Tag Archives: solarplate

Visit with Dan Welden, Developer of Solarplate Etching

Dan Welden visiting Washington Printmakers Gallery

Dan Welden at WPG

On Dec. 3,  eleven WPG members and two guests gathered at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in Georgetown to hear a talk by Dan Welden, the inventor of Solarplate Etching, an innovative and safer alternative to traditional etching and relief printing. Dan was in town to teach a weekend workshop at Pyramid Atlantic–luckily he had time in his schedule to provide us with a private “mini lecture” in Georgetown. Dan gave a fine, generous and informative talk about the new and improved Solarplate product, and showed two portfolios: one a collection of about 20 artists working with Solarplate, and another portfolio of his own work. The works were vibrant and varied. Some prints were extremely photographic and monochrome and others loose, abstract and colorful.

Pauline Jakobsberg's plate

Pauline Jakobsberg’s plate

Two members of WPG, Pauline Jakobsberg and Marion Osher, attended the workshop on Friday and Saturday, which allowed them to become familiar with the new plates and methods. On Friday, Dan demonstrated some techniques such as using a grease pencil on glass, which transfers to a solar plate, and results in an image resembling a lithograph. Saturday the class participated in a “loosening up” exercise on the plate which turned into a beautiful print by the end of the day. Pauline and Marion observed that there are many approaches to using the plates and much more to learn.

Pauline Jakobsberg's print from solarplate

Pauline’s print from solarplate

Dan will be teaching at Provincetown, MA and Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY this summer. For more information about solarplate intaglio, please visit: www.solarplate.com

Dan has also offered WPG members a show in Long Island along with preparation for a portfolio for which he could give assistance in plate developing and printing in his nearby studio. We look forward to this exciting opportunity!


Printmaking 101: Direct-Etching Charcoal Drawings onto Solarplates

“Arabesque” by Matina Marki Tillman

While constantly experimenting with different drawing techniques on transparent media for solarplate etchings, Matina Marki Tillman recently re-visited one of her favorites — charcoal. During the ongoing process, she made some observations that she would like to share with others who might be interested in trying this. It looks like the smooth gradation of a charcoal drawing, the richness of values, or even the intensity of a chiaroscuro are possible to be etched directly onto solarplates. An early attempt, “Arabesque,” shows an example of this process.

The first step is to create the original drawing directly onto transparent media, like any other drawing intended for a solarplate. Matina has so far mainly been using vellum, which has some tooth that can hold the charcoal and also tolerates the necessary erasing when this is used as one of the tools together with charcoal sticks and pencils. Keep in mind, though, that vellum is not a heavy weight drawing paper; it can be scratched or folded, so care has to be taken. The drawing needs to be checked at various stages during the process on a light box. As Matina likes to often quote, “what you see is not necessarily what you get,” and that’s a good application. Etching times will have to balance both views of the drawing: what is seen by eye with the drawing placed on an opaque white background, and what is shown through the drawing when it is placed on top of a light box or held up to ambient light.

Now for etching under the sun (or any UV light source), the plate has to be prepared to hold the rich black tones in the drawing, so the usual aquatint screen exposure is done first. After this, a friend, colleague, or assistant may be useful in helping to carefully handle the finished drawing, and to position it on the solarplate to avoid smudging. Unlike other drawings, some of the charcoal powder can be lost each time the drawing contacts the plate. Therefore, it is advisable to limit the number of test exposures typically done in order to find the proper etching time. One (admittedly somewhat time-consuming) solution to this is to do small studies of portions of the drawing on another piece of vellum, which allows for experimentation without using the original. Talc powder (applied to the plate with a soft brush) has also been tried to reduce sticking, so that the artwork releases from the solarplate without losing as much charcoal.

“Unlocker” by Matina Marki Tillman

When proofing or printing, vine black ink is a logical choice to capture the essence of the charcoal drawing. Matina has observed so far that this particular technique creates strong prints. The velvety richness and depth of the darker parts of the print, together with all of the in-between tonality and the often ethereal lighter areas, could ask for other blacks or gray-based mixtures if you’re after the traditional charcoal feeling. Of course, different moods can always be achieved using other colors, for example, seen in one of the variations of “Unlocker,” which was actually printed with an indigo mixture. In any case, this technique so far has been fun and encouraging enough for Matina to share her experiences, and suggest it to others interested in combining elements of both charcoal drawing and printmaking.

Artist Update: Matina Marki Tillman

Opening Reception of the 101 Annual National Juried Competition, Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts

Artist member Matina Marki Tillman has recently participated in two national juried exhibitions outside of the Washington D.C. area. The first was held at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lynchburg, Virginia from April 6th to the 30th. The second was the 101st Annual National Juried Exhibition of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, which was held in Mystic, Connecticut from May 25th to July 14th. Both included a wide range of media from sculpture, to paintings, to prints.

