Reflection: The Use of an Art Journal

I’ve been working in a few different journals and pondering the use of art journals as a tool for making art but also mental wellness. My art journals have never been pretty. They have always straddled the line between sketchbook and reflective journal, I like them this way.

I heard the disturbing news of the acquittal at work from a coworker and my first response was, “Well that’s bullshit, not surprising but still bullshit.” I took a few days to mull over it and the horrifying meaning of the verdict.

I could get political here but I won’t I’ll let the art stand on it’s own.

I started with a simple pencil sketch of the shooter and the judge. Simple and loose. I used a few reference photos from newspapers, working up the sketch from several version. I didn’t focus on getting everything exact, just the feeling of the smirk or the condescending air of the images. Finally I looked at them and thought about what those faces represent- a slap on the wrist for people who deal deal to minorities, people like me. It’s a scary thought.

So I doodled pink skulls over those hateful faces.

Why pink? Macho bros don’t like it. I do.

Bright magenta pink.

A process color. Since the process was perverted and polluted. Continue reading

State of the Art: When Weird Stuff Enters

The DayJob studio is now fully functional and all that remains is all the weird little stuff that happens in any studio that holds classes on a daily basis. There will always be consolidating inks and paints, and cataloguing papers and the archive.

I’m not going to lie here, I’m incredibly proud of the work I did with my new friend and letterpress mentor, Mitchel. Together we did an incredible amount of work over the course of a few weeks and made the print shop something that functions for classes.

It has also lit my creative fires.

My imagination for trash printmaking has really taken off. I’ve been sketching and cutting and gluing many plates. I suspect that many will never get printed, either I’m not happy with the image, or the idea just doesn’t work. But you never know until you test it out. With trash printmaking, there isn’t a shortage of printing plates- they only require a bit of work, and there are dozens in nearly every person’s recycling bin.

This has freed my brain to create and create some more. I’m not worries about the expense of copper, zinc, or steel. Instead I’m spray gluing a thin carton to another carton and then sketching my idea with a Sharpie.

Mind-blowing.

I also had some thoughts about working on No Brand Notebooks again. I was able to pick up some inexpensive blocks to test some ideas on, and I liked the pink carving plates more than I expected. I had learned through work and the guy who ran the print shop before the closure, that you can mount the pink stuff and run it through the Vandercook. Again, mind blowing.

Anyway, I’ve carved up a bit of the pink stuff to make covers. I’m considering what inks I want to print them with and when I figure out color schemes I’ll be printing up a bunch of covers for pocket notebooks again. NBN will be going letterpress, but a bit weirdo style.

Another thing- sometimes you are given some weird stuff- I signed up for this weird stuff. The shop was gifted these glass circles from a 50s era etching tool. I don’t know how they worked but they are cool as hell. The circles range from 5mm to 80mm, and then they have a range of thicknesses.

I grabbed a handful of them, in a single thickness-ish, stuck them to a backing, inked and printed them. I struggled a bit with press pressure, linoleum block high was too high, then the height for other blocks was too tight. I ended up crushing the glass on a few of the circles. If i had used a smooth new piece of MDF I don’t think the glass would have cracked. But it did. Anyway, I figured out the pressure and ended up with some fantastic prints. There is just something freeing when you play with weird materials and get something really cool. I’m imagining layering a bit of bright blue over the top of that brilliant red (Charbonnel Cardinal Red). I think the layer of color would be amazing, while the pop of red and blue would be cool.

Anyway, get some weird stuff into your studio and just play with it!

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State of the Art: Discoveries in Viscosity and Resistance

The last few weeks have been packed full of the good stuff, including some trash printmaking discoveries concerning viscosity and resistance in different packaging.

Let’s start with the viscosity and resistance discovery. I started working on a small series of images using coffee bags and packaging. The packaging had ideas of mental health and substances used to treat mental health conditions which also have a history as recreational and medical tools. This stuff fascinates me.

