Daily Archives: April 22, 2021

Timeout for Art: Side Hustle


It wasn’t long ago that I was going on and on about all the work I have to do in my studio: printmaking, matting, mounting and framing. So, why have I started a side project?

Printmaking is a lengthy and somewhat complicated process. First the plate has to be designed, made and sealed. The printing press has to be oiled and maintained, tensions adjusted and regulated, felts cleaned. Printing papers have to be dampened and stacked between blotter papers about 24 hours before use.

On printing day, the ink has to be mixed, and slightly softened by working it back and forth with a palette knife. It is then applied to and across the entire surface of the plate with a sturdy square of mat board. Excess is scraped away. The plate is then wiped with a series of starched cheesecloths, beginning with one that is heavily starched and fairly encrusted with ink, working down to a lightly starched, nearly pristine one. The goal is to fill every texture, all cracks, crevices and interstices with ink so that it will release it onto the dampened paper as it is run through the press.

The raised surfaces of the plate can be treated like a relief print. Sometimes I use small brushes or brayers to add color to those areas before printing. After the plate is run through the press, providing one image on paper, it needs to be cleaned with solvents and rags, so that residual ink will not dry on the plate, obscuring the image. The print will be placed between layers of newsprint, to dry. To make another print, this entire process has to be repeated.

After my prints have dried, I usually hand color them with opaque Japanese watercolors. The print is then carefully re-dampened, the plate is re-inked and wiped, and both are run through the press again, to seal all the colors and complete the image.

Matting and framing is not nearly as complicated. It is fussy work, though, and demands a clean space for doing it. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a mounted, matted piece of art under plexiglas and slid into its newly assembled frame, the frame finished, hanging wire and corner bumpers added…only to notice that a lone strand of dog hair is resting comfortably right on the face of the artwork. Then, in order to correct that problem, the whole thing has to be disassembled.

I do not mind matting and framing. I love the printmaking process. Still, either of these tasks can be a bit tedious, long, and with necessary pauses between steps. It’s nice to have a not-too-serious project to turn to, just for a break. So, I usually have a side hustle. It should be something I can work on fairly mindlessly, but that will demand enough attention to take my mind off other things. It has to be simple to access, and easy to put away. Before it is completed, a side hustle may demand more attention, some hard decisions, and serious consideration. For right now, though, it mainly needs to just be fun.