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Category: Spain (page 2 of 2)

Come See What’s on the Slab

I continue to be the mad scientist of printmaking, but it’s way too cold to wear nothing but a corset and fishnets, as the title of today’s post might suggest.

After a morning spent carving the Nuestra Sra de Belen block, I went next door to what I refer to as the print lab to continue learning how to use this new setup.

First of all, a bit of my thought process. The things I’m thinking most about (so far) are the living presence of the fields and sky; the Romanesque art and architecture that is all around me; the permanent population of the town alongside the constant stream of pilgrims; and the contrast between modern life and all the medieval-ness that revolves around pilgrimage. So you will see aspects of all these things showing up in the art I produce while I’m here, and even in my experiments. After all, the experiments just might work out ok, eh?

First up today was a bit of playing with grass I picked outside my house. I covered the plate with a solid coat of yellow ochre.

Inked plate

Then I inked up three pieces of grass with purple, laid them on the plate, and trimmed off any stem that reached beyond the edges of the plate.

Inked grass on plate

The World Bazaar shop here in town had cheap spray bottles with adjustable spray – only .75€! – so now I can spray my paper just enough to get it damp.


A bit of careful rubbing and voila! Here is the print on the left, and the plate with the grass and some ink still in place.

Print and plate

The print by itself.

Grass print (untitled)

Next I removed the actual pieces of grass, and placed another damp piece of paper over the ‘ghost’ plate. The resulting print:

ghost print

I found that the test print that I had allowed to dry flat on the table had warped quite a bit.

Warped print

I ran some string across one of the rooms and am drying the prints this way. Let’s hope there’s less warping. One lesson learned: don’t do laundry and make prints on the same day, unless you want to buy more clothes pins. I only had enough pins to hang four prints.

Prints hanging to dry

By the way, cut ends of reeds make a good tool for picking organic bits out of your ink.

New tool

Next, a new plate and a new idea; here I’m thinking of medieval manuscripts and the patterns often found in the background. I’m just messing around here, so not bothering with ruled lines or anything like that. I simply used the edge of a brayer to make the thin lines, and painted the red squares with a paintbrush and the thinner Akua monoprint ink I brought.

Pattern plate

Oops! Here’s a lesson: wipe out the sink after you’ve been moistening sheets of paper. There was a pool of water in the sink, and now a big too-wet spot on the paper.

Too wet paper

But it turned out ok anyway. You can see the lighter spot on the plate (to the right) where the wet paper picked up extra ink.

Pattern print

And here’s a preview of my next project, along with a glimpse of the carved block I mentioned earlier.

Next up

Tomorrow, I’ll be making sketches at the Bar Europa of people watching the US election results come in, practice for taking part in my friend Andrew Purchin’s ‘1000 Artists‘ project. Then I’ll hop on a bus for a couple of days in Leon. I’m looking forward to exploring the Cathedral, the Basilica of San Isidro, and visiting a show of Spanish feminist art at the museum of contemporary art.

Hasta pronto!

A Report from the Field

Greetings from Carrion de Los Condes, Spain! I’ve been here since Wednesday, and I’m feeling pretty settled in. I’ve learned a lot these past few days, from finding my way around town, to figuring out how to stay warm, to the realization that my Spanish is still really really bad. Luckily the people in town are used to pilgrims coming through with various degrees of fractured Spanish, and are very patient and kind.

My original plan for today was to walk over to the next town, Villalcazar de Sirga, to visit the church there, Santa Maria la Blanca – but the weather report forecast a 90 percent chance of rain, so I stayed in to work. Turns out the day wasn’t so bad after all, with just scattered showers, but that’s ok; I have plenty of time to explore, and I got a lot done.

First, I did a pretty thorough preparatory sketch of Nuestra Señora de Belen, a church in town that sits on a high bluff over the Rio Carrion (and is closed for safety reasons, as the bluff beneath it seems to be rapidly collapsing). I would prefer to sketch on location – you see so much more and really learn your subject – but with the rainy weather so far, I have to be content with using photos for reference.


Me at work.

Me at work in the castigation

And I realized I probably didn’t need a computer to use the copy function on the printer that’s here in the house, so was able to not only copy my drawing but also reduce it to the proper size for a block. Here it is transferred and ready to start carving.

Block ready to carve

Later, I went over to the studio and played a bit with the inks and paper I brought. The results aren’t necessarily great art (!) but all in all I’m pleased with today’s efforts.

A view of the workspace.

Art supplies

Today’s experiments. Note how much deeper and richer the colors are on the right, with the paper I dampened (a bit unevenly).


Here’s a quick rundown of the practical things this traveling artist has learned.

1. If you pack a large suitcase with heavy things and many tubes of ink, expect it to get inspected by the TSA. Luckily, they were very gentle with my supplies.

2. If you bring tubes of ink long distances in a suitcase, it really does pay to be obsessive in your packing, like double ziplock bagging them – which I did. So no harm done if your phthalocyanine blue explodes. Except now my hands look like they’ve been painted with woad.

3. Washing up in cold water is, well, cold.

4. I need to pick up some basic things like a dish rack for drying my tools after washing them.

5. The paper – a Japanese paper that’s new to me; I usually use Rives or Stonehenge – absorbs the ink a whole lot more effectively if the paper is damp. But if you try soaking it, it utterly dissolves. Note to self: pick up a spray bottle while you’re at it.

6. My fingerless gloves will be an inky mess by the time I’m done. Good thing I wore my replaceable REI rag gloves and not the beautiful ones Sarah-Hope knit for me.

7. Just one day working with windows open helped dissipate a lot of the nasty old smoke. Yay.

8. The house at 55 degrees feels like a veritable tropical paradise after working in the other house with the aforementioned open windows.

9. This is a whole lotta fun


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