Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Framing Your Art Print

When I was in my thirties, I worked as a framer in an art shop.  I learned a lot about the proper materials to use if you want an art print to last for many years with the least amount of aging as possible.  By aging I mean fading and yellowing, or in damp climates, getting mold. 

The paper a print is printed on is important.  For longevity, you want an art print to be printed on 100% cotton paper, also called acid free or rag paper.  Acid is what causes a paper to yellow and age.  Almost all of my prints are printed on Stonehenge, a beautiful thick acid free printing paper.  Any other paper I have printed on is also acid free.  I am very aware and do not want my paper to looked aged.


"Mandala"

There are a few things to consider when making your choices for framing.  For works on paper, glass is a must to keep a piece clean and scratch free.  

Here are your choices of glass:

1. Regular glass is clear and inexpensive.  It is what you find if you buy a ready made frame.  The good thing about regular glass is it is clear and shows an artwork beautifully.  The downside is that it shows light reflection if your art is across from a window or near a light.  It is also not UV protective, meaning your artwork will fade over years.


"Cat Nap'" with regular glass

2. Non-glare glass has a sort of frosted look to the glass,  It does cut down glare and light reflection, but it also takes away from the color and clarity of an artwork.  It is also more expensive than regular glass, and is also not UV protective.

3. The highest quality of picture framing glass available is conservation or museum glass.  It protects artwork the best from fading because it is generally 99% UV protective.  There are a few different types of conservation glass available, but in general, this glass is the most expensive, because of it's UV protective qualities.  

4. And then there is plexiglass.  Plexiglass or acrylic is lightweight and shatter proof, two good qualities, but it scratches easily.  You need to use a cleaner specifically for plastics and a soft cloth to clean it.  You can find UV protective plexiglass as well as regular plexiglass.  Personally, I do not like using plexiglass, but it is better for shipping artwork because it is lightweight and shatter resistant.


Mat or no mat?

If you live in a dry climate or the your home or room where you are going to hang your art is dry, not damp, you can "float" the art print on a larger piece of mat board backing, and have the print up against the glass.  "Floating" means taping the art print with acid free framing tape, onto a mat board that is larger in size than the print, leaving a border of mat board showing around the print image. I like to frame like this if possible because I love showing the papers ruffly edge, called a deckle.  I would recommend using acid free mat board that you can buy at a frame shop if you want to protect the art from aging.  Acid free mat boards come in lots of colors as well as shades of white.



"Center of the Universe," floated on a mat background.

If the climate or the room where you are going to hang your new print is damp, I would recommend having a mat cut.  The mat keeps the artwork off of the glass, which helps protect it from any moisture that might get inside the frame.  Acid free mat board is best to use because it will help keep your artwork from turning yellow and aging.


"Stretch" with a cut mat border.

Framing choice?

That is really up to you. Metal or wood is a personal choice.  Neither is better than the other in terms of protecting the art.  I am really boring when it comes to framing.  Because I also ran an art gallery for ten years, I prefer a very clean simple look; white or off white acid free mat board and a black frame. I choose black frames because almost all of my prints have black in them.


Where should I hang my new artwork?


"Nestled in My Heart"


If you would like to have your artwork looking it's best for many years to come, the best conditions for art on paper are a dry, warm environment, and not exposed to direct sunlight or indoor light.  So do not hang you art piece across from a window, or next or a lamp or bright light.  And if you choose acid free framing materials, you are doing the best you can to preserve you artwork.



I hope this is helpful information for you.  If you have any questions, please send me an email at maryann@maryanntestagrossa.com and I would be happy to answer it.  


Sunday, February 20, 2022

Linocut Tools - Linocut Plates

I thought I would share with you my experience with the various tools I have tried since I started linocut printing five years ago, in an effort to help you, if you are also interested, in giving linocut printing a try.     I'm going to do separate blog posts for inks, papers, other tools, etc., this way you can decide what you would like to read about.

