Monotype in Print and Enamel

A few weekends ago, Rickie Wolfe and I co-taught a new workshop, Monotype in Print and Enamel. She led class in the print studio on the first day, and I led class in the jewelry/metals studio on the second day. Our idea was for everyone to learn about and explore the similarities between the two media in a focused way (relying primarily on stencils and color in both studios, with creating monotypes as the unifying theme).

Like with Kamla and Larry Calkins, I have such professional respect for Rickie as an instructor and colleague. I also really like her art and her approach—she’s always learning something new (entire new skill sets!) and integrating it into her work. We have both taken classes from one another, so it was a natural next step that we teach together.

For me, the biggest difference between the print studio and the j/m studio is how soon visual information/vocabulary enters into the picture in print. Kamla and I have talked about this, and she thinks this is in part because there isn’t a steep learning curve for the tools and equipment there—without this in front of you, you’re forced to address your visual information/vocabulary right away (you can’t really do anything at the press until you have at least begun to resolve what you want to see on the paper).

In jewelry, you could focus an entire quarter on technique and process, with imagery a distant concern. It’s important, but you can still make a ring and bezel set a stone on top of it without having to pull from a visual vocabulary.

So I wondered: what would people make on the second day, what would they choose for their imagery? Would they stay with their coated tiles the way they did with their plates the day before, working into them again and again? (Yes!) What would their work look like?

Some examples of student work:

It Goes Something Like This, Part 1

I am getting ready to do some etching (for enameling, not for printmaking), and am using the plate I etched in my printmaking class this summer as the point of departure. . .

Etched copper plate

I’ve never met a fine line I didn’t like–the more fine, the more better! The piece of copper I chose for this had many dings in it, but I loved how these translated to “ambient noise” on the print.

Scan of a print from the plate, 95% plate-tone free!

This is such a simple image, but I liked it the moment I scratched it into the resist, when I saw the bright copper lines against the blackness of the hard ground.

Xerox of original print, with line thickness adjustments

For a successful etch (for later enameling), a high-contrast image with wide lines works best. Wider lines don’t break down as rapidly, if at all, in the long ferric chloride bath. (I often etch for 3-4 hours–I am typically removing a lot of metal to create recessed areas to hold enamel. Though necessary for enamelists, these wide-open spaces are considered undesirable to printmakers, and are called “open bite,” or “foul bite.”)

To fatten up the lines, I took a fine pen to the Xerox (a fine line offers better control). The lower circular part is likely going to break down a bit–these lines are very fine and very close together. I am curious to see what is going to happen here.

Xeroxes of the adjusted Xerox

For this next part, I enlarged, reduced, and mirror-imaged the adjusted Xerox so that I could begin collaging. I am leaning towards a two-dimensional panel of some sort for this project.

I could have waited to do this part until after I had run an etch test to see whether I’ve widened the lines appropriately (because if the lines are still too narrow, and they dissolve away in the etch bath, I’ll need to go back to the master Xerox, widen its adjusted lines still more, and then generate a lot of new material–reduced, enlarged, mirror-imaged). I am not looking for a perfect, crisp, unbroken line, so some break down in the bath won’t bother me. Still, test runs at the right time often save you a lot of time down the road.

Just the necessary information cut from the Xeroxes

I wanted to get a sense of scale and number, and I wanted to begin working with just the part of the print that I’ll be etching and enameling, so I cut things up. For a moment, I was in kindergarten again (this time with super-sharp scissors!), and could almost smell that white paste we all used back then. . .