IN these images I wanted to create additional plate tone in the form of brush strokes. I intended to capture these with waterproof outdoor Gorilla glue. What happened was a surprise. The packages from both Neosporin and Band-Aids resisted the Gorilla glue and prevented it from sticking everywhere- in stead it started to bead up. It held better in areas where I brushed more thoroughly.  Once I discovered this effect, I went to great pains to only lay a single brush stroke over areas and let the package and glue do it’s own thing. The effect is magical. It has the look of water beading up on a windshield or water on the beach as it recedes. It’s random and magnificent.*

Testing with other materials has lead to similar results. Coffee bags and foil all respond similarly, though the glue has difficulty with full adhesion with the plastic and will pull away in big sheets of rubbery dried glue if cut into. It does not survive dry point efforts once dried. I’ve got several plates that I hope to print soon to test the effect on these other materials.

Sadly one of my favorite plate types does not produce the effect at all- coffee cups. Though I have not tried all of the coffee cups in my pile.

Other interesting business- I was finally able to take a trip to the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, MA. I was able to do this for work and have a spectacular tour. The MoP is spectacular with many specimens of presses and all sorts of lovely machines. I had a great time touring the place.

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State of the Art: Failing Happily

I set out to work on NaNoWriMo again this year. Last year I failed miserably, this year I’m failing happily.

The print shop is set up and other than a deep clean of the floor and picking up a few final items, it’s ready to go. It was an enormous amount of really good work. Throughout the clean up and wake up I set up and printed a letterpress poster on the Vandercook SP20, and it was awesome. I’m looking forward to printing more stuff on it.

I’ve also tested the etching press with some of my trash prints. It works differently than my mini press and other presses I’ve used. Mainly tightening the roller is tougher than on other presses. I had to pack the press with an assortment of waste paper to get a good impression for trash prints. I suspect I can get the press tighter through a different style of tightening and rolling through the felts. I’m looking forward to teaching trash printmaking to students, in addition to recording some trash printmaking for Ko-Fi or Youtube.

This post is less about he business of my DayJob and more about failing at NaNo. Day one went really well, I plowed through and was over the 1,667 words I needed. Then the next day I found out I had been exposed to covid through work, everyone was sent for a test and then to work from home. Mentally I went back to the summer of 2020 and lost all sense of time. In my rush to go for my test and get out of the building, I forgot the charger for my work laptop.

All in all my WFH only lasted 36 hours.

But the impact on the work place and my mental state has been longer.

I found myself in that same scattered timeless disorganized mental space I found myself in during 2020. I also found myself staring at my work screen for far longer than I should have. This was an issue in 2020 as well. Like in 2020 I dropped the ball and NaNo fell by the wayside.

Most years I’d be mad at the interruption.

Not this year.

A good part of learning more about my own reactions toward the pandemic and WFH has led me to be a little more gentle with myself when I fail at a goal. I also let myself lean into what I need when it comes to this WFH state of mind.

As I’ve failed at writing, I’ve worked on trash printing making. Perhaps, I should start NaNoPriMo? A goal of 30 Trash Prints in November. Ambitious, too much for now.

I’ve worked on 10 trash print plates since the start of November. I haven’t printed the full edition of any of them, I’ve only gotten 3 prints of 8 of the plates so far. The little plates work up quickly but take a lot longer to print. I’ll be testing a few of the plates to see how much of an edition I get with the full sized press VS the mini press. I have a suspicion that the thicker felts cushion the plates and I’ll get more prints from each plate than with the mini press. Which makes me want to work to cushion the mini press more.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the plates. I’m working on a few series using brains and skulls along with various cells or microscopic pictures I’m interested in. One is a covid virus, another yeast cells, a poppy seed, as well as ergot fungus.

Reflection: Organizing Chaos

Organizing chaos might be my new band name. I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last 2 weeks in a print shops that was “put to sleep” at the very start of the pandemic. You really can’t do letterpress via zoom.