“Arabesque” by Matina Marki Tillman, far right.

Matina was present at the opening at the Mystic Arts Center, which was well attended in the beautiful, sky-lit space of the gallery. The photograph above shows a view of the opening, and the second shows one of Matina’s two prints that were included in the show (far right in the photograph). This print, “Arabesque”, introduces one of Matina’s newer experimentations, direct etching of charcoal drawings on solarplates. “Arabesque”, along with other prints using this same technique, will be on display in WPG’s gallery this fall.

Artist Q&A: Terry Svat

Last July WPG artist member Terry Svat brought her unique print collages on canvas to the gallery, and has been busy ever since with new projects. Read on to learn a little bit more about the work she has been doing over the past year, her studio, and her process.

One of Terry's Print Collages

WPG: It’s been almost a year since your solo exhibition “The Unbroken Line: A Cast of Characters” at WPG, which used iconic and archetypal imagery to deal with themes of life, death, and rebirth.  Are you still creating prints in this theme, or has your work shifted?

Svat: After my exhibit in July, there should have been a real let down, but because I had to produce two editions of etchings, one of 75 and one of 20, this didn’t happen. However, when all of that was finished, the let down feeling arrived. All the energy that went into gearing up for the exhibit; exploring ideas, making the prints, getting all prints framed and ready, invitations printed, making price list, final prep-the hanging, reception and the month it is in the gallery.  Then… POOF… nothing.    This is the general path that I take after exhibits. It is okay to be able to unwind, and let yourself go. Time off is healthy.

Now I am back in the grove or at least I feel that I might be in he grove.

Installation shot and print collage by Terry Svat

Installation Shot and Print Collage by Terry Svat

Having found some drawers that were taken from my old kitchen and saved for just this occasion, I began working.  I removed all the nails and knobs, prepped, painted and then set to work thinking of how to cover it.  I made copies of my canvas prints and attached them to the back of the drawer.  (See image, above and to the right)

I found a piece of plexi that I cut to the size of the drawer and I am in the process of etching images of trees from around my neighborhood.  These trees have a peculiar fascination for me since they have been severely pruned due to the overhead electrical wiring.   I think this is still in keeping with the idea of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Hopefully I will be able to print this image on a piece of Mylar and attach it to front of the drawer, which will be about five inches in front of the canvas images.

WPG: A lot of your work is either on or incorporates hand-made paper. What draws you to this material?

I have used hand made paper for many years and for most of that time I made it myself. I still do it the old way using a household blender, my own screens, and felts.

Hand made paper is a real pleasure to work with. I love the look, texture, and overall feel of it. I have found that making my own is even more special for I can alter the size, shape, and color of it to fit the image I am about to print. If you look very closely, you can find maybe one or two pieces of handmade paper in the canvas images from my last exhibit but that was difficult to do because the papers I used needed to be thin.

"Renewal China" by Terry Svat, solarplate etching and hand drawing

I had more luck using hand made paper with the series on Earthquakes. It lent itself to the fragility of the image, the event, and then my process.

WPG: You work a fair amount with solarplate, which is a non-toxic etching process. Have you experimented with other non-toxic printmaking processes, and if so, what have the results been like? You also share a studio with several other printmakers—are all of you moving towards non-toxic printmaking? Why or why not?

Svat: Yes we have an almost toxic free studio. In the 90’s, we found that we were getting coughs, sore throats, skin problems and the like, and had known for some time how toxic all the materials, solvents were that we were using. We finally bit the bullet. We decided to change over. But that presented a problem. We were all etchers using zinc or copper and acids and solvents to clean up.

We discovered Keith Howard’s method of etching without using acid and toxic solvents called ImagOn.  It a photopolymer method of printing using UV light, either sun light or photo floods.    He called it non-toxic intaglio printing. Later on we took a one-day workshop in solar plate etching and now have adopted that as our preferred method of printing. It is a more direct method of printing since the plate ready to use and needs no preparation.

Printmaking 101: Solarplate

I have been noticing a lot more solarplates of late in the gallery, and so have visitors!  My number one question last month was, “What is a solarplate?”

Carolyn's Solarplate of the Wharf in the printeDCircuits portfolio, made from a photographic negative

A solarplate is a photo-sensitive etching process developed by Dan Welden, with whom many WPG artist have studied directly (Rosemary Cooley, for one).  Instead of using acid to etch a plate, a light-sensitive polymer backed by a steel plate is exposed to the sun (or other light source) and then rinsed with water.  Artists use either a photographic negative (like Carolyn Pomponio’s print to the left) or a black and white drawing on acetate or other clear material (like Matina’s print) to make their image.  Anywhere that isn’t exposed (the black parts of the drawing or negative) are washed away and create the traditional etching depressions that hold the ink.

