Thursday, September 02, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on a series of intaglio prints. Since then, I pulled out my press and some old plates and started making test prints. Let's just say that getting back up to speed is a slow process. It takes a while to get everything adjusted correctly and to re-learn the intricacies of effective printing.

Short background: Intaglio printing uses a metal plate in which the image is incised into the surface, creating grooves. With etching, an acid bath is used to eat into the metal; with drypoint, the lines are carved in a way that creates a soft line; with engraving, the lines are carved in a way that creates sharp lines. To make a print, the plate is covered with a very thick ink and then the surface is wiped clean. This leaves ink in the lines. Then the plate is placed on a press, face up, with the paper on top, and then some special heavy felt blankets on top of that for cushioning. Everything is then run between rollers under a good bit of pressure. This transfers the ink from the plate to the paper. If all goes well, you'll have a nice, sharp, clear print.

I'm not there yet. My prints are muddy, with weak lines and way too much plate tone (which comes from not wiping the surface clean enough). I'm apparently not getting enough ink into the lines, not wiping the plate correctly, and don't have the pressure set to the right level. That'll come with some more practice. Reminder to self: you don't unwrap an etching press after three years and immediately pull good prints! Looks like I'm going to burn through a lot more paper before everything's working as it should.

Yesterday, I had other tasks to do outside the studio. I replaced the spark plugs and plug wires on my truck, and reminded myself of why it is that I let a mechanic do most of the work these days. After a couple of hours, lots of cussing, and some busted knuckles, the plugs and wires were replaced and the truck started right up. Beautiful! I used to do almost all my own car maintenance, but over the years have done less and less of it. The main reason is that cars have gotten increasingly complicated and difficult to work on. Open the hood and you'll see tons stuff - equipment, hoses, lines, belts, wires, sensors - crammed into every available cubic inch. Even my Ranger, which is a pretty basic truck, suffers a bit from that malady. Way back when, I had a 1968 Triumph GT6, and access was not a problem. The "hood" was the whole front end. I could flip it up, walk in, sit on the tire, and have everything right out in the open. Carburetors? They're right there, on the right side. Distributor and plugs? On the left. All you needed was a screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, and occasionally a hammer. So easy, even a caveman could do it. Which pretty much describes my approach. Now, you need computers, special tools, and an advanced engineering degree.

Last night, we booked Janis on a trip to San Diego later this month. She's going to go visit family and old friends for a couple of weeks, while I stay home and take care of our two 4-legged daughters. J hasn't visited San Diego in well over two years, which is well over too long. So this will be a good thing for her. She needs to see all her friends/family, and since I've been home from Iraq for four months now, I think she needs a break from me!

But now it's time to get back to the press. Let's see if I can get a decent print today. Wish me luck!

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