Then over the pandemic the space was unused, and like all basement rooms, things filtered in “for now” but ended up staying forever. There there are supplies that I just don’t know what they are exactly. I’m sure if I searched I’d find an answer, but some stuff is unlabeled. If there is one thing I’ve learned, I will label everything I open. I’m thinking about purchasing a massive box of zipper bags just for that purpose, or hell paper bags. I have no idea what the soft rubber sheets* with glue on one side are, but they are cool, and we’ll try to print it!

I found excess project pieces in odd sizes and an entire package of untouched Baltic birch from Mclean’s. If you know, you KNOW that made me SO happy. I also found an assortment of monoprint plates and plastic drypoint plates. Plus loads of inks for monoprinting.

I keep writing “I found,” as if I discovered these supplies on a wild adventure, and in a way I suppose it has been. In part it is a discovery of all the history of all the folx who have run this print shop. While I’m not officially running the shop I am turning it into a space of therapy. Continue reading

Reflection: Falling Back into Pocket Notebooks

When I first started my new job I had won a Instagram giveaway from  Maruman USA for a pair of their lovely Septcouleur notebooks. I still need to review them but I’ll start with the fact that they are lovely. I immediately decided the mustard colored book was my new work notebook. And it’s worked perfectly. It’s perfect for notes in meetings and trainings. It’s also not so big that it feels weird carting it around the building.golden hour image of a Pen Addict by Word Notebooks pocket notebook, well used

So I do a lot of moving around the building. I’m on the 4th floor for part of the week, the basement another part (the print shop lives there) and then the first floor for meetings and a group, then the second floor then the 3rd then… Suffice it to say I’m in and out of studios and floors of the building all day all week.

Another Pocket Notebook

Like I said I’m going up stairs and downstairs a lot. I was really glad that I stuffed a notebook into my back pocket at the start of the job. I intended to fill the Pen Addict X Word Notebooks pocket notebook* for sketches and doodles while I was commuting via the train.

It didn’t take long for me to start making notes about groups, make to do lists, and needs for groups in the pocket notebook. I’m not down to a flow with the system yet, but pocket notebooks are 100% making a post-pandemic comeback in my routine.

I started to make some of my own hand stitched notebooks. These aren’t available for sale, though, I’ll be making some of my own out of my own art at some point, remember all those brains I carved? Yeah on notebook covers. Those pictured are for staff at my new work- I found some dead and overprints, killer. I had to make a hand sewn version of the Dead Prints by that big company- but WOW these are so different and sooooo cool!

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State of the Art: Reviving a Printshop

I’m a lucky perrson. I’m getting to take part in reviving a slumbered printshop. In the shop we’ve got a large etching press, 2 working Vandercook presses (An SP20, be jealous), a small 5×7 card press, 2 baby presses, 8 cases (or more) of lead type, and a case of wooden type. That doesn’t include the various plates made for the presses to produce job specific posters and cards.

The kind of difficult thing about this revival is that the shop was not slumbered properly. The person who had been running the shop had left the company and the printers who had been there to oversee the production had retired. Further, the printshop was left open so folx could grab materials they could use… But also, so it could be used as storage. And I think all of us know what happens in a basement room for storage when people get busy- stuff gets stashed and forgotten.

So there’s a large amount of stuff stashed, but also dead prints, make ready’s,  test prints, and prints that just didn’t make the cut stashed ALL OVER THE PLACE. Not to mention the supplies that are stashed that belong in other studios.

The part that I love about this is that all the stuff left behind shows the history of the place but also gives us great materials to have our students make sketchbooks and pocket notebooks.

I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of having access to all of this machinery but also to make it available to the other art therapists and all our clients. Continue reading

Published: The Pen Post No 2

Jonny has published issue number 2 of The Pen Post. I gushed about it over here.

It feels a little odd to gush about it again, especially since I wrote an article for this issue. I write about my love affair with cheap pens.

You can grab a copy for yourself over on etsy, here.

