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The Gift

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.

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Randy Williams

Randy Williams (left), a teacher and artist, giving a tour in this picture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I studied with him a while back from 2002-2004. He is a hero of mine.
Randy Williams (left), a teacher and artist, giving a tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I studied with him a while back from 2002-2004. He is a hero of mine.
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In Loving Memory of Sappho

Sappho, seen here in the Valley of the Butterflies, Paros, Greece
Sappho, seen here in the Valley of the Butterflies, Paros, Greece
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The States of an Etching

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). ThisĀ  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.

State 1: This plate was etched twice. The first set of lines were made in the acid after 15 minutes. I washed the plate with water, but did not remove the ground. I then added more lines and returned the plate to the acid for 15 more minutes. The initial lines therefore were etched for twice as
State 1: This plate was etched twice. The first set of lines were made in the acid after 15 minutes. I washed the plate with water but did not remove the ground. I then added more lines and returned the plate to the acid for 15 more minutes. The initial lines therefore were etched for twice as long as the second.
State 2: I simply worked on the print with graphite to have a better sense of where I wanted to take it next.
State 2: I simply worked on the print with graphite to have a better sense of where I wanted to take it next.
State 3: This print was pulled after etching an aquatint. After applying Liquid Asphaltum to places that I did not want to be etched, I put the plate in a Rosin Box. Drops of an acid resist settled on my plate and after 8 minutes I took it out of the box, melted the drops over a hot plate and let it cool. I then put the plate in the acid for 20 seconds, washed the acid off quickly and applied more liquid asphaltum. This time, I put the liquid asphaltum over what now looks like the slightly lighter leaves. I let the background be etched for 20 more seconds, creating an even darker tone.
State 3: This print was pulled after etching an aquatint. After applying Liquid Asphaltum to places that I did not want to be etched, I put the plate in a Rosin Box. Drops of an acid resist settled on my plate and after 8 minutes I took it out of the box, melted the drops over a hot plate and let it cool. I then put the plate in the acid for 20 seconds, washed the acid off quickly and applied more liquid asphaltum. This time, I put the liquid asphaltum over what now looks like the slightly lighter leaves. I let the background be etched for 20 more seconds, creating an even darker tone.
State 4: This plate has a few changes made on it. I removed some of the aquatint with a burnishing tool and steel wool to break up the evenness of the tone and achieve a sense of light. I also etched stippled points to have a greater variety of marks.
State 4: This plate has a few changes made on it. I removed some of the aquatint with a burnishing tool and steel wool to break up the evenness of the tone and achieve a sense of light. I also etched stippled points to have a greater variety of marks.
State 5: This print is the same as the last, only it was made with dark brown ink instead of black ink. The resulting print is a bit warmer than the previous.
State 5: This print is the same as the last, only it was made with dark brown ink instead of black ink. The result is a bit warmer than the previous.
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Visual Research

Here is a study of the proportions of a male human body that is translated into an etching and printed on Hahnemuhle paper.

ResearchResearchPrint

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Still Life against Wall

StillLifeAgainstWall

Against wall

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Figures

These drawings are from an Artistic Anatomy class with Brendon Soloff at the Art Students League.

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An Unorthodox Grand Tour

DSC_4107DSC_4108DSC_4113DSC_4110DSC_4114Of 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.

Paris
Paris

DSC_4121DSC_4122DSC_4123

The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees
Toulouse
Toulouse
Madrid
Madrid

DSC_4133

Granada
Granada

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Barcelona
Barcelona

DSC_4149DSC_4154

Marseille
Marseille

DSC_4156

Cinque Terra
Cinque Terra
Pisa
Pisa
Florence
Florence

DSC_4166DSC_4168DSC_4170

Sicily
Sicily

DSC_4173

Matera
Matera
Corfu
Corfu

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Naplion
Naplion

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Venice
Venice
Budapest
Budapest
Shiele, Samantha
Shiele, Samantha
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Antwerp
Antwerp

DSC_4212

The Louvre
The Louvre
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Bottle, Pear and Scissors

Still Life with Reflection
Still Life with Reflection
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Evolution of Figure with Pole

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,

Day 1
Day 1
Day 2
Day 2
Day 3
Day 3
Day 4
Day 4

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.