Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Ink, Fresh Art and Inspiration

Where to begin with this one? Let's start with the week I spent making black and white prints for Visceral Gallery's Color Restrained show the last week of August, because that seems like the beginning of this story. These are the prints, made from one of my mix-n-match moku hanga experiments, previously printed in color. This was the first time I had tried printing in black and white since I first began my adventures in printmaking, and I quickly became enthralled with the possibilities and results. I mentioned how much I enjoyed it to Dayton Printmaker Co-Op founder and former printmaking professor Ray Must and he smiled and said, "Black can be the color." Profound and true. And thus began my month and a half of exploration into the wonderful color that is black.

Then jump ahead a couple of weeks. It was once again time for Dayton Visual Arts Center's Fresh Art, a plein air event. I set off into the woods, off to the top of Mount Saint John, armed with all my soft pastel supplies on a beautiful fall day at the Bergamo Center. I trekked around off the beaten path until I found the perfect spot surrounded by trees and I was ready to go with my colorful array of broken pastels, broken so I could fit more colors. As I prepared to get started I was suddenly overwhelmed by the light coming through the trees and shot off a little pencil sketch, unaware of its future significance.

Once again I started to draw the magnificent gnarly massive tree in front of me, but I became distracted by the shadows dancing across my paper as light flickered through the leaves around me. Suddenly, three hours later, I had this rather than some colorful landscape. Something that made several people ask, "It's cool, but what is it?" I think I titled it my typical bad title fashion something like Shadows On Mount Saint John.

The Mount Saint John titled artwork didn't end at the end of the day. A day or so later I looked at that pencil sketch I had done and decided I should try it as a monotype. After five or six small monotypes I decided I should try it as a larger monotype. After a half dozen of those I decided I should try it in differently proportioned monotypes, which was followed by some monotypes of trees, and finally, a 4 block woodcut of the original sketch which had evolved into a design and composition I was very happy with. Every day for almost 6 weeks, with every spare moment I had I made art, black and white art with the exception of the woodcut, inspired by those three hours spent on Mount Saint John.

So a few of the pieces ended up in a show at Bergamo to which I was hesitant about submitting, as it was a show about Fresh Art and the plein air experience and they had been made well after those three hours spent in the woods. The were, however, a direct result of those three hours. They were reviewed in The Dayton City Paper, which was cool, and I've sold a few of them at DVAC and on Etsy.

The best thing, though, was making the art, and being inspired and consumed with it, and those few hours spent in the woods could lead to such an output. And remembering for a brief second on Mount Saint John while enjoying the fall day and the flickering shadows, I had a thought I will never forget pass through my head.

If this was my job, I would be good at it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So, there was this crazy week at the beginning of September where I had about seven art deadlines I decided I would attempt within a week. After it was over and I caught up on sleep, I wondered what the point was, and if it was worth it to enter juried shows and write proposals for shows and try to get grants. I'm still not sure, but I'm happy to say that my efforts thus far have been rewarded. My prints made it into the shows and I sold a couple of them, as well as the pastel on the left, whose framing in an early 19th century mirror and the weekend I spent doing it is worthy of its own post.

The big news, though, is that this pastel won an award in this year's Pastel 100 and will be in the March/April issue of the Pastel Journal. Exciting stuff, although I can't help wish that it was still mine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Waterless Litho Luv, AKA, Somebody Hide the Calligraphy Pens Please

So, a few months ago I had about an hour to pop into a workshop at the Dayton Printmakers Co-Op by Sinclair printmaking professor Kevin Harris for a quick lesson on waterless lithography. For those unfamiliar with the process, it goes something like this... you draw on a grained aluminum litho plate, cover the drawing with a thin layer of silicone, wash off the drawing and voila, you are left with a plate which repels rubber based ink anywhere there is silicone. You can also use the process by transferring a Xerox copy to the plate with lacquer thinner or acetate and then going through the same steps. Sounds pretty simple, eh?

It's not that complicated of a process, but of course there are some variables and things that can go wrong and things you can spend a lot of time correcting. Otherwise it would be something different than printmaking. You are supposed to be able to draw with any water based media so I tried about everything I had around the house, from watercolor pencils to some mixture of Akua Kolor ink and modifiers of who knows what kind, to sharpies and gel pens, which are also supposed to work. I spent a lot of time drawing. Note to self: Always do a small test before investing a lot of time drawing! Needless to say, I wasted a few plates and drawings and hours, but I did get to enjoy the drawing part of it. And I got smart and started scanning in my drawings so in case I ruin the one on the plate I can still try the Xerox method, even though I'm resistant to using anything that is a "reproduction." I think I'm afraid that once I go down that road I'll start going through the thousands of photographs that live on this machine and start trying to print those instead of coming up with new things.

