Re-casting my Drawings into Prints


As any artist will say, it is very difficult to sell works on paper especially drawings and especially charcoal drawings. I love the effect of charcoal because it gives a drawing a more painterly look. One is able to lay-in the masses quickly and retain a wonderful airiness. So over the years, I have sought to carry this effect into a more permanent form through printmaking. It allows one to draw and add some permanency to the final product. I have experimented with several types, relief print, lithography, monoprint and the combination of the last two. Lithography has given me the most satisfaction because I can combine a painterly wash with a very accurate drawing. The final effect is a unity between the two that is very satisfying that goes beyond a simply rendered drawing.


The greatest draw-back with lithography is that it is a very difficult medium to use and takes a lot of technical knowledge in regards to the craft. One not only has to be an exceptional draughtsman but must have a serious amount of technical know-how as well as a reservoir of patience. Since one draws on an actual slab of limestone, which is a wonderful surface to work on, the weight, portability and sensitivity of the stone is a serious factor. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked hours on a stone, to find out that there is some unseen flaw that only appears after it has been etched. The stone is also very temperamental. If it is too humid or too hot one day, the printing itself becomes impossible to control. It just won’t print!

So as you can imagine, I have been seeking alternative printing methods that fulfill my vision of delicate drawing and painterly washes united as one through the print. I attended a workshop at The Woodstock School of Art taught by Kate McGloughlin. The course was on solar printmaking and it took place the last week of March. I was happily surprised by the results. I was able to achieve a similar look to my lithographs using a solar plate. The entire process is much more simple. One basically draws on acetate or Dura-lar with a Stabilio ”all” pencil. I produced sketches specifically in preparation for the plates in my sketchbook. I then used a Canon toner copier and Xeroxed the image onto the acetate(3M). Then, I reworked the image with the “All” pencil and added washes with a dense black ink, Pro Black, and rubbing alcohol. I found the texture on the 3M copier acetate excellent with a small tooth to it. It gave a similar resistance as the limestone. I also, experimented with drawing on ground glass (220 grit) with the same pencil and washes produced with the Pro Black and water. This felt exactly like the limestone, so much so, that this might be the material I will use exclusively.

Rendering of image on glass

Rendering of image on glass

After developing the image, making sure it is dark enough( one can analyze the density of the image by looking at it on a light box), I went on to expose the drawing to the solar plate. I used a specifically designed light box for solar plate so the timing of the exposure was very accurate (one can also use the sun, itself, but the timing is not as accurate). I exposed the plate first to a Mezzotint screen that allows for the plate to be sensitive to half tones. The timing is 1.5 minutes. Secondly, I exposed the drawing, media side down (so the image is reproduced in its proper orientation), to the plate for 1 min. With the plate exposure complete one, then, washes it out for 5-10 min in a water bath until you can feel the image surfacing on the plate. It is then blotted with newsprint and hardened under a lamp for 10 min. Now it is ready to ink just like an etching plate.

I inked my plates in several different methods and colored inks. I began with carbon black intaglio ink, Akua brand. Following the same method as etching, I applied the ink with a foam board strip, making sure it penetrated the lines in the plate.I then wiped the plate with tarlatan to remove excess ink. I buffed the plate further with newsprint topped with an eraser to ease with the wiping. I then buffed the light areas with a little tissue paper to make sure they would appear white in the print. I soaked the paper, Rives heavy weight or BFK, for several minutes. I then prepared the press with the registration marks for the plate and the paper. I laid the plate on the bed and then aligned the paper, placed a cover sheet over everything, then the blankets and then finally ran the plate through the press.

Another method that I tried and liked was applying the ink in two colors, alla poupee. In this method one applies the colored ink separately in specific areas to get a certain effect. I worked two plates using ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. In the cat print, I used the warm sienna in the foreground and applied the cool blue to the background and used a combination of the two for the middle area. I wanted to achieve a feeling of spatial movement through color temperature. I followed the same method on the seated figure, but allowed the figure to be warm, the background cool and the foreground a mid-tone. I found this method particularly satisfying. It gave the look of an etching with just a hint of color. The combination of the sienna and the ultramarine also gave a dark that was near black. I attempted some monoprint combinations and a glazing roll, but found the over-all look not as satisfying. I preferred the print to look like a print rather than a substitute for painting.

Here are some of the results.






Spectrum Color Recession

Self Portrait March 2014

In my last blog, I wrote on expanding the range and concentration of a chord by elaborating on the hues. If my chord is a B-YG-RO. I can accentuate the blue in the chord through the addition of Blue Hue and Blue Bi. By adding these more subdued tones within the chord, the viewer has the sensation that the blue is carried throughout the composition; That Blue is radiating throughout the image (Radiating Intensities).

Another aspect to this is color recession. It gives the artist another means to carry the blue both forward and backward within the composition using color to create the sensation of movement and not just value. When the blue has more intensity, it wishes to project forward and feel illuminated and when it has less intensity it wishes to recede and feel less illuminated. One can use this idea to model a form or create depth within the composition. This idea seems pretty straight forward.

What I found particularly interesting in John Sloan’s, The Gist of Art, is that this same idea can be utilized within the color spectrum. It is easy to  think of varying a blue through intensity to add variety to a form or a composition. What about the color spectrum? Sloan points out that one can achieve depth by following the color spectrum back from, let us say Orange-Yellow. That depth can be achieved across the spectrum and it need not be consigned to just one color.

