This is an excerpt from Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift:
The initial gift is what is bestowed upon the self- by perception, experience, intuition, imagination, a dream, a vision or by another work of art…The ability to do the labor is the second gift…Men or women of talent must work to perfect their gifts, of course; no one is exempt from the long hours of practice…The artist makes something higher than what he has been given, and this, the finished work, is the third gift, the one offered to the world in general or directed back specifically to the “clan or homeland” of an earlier gift. (pg.248)
Overall, the book is exceptional. Hyde looks at art’s function in society today, by way of the history of gift giving. He posits that art can occupy the market economy as well as what he refers to as the gift giving economy. In seeking this balance, the artist bows to both logos and to eros. If the artist fails to meet market necessities, he or she will starve. If the art-making is driven solely by the market, the resulting product will be a commodity.
The following images are of prints made over the course of developing a plate. I experimented with a variety of markings in an attempt to make a tonally rich print.
While I am not entirely happy with the final state of this plate, I did learn a few lessons that I can apply to future plates. It may not be obvious in these online reproductions but I mistakenly over-etched sections where I wanted to attain my lowest dark (around zone 2 for you Zone System photographers). This resulted in a rather ‘hollow’ grey. Although I imagine this could be used to represent reflected light in shadows, it was not what I was after.
For those of you who are not familiar with etching, it is one of 5 itaglio printmaking processes (dry-point, engraving, aquatint and mezzotint being the others). Intaglio is a form of printmaking that uses a recess, an indentation in a surface, to hold ink. When the plate is run through a press, the ink in the recesses comes out onto paper. Etching actually refers to the use of acid to ‘bite’ into the plate.
The plate has to first be prepared before etching. In my case I used a copper plate. First I beveled the edges of the plate with a file so that it does not cut into the paper. Next the plate has to be polished and thoroughly cleaned with alcohol. Now, it is ready to be covered with a ‘ground’, a wax behaving as a barrier between the plate and the acid. When this barrier hardens, markings can be made (often with an etching tool) to reveal the copper below. Wherever the copper is revealed, the acid will etch into the plate and create a recess.
Here are my experiments. Printmaking is indeed limitless, which for me is both daunting and exciting. Further experiments can be made with etching times, types of marks, tools, papers and so much more. I would say that the most important lesson that I learned is that I simply have to keep working.
Of late, I have been thinking a bit about where I have been and about the road ahead. This has led me to archive sketchbooks I kept in 2006 during a 5 month trip around Europe. On a shoestring budget, I traveled with a partner by train, bus and boat. We started in Paris, and in something of a loop worked our way around the western block, up Eastern Europe and then back to Paris through the north.
The pages I filled do not always follow any chronology. The trip was something of a whirlwind and I guess my recordings are as well.
These are from long poses, that is, drawn from a model who holds the same pose for three hours, for five days. I unfortunately missed the last day, but this is what I made in the time that I had.
It is a different process than quicker poses, one that requires more patients perhaps, but also a more analytical approach. Given this much time,
how does one go about depicting the human body in space? The body becomes a puzzle. For instance, the position, the tilt or rotation, of the ribs has to be justified by communicable landmarks; in the case of the ribs, the 9th rib is often notated as a plane shift and its relationship to other parts of the body can be important leads for the eye to follow.