Anyway, I discovered that there's something about the way ink flows onto these aluminum plates from a calligraphy pen, those kind you dip into the ink, that's a little bit magical. There's something about the smoothness of it and the way it clings to the surface that's graceful and sexy and it's hard to resist. And it's perfect for drawing tree limbs. There's also a randomness to the prints that I really like. I keep ending up losing some of the fine detail in the silicone process, as this is one of the variables that it's difficult to get just right. You get it on a little to thick or too thin and then you can't wash away the drawing or you wash off too much. But in a way I like that. It gives a neat and tidy drawing a little edginess, or something like that, and the random stuff can happen with in the inking is also pretty appealing to me.

And I get to play with ink. I've been inking them up with a rubber based black VanSon ink and then applying Akua Kolor over the plate. It's a trial and error process, as it's difficult to get the Akua Kolor just the right consistency to adhere to the naturally wants to bead up. Thin layers brushed on and feathered out very gently seem to work best. I can't get any of the softness I like about my woodcuts with the process, and believe me I've tried and failed, but there's something stark and graphic about the end product that I like. And wow, do I enjoy the drawing part.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Art On The Commons, The Morning After

So, Sunday I experienced my first art fair, Art On the Commons in Kettering, Ohio. It's a pretty big deal around here with about 100 artists juried in, 35 of them local, including me. I'm still thinking about it and trying to figure out what I did wrong and what I did right, and if it was worth the time and effort. Today I'm thinking it was definitely worth it now that I've cleaned up the aftermath of my whirlwind preparations pictured above.

One of my biggest mistakes is evident in that photo...the unfinished and experimental prints. A couple of weeks before something like this is not the time to be trying new things and making new prints, but I just couldn't help myself. When I should have been packaging up prints or reprinting things that I know sell well I was trying out some crazy hand inked collagraphs made from plants, carving and printing a big, yet-to-be-completed reduction print and trying to crank out some monotypes using pieces of lino blocks from previous prints. And there were the three reduction prints that still needed the last impression on over half the prints. I was a printmaking machine and I couldn't stop. I guess, in retrospect, that I didn't want to stop. After all, printing is great and I had a good excuse to be doing it. But the result of my actions was not so fun... two solid days and nights of cutting foamcore and mats and framing, printing up business cards and other collateral at the last minute and almost slicing my finger to the point of needing stitches, and packing my car up like a madman while trying not to bleed on any artwork.

I guess I'm a little regretful that I didn't make the most of the time I had to prepare, which left me a little loopy and not at my sharpest the day of the event, but on the other hand I got to spend the better part of my free time the past few weeks making prints. Or at least trying to. What could be better than that?

One of the craziest things I did during the preparations, though, had to be getting out oil paints and spending half a day painting over a canvas I started 10 years ago, especially considering the fact that I never paint. That is almost tied with the twenty or so hours I spent drawing on two litho plates when I don't know how to do lithography, just because once I started drawing with those litho crayons I really liked it and couldn't stop. I did get one good print from one of them before I ruined the plate, but I guess I can't consider it a good print because it's on newsprint. It was a damn fine litho crayon drawing, though.

Either I have ADD or given an excuse to make some art, that's all I'm going to be doing with every second of time I can find. Anyway, back to the point of the post, the art fair. It went well. I didn't make a huge profit but I slightly doubled the money I had into it, so I can't complain even though I had higher expectations. My expectations were so high, in fact, that I won't have to package up or mat or frame anything for a while, and I can focus on just making art. I've got the business part out of the way through the holidays and I won't have to spend any time or money getting ready for ARTtoBUY at DVAC this year, and I probably have enough packaged prints to start trying to spread them around the Miami Valley...and beyond.

The highlight of the whole thing, though, had to be the people. I just wish I hadn't been so tired and had been more engaging, and I wish I would have remembered to bargain with people who came back for a second look. But it was great to see people I hadn't seen for a while who came to see me because they saw my name in the paper. Also great were the moments when people recognized my work from DVAC and the Cannery, and even better were the three times when absolute strangers came up to me and told me they read this blog and talked about specific posts. How cool is that?

