“Moss Landing” is the beginning of my foray into photogravure—combining my passions for photography and print making
“Back Alley” an exploration of intaglio and chine collé, where non-traditional materials are used, and the plate frame is challenged
It is paradoxical, how someone who strives for such clarity in his professional work is himself so enigmatic: how else would a Ph.D. physicist wind up as a graphic designer, practicing the book arts and printmaking, after running an engineering instrumentation company for over a decade?
Naturally drawn to contradictions, I like to consider the energy that comes from combining opposites: digital and analog, versatility and integrity, curiosity and clarity. The work on these pages reflects my personal projects in photography and printmaking, and the book arts.
Anyone familiar with the drive down California's Highway 1 from Santa Cruz to Monterey knows the halfway point on the large Monterey Bay is Moss Landing. A small fishing harbor, in the shadow of the large power plant, is a setting for great fresh seafood and many picturesque scenes. One of my favorites is the juxtaposition of the complicated fishing and pleasure boats with the peaceful water and sky.
The overlap of my photographic and printmaking interests is a process known as photogravure. As old as photography itself, photogravure is an intaglio printing process which is an exercise in compromise and control. The goal is to create images which are more easily reproduced (say, for a book) than a conventional wet darkroom, but which retain more clarity and control than, say, a halftone process.
I find it recreates the feeling of older photographs, even with modern subjects such as this.
Through a series of steps, involving dozens of variables, I transform a digital photograph such as the original, below left, into a continuous tone black and white image, which is then used with a photographic process to create the plate. Yes, a photograph of a photograph, just like in the days before computers!
Notes on photogravure image trials
Notes and transparency used to create printing plate
For modern photogravure, a light sensitive, water soluble polymer plate is used instead of the traditional copper plate requiring an acid etch. Environmentally better, but of course not without some other compromises. But the intaglio process of hand inking, and wiping the plate, still leaves that soft residual plate tone indicative of hand printing.
I find photogravure both challenging and rewarding, and will continue to explore this medium and process further in the future. There are so many variables, so many small adjustments which can be made in processing (just like traditional wet darkroom photography) and printing (just like other intaglio printing where each plate is hand inked and wiped).
I consider myself lucky to be able to assist with this special project. Utilizing the text of author John Coy, I am assisting world-renown illustrator and print maker Gaylord Schanilec in creating the sixteen letterpress relief prints which will illustrated this children's book, written in the first-person perspective of St. Anthony Falls.
Color blending, considering the properties of wood and stone under pressure, and the power of Bondo are all in a days work on the My Mighty Journey project
The falls started out in downtown St. Paul over 10,000 years ago, making its journey upstream 12 miles to its current location in Minneapolis, all the while carving out what would become the bluffs of the Mississippi in what would become the most scenic part of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. Indeed a mighty journey!
Similarly, a mighty journey for those of us involved with the project, which started in June 2015, will continue until at least 2018. Printing from materials found along the banks of the Mississippi, we've explored rotten wood and bark, limestone and brick, fresh plant leaves and rubbings of ancient spear points.
I encourage you to learn more and follow the project's progress on the My Mighty Journey Blog, which I maintain to document the exciting “discoveries” we make along the way!
Letterpress and screen printing is where printing making started for me. There is a calm that comes from unplugging and working directly with ink and printing blocks or screens. An element of serendipity exists in the analog art world which just harder to find while working on a computer. The tactile nature of the medium, the papers. The sound of the press or the squeegee. It is a different world.
I'll be posting more of my work here, or in individual sections, as the opportunity arises.
Printmaking, in all of its various forms, intrigues me for both the historical significance, and also the control as an artist that I have while creating images. Intaglio, where paper is pressed into a plate to pull ink out of etched indentations, is particularly an exercise in control: each print involves hand inking and wiping the plate. Each impression is therefore unique.
The added element of chine collé, in this image the red stripe on the hull of the ship, enhances the unique characteristics of each single-color image I create. Using a carefully cut and placed piece of red paper which is bonded into the underlying sheet during the intaglio press pass, I can add colorful accents without needing an additional printing plate.
This is an original sketch I created specifically to explore the the possibilities of different aquatint tonalities, for the sky, water, ships hull and smoke stacks. Each tone involves masking and etching each section separately.
The characteristic of the back alleys of the city have always intrigued me: the wirey fire escape clings to the rusting brackets attached to the less cared for side of buildings.
In this single-color intaglio image, I captured the feeling of standing looking up in a narrow alley, using chine collé newsprint to make the feeling of rubbish blowing around.
Additional texture to the building is provided by a resin aquatint, applied in stages during the etching process.
This image is based loosely on a photograph I took, most likely in Chicago. But the newsprint is from a copy of the New York Times I found lying around the print shop in Minneapolis, so… it is multi-regional.
Revisiting the theme of isolation, this original sketch was created through brushwork with the “ground,” or acid masking material, to create a softer appearance to the tree trunks and branches. A fine-line etch was used as the basis, and the horizon.
The abstract sky, created with a thin blue tissue paper and chine collé, breaks out of the boundary of the plate. I wanted this watercolor sort of effect, created entirely with torn paper, to further enhance the isolation of the tree.
I'm also using the more extreme aspect ratio that I've come to enjoy in my photography.
The “Change the Change” poster is the visual element of a hypothetical campaign to change the U.S. educational system to focus on comprehension, versus evaluation.
The final poster concept is purely typographic, and designed to work at multiple distances—with the large “change” transforming to the teaser text as one gets closer. The creation of this idea took a couple of iterations in design:
This photography collection, exhibition, video, and future fine press book represents both the beginning of my artistic explorations, and the ongoing exploration into the necessity, and contradiction, of self-imposed isolation to the “creative” professional.
These initial exhibition photographs were taken from 2010 – 2012, from a variety of locations in the U.S. and Europe. However, the locations are less important than the subject, and its relation to its own isolation.
This theme has been a recurring one for me in both my personal search for “life's meaning,” and as a theme in my visual art. Watch for it in the intaglio and photogravure printmaking as well.