternates between sounding like Minnie Mouse and the devil in the Exorcist. So of course it’s the perfect time to catch up on all my deferred blog maintenance.

First I upgraded versions. Now I’m playing with the look. The blog might appear a bit different from day to day for the next week or so, while I experiment and finalize things. Let me know what you think!

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