Looking back and writing about it and thinking about it, I would definitely do it all again, in a heartbeat. There's no way I would trade in a few days of crazy-busy for the joy of spending July 2010 making prints and trying new things and meeting people interested in how I print and meeting people who recognize my artwork. I guess after all the years I've spent having my hard work attributed to "artist rendering" that I have to say tonight that it's feeling pretty good to be the artist Andrea Starkey.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Celebrating Two Years of Reduction Printmaking, and Smiling

So, exactly two years ago today I started my first reduction print, these hosta leaves. I know it was exactly two years ago today because it was my birthday and I woke up early on a Sunday morning while everyone else in the house slept in and decided I was going to give reduction printmaking a try. I remembered how unhappy I was with the results as I read this blog post where I refer to it as a "FAIL" and how I put all printmaking aside and waited four months before attempting another.

As I was reading all I could do was smile. It isn't a fail, and for a first attempt and considering the materials I used and the fact that I printed this with my hand and the bottom of a glass and had no idea what a baren was, it's not half bad. I think my expectations were just a little high at the time. I look at the details now and I can see the care that went into every cut and I can remember that initial excitement of what it was like to see what each successive layer would look like printed. Even though this was the print that I wanted to cut up into pieces once it was finished and the print that caused me to put printmaking on hold for months, it was also the print that made me fall in love with the process.

I woke up yesterday morning and I discovered that I had sold my first Hosta print, almost exactly two years to the day that I started it. The best part of selling one of these isn't that I sold one or that someone else liked it enough to buy one. The best part is that it made me take a good look at the print again, and at the past couple of years, and realize that something as simple as the joy I get from carving and inking some lines and and transferring them to paper makes me a lucky person.

Well that and the fact that it did help pay for my birthday dinner.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching Up

So, I haven't been a good blogger lately. I think I may have to do some back tracking as there has been quite a lot of activity going on the past few months. The FilmDayton letterpress poster project which consumed a couple months of my life, a variety of new printmaking techniques at my disposal and capturing my attention, my first two Baren Forum exchange prints and my space at the Cannery Art and Design Center filled with prints and pastels are all blogworthy, but they'll have to wait as I'm starting with the most recent Starkeyart news.

The monotype I made Christmas Eve was just awarded the Best of Show at the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors annual Kay Smith Memorial Printmakers show. I loved the juror's comment, "The technique transcends monotype." I wasn't trying to transcend anything, I was just missing Alex and Anna on the first Christmas Eve I spent without them and reminiscing about the magic of Christmas when they were the younger. And I admit it, I shed a few tears in the process. This print has a lot of love in it. I'm starting to look forward to the show being over so it can get it back in it's place, because I miss it.

So two juried shows in a row with two awards for the two most NFS (not for sale) personal pieces of artwork I've done. Hmmm. It makes me think that maybe I spend too much time making pretty pictures and getting caught up in projects and new processes that distract me like shiny new toys. They disctract me to the point of un-productivity , because I have been all over the place since I joined the Dayton Printmakers Co-Op, not editioning a thing but just experimenting like crazy. And I've been getting caught up in making things that people will want to buy and not making anything that means anything to me other than the enjoyment of creating it. And sometimes that's not even a joy, just a lot of trial and error. Ironically, both awards came on a day when I had just about decided to give up pursuing the whole "artist" thing and concentrate on being a commercial artist and paying bills.

Maybe it means I should spend more time making art that is meaningful to me, and just toss out trying to sell art. Or maybe I just need to find some ground and direction, because I am all over the place lately, just like this post is all over the place.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

20th Annual Dayton Area Works On Paper

So, it was about a year ago when I entered my first juried show, the 19th Annual Dayton Area Works On Paper. To date, my percentages are pretty good, as this year it was the 4th juried show I've submitted to and the 4th show for which I've had an entry accepted. Even better, when the show opens this Sunday I'll be receiving my first award.

When I was trying to decide which three things to enter I thought I should enter similar pieces to show a "body of work" but then I ran into trouble when I really wanted to enter a couple of the new collagraph prints I've been making out of trash. They are interesting and colorful and different from what I've been doing and I like the way they look, but the prints I've pulled thus far have a few little printmaking mistakes were more than this perfectionist could bear. In the end I submitted three unrelated pieces in different mediums, and as soon as I dropped them off I began to question the wisdom of that decision.

But actually they were related pieces of artwork. They were personal. They all meant something to me. The reduction print of the morning view I love whenever I turn right off my street. The monotype of Alex and Anna when they were younger I did this year on my first Christmas Eve spent without my children. The soft pastel portrait of my grandfather I gave him on his final birthday.

