Sunday, January 25, 2015

Master Cheng's Catalog of Ink Cakes

In light of Hand Papermaking's issue on China, it seemed appropriate to share these now. So sorry for the crappy phone photos, but I couldn't help but be captivated by these historic ink catalogs! I came across them on the closing day of the Berkeley Art Museum's old building. I find it fascinating how something used to sell art materials becomes a relic and art work on its own. I wonder if the ink-makers ever envisioned that.

Click on the images for a larger picture.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Artists' Advice, A Compilation

During 2014, I started an information gathering process to better my survival as an artist. I've been fortunate to receive a few grants over the past couple of years, but I've also gotten plenty of rejections, like everyone does. Since I'm also the breadwinner for my family, I started thinking about financial planning, networking, and how to move on to more comfortable living.

Most of this advice is US-based, if any international readers, or other readers, have suggestions, I welcome them!


Ask Polly: How Do I Make A Living As An Artist?

Molly Crabapple's 15 Rules for Creative Success in An Internet Age

Sustaining a Lifelong Creative Career

Work-Life Balance


Planned Parenthood - because sometimes you need to get your bits checked.

How to locate low-cost mental health care in the US and Canada - by the ever-wise Captain Awkward, because sometimes you need to talk to someone.

What is a health insurance subsidy and do I qualify?


How to Brazenly Ask for Favors to Boost Your Career - by Jen Dzuira

Bullish Life - also by Jen Dzuira. Not targeted towards artists, but a good deal of it can be applied to managing an artist's career.

Financial Planning:

A Beginner's Guide to Repaying Student Loans

Hourly Wage or Project Fee - from Freelancer's Union.

Artists U - free downloadable ebook about making your life as an artist by Andrew Simonet. Includes advice on developing a budget and financial goals.

Dealing with a Fluctuating Income - by Christina Empodocles

Sm*Artly - Christina Empodocles' blog on financial planning for artists.

WAGE Fee Calculator

Career Advice

Should I Work for Free?

Standard Deviation: Should I Work for Free? (PDF)

The Artists' Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement (PDF)

To Exhibit or Not To Exhibit: A Decision Table

Freelancer's Union

Tips and Tools for Artists: What are Award Panelists Looking for?

Kickstarter School

Kristina Wong: "What lengths of self-humiliation am I willing to go through to meet my Kickstarter goal?"

Advice from a Juror

Copyright for Collage Artists
- specific to collage, but also a great overview of copyright law and common myths.

Ask a Manager - again, not targeted toward artists, but a source of information that can be used.

Tales from the Public Domain - Free PDF on the public domain told in comic book form, from Duke University's Center for Study of the Public Domain.

Intellectual Property and the Arts - from the College Arts Association

Fair Use or Infringement? - from the Graphic Arts Guild

Arts and Labor

Grant Space

Grants and other funding for individual artists

As a final note, I thought I'd include links to three artists' projects who have made selling their work an integral part of their studio practice:

Imin Yeh - BenJams

Lisa Anne Auerbach - Days of the Week Clothing

Andrea Zittel

Friday, January 16, 2015

Opening of Material Print Machine

Back in the rush to finish Future Tense, I did take an evening to pop over to the opening for Material Print Machine, the community run print studio at Omni Commons.

I'm just going to confess that I love print shops,(obviously), but there's something so sincere and powerful about a startup print shop, where the machines are all gathered from older shops and peoples' garages and Craigslist and other random places, and they all have some weird little caveats to make it all work, but dammit they don't let that stop them.

Above is their working 219 proof press, and that evening they were showing people how to run a piece of paper through it. They also had a little tabletop clamshell (pictured below) as well as standing C&P that needs some parts before it can get going - so if any readers can help out, please contact them.

They also had this offset machine that Grendl is helping them get going. Just seeing it made me miss Mandy and wish she could be there.

Here's to Material Print Machine!

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Living with Endangered Languages" at Root Division

2014 closed with a whirlwind, with the completion of Future Tense! Which is currently part of Living with Endangered Languages in the Information Age at Root Division, until January 31.

The opening was this past weekend, here's a bit of a sneak peak. Since I had to exhibit the book under protection, I included a video to show more of the piece.

It was also great to be a part of show with artist friends who I so greatly admire, like Pantea and Ali. (And my nametag would not stick to my dress for anything, which is why I stuck it on my arm).

I didn't get to photograph many of the other pieces in the show, but loved this piece by Irene Carvajal.

Future Tense will be debuted to the book arts community next month at the Codex International Book Fair.

Finally, a midst all this craziness, my studio was just featured on Hyperallergic!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bokashi Pulp Painting

Pulp painting and stencils are becoming contributors to how I make images, particularly the artist book I've been working on for the past few years, Future Tense (which is almost finished!) While making the final sheet of handmade paper for the book, I used a technique I called bokashi pulp painting.

Bokashi is a actually a term for a technique in moku hanga, known in the US sometimes as Japanese woodblock printmaking. It means a gradation of color. In homage to this technique, I have appropriated this term for a similar effect.

To achieve this effect, pulp paint is suspended in a vat of water. I don't use any formation aid for this, and I'm not sure that it would actually be helpful. The mold - without the deckle, is then dipped at a angle so that the pulp paint slides up the mold. The mold is not fully immersed, some sections remain above the surface of the water. You can see the pulp collected on the mold above.