I am still in love with the form of this zine- the half fold like an old school newspaper makes me super happy.

State of the Art: Gel Window Clings

You might be wondering why I have a post about gel window clings. Well if you’ve read my blog or visited my instagram, you know I’m interested in printing with trash and weird stuff. I had a moment of genius where I realized that gel window clings are made of similar if not the same stuff as gelli plates.package of gel window clings

You know the things I’m talking about- those dollar store holiday themed window decorations that pop up in offices and classrooms every holiday season. Those gummy decorations that for halloween are shaped like skulls, stars, cats, jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween themed icons. I believe I’ve also seen them for other holidays in offices and other places. It took some searching- they were no longer carried by my local dollar stores or even the pop up Spirit of Halloween near me. Instead I found a set in CVS. Mine cost $4. They have gone up in price. They are also available on Amazon.

Once you have your gel window clings you’ll notice a few things- they are MUCH thinner than even mini and small gelli plates and they are MUCH softer and squishier. This is fine, you’ll need a gentle touch when printing.

I attached mine to an acrylic stamping block, but they can easily adhere to any smooth non-porous surface like plexiglass.gel cling on an acrylic block

Once attached I rolled them up like any gelli plate- dab a bit of paint on, then roll the paint out. I also rolled into onto a slab then rolled it onto the gel cling. Both worked equally as well. star shaped clings on a block

A thin even coat is key to getting a good print. I found that placing the block and gel cling then flipping the paper over and using my hand worked best. After I determined they would print well. I cut my sticker paper to sized and dropped the paper onto the plate, in the usual gelli printing manner. printed stars

I printed white skully images onto sticker paper to make skully stickers. I also did some black cats and loads of stars.

Overall this process was a lot of fun, and really interesting. The prints came out great and makes me wonder about other themed gel clings- I founds summer, ocean, letter, dinosaur, fall, thanksgiving, and christmas sets. The letters pose an interesting option for hiding additional meaning in a print or for creating a printing poetry.

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State of the Art: More Gelatin Printmaking

Fall is upon us, the days are shorter and mornings crisp, which means it’s time for pumpkin spice and more gelatin or gelli printmaking! For ease of writing I’m going to refer to this printing method as gelatin printing throughout this post. I’ve put the supplies I need for a printing session into a small (ish tote) so I can set it up to print away while watching TV. Though often I find myself not watching the TV and just focusing on making prints.

I set a goal to get 10 or so good base prints to work on in additional sessions or methods. 

So this brings up the idea of what IS a GOOD gelatin print, or base print? And are they the same thing?

The short answer is that no they aren’t always the same thing and the long answer is, it varies depending on what you want to use the prints for. So gelatin printing is a form of monoprinting and can absolutely be used to create wonderful images on its own, but if you want to do that, you’ll likely need to use Akua inks for their longer open time or amend acrylic paints for a longer open time with airbrush medium or something to extend their open time. Though I’ve seen a few YouTube videos of artists using layers of acrylic paint to create amazing landscapes with a gelatin/gelli plate.

For me, I have 2 types of gelatin prints- those I want to make more art on with other tools and those that I want as a finished piece on its own.

In both I look for layers of color through stencils and paint manipulation to create texture. YOu can see that in the images below. Each has several layers of stencils built up through the gelatin plate that creates depth and interest.

For sheets that I plan to turn into their own individual pieces of art, I look for specific colors I can use as the background. Colors that pop with texture and layered meaning. In most cases I look for specific colors that I can use to make the final image pop.

For sheets that I plan on using as a backdrop with other media, I look for the same things- layers of color that create interest. I really like to have color opposites over analogous colors. I’m particularly fond of yellow, magenta and orange together with teals and blues over the top. I like these layers behind deeply black and opaque white ink.

I think a GOOD gelatin print session is one where I am able to get a bunch of different colors on a bunch of sheets that create visual interest. A good print is as individual as the printer.

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