I had two of the three selected, and the monotype almost made it in as well. I'm not sure what it means, but I think it means I should keep entering juried shows. And I think it means that making art that you have a connection to might be more important than making pretty pictures. Representing the the things in life that stir your soul and move you and make you smile and make a tear run down your cheek...

And maybe that's what it takes to be an award winning artist.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Road Into Town, Continued Once Again

So, I put the final layer of ink down on my Road Into Town print a couple of Sunday nights ago, giving it just enough time to dry before throwing it into a frame to submit to Dayton Area Works on Paper the following Monday. I've blogged about the making of this one here, here, here, here and here, but I just wasn't able to bring myself to print the final reduction until faced with a deadline. And I wasn't thrilled with the end result, although it did look good matted and framed.

Apparently good enough to get into the show. The Road Into Town is completed at last, or at least version Number 1.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

And Now, Something Completely Different

So, I'm not even sure where to begin with this one. I could begin with a description of the proofs I pulled today at the Dayton Printmakers Co-Op on my second trip there. I could talk about the Co-Op, but that needs pictures (blog post soon to come). Or I could start with how I got there in the first place, because thinking your days are numbered can lead to an interesting carpe diem story. Or about how wonderful the idea sounded to me of belonging to this Co-Op when my printmaking professor talked about it in 1987, and that 1987 was the last time I used a press or stepped foot inside a print shop. Or even why 1987 was the first and last time I used a press or stepped foot inside a print shop, which would be a tale of misdirected youth and bad life decisions.

The fact is, I am a little overwhelmed with all of it right now. I know that a year and half ago I brought a brayer and some ink into a classroom of 4th graders for project when I used to volunteer for an art program. I know that the second I put that brayer into the ink something connected. The sound. The smell. The tension of it against the ink. Magic. Life has not been the same since that moment.

When I took that Printmaking 101 class 23 years ago, something clicked and I knew it appealed to all my senses, and I knew I had a passion for it, but at 19 years old I had no idea what that term even meant. Now I know, and I often start to wonder if I I have just wasted 23 years of my life doing commercial artwork when I could have been fulfilling that passion. I like to think that everything I've done to this point was just training for where I am now.

A printmaker. Maybe.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year, New Print & Out of the Mouth of Babes Comes Wisdom?

So there it was, January 2 of the New Year, and I had just finished a reduction print and was thinking about clearing up my printmaking mess and putting away the Christmas decorations. Instead I kept staring at the two 12" x 12" linoleum blocks my 14 year-old son had picked out for me as a Christmas present, and he was putting the pressure on.

"Those are big, you need to make something cool!" and "What are you going to print from those?" were just a few of the comments I was getting on a daily basis. He was so proud of himself for picking out a gift he knew I would enjoy that he was beside himself with anticipation of what would come from it.

I've been thinking for a while that I wanted to a reduction print based on this pastel I did earlier this year, with a greenish sky and orange trees, and I decided now was the time. I proceeded to draw out something similar in Sharpie on one of my new Christmas blocks. While I was drawing and looking at the pastel it made me think about what direction I wanted to go. For some reason, I am compelled by the idea of having prints look more like drawings, of having more freedom and expressiveness line. I don't want them to look graphic or like a copy of a photograph, I want them to look in some way representational of what I see, and have some feeling and movement to them, and maybe impressionistic is the word to describe it.

And then I start to think, why am I not just making pastels? This one is pretty decent and it's a hell of a lot easier than printmaking. But, as anyone who prints will understand, there is nothing quite as rewarding as pulling that paper off the block and seeing what you have created even though it does take a lot of planning. Is it possible to make something planned look expressive? Or even more important, is it possible to create and carve something expressively that has to have planning to it? The planning kind of takes some of the freedom out of it for me. So that, I think, is one of my goals this year, to find a combination of spontaneity and planning that is evident in the finished print.

So, as I began to draw out the future print on my fresh piece of linoleum, I had a lot of things running through my head. I was thinking about how it would work out, and how I would carve it and how I would refine the lines before I carved. Then my son came into the room. He said something like "Too bad you can't make a print look like the way you draw." Hmmm.

I've never tried to print the way I draw and sketch. I was getting kind of close to it with that sycamore reduction print I just finished, but that was planned. I've always drawn, and then refined my lines to what I think a print should look like before I started carving. Maybe the key to finding the balance between what is planned and what is spontaneous for me lies somewhere in following the lines that come naturally to me when I draw.

I have no idea how this will go as I follow these Sharpie lines, but it's worth a try. Game on, son. I'll take that as a challenge.