An example of this idea: If I take Orange-Yellow as my most forward color and I wish to make that color recede in the composition, I can look at those colors that bracket OY along the spectrum. Here is the color spectrum as described by H.G. Maratta:

VR-R-RO-O-OY-Y-YG-G-GB-B-BV-V and back to VR

So both O and Y border the OY, therefore I can use either color to give the feeling of recession to the OY as it moves back in space. The example that Sloan uses is street lights. If one has a composition of a night scene where there are street lights receding along the sidewalk, the most forward light can be an OY. The next light can be an O and the next one can be a RO and so forth. One achieves recession along the spectrum, rather than taking the OY and moving it toward a neutral to achieve depth. Along the same line, one could carry the OY color back moving the other way along the spectrum, from OY to Y to YG depending on one’s desires within the image. The warm colors want to project forward.

This works particularly well with the warmest colors in the spectrum. One can move either way along the spectrum. What about those colors that are already cool? One would need the reverse scenario, that the light is cool and therefore as things recede they are getting warmer. So B, might move to BV to V to VR or B to GB to G. In both directions it is getting warmer.

What about G? Green is a secondary color, so it’s temperature is half-way between the cools and warms and therefore could move either way along the spectrum toward the cools, G to GB to B; or toward the warms, G to YG to Y. This is true for Violet as well. Blue seems the most difficult to achieve depth along the spectrum and there might be limitation involved with the color Blue. I look forward to continue analyzing this idea further.

Sloan and Henri and the use of H.G. Maratta’s Color Theory

portrait hue study

I recently have been reading John Sloan’s, The Gist of Art (presently re-titled, Sloan on Drawing and Painting, Dover). Both Henri and Sloan participated early on (1909) in color sessions presented by H.G. Maratta explaining his color theory. These were held in the studio of  Charles Winter. These sessions basically changed the artistic direction of all of the participants, especially Robert Henri. I have spent the past 15 or so years experimenting with H.G. Maratta’s color theory as interpreted by Henri in his notebooks and letters as well as through his paintings. Now, I have been able to examine the same theories through the eyes of John Sloan (in The Gist of Art). And I have discovered some interesting concepts in regard to Hue that I have overlooked.

The interesting thing about Maratta’s theory is that the “concept” is set, but the color and one’s intuitive sensitivity to color is uniquely the artists’. What I need for my own particular image or painting, no matter what it is, is possible within the confines of Maratta’s theories. In fact, one of the most amazing things is that one’s palette and one’s understanding of color in all its subtlties becomes highly refined, allowing one to achieve a greater variety within a smaller range of color.

Instead of one constantly re-using the same combination of colors to achieve an effect, one quickly discovers there are other ways to achieve a similar passage of color. One great example that I use often: to achieve a lower intensity of a yellow, instead of using the complement (Purple) to lower the intensity, one could mix a yellow of less intensity (hue) by combining O + G.  So the same color can be achieved by using 2 secondaries. Another example: to mix a blue (hue) of lower intensity, one can mix P + G. Again using secondaries instead of subduing a primary with the complement. What one gets is a similar color but a much more interesting one. In fact it has more life and force than a combination of complements. One also learns to take advantage of “near” complements verses direct complements. One gets a hue, but it is a hue that has a far greater range of subtlety.

I am writing this because I discovered another aspect to this theory in The Gist of Art- It is the process whereby one adds emphasis to the main chord by expanding the range of hues within the composition. These hues act as a  nuetral foil, within an image, upon which the main colors of the chord are seen.They in fact bring out the true color of the chord in a harmoniuos way. These hues interface with the main chord and allow the viewer to feel that a specific color in the chord resides throughout the composition. One color in the main chord appears in several intensities. Henri refered to this aspect as “Radiating Intensities“.

Let’s say my chord (color placed at specific intervals along the color spectrum) is RO-YG-B. I can take the Blue of the chord and carry it throughout the painting in several intensities so that the blue seems to radiate throughout the image. So the B can appear at its full intensity in a very small area and then appear as a B- Bi color of moderate intensity in a slightly larger area and then appear as a B-Hue in an even larger area. When one looks at the image, one has the feeling, in a very subtle way, of blueness.

This method also conveys a feeling of color recession. The color Blue can reside in the foreground in full intensity, and as that color recedes, its intensity is diminished. One experiences the power of the light on the blue and as the light is diminished moving toward the background, the intensity of the blue is diminished. It can also be effective to turn a form (modeling a form from light to shadow). As an object faces the light, the color can be more intense and as the object turns away from the light source and moves into shadow, the color intensity can diminish. One could move from the most intense Blue to a transition of a Blue Bi color to a Blue Hue, having the lowest intensity occupying the general tone of the shadow.

The idea of the Hue backing up the power of the chord as well as assisting in the modeling of a form is something that I intuitively have done on and off in my work. What is exceptional about Maratta’s ideas, and this one in particular, is that now it is no longer just intuition guiding me. Now that it has become conscious, I can experiment and study this idea and take full advantage of its promises, bringing a greater feeling of harmony and dynamism to my work.

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