Being pulp paint, the fibers collected in a bokashi pull are to fine to have their own integrity as paper, so they must be couched on top of base sheet - see above. Please note that the base sheet was pulled previously to pulling the bokashi pull.

It's difficult to see in the photo above, but the light blue transitions just barely, having slightly more pulp at the bottom of the paper. Also notable is the soft, watery edge of the pulp midway up the paper.

(I can't take credit for inventing this technique - back when I was TA'ing Papermaking at UArts, I remember one of my students, Danae, coming up with it, and just falling in love. So if she ever reads this - thank you!)

To contrast this delicacy, part of the print has a hard edge stencil. Below, the mold with the stencil on, and the remaining pulp after carefully peeling the stencil off.

For stencil sheets, I use foam sheets like these. Some artists use dendril or a thin vinyl material, I prefer the sturdiness of these. They also hold up great for re-use.

Below, the stencil couched on top of the bokashi pull.

The imagery didn't stop there - I continue to print on these paper. Here, after three layers of ink - two more to go! (Soooo close to finishing this book!)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lucy Lippard at Mills

Sorry for such a crappy phone photo, but it was a dark auditorium. In case you didn't get it from the title of this post, I saw Lucy Lippard speak at Mills College last week. She was there to promote her new book, Undermining, and her talk gave a synopsis of the book.

In truth, as much as I admire her, I felt her talk was fairly cursory, and basically covered the same ideas that those such as myself - who fit into center of the Venn diagram of artists, environmental issues, and activists - have debated and explored and focused on for the past ten years. However, I am still thinking about her talk, so I guess it stayed with me.

I took some notes, although she read her talk at a fairly quick pace and I didn't always get everything. Much of what she said that I found interesting was when she quoted someone else, and I didn't always catch who was the source.

What I came away with:

1) Her new book, which she describes as "an extended essay with parallel narratives," focuses on the gravel pit as a metaphor as an antithesis of the city, the lowest level of the landscape, and an example of what humans are doing to the planet.

2) Pueblo Indians farm with gravel mulch to preserve water. (Just thought this fact was cool).

3) On the global margins, emptiness and negative space are more important.

4) "All art is agriculture, not industry" - Carl Andre. Artists like him focused on absence and the dematerialized rather than object.

5) Land Art for Lippard is now, as she stated, "in the rear view mirror." Now she has turned her focus to things like Land Use and Land Appropriation, and the longer she lives in the West, the more she is drawn to the peripherals, the sideshows.

6) Earthworks take their power from distance - from cities, people, and are often instruments for seeing rather than being seen.

7) Remember that places like Trinity and the Nevada Test Sites were the original Ground Zeros.

8) She discussed how photography can be a form of activism by documenting destruction and degradation, and debated when photographers capture images of such, does the beauty they create allow people to look longer at such destruction, or does it hinder the cause by making it beautiful?

9) EcoArt is a response to the destructive tendencies of Land Art, and coincidentally, has more women involved than Land Art did.

10) "It is easier to conceive of the end of the world than the end of capitalism" - didn't get who said this, but it's sooooo true.

11) "Art may not change the world, but it can be a worthy ally to those trying." - Lippard

12) "The Activist is the artist's ashes, artists rise from the ashes of obsolete art."

13) "An artist who is not an activist is a dead artist." - Ai Wei Wei, although Lippard doesn't agree that all artists are activists. Yet she feels that in this global age, everyone needs to be activist of some sort.

14) Lippard has never been to Burning Man, although she's been told that the Rainbow Gatherings are really where it's at. (But hasn't been to one of those either).

15) When asked by a student if this was a call to arms, and if so, what should be done, her response was, "I'm 78 years old. I shouldn't be telling artists what to do. You've got to rise up and do your own."

16) Social ecology and the importance of the local are necessary involvements for artists and activists.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why printmaking?

What drew me to printmaking was my passion for mark making. The four main traditions – relief, lithography, serigraphy, and intaglio – offer exponentially more methods to make marks than I can by simple drawing. As someone who frequently mixes processes in the same image, I chose the process best for making the mark I want.

As I grew, printmaking became more a meditation and a narrative to me. At the impetus, the process – carving wood, rolling up stones or blocks, scraping and burnishing plates, grinding stones, pulling screens physically and fully absorbs me in the present. The repetition of the multiple is also a part of this.

Printmaking engages my narrative content – the subject matter becomes intertwined with the story of the processes engaged, so much that I am often unable to say which was the original inspiration for how the piece came about.

At times, students and administrators ask me why printmaking should continue to be included in curricula. Unlike more commonly recognized art forms such as painting or drawing, printmaking engages a student in a directed process. By engaging in this process, a student observes how they think and learn. By its very nature, printmaking engages metacognition.

As printmaking often takes place in a community setting, i.e., the shared space of a printshop, social interaction is a natural part of the learning process. Often, as educators, we forget that humans are social animals, and that communal engagement enhances learning. In my experience, I have witnessed numerous students make great conceptual leaps due to peer interaction in the printshop.

Since movable type was invented in China, printmaking has an interrelationship with history of communication and the exchange of ideas. When this inheritance is united with metacognition, the study of printmaking reveals insights into the human condition.