Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Lines Are Drawn

Its sometimes difficult to determine when an etching is complete. In our minds eye we have a picture of what we think it should look like and move toward that picture during production. Sometimes though, unexpected ideas, mistakes or lucky accidents occur which may dramatically change the appearance of a work.

I think the etching is now almost finished or near enough to it. I am quite happy with the shaded areas on the ground surrounding the trees. The tattooed figure walks into the image and away from the computer monitor laying in Shadow in the right foreground.

I have called the work , "The lines are Drawn." The title is an obvious reference to drawing lines on a plate but also a reference to a battle. It is a call to arms for all of the printmakers who are fighting to save the last vestiges of the traditional printmaking from the clutches of digital art. I have nothing against the rise of digital but I do object to the disappearance of traditional forms of art at its expense.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A dialogue with the image

At a cetrain point during the drawing component of the making of an image on an etching plate, the image seems to start asserting itself. It begins to take itself so seriously that an artist may begin to believe that they are having a dialogue with it.

In different works the dialogue starts at different stages. It a bit like having a young baby who communicates very little when it is just born. As time passes it grows and starts to communicate with its parents and those around it. Eventually it grows and matures enough to become an independent being. Etchings for me are a little like that, at some point in their creation they will begin a dialogue with us and we as artists will believe that the visual space that we have created on the etching plate, or drawing (or whatever it is that we make) is as real as is the view we see each morning from our bedroom window. As we continue to work on an image it will become alive in our minds and we will believe in its existence as a living three dimensional entity; (even though we know the two dimensional world is really flat.)
The image of the etching included, is an early state . By this stage the etching is telling me how it believes that I can help to make improvements to it. This first state did not have the tonal richness that I had imagined the image should have, so I re-grounded the plate and added new lines for further etching. This process of re-grounding and re-etching the plate may happen as many as four to six times on the larger plates like this one.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Working on the plate

As with most etching plates this plate evolved very slowly. After taking a series photographs of different views of the mango trees and printing these out in black and white, I began to draw lines through the ground into the plate. As a rule I never begin an etching until at least sixty percent of the ideas have been resolved in my head. This plate was no exception. As I drew, I kept the image of John Martin (depicted in an earlier web log) in the back of my mind. It took some time to position the trees in the foreground correctly so that the path would meander successfully from the front of the picture plane into the centre of the image. After a while I became a little more confident about the overall structure of the elements within the image.

I had originally planned to have a figure walking from the foreground into the picture plane but in the early stages of the image I didn't know what form the figure would take. I did know that I wanted it to have a solitary or lonely feeling to it. In the third week of working I realised that the figure must relate closely to the sentiment of the etching which was of a search or a journey along the path leading into the spiritual world of the image. I then decided that a male figure with a tatoo of part of a William Blake image on his back, would be suitable subject to place on the path.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At last the etching has begun. It's at this early stage of the process that I find to be quite difficult. A copper plate covered in hard ground tends to be quite dark and a lot more difficult to see than a piece of silvery zinc. The Charbonnel ground that I use has a great smell which I am sure is harmful to my health (but of the very best quality).

After I work into the copper plate for a while I begin to understand where I need to take the image and what possibilities it may have. In earlier etching when draw a tree or a cloud on a plate, I have often made use of the lines in ancient drawings or engravings. William Blake is a favourite because he often uses similar lines to render a tree or a figure or a cloud. Many of the figures he uses in some of the Dante's Inferno engravings even resemble rocks or trees.

There are a number of reasons why I want to make reference or acknowlege another artists work through my own. The primary reason is one of a personal dialogue. By including in my own etching something I have found of importance in their work is a way for me to communicate with them historically. Its a way for me to reach back and shake their hand.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Beginning a new etching

Its been quite a while now since I've begun a major etching. I find now as the years roll on that each new work takes longer to begin. I really don't want to add another mindless piece of art to the stockpile of images cluttering up visual space.

Before I begin to work on a landscape based image, I find it important that the idea or the place impresses itself strongly upon me so that I begin to think about it and the possibilities it offers as an image of visual strength historical reference .

I often ride my bike or walk the dog along a path by the Ross river in Townsville. In the course of the journey we pass through a group of old mango trees. By late afternoon as the sun begins to set, the trunks darken and the light traces along the edges of the trees standing a little away from the main group. I have often wanted to make an etching of the trees at this time of the day. They sometimes remind me of a work by John martin from his "Paradise Lost" series of Mezzotints. In the Martin Mezzotint of Adam and Eve being expelled form the garden, the couple flee through a cavern of dark trees illuminated from within. Adam looks toward heaven while covers herself in fear.

I've now taken several photographs of the trees. While I did this, the dog kept trying to drag me back onto the path for her regular walk. In preparation, I have grounded a copper plate with a Charbonnel hard ground, which has a great smell, but is probably very dangerous to my health. I use this brand of hard ground because of its resilience in acid.

I really do not know whether my personal attraction to these old mango trees and the fact that they hold some loose association with John Martin, are a strong enough reason for me to begin destroy such a large piece of copper plate.