Thursday, June 28, 2012

Small Talks

© Hannah Phelps
Beach Side of Concord Point
white-line woodcut print, 9" x 12"

Last week, I set the final roster for my solo exhibit, Plein Air to Print, at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. The print above is brand new for the show. 

After nearly a year of creating work specifically for this exhibit, it felt strange to tell some of the prints they hadn't made the team. Until the final minutes, I was holding out hope that they would all be ready in time. 

Do I really talk to my prints? Yes. Mostly grunting. A little cussing. Small exclamations of disappointment or pleasure.

This time, it was a gentler conversation: "Just because you aren't going to the WPG doesn't mean you aren't a good idea. There will be more opportunities for you. You just need a little development in the minors to work on some fundamentals." You can expect to see some of these promising pieces in the future.

Soon, you will be able to judge my decision. Did I choose a winning team? A bunch of prints and paintings that will work well together?  That will now become greater in the company I have chosen for them?

Can't wait until August? The WPG has started posting some work on their blog, DCimPRINT, so go take a look.

Remember, the exhibit is from August 1 - 26, with a reception on August 4 from 1 - 4 pm. See you there!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Marsh Scene in Progress

© Hannah Phelps
Work in Progress
jigsaw reduction relief, printed by hand

Last week, I told you I was working on two different jigsaw prints - one at home and one at a printmaking studio with a press.

Of course, I was hoping that both of these prints would be in my upcoming solo exhibit at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in August. I have to admit now that it is not looking good for our friend from last week. What I thought was two more layers has turned into four at least.

The good news is that I am learning a ton from it. Some parts are working perfectly and I think I even know what I did! I will keep working on it, but there is no rush.

What about the second print? Progress is a little slower than I'd hoped, but it still might make it into the show. Maybe. If it behaves. 

If not, it is totally grounded and not coming with me to Silver Spring at the end of July.

I hope you are listening, print....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Man Vs. Machine

 © Hannah Phelps
work in progress
jigsaw reduction relief, using a press

I have got two multi-layer jigsaw reduction woodcuts going right now. The prints are both landscapes and both inspired by plein air paintings, but I am creating them in different ways. 

Most noticeably, I am working on one here at home and the other at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in nearby Manchester. There are large presses at the school, which makes it worth the commute. When I print at home, I use a baren to press the paper into the ink on the block.

More than once, someone has seen me pulling on the press wheel and said, "You must have jacked up arms after using that press." Whether or not my arms are ripped is not the subject of this post. But, if I have any muscles from printmaking, it isn’t from using the press - it's from hand rubbing with a spoon or a baren, trust me.

That might seem surprising at first, but really, it makes a lot of sense. Why invent a huge, nearly immovable instrument like a printing press if printing by hand was perfectly easy?

Printing by hand does have a ton of advantages:

- Printing by hand is cheaper - especially if you use something as simple as a wooden spoon (which I do when I print white-line woodcuts). Barens can cost more - up to a thousand dollars for really nice Japanese-made ones - but it still pales in comparison to the price of nice etching presses which start at a few thousand and go up (and up and up) from there.

- Printing by hand is more convenient - you can use your baren in any room of your house or studio or even take it outside (as I do sometimes). A press weighs a few tons. You go to it.

- Printing by hand is more flexible - a press provides even pressure across the length of the heavy roller, so if the ink layer on your block is even, the color on your paper will be as well. When printing by hand, you can use different pressure at all points of your print, creating gradations. 

- Also, a block needs to be tough to go through a press! The "soft kut" block I am using at home would squish to nothing after the roller got through with it.

At this point you might be thinking, "If printing by hand is cheaper, more convenient, more flexible, and gives you a better arm workout, why drive an hour round trip to use a press?"

The answer is simple: I love the press. 

I like to think it loves me too.