"Foreseen," solarplate etching by Matina Marki Tillman.

As you can see from the two prints, solarplates can look very different!  Drawings, of course, will look different from photographic works, and then if an artist prints it in a special way (using two or more colors, for example) or combines it with other printing techniques (see some of the works by Terry Svat on our website) the possibilities become limitless.  We have two prints hanging in the members show this month that use Solarplate, and many more in the perusal bins.  Come in and see if you can find them!

Artist Q&A: Matina Marki Tillman

Our final “Artist Q&A” for artists featured in our October exhibition, New Faces, New Prints.  Read on to learn more about our 2nd newest artist member, Matina Marki Tillman:

"First Stroke" solarplate etching with hand coloring by Matina Marki Tillman

WPG: The human figure is one of, if not the oldest subject in art, from cave drawings to modern times.  What drew you to this time honored imagery, and how does your work treat it differently than past artists?

TILLMAN:  Yes, the human figure is one of the oldest art subjects in existence, and it’s been recorded, studied, and interpreted extensively.  From the age of 2, I was drawn to the human figure in all forms; I was perceiving the world through figures.  For instance, my grandfather was the perfect rectangle, but from his cave-like eyes, little round things were popping out periodically.  I tried to sketch this – and these pictures were my grandfather.  Although the figure is a dominant element of my work, I’m actually attempting to go well beyond it; what’s happening or about to happen outside the boundaries of the print.  If what I’m feeling – perpetually challenged and amazed by the human subject at hand – is successfully transmitted, it should stimulate the dialogue between the viewer and the print.

I more or less treat my figures like I’m “directing” them in the small theatre that exists within the confines of the plate.  For me, the figure becomes the platform where another human fable begins, ends, or is suspended eternally.  Using as my drivers poetry and observation, and as my tools dramatized facial expressions and positions, and often theatre-like costumes, I try to create figures that can stand anywhere in time and space.  As a matter of fact, they could just live in own their in-between “reality” that shapes them, and gets shaped by their substance as well.  I can’t say for sure how much I differentiate the aspects either of the art world or of the human understanding with my figures – that will be up to the beholder.  I surely hope that I’ll manage to keep “a little corner in the immense ring of the human psyche” – that’s substantial for me.  From there, I’ll be trying over and over again to perceive the world, and share my perceptions, through these endlessly evolving figures.

WPG:  Your work is partly influenced by your studies of Greek medieval and modern literature.  Can we see any of these influences in the art in New Faces, New Prints, or perhaps in other pieces?

"Foreseen," solarplate etching by Matina Marki Tillman.

TILLMAN:  My studies and readings have definitely influenced my work.  In my prints, I meet again figures that I’ve studied and treasured earlier in my life mixed together with ongoing observations:  everyday people, myself, nearby strangers.  Poetry in every form – ancient Greek figures and symbols evolved and transformed within medieval epic poems and folk tales; famous and unknown poets’ and friends’ works; verses on a wall or a napkin – has inspired me to create individual pieces and unities.  For instance, from the Humanography series, “Humanography 2” is entirely inspired by a haunting single verse of poetry from a “cursed” modern Greek poet.   “Scripta II”, adopting the ancient Greek meaning of the word angel, which translates as messenger – he who announces – suggests perhaps a second reading of the graffiti on the wall. “Foreseen” depicts a priestess, or the initiated woman, walking towards us and appearing to be blinded by her own reflection in the moon.  In “Forgotten”, a piece from this same series that’s not in the show, the figure of the woman reappears suggesting, among other interpretations, the lost Byzantium.

WPG:  You recently traveled back to Greece.  Any new inspiration from that trip, or reinforcements of previous ideas?  Will we see this inspiration in future prints?

TILLMAN:  I’m always searching for new subjects or extensions of the old ones when I visit Greece, sometimes even subconsciously.  Having been born and raised in Western Greece, every time that I’m there I revisit my past; the medieval castle near where I grew up; the ancient oracle of Dodoni outside my hometown; the Necromatic oracle with its homeric entrance to the Underworld just an hour away.  I spent my childhood and early adult years around all of these, and much more.  The co-existence of such established elements together with the recent globalization is not an easy experience, yet it remains a strong and continuous inspiration and reinforcement for my artwork.  During this last visit, I mostly focused on elements of the landscape that I hope to incorporate into future prints.  For instance, I recorded some images of unusual organic shapes like tree branches transformed by the Ionian sea.  They struck me as something important, perhaps necessary for new projects.  That gives me the hint that at the right time, this imagery will work its way into some of my new prints.

