Category Archives: Inspiration

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: Gelatin Printmaking, Gelli Prints

I’ve been planning on making more gelatin plates for, well, years. Gelli plates have always seemed very expensive, and they are, they always seemed slightly out of my range. Whereas making my own gelatin plates is cheaper, but fraught with mold issues. Given that my studio is in a basement, well, I worried about my infrequent use, and losing them when I really wanted to make some art.

I finally cashed in on a Michael’s coupon and bought myself an 8×10 Gelli plate. Plus some fresh paint and a new pen. I mean, I don’t think I can pass an open stock pen display and NOT buy a pen.2 color gelli print with distorted hex pattern

Anyway, I set up a folding table and got to printing. I used my old cardstock stencils and some new stencils I made out of hot glue. I’m not sure about the hot glue stencils yet, but I’ll say that they are very interesting. I’ll be playing around with them some more that’s for sure. Mostly I just wanted to get some color onto paper, and some layered texture onto the pages.many layered gelli print with squares and net pattern

Anyway, after a fun session of printing and playing with my plate I stacked up the prints. I decided to attempt a drum leaf binding. It’s not my favorite binding for gelatin prints, I prefer a concertina book- where the pages are glued to the accordion and the spine is thicker than the fore edge- this allows for more room for collage. The drum leaf is great for writing, and as such I’ll likely use the new journal for just that. many layered gelli print, numbers squares and other patternsdrum leaf spine damaged by impatience

Drum leaf isn’t my favorite because, well, I’m impatient. I rushed through this book  and the spine looks wonky. That will be covered by a piece of print used for the spine but it’s annoying to say the least. In the end the book is saved through my understanding and knowledge of book making. But I also need to remind myself to let glue dry, ala Laura Kampf.

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State of the Art: Trash Printmaking and Plastic Coated Everything

The great thing about trash printmaking is that you become hyper aware of plastic coatings on everything. I mean, okay, that’s not great. So many things in our world are coated in a thin film of plastic and that means they can be used for making prints.

At least I can reuse many of the plastic film coated things.

I picked up a meal at a fast food chain. (Don’t judge, we all have our weak moments.) The cups were made out of paper card and the ice cream pie I added on had a plastic coated card container. I decided to test them out to see if I could print with them.

Results were varied.

They had a super thin film of plastic, soft and pliable it feels more like a membrane than anything else. I washed and dried them then cut them into flats. Any glue layers were removed as was the cup rim and bottom seal for the cup. I should have taken pictures of this process but, alas, I wasn’t thinking of documenting the process.Skull etched into flatten hershey pie carton

I used a variety of tools- needle, needle scribe, and an Exacto knife to scrape and score into the surface. It was clear that all the tools were raising a burr and breaking through the surface of the plastic film. I could feel the paper fibers raising up through the scores. The plastic film began to peel a bit as I cross hatched lines. Peeling back the plastic film was surprisingly easy it revealed super smooth cardstock, peeling that back left a fiber-y ink soaking surface. Brain and blames etched into a paper drink cup from BK

Both stocks felt similar but the ice cream pie box felt softer and thicker.

I used Speedball Supergraphic black ink. A water soluble but oil based ink. It’s a favorite but relatively stiff and sticky. Even with the first print of each small thin slivers of the plastic from cross hatched areas peeled up during the wipe. The sticky ink pulled it up despite the warmth of the day and my studio.

The printing went well and the plate released from the paper well.

The second printing is where things got… rough. The soda cup survived the second print, loose slivers of plastic stopped peeling up* and the second print was as good as the first. The pie box, well not so much. The membrane started to peel even during the adding of ink.  I used a soft piece of waste cardboard and scraped the ink over, only to have the membrane peel of in some areas. When I began wiping, well larger areas peeled away. This lent an interesting effect to the print. Some areas that had had ink on them duding the previous print, printed deeply dark while newly revealed areas showed a paler area of dark- charcoal gray. And areas that peeled away entirely were fresh and white showing the etched in areas in great contrast.

Flattened hershey pie carton

You can see how the box started to break down in just warm water when I washed it.

