Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Printmaking residency USA (1)

I'm delighted to tell you that I have received the VACMA award to do a two-week printmaking residency in the USA later this year!
Printmaking residency at Zea Mays, USA

Zea Mays Printmaking is based in Northampton, Massachusetts, and one of the premier green studios in the USA. Their studio comprises 6000 sq. feet of printmaking bliss. When I stumbled upon their advert in Printmaking Today end of last year and did some more research about them, I was instantly drawn to their ethos so I applied for the residency instantly (with just a few days left before the deadline!). Even though I have my own studio at home with a small table top press, I really felt I needed to spread my wings, be among other printmakers and artists and emerse myself in a different artistic community.

Zea Mays (Sweet Corn) is a plant known for its ability to extract heavy metal toxins from the soil through its leaves and roots. Just as this plant is being used as a natural way of restoring contaminated earth back to health, their mission is to restore the art of printmaking to a healthy art form. At Zea Mays Printmaking they honour the rich tradition of printmaking by exploring alternatives that are safe for artists and the environment.  This approach truely resonates with me as I have been working with water-soluble oil based inks since a few years now as the conventional and toxic inks gave me headaches.

During this residency I will have exclusive access of the private studio with a 40” x 72” Takach etching press and all their platemaking facilities and accommodation in the on-site guest suite. Wow!

Private studio with Takach press © Elly PrestegĂ„rd

This residency will not only give me the chance to use my printmaking skills in a different way but also learn the latest developments in safer and non-toxic printmaking techniques and further explore the medium of artists' books. I'm excited about the prospect of developing ideas how I can publish my handprinted artwork into unique and limited edition books for people to look at, to browse through and to inspire. I have secured a place from 30 October until 11 November 2018 and I've just booked my flight.

The residency would push me further as an artist as I will be learning how to apply a 2D design into a 3D format through experimentation with the opportunity to get individualised feedback and instruction during that period from founder, director and printmaker Liz Chalfin and other tutors.

"A melancholy look at the end of the 20th century" © Liz Chalfin

I will be learning more about myself as an artist by working in a totally new environment among other artists from different backgrounds. It will also be the first time I will be working full-time for two weeks on a creative project.

All of this wouldn't be possible though without the financial support of Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. I would like to thank them for giving me this amazing opportunity to develop my art practice!

After this residency I will of course share my experience here on my blog and on Facebook. I will also use it for my collaborative project “Wildness” with writer Elaine Reid and share my knowledge with the general public in the form of an exhibition, a talk and art workshops, hopefully at the Woodend Barn and other venues during 2019. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Artistic Explorations: 3D Design (3)

Last month I wrote about my experimentation with the 3D printer at MAKE Aberdeen to create printing plates. I have now finished my project with the lasercutter and although there is still lots to learn and to find out which images would work best, I'm much happier with the result!

Video of lasercutter in action

For the front cover I used the same image of tree branches and after many, many, many trials on the lasercutter and perfecting my design in Illustrator, I finally made this in birch plywood.

The front cover is laser cut

For the back cover, the same image was used but it was laser engraved instead of laser cut. I added text such as a title and my website.

The back cover is laser engraved (apart from the holes)

For the pages of my artists' book, I laser engraved four different photos (which were converted into bitmap) onto acrylic plates, 2 and 3 mm thick.

The first image of birch tree trunks had the best result. It did show the horizontal digital lines across from the lasercutter but not so much as the others. According to the studio manager this had to do with the fact that acrylic sheets are actually not completely flat and the lasercutter will read every tiny unevenness! For the images I have been using for this project it's not a disaster as it adds to the markmaking of the trees and leaves in the final print, but I will be very cautious with choosing a photo next time. I would like to spend more time experimenting and see what happens with different kind of images.

Acrylic printing plate with photo engraving

Acrylic printing plate with a different photo engraving

Acrylic printing plate with another different photo engraving

Each plate was inked up with Caligo Safewash ink in various natural colours and printed off (intaglio) on various printmaking papers like Somerset and Fabriano with my Xcut Xpress. I added more or less extender to the ink to vary tones in colour. I also printed off some ghost prints (printing off left over ink).

