Blowfish and Sycamore Seeds, Part Two

Last week I told you about some vintage paper I'd bought in Pennsylvania and the cool history I'd learned about it. Today, I'll show you what I printed on all that marvelous paper.

I have a bad habit of losing interest in things as other projects pile up, so I made a point of working quickly on this one, while the paper was still fresh on my mind. While making some new cyanotypes at the studio, I tested out the paper with a drypoint I had on hand. Once I knew the paper would work with intaglio printing, I decided to make a new plate that would fit the scale of the paper better.

I've recently been revisiting some of my old sketchbooks, which is a novel development in my artistic practice. Normally I prefer working in the present rather than revisit old drawings, but as I've been learning cyanotypes and other new processes, I've found that I've begun resolving compositional and conceptual questions I couldn't reconcile when I first created these drawings, so I decided to revisit one of these old drawings and see if I could take it to a finished print. After perusing a few different pages, I settled on a sketch I did of my preserved blowfish with some sycamore seeds and colored yarn. I liked the visual dialogue going on between the positive and negative spaces within the composition, and also thought lines of the yarn introduced an intriguing abstract quality.

I did quite a few of these drawings back in late 2014, but with the exception of one copper drypoint from 2015, I've done little with them as a while beyond preparatory studies.

I started by doing some scale studies, as I needed to shrink down the drawing to a smaller size for it to fit on the page. As I worked, used a simplified version of the Golden Mean to modify and enhance the drawing's sense of balance. Once I deemed the drawing sufficient, I drew the primary outlines on tracing paper, which then became my guide for the transference to Plexiglas. Once the basic outlines were in place, I elaborated them with details.

The next day, I went down to the Museum to print my plates. I divided up my papers into four groups based on the relative thickness of the papers. I then printed them in groups of four, eventually printing sixteen images. One of them became torn in the process, so that became a proof for a total edition of fifteen.

I already knew that the paper would handle the intaglio process, but I was still pleasantly surprised with the quality I was able to achieve. The paper was able to retain all of the detail of the plate without getting too light or smeared with ink. While I varied to plate tone for each work, I still deemed all of the prints to be clear, successful impressions.

What I liked about the original drawing was the juxtaposition between linework and color, so that night I used watercolor pencils to reintroduce that sense of color to the print. I varied the color scheme slightly between each print, resulting in an edition of unique impressions.

I have to say, I really enjoyed working with this paper. I not only loved the printing quality of the paper itself, but all the little signifiers of its history. The little holes where thread had once bound the pages together, the remnants of gilding along the edges, the text on the title page, all these things revealed the papers' previous history as book pages, and I loved being able to retain these details within the final works. It's both an act of preservation and transformation, with an old object gaining a new function as a work of art.

But why the blowfish? I've done countless sketches and studies since coming to Roswell, so why did I select that one?

Stay tuned for the final chapter on this project...