This means that the box and the cup create monotypes with etched in details. Which is fun, but, I greatly prefer that if I’m going to go to the effort of etching in details that I get more than 2 prints were piece of trash. detail of the second skull and circles print

I do wonder if the oils in the ink broke down the plastic and if a loosened up waterbased ink would work better. I have some Speedball waterbased inks so I might try some of those with them. It is also tempting to mix up some paste and black watercolor to test these pieces of trash.

Anyway, even if it is a single print it’s better than just tossing the stuff in the trash. (This sort of packaging is not recyclable in my area.) The plate is also a work of art and can be mounted and framed. Some won’t be as successful.

With regards to using Akua inks. I know that a lot of blogs and sites call them “water-based.” They are not they are made of a modified soy oil that is water miscible, which means they are oil based and water soluble. If it is the oil that started the break down of the plastic film the same would happen with Akua inks.

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State of the Art: Alternative Presses for Printmaking

A few posts back I mentioned my deep dive into YouTube and how it woke my interest in alternative presses for printmaking.

Back in my undergrad years I’d heard about people using a variety of different tools to make prints, top among them the tortilla press! Way back then I attempted to make my own press from scrap wood my Dad had laying around and it was a pretty dismal failure. I know a lot more now than I did then. I probably should have asked my Dad for help in building the little press. After that I built another press with 2 thick slabs of crappy plywood, 4 long bolts, some wingnuts, and a handle. It worked well enough but I soon used it more for pressing notebooks than anything else.

Somewhere along the way I bought the little 5×8 Speedball press. Back then they were a more reasonable $30, currently they run $90! (Though available at most discount art suppliers for around $70!)  Good investment. Though I had initial terrible luck with getting smooth even prints with it. Live and learn, literally. It needs a pusher to even out the pressure from the lid if you are going to print in the upright traditional manner.  The Speedball relief press works on the same idea as a tortilla press- hinged lid and a lever for pressure. That’s all you really need to make a relief print.

Then there’s the Open Press Project, which is a miniature (very tiny) 3D printed press. You can print it yourself for the cost of time and filiments or buy one ready made. They offer them at cost and also at a bit of a profit- a pay what you can offering. Even at the base cost of just materials, it costs well over $100. I’m not sure what it would cost if you were to 3D print it your self. There’s also a proofing press, called the F-Press that you can purchase from the designer. YouTube and instructables are littered with instructions for building your own presses.

Of course there is the good old wooden spoon or rolling pin. If you want an upgrade from a rolling pin, there’s the stainless steel Akua pin press, aka a fancy stainless steel rolling pin.

Or homemade barens? I’ve wrapped a few cardboard rounds in news paper and fabric and secured that with masking tape to burnish the backs of prints. I’ve read about people putting flat head push pins into a block of wood and burnishing with that. Or gluing a fist full of toothpicks into a cardboard tube!

All of these ideas allow you to put pressure onto the back of  the art to get a good relief print. Sometimes they work for intaglio process, sometimes not.

But the idea of a craft embossing press as an etching press? That was new to me.

This led me to looking into other ideas for getting the slightly higher pressure needed for intaglio style printing.

Pasta makers!!! You can feed small thin intaglio sheets and paper with felt through the largest setting of a pasta maker!

Other folks still will print their work by sandwiching their plates between pieces of plywood and running over it with their car a few times! Often printmakers will have an event where they’ll rent a steam roller for a day or two and spend a day making massive 4x8ft prints in parking lots. I’ve never been to one of these events but I’m always interested when I see the resulting images and photos of folx having a ton of fun.

Or what about those cold roll manual laminators? I saw a guy on youtube using one for relief prints, he reported using it for an etching but couldn’t say that it would last. But he’d made over 4000 lino and relief prints on the one inexpensive cold laminator!

If you are old enough you remember “knuckle busters” or the old school credit card imprint tools that were used at check out. You’d get a little carbon copy of your receipt. One person has repurposed a knuckle buster (So called because cashier often ran their knuckles over the store’s info on the bed of the machine, which hurt… a lot!) to print little relief prints.

Learn from my mistake- most of these alternative presses can give you the pressure you need for collagraph and other intaglio style work, but you need to take care with the amount of pressure you apply and adjust it for every material (my big error) you run through it. If you are pressing relief prints you don’t need intaglio pressure! The press roller just needs to exert enough pressure for an even print, and most can do it at a lower pressure than you expect.

