Summertime! Livin’ is easy!

June is half over already, and the longest day of the year is next week! Believe it or not that means the best part of summer is half over for New England! According to the calendar we have eleven weeks ’til Labor Day but many of those weeks will bring hideous heat and humidity that will make moving more than an inch a day truly awful. Many thanks to whomever invented air conditioning!

Maybe this rant doesn’t seem to make sense on a printmaking site, but weather is actually pretty critical to successful printmaking. Humidity is our enemy. Paper absorbs moisture from the air even while being stored on a shelf or in a drawer. Absorption means paper stretches. When it is run through a press it can stretch even more. Then multiple layer printing becomes a challenge because registration can be way, way off. Sometimes this means cutting new plates to fit the image area as it stretches and shrinks. Leaving a print to dry for a few days then returning to it to put more layers on can be an unwelcome surprise, but it’s not always possible to complete a print all in one day. Printmakers must learn to be patient, flexible and inventive when dealing with this phenomenon.

One possible solution is to “calendar” your paper just before beginning to print. If you have an etching press or lithography press you simply set it up as if you are printing, but without putting down a plate. The tension must be snug in order to pretend the plate and paper and any supportive packing are in place. You must run each sheet of paper you are planning to use that day through the press, then turn each piece end to end and run it through again. This pre-stretches the paper. It seems like extra work but you will be a LOT less frustrated than if you skip this step. Obviously, if you are doing any printing with deliberately dampened paper (intaglio, etc.) then calendaring the paper would be unnecessary.

Now that summer is here I do hope printmaking projects are on your schedule. There are lots of possibilities: workshops and classes, summer camps, continuing education courses, art league offerings, and simply your own home studio… don’t let the summer pass you by before you get into the ink! And if inspiration is a little thin then call an artist or two that you know and get together for a brainstorming session. Often just talking about issues regarding your art making, and any special challenges, with someone of a like mind, will be enough to get you going. I often drag out my old sketchbooks and try to re-purpose or reinvent something that might have worked before, or finally start an idea that has languished in those pages.

There are plenty of gorgeous art magazines at the bookstore newsstand that might also spur your creativity. Maybe what you need is a deadline… so start checking into upcoming shows in your area and set your sights on creating some juror-enticing entries.

Here’s to a productive summer!

Yours in ink,

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