The material you carve your design into is called a block or plate.  I have used 6 materials and they all have pros and cons.  Here is my take:

I started out with Speedball Speedy Carve - this is the pink, soft, eraser like block  It is soft and easy to carve.  And if you want to make a multi color "puzzle" type of print, this cuts apart easily with an Xacto knife.  It's a good block to start with to see if you like this art form.  The one down side I see to this carving material is it is difficult to get fine line detail.  


Then I tried Essdee's White Soft Carving Block and Soft-Kut Printing Blocks.  I wanted to see if I would like these soft blocks better.  The Soft-Kut does come in sizes up to 12"x18." It is 1/4" thick and you can cut on both sides, giving you two carving surfaces.  It made for water based inks. Solvents will ruin the block.

Both blocks have characteristics very similar to the Speedball block.  Easy to carve and they cut apart easily, but they are difficult to get fine details in your line work.

Gray battleship linoleum is my favorite, and Golden Linoleum, which is very similar to the gray, just a tad bit softer.  You can get really fine detail, and the carved lino pieces just seem to snap off the block.  If it seems hard to cut, you can warm it by holding it next to a heater, which will soften the linoleum.  

I have found, when it is cold and damp in the winter where I live, that it is hard to keep the linoleum flat.  That makes it difficult to ink the lino before taking a print.  And if you want to do a multi color block using the puzzle method, of carving the block apart for separate colors, like I do, because the pieces bend, you cannot get them to fit well together to print.  


Another block material that I have found that works really well at staying flat is the Gombuchan, or Japanese Vinyl (green block).  This is also a favorite of mine.  It carves, inks and prints well.  The only down side to this material is that because it is vinyl, the carvings do not just snap off as you carve, you have to cut them off.  It slows the carving a bit, but because of all the positives to the block, I still really like it.


Where to find Printmaking Supplies:

In the US:

Dick Blick.com This is where I find MOST of my printing supplies.

Amazon.com

Jerrysartarama.com

Cheapjoes.com

Utrechtart.com

Possibly Michaels, Walmart and Etsy

In the UK:

Jacksonsart.com

Lawrence.co.uk

Greatart.co.uk




Saturday, September 25, 2021

On Creative Block - Too Many Ideas

What is the opposite of feeling stuck because of having a lack of ideas and direction?  For me, it's having TOO MANY ideas.  This is how I was feeling this morning.  

I probably spend about half an hour a day, maybe a little more, perusing social media.  I LOVE looking at other artist's artwork. Most times it inspires, but sometimes, I get way overwhelmed.  

From years of being a creative person, I know when I am feeling inspired.  It's like this bright spark or sense of glee that I feel inside, and it let's me know, I want to go play.  But sometimes too many creative practices inspire me and I get overwhelmed.  I want to try them all!  And then I just feel stuck, not sure what direction to move forward towards.  Have you ever felt this way?  

Currently, I am making linocut prints and mono prints of foilage with a gelli press, and collaging artwork incorporating both of these printing methods, as well as creating collage fodder with different methods of using acrylic paint.  I love all of these creative mediums, but I am also attracted to painting, mainly loose, flowing, colorful, abstract painting, AND other types of printing such as silk screening and cyanotype.  I also like beaded jewelry and macrame, and... the list goes on and on. 


For me the answer to dealing with this stuck feeling, first off, is to get off social media.  It is a great tool in many ways.  It helps me stay in touch with people like you, my followers and fans, and I love that.  I have met so many wonderful people from across the globe that I couldn't have otherwise.  But when I start feeling that uncomfortable feeling of overwhelm, it is time to put the ipad down, and do something else. 


Getting outside is quite often the remedy for me, being in nature, taking a walk.  Even better is taking a walk with a friend.  And if your friend is also an artist, talking about the overwhelm and getting another perspective is always helpful.  Or write about how you are feeling.  Writing is a good way to move stuck, blocked energy.  Why, that is what I am doing right now.  I love to write and share ideas.  One last idea is to just start creating something.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  Make it something small.  Make something loose and free.  Just start something.  Play with a new medium.  Draw, sculpt, play music.  Just get