Artist Q&A: Joan Krash

WPG is pleased to welcome our newest member–Joan Krash, who joined just in time to be part of our New Faces, New Prints exhibition.  Read on to learn about Joan’s art and stop by the gallery to see it in person!

"Sea Anemones" by Joan Krash-Solarplate monoprint

WPG: You cite Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, as a source of inspiration for your prints.  Your artist statement was the first I had heard that term.  Can you tell us a little more about Ikebana and how you found out about it? 

KRASH: Although I was aware of Ikebana a very long time ago, the first opportunity I had to try my hand at it was in 2002.  My daughter wanted Ikebana arrangements at her wedding and discovered the gifted Ikebana artist and teacher, Sheila Advani, who lives in this area. When I saw what Sheila had created, I asked to study with her and have attended her classes and other workshops ever since. Essentially, Ikebana is sculpture that is made from living materials, including flowers, branches, leaves, grasses, etc. It is a traditional Japanese art with roots in Buddhism. It was brought from China to Japan, where it has been nurtured for five to six hundred years.  Today, there are hundreds of different schools in Japan, each with its own set of esthetic principles. The formal elements of line, space, mass and color and their relationships to one another govern the arrangements. Underlying the formal aspects is a response to the natural world – its elements, its seasons and the transient nature of all living things. 

Sogetsu, the style I study, is a young, modern, school. Established in 1927, it is one of a handful of schools known internationally. In Sogetsu, one begins by learning and practicing its set of rules and their variants. Having internalized the esthetics, one is then allowed much freedom to develop a direction of one’s own. In my work as a painter and printmaker, the Ikebana influence is more unconscious than deliberate in determining how I compose any given work. The esthetic principles have become intrinsic to my way of seeing.

"Pond" by Joan Krash - Solarplate monoprint, see a similar print in October's exhibition!

WPG: Your background is mainly in painting, particularly oils and acrylics.  What made you try printmaking?  How is the process similar or different to painting for you?

 KRASH: When I’m in Cape Cod in the summer, I take various workshops at the excellent art schools in Provincetown and Truro. It’s an opportunity to try new things. I started printmaking with an etching class and then went on to collography and monotype. As I became more intrigued with printmaking, I also tried some classes in silk screen at the Corcoran and Montgomery College and participated in woodblock and monotype workshops at Pyramid Atlantic. More recently, I found an artist and teacher in Baltimore whose work I very much admire and who teaches, among other things, the solarplate technique. Her name is Soledad Salame. I have gravitated toward solarplate because it is a relatively nontoxic process and something that I can handle in my home studio.

 As to the similarities with painting, of course the issues of composition are essentially the same. How I get from the initial inspiration to the final piece, however, is a whole different story. In my painting, I usually start with an idea or a set of gestures. Then I have a continuing dialogue with what’s on the canvas. The work develops in a lot of layers, sometimes ending with quite a different composition from the one I started. I like the feeling of depth and the notion that there are significant layers beneath what is first seen on the surface. I try to make prints with a similar painterly quality, which works out most easily in monotypes and a little less easily in monoprints.

 Printmaking, however, requires a totally different process. Playing with photographs or sketching is a way I can develop images in my usual mode, but after that the process differs completely. Having a home studio, I had been used to coming, going, working on several paintings at the same time and taking breaks at will. With printmaking, as you know, you have to be much more organized and to plan every step of the way, to say nothing of the need to develop habits of cleanliness. I like to do new things, so the challenge is welcome, even though I struggle against my own tendencies toward casual work habits. But the rewards can be great and there’s no match in painting for the thrill of lifting a print off a plate and discovering the results of all that precision, care and preparation.

WPG: Many artists are trying to move away from oil-based inks because using them often involves harmful solvents.  You mention using soy-based ink when printing.  How does it compare to the oil-based inks?  Would you recommend it to specific printmakers over others?

KRASH:  So far, in my experience, oil-based inks seem to produce richer blacks and perhaps other colors. But since this summer, in a workshop with Dan Welden (who developed solarplate), I’ve begun using Akua Intaglio inks with exciting results. The inks are soy-based but soluble in soap and water. The interesting thing is that they don’t dissolve in water alone, so you can use dampened paper and you can re-dampen it for further layers. It takes soap or liquid detergent to dissolve the inks. For monotypes, I already had been using the regular Akua colors, which are thinner and not suitable for intaglio. Now that I’ve found these nice, thick soy-based inks, I’m looking forward to doing a lot more with them. I haven’t tried them with other kinds of plates yet, but I can’t see why they wouldn’t work with anything you can wash. I’m still experimenting and looking forward to discovering the limits of these and other safe media.