Back to the Beginning…

LoneTreeTransferimage transfer on stone paper

I thought I’d go back to the early stages of my interest in handmade printing. Since 1998 I had been printing exclusively with 100% digital output. As technology improved the prints became more and more refined and beautiful, but somehow I wasn’t satisfied. During a several year long period I actually gave up photography and became a painter – pastels, acrylics and mixed media. I enjoyed the tactile, hands-on quality of the work that I found missing with photography in the modern world.

For a variety of reasons I gave up painting and returned to being a photographer. But I never lost my love of working with my hands, making something unique, the textural possibilities of different mediums. So I began to seek that in photography. It was challenging as most photographic printing I knew about was very 2 dimensional and technology driven. How could I find a way to make the work uniquely mine?

I discovered a cool book called Digital Art Studio written by 3 women who were experimenting with combining digital printing with various traditional and mixed media techniques to create handmade one-of-a-kind prints. I became  very interested in image transfers and began to output some of my classical landscape shots in that way.

laguna-trasnfer-2image transfer on stone paper

The process involves printing your digital file on a special (transparent) transfer sheet on a pigment inkjet printer. The sheet has a special coating that, when mixed with some special chemistry, allows the ink to lift off and transfer almost completely to another surface. After coating the printed image (or the receptor paper) with the chemistry, I place the sheet with the image face down on the receptor, wait several minutes, and peel the transfer sheet away.

This is where the “magic” happens. Each transfer is different and usually has artifacts or flaws – which is what you want and what gives the unique character to the piece. The last thing you want is a perfect transfer! Not every transfer works – there is a high failure rate, especially while learning the process.

For this type of subject matter I liked using something called Stone Paper as the receptor for the image. It actually is not paper at all but a composite of limestone and resin. It’s quite heavy and completely non-absorbent. So the pigment ink sits completely on the surface resulting in very rich pure color and blacks. It also takes a long time to dry!

You can find out all about this process and the materials needed in the book Digital Alchemy.

This was my starting point to a much wider world of experimental and alternative process photography. I was hooked!

Next time I’ll talk about the next stage in my evolution down this path.

 

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Phoenix Arising from the Ashes

 

ByHand

Anyone still out there? It’s been (an embarrassing) 4 1/2 years since my last post! Many things have changed for me on the artistic front, all good, all part of my evolution as an artist.

It began several years ago when I took a master workshop from Keith Carter, a wonderful photographer and educator who instilled in me a newfound enthusiasm for learning the history of photography and focusing on long term projects.

That led to an interest in 19th century photographic printing processes. Being a professional master printer, albeit in the digital realm, I quickly got hooked on this new/old way of making prints and I was blown away by the quality of the palladium prints I was making. I was also playing with image transfers, another “handmade” process that creates unique prints.

My next foray was into the world of handset letterpress. There’s a wonderful local letterpress organization, North Bay Letterpress Arts, that offers workshops on how to practice this venerable art form. Soon I was combining letterpress text with my palladium and image transfer prints.

Next up was moving away from simple framed prints on the wall into the exciting world of handmade books. I found this the perfect vehicle for my handmade 19th century process prints and handset letterpress. I’ve taken some workshops at another wonderful local resource, the SF Center for the Book, and have found a couple of nice binding structures that work well with my prints.

I found myself needing a new workspace to house all of this new activity and its attendant equipment so last year was able to build a new 400 sq ft art studio on our property.

studio

If you look closely you can see my darkroom (yes, people still use them!), my UV exposure unit, my etching press converted to do letterpress, PVA glue, flatfiles, etc, etc, etc. Lots of handmade furniture in the studio as well.

By now you might have guessed that a big theme in my work these days is “handmade”. I’m really enjoying practicing the craft of artmaking, making each completed piece a direct expression of my own thoughts and my own hands. The image at the top is the title page of one of my books celebrating the architecture of the objects of letterpress. The title “By Hand” is at the heart not only of that project but of all my work these days.

This blog will continue as a means for me to share with you this adventure. I’ll share my thoughts about artmaking with this new perspective as well as share what I’ve learned on a technical level in the areas of 19th century printing processes, handset letterpress and bookmaking.

I look forward to hearing from you and am always happy to share what I discover along the way.

Intropspection

When I complete a piece that speaks to me, I find a feeling of introspection settles over me. Often the subject matter itself reflects that inner state as well. Is the work a projection of my feelings and thoughts, or does it cause those very ruminations to occur. I thinks when a piece “feels right” it causes a dialogue between itself and it’s creator. The work we make and immediately forget and let go of is not why we pursue art. It’s those pieces that maintain a relationship with us that propel us forward.

I’m still having a conversation with this piece. We’re becoming friends…

This started as an image transfer using gel medium onto watercolor paper. The statue was found in the gardens of Mission Dolores in San Francisco, a wonderful tranquil place. I applied a number of watercolor washes over it and the paper and added some tissue paper collage at the top to create texture and soak up more of the paint. I then made a couple of stamps and used acrylic paint to create the patterns around the statue.

A Little of this, a little of that…

There are a number of wonderful apple orchards nearby (though they’re rapidly being replaced by a better “cash” crop, namely grapes). Apple trees have very different personalities in each season, from the vibrant blossoms of spring to the bare austerity of winter. The latter is a look I particularly like. Trees denuded of their fruit and foliage, patiently waiting for the time to bloom, convey to me a composure found in nature that I envy (and sorely lack!).

In this piece I started with a transfer using gel medium and then created the rest of the “landscape” using watercolor, sumi ink and iridescent pastels. I also used some acrylic stamping to add some geometry to the otherwise organic setting. I guess I got everything in there!

Image Transfers

I’ve been experimenting with different image transfer techniques – one of the things I love about them is that there is often a distressed look to the images once they’ve transferred (another textural quality I seek). The distressed quality is random and natural looking, a hard characteristic to introduce to an image intentionally.

This image is part of a series of photographs I did last year with models titled “transits” (you can see more of this work on my website www.cornelisarts.com). I combined movement of the camera with movement of the models and various exposure settings in an attempt to introduce an ethereal quality to the images.

This transfer was created by printing the image out on smooth watercolor paper and making a xerox copy of the print. I coated the xerox copy with gel matte medium, turned it image side down and applied it to another watercolor paper, applying enough pressure to transfer the image. After letting the gel dry completely I rubbed off the paper from the xerox copy with wet fingers.

This image is entitled “coy” and the introspective character of it is supported by the ephemeral quality of the transfer technique, I think.

I’m taking a workshop on various image transfer techniques next weekend (there are lots of ways to do it!), so hopefully I’ll be posting some different looks next week.