The 2 mm thickness is definitely not something I would use again as it's too flexible and it's more liable to breaking in the press (which happened to one of my plates!).

Printing the laser engraved plates with the Xcut Xpress

One of the prints of leaves

One of the prints of the birch tree trunks

One of the prints of the bark texture

Different tonal print of the leaves

Close-up of birch tree trunks print

Green print of birch tree trunks

Print of  forest with tree trunks

Close-up of leaves print

Ghost print of moss/lychen texture

After a lot of physical work I had 24 handpulled prints which were then collated and glued to make 12 signatures. These were then handbound with a coptic stitch together with the front and back cover.

This is how it looks finished. The size is 20 x 20 cm.

Artists' book "Woodland", front

Artists' book "Woodland", front and back

Artists' book "Woodland", handbound with coptic stitch

Artists' book "Woodland", pages

I decided to mix up colours and designs. There was one page slightly smaller than all the the others and incorporated this one together with the same design but in a dark green colour into one signature.

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

One of the pages in Artists' book "Woodland"

After I had posted it onto my Facebook page, I received overwhelming positive feedback....from across the world!! Thanks everyone.

My plan now is to make a limited edition of this artists' book "Woodland", with reproductions of my original prints. I had hoped I could do that at MAKE Aberdeen but unfortunately they are going to close down this week. Fingers crossed the digi lab at Peacock Visual Arts can help me with that so I can submit my work to a few upcoming exhibitions.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Artistic Explorations: 3D Design (2)

For the 3D Design course  I'm currently doing (see first article here) at Make Aberdeen, we have to decide what our final project would be. I'm passionate about printmaking and intrigued about how new technologies can be combined with traditional methods. After reading an article in Printmaking Today by The Postdigital Printmaker, I decided to explore ways to create printmaking plates through 3D printing and lasercutting.

Make Digital Fabrication Studio, Aberdeen

Examples of 3D printed designs at Make

Examples of  lasercut designs at Make

Rolls of thermoplastic filament for our 3D printer at Make

Make Aberdeen

Instructions for the lasercutter at Make

Big scary laser sign at Make

3D printing technologies shown in a diagram

Last week I had my first attempt in using one of my images for a 3D printed relief pate with software program Ultimaker Cura. Together with my tutor/studio manager we set some of the parameters such as layer height, wall thickness, infill density and whether white or black should be bottom or top relief. I chose this image (manipulated with apps on IPhone) because of the high contrast.

Iphone photo inverted as the basis for my plate

Ultimaker Cura and parameters

Once sent to the printer, I had to wait patiently for about 1.5 hrs and let the printer do its work.

The self-built Ultimaker 3D printer

3D printing of the plate in action

The final plate is 50 x 50 x 3 mm.

The 3D printed relief plate (top view)

The 3D printed relief plate (side view)

As the plate was too rough, I used sandpaper to make it smoother. Then I inked it up intaglio, pressing the ink in the lower parts of the plate and wiping off with scrim. I took off the last remains from the higher parts of the plate with some tissue paper.

The 3D printed relief plate inked up (intaglio)

I then used my tabletop Xcut Xpress printing press to pull off some test prints.

Printing my plate with the Xcut Xpress

Unfortunately the results look like a relief print (higher part is printed) instead of an intaglio print (lower part is printed) that I was aiming for. I realised this was due to the fact that the plate was built up too high so that the soaked paper couldn't pick up any ink.

Various prints of the plate from dark to light (ghost prints)

Various prints of the plate from dark to light (ghost prints)

After this first test I changed the parameters to make it much less deep, but that didn't work at all as all detail was lost. I might have to spend more time to make this technique work for me but I'm not convinced it can achieve the amount of detail I want in my prints. I'm now in the process of making printing plates on the lasercutter instead and I will share my findings and some print results with you here hopefully soon.