Outside my comfort zone: Painting

I’m learning to paint with acrylics. “Paint what you observe,” says instructor Marjorie Greene (also a printmaker, but currently teaching painting).

I am finding it very difficult. Intimidating. But I’m also finding it’s more immediate than printmaking. Although I’m more comfortable making prints, painting may come to have its place in my repertoire. 

Elaine Fried showed William De Kooning her work, and he told her to start with still life. (Later he married her.) So let’s start with still life. Marjorie taught us “unit of measure,” a technique that accurately represents proportion on the picture plane. Then she had us “sketch” with paintbrush and shades of grey rather than pencil. That loosened me up!

Even thought my first still life (at left) is a bit labored, it won honorable mention in the Carrollwood Cultural Center Student show. (I think it’s the styrofoam ball that clinched it.)

Now we’re making collages of our subjects and painting from that. See the original subject, the collage, and the painting, below.

Process talk: Drypoint

Drypoint is an intaglio process, allowing for fine, precise lines through incised lines in a printing plate. Unlike etching, drypoint doesn’t involve any acid to produce the incisions: A drypoint involves scratching the surface of the plate with a pointed tool to create a “burr” that grabs ink. The inked line is then transferred to paper in the usual way (damp paper on plate, run the paper and plate through an etching press). 

The traditional way to ink a drypoint plate is to smear ink onto the plate with a card, then wipe off the excess ink with the same card, and wipe further with a cloth or tissue paper until the ink shows only in the lines themselves. With each wipe, the line becomes clearer. Any ink left outside the lines is called “plate tone”.

I once eschewed plate tone, seeking a clean, crisp line like a drawing. But after a class with Susan Rostow, I learned that plate tone can actually enhance the lines, and add depth to an image. She taught me how to wipe lightly, leaving ink on the plate with expressive marks left by the cloth. 

Playing with this, I tried brushing on the ink, and found I could apply and wipe at the same time. This allowed me to ink up the lines and create expressive, sweepy marks to enhance the drypoint lines, adding atmosphere to the image.

Here’s a comparison of the two processes – traditional inking vs. brushed inking.

The full image of the brush-inked print can be viewed here.