Because I had a rather traditional printmaking education I was stuck in the idea that I needed wool felt blankets for printing intaglio style. I’ve since learned that this isn’t the case. Almost any material with little grain or pattern will work. So craft or fun foam, mouse pads, yoga mats (any pattern squishes out of them), cheaper recycled plastic craft felt, neoprene rubber, and a variety of other less natural materials will work. They are also significantly cheaper than traditional wool blankets. With the little craft presses or cold press laminators, you may even need less packing than in a large press. IF the rollers are rubberized then they may give a bit of the cushioning you need to get a decent imprint and adding additional blankets actually decreases the pressure.

Wool blankets are so expensive that a kevlar blanket protector was developed by Keith Howard (1998) in the 90s to protect them! I have distinct memories of fellow students getting worried about getting ink on the blankets and hoping the professor wouldn’t notice. When I first read about using foam and other materials I balked then realized that use of these new materials opens the door for more people to be able to take part in printmaking. Cheaper newer materials opens the door for more people to explore and enjoy printmaking.

Anyway, if you have used anything interesting to make prints, leave a comment and tell me about it!

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State of the Art: Collagraph Test Plates

One of the things that I really like about making prints is that you can test out how things are going to print on a smaller scale. I decided to make collagraph test plates. I pulled every acrylic medium that I own out and blended it in some manner with 3 grades of sand- extra fine, fine, and medium. I then sealed the plate with 2 varnishes, one applied two ways. The results are that I can see how each material will react under each varnish.uninked drying test plates with a variety  of mediums and sands uninked drying test plates with a variety  of mediums and sands

The plates measure 2.5×3 inches and there are a lot of them. I’m printing each one on Strathmore 400 drawing paper. Why drawing paper? I had a ton of it left over from an unfinished project, in a size that would fit into my printer and give me plenty of space to write notes on.hand holding an uninked test plate hand holding an uninked test plate

The result is a lot of interesting printable texture and deep dark areas of the prints and really interesting wipes. It is worthwhile to note that with collagraphs the wipe is as important as the original plate. You can use a variety of pressures and materials to wipe away the excess ink, also using direction of the wipe can give interesting effects.Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.) Test plate next to print from plate. (Print on left plate on  right.)

Currently I’m printing with a blend of Blick and Speedball relief inks blended weith a fair amount of retarder and a bit of antifilm.

State of the Art: Printmaking and Cleaning

I’m not going to lie, the state of the art is a mess of printmaking and cleaning my studio. Also my workplace office and a lot of the facility. I’ve had to sort through the art studio at work and decide what was trash, what could be sent off, and what would be sent to another program.

Let me tell you, that was not fun.

Of course I spent a fair amount of time staring at my work computer waiting for the system to save and load things. Our computers are old and internet slow. Go figure. While I sat there I decided to try some collagraph prints with left over office supplies- old folders and glue sticks, and beaten up craft knives.

I love collagraphs. They are very versatile and there are options for relief work but also intaglio style incised lines. Another fun aspect is that you can really get the plates to be quite painterly. The resulting prints have a wide range of tones. I’m still figuring out the right mix of ink and additives for a good wipe but also a good range of tones. I’ve ruined a few plates already, but if you want to get your hands on some of my prints, check out my Ko-Fi page, I’ll be listing them there soon. I also plan on putting together a package for Ko-Fi subscribers, after 3 months of subs of $5 or more, I’ll send a little package of prints. It’ll be a fun little surprise.

As an aside, I really want to get into using some of the waterproof when dry inks like Akua, but I really don’t trust myself to use those inks in my kitchen… Our old kitchen table had some pretty intense teal streaks. Because I want to work my little press out a lot, I’m cleaning my at home studio out. It’s a mess. When I headed off to grad school I had the school studios to work in, so more often than not, I’d grab materials, go to school, then dump them when I was done with the class. When I worked at the place after graduation, I was mostly focused on writing, so I didn’t do as much art that required a studio… So it sat. Then I started to work where I have been for the last two and a half years, where I had an office and an art studio. Why work at home when I have year round access to a well set up art studio and can leave my supplies in the office?

So yeah, my studio looks like an art store threw up in there, and it isn’t at all good. It’s awful. I’m moving supplies around, deep cleaning, and I’m eventually going to store everything in organized manners. I got down to the rug (that’s going!) in a 4x4ft corner. I’m working my way out. I took out a bag of trash and another of paper recycling.

With my possible free time next week, I hope to make more progress, I’d like to clear out one end, so I then have a spot to sort out supplies and decide what is trash, what I need to pass on, and what I need to store. And most importantly, HOW I’m going to store this stuff.

When I’m done with this massive chore, I’m going to treat myself with a range of nontoxic oil based water-soluble inks.

Week Links

Lisa led me down the rabbit hole of Raul Pacheco-Vega, Phd. website and his version of the Every Thing Every Where journal which he calls his Everything Journal. His notetaking methods and interaction with materials is NEXT level. Here’s a link to his Everything Journal.

He goes deep on the differences between bullet journals and everything journals.

This led me to Time and Date! What a great calendar printing site! In the past I used to print a little tiny yearly calendar onto card stock for my pocket notebooks. I abandoned that when I went to grad school, as it was less necessary for my needs, but also I purchased a smart phone- the phone carried my calendar. I used to move that little calendar from book to book. I might revisit that idea.

This led me to thinking about how I highlight and make notes as I read on my Kindle. It’s not perfect but I do like the notebook feature of the Kindle. I wish I’d had it when I was in grad school.

Here’s a good analog task management and planning system that is super simple and minimalist. I like it.

Week Links 202102

Jestine wrote about running tasks lists in bullet journals at Rediscovering Analog. It’s a great way to keep a week’s worth of tasks organized and would blend seamlessly with an Every Thing Every Where Journal.

I’ve been thinking about rubber stamps, mainly because I’ve gotten a bunch of them for my Every Thing Every Where Journal. Also, Andy of Erasables asked about stamp pads over in the RSVP group. Ana (of The Well Appointed Desk) has a good review here, and carries Ranger Archival ink pads in her shop and writes about them here. I like Ranger ink pads but I also really like Staz-On for stamping on the outside of my journals and for making stickers and labeling envelopes. It’s messy stuff though. I also have an assortment of pigment pads. Pigment pads might take longer to dry and make a mess of your stamp (clean them well after use) BUT the richness of the ink is worth it.

Week Links 2021-01

I’ve been thinking about index cards again. I just picked up a new to me but VERY vintage steel card box to match my other vintage steel card box and just wow are they pretty.

But it got me thinking about using index cards again. Here are some links to pictures that I spent time pouring over and reading.

The Pile of Cards Method:

Pile of cards album

Pile of cards album 2.

Then there’s this collection of techniques.

Maker: Demise of Small Companies

Way back in 2009 or even further back I picked up a copy of Make the Cut a fabulous software that let me control my Cricut craft cutter. I was able to cut anything I wanted and items of my own designs. Awesome.

Well that was fun, until Provocraft decided they didn’t want third party software controlling their machines. Then sued the makers of Make the Cut. Make the Cut was tied up in court for years. Googling the company shows several lawsuits. Eventually the software was locked down and the code needed to make the software able to work with the cricut was locked out. If you upgraded your copy of make the cut past MTC 4.1.0 it can’t be hacked to work. You also need to install the pccplugin which you have hopefully saved on a thumb drive somewhere.

Make the Cut is now abandonware. The developer has allowed the site to come and go it is currently up and you can download the software, though there are reports in the forum that the new serial numbers no longer work. The forum and site are up now, I was unable to get any assistance from the owner for getting my reg key. I used their automated system and it did not work. I also have not received an answer via their support ticket system. According to several users on the forum, the user has not responded to anything on the forum for over 5 years at this point (writing this 12/2020).

If you have access to the computer you had Make the Cut installed on you can use these instructions to attempt to retrieve the registration code. I was able to successfully reboot my nearly dead old laptop and pull the code out. Then I emailed it to myself AND saved the MTC4.1.0 installer, pccplugin, and reg code to thumb drive. This will get stored in a safe place and I’ll also back these files up to the cloud. And you should to.

I’ll update my old posts about MTC. Apparently now you need to use Sure Cuts a Lot, but I do not think it can be hacked to work with the crapcut. Again I salute Provocrap with a middle finger salute. We should be able to use the Crapcut with any software in the same manner we use a printer.

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