Saturday, September 24, 2011

Anticipating The Art of Reading Show

My friend Kathy Friedline and I are working with Phyllis Jeffery and the Mobile Public Library Staff to put together the second biannual Art of Reading Show. This is a wonderful opportunity for local artists to show work celebrating the love of books and reading, and also provides for artwork for the permanent collection of the library. The Friends of Mobile Public Library will be sponsoring up to $800 in purchase awards, with the purpose of providing artwork to hang in the branch libraries. The take-in and jurying/judging of the show will be October 1st, at the West Regional Branch Library in Mobile. So I hope all my artist friends have been working on their pieces and that we will see you then.

I thought I'd give a progressive report on the piece I prepared for the show. I tried something new for me. I've always been intrigued by the printmaking process, and decided recently to teach myself how to do monotypes. I just finished reading a wonderful book, Monotype Mediums and Methods for Painterly Printmaking, on painterly monotypes by printmaker Julia Ayres, which includes very straight-forward and easy to follow instructions for the monotype process - and it is not nearly as difficult as I had feared. My favorite book and movie has always been To Kill a Mockingbird, so that was my theme for my piece.

1. I rewatched the movie and picked a scene near the end for my inspiration: Scout is walking Boo back to his house after he rescued her brother Jem and revealed himself to her. I took some liberties in my depiction of Boo, but prepared a watercolor sketch of my scene. Because the printmaking process will reverse the image, I prepared this sketch oriented on the reverse of what I wanted the final print to show. Here is my completed sketch.

2. I then prepared my plate. I used a thin sheet of acrylic plexi-glass, cut to size, and then sanded to smooth and bevel the edges and provide a curve at the corners. I then coated the working side of the plate with a coat of gum arabic and allowed it to dry. Since I was planning to prepare a watercolor print, my guidance was that the gum arabic would allow the watercolor to cleanly be lifted off the acrylic surface and transfer to the paper.

3. I then placed my watercolor sketch underneath the prepared plate to use as a painting guide, and then applied watercolor on the surface of the plate (on top of the gum arabic) to complete my water color painting. Here is a photo of the completed painting on top of the plate. I used regular watercolor, but also applied some outlined areas using a Pigma archival ink pen. The areas I want to remain white were left unpainted.

4. In order to provide a clean edge for the print, I cut out a paper mat and placed over the painted plate, and taped to the plate so it would stay in place. I then soaked Arches cover paper (cut to same size as the plate) for approximately 20 minutes. I then removed the paper and let it drip most of the water, and blotted it with paper towels so it was damp wet but not dripping. Then placed the damp paper over the matted plate and also taped on the edge so it would stay in place. Then I used my rubbing tool to press the watercolor image from the plate to the paper. I found the perfect rubbing tool - an antique marble doorknob - which has a smooth curved rubbing surface and the knob stem provides a firm grasping handle for you to hold onto while rubbing the entire surface.

5. And here is the completed watercolor monotype print (Remember, it's a sin to kill a Mockingbird). I was quite impressed with the brilliance of the colors. I think that is because the gum arabic allows all of the pigment to be transfered from the plate to the paper. The printing process also adds an interesting textural effect to the pigmented areas. After the print dried, I scribed some favorite quotes from the book around the margins of the print, and then prepared my mat for framing. The finished print is 8 1/2 in. x 11 in.

I'm very satisfied with this painterly method of printmaking, and am looking forward to trying some more printmaking techniques. Using the watercolors makes it an essentially non-toxic process, and you can complete this without any expensive or complicated equipment.

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