Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Goatman Trials

_Artist Susan Shulman in my CT studio with her trial proofs of Goatman._

("And what was Goatman on trial for?"... quipped our mutual Facebook friend, artist Mara Thompson.)
Goatman is a reoccurring character in the online exquisite corpse blog Analogue Narratives in which several artists take on the task of providing an ending to Rene Daumal's unfinished novel, Mt. Analogue.

An artist I often collaborate with, Susan Shulman, visited the studio this past week to work with the press and solarplates to transform her oil stick sketch Goatman into a print.

The original oilstick on paper, 8" x12" Goatman ©Susan Shulman

Unlike painting, printmaking labors are not immediately visible; visual feedback takes time and it's tempered by experience with the print medium. We can't just scrape off paint or paint over what we don't like.  We can easily be sent back to square one at any step.  

Moving from an idea to a final print edition is filled with discovery.  We struggle to control the many steps and processes of the printmaking to obtain that idealized vision in our minds eye.  The first place we get to see some results of that struggle is in the trial proof stage.

 Various transparencies, solarplates and trial proofs

Solarplate is a light sensitized polymer on a thin steel backing. It's an eco-friendly method of etching that doesn't use traditional acids grounds and related solvents.  Plates can be worked on directly or transferred from clear acetate.  The plates are exposed to UV light either from the sun or a lightbox and then washed in tapwater revealing a graduation of light pitting on the surface that holds ink.  For this print we also used an aquatint screen to help fully develop the tone variation.

UV Lightbox with a relief plate (left) and an intaglio plate (right)

Solarplate showing the pitting that holds the ink in intaglio.

The series of transparencies used in the print. left to right - yellow, red, blue, green and black

Washout of an exposed Solarplate.

Susan inks the black plate.

Checking the blue.

Comparing trial proofs

We didn't like the way the red was printing so we ended up burning a relief plate.  In the photo above we are comparing the results.   The decision to change to relief provided texture to the print which served to make it really pop.

Final trial proof (almost - because we should bump up the blues)

Goatman will need to be editioned on Susan's next visit but most of the trials are complete.  And for the question of what was Goatman accused of?  Probably compulsive attention to detail and excessive use of ink.
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