Sometimes – we’ve all experienced it – good art just happens.
Out of the midst of the struggle – to find the value, to correct the perspective, to get the color right – with artwork-in-progress that occupies hours and hours over the span of many weeks…comes a piece that seems to be birthed fully grown, without angst or worry or even much forethought.
It seems almost unbelievable, like magic…or a miracle.
I love when it happens, but I don’t trust it.
Could it really be as wonderful as it seems, when it comes that easily?
Can I really take credit?
I like the struggle.
I like layers built up over time, things I have to wait for, things that have many steps to completion.
Printmaking suits me very well, for the process it entails.
First the plate.
In Collagraph Printmaking, the plate is a collage built up on masonite or binder’s board. Edges will hold ink and define shapes. Textures are important. On the far extremes, sandpaper will hold onto the ink and produce a dark hue while the slick surface of photo paper won’t hold the ink at all, so produces a bright area. There are a hundred possible in-between shades. Cuts and scrapes into the surface add line; drizzles of glue add a fluid texture.
When the collage is complete, the plate must be sealed. I use a clear satin spray polyurethane for this step, in three light coats.
There are further stages of preparing the press and the papers.
The plate is inked in a sometimes hour-long process of scraping and wiping with wads of starched cheesecloth, called tarlatan.
The inking process is repeated before every single print.
The prints are dried between layers of soft paper weighted with boards.
Color is added – usually transparent and opaque watercolors – before the final inking and printing.
The plates are fragile,and won’t stand for many runs though the press. Thirty prints from one plate is my record. Because of that, and the hand-coloring process, every one is unique.
The plates themselves become quite beautiful, I think, taking on a sheen from the ink and a patina from the process. These images are examples of some of them.
I enjoy every stage of printmaking. When finished, I feel justified in calling this work my own.
The “miracles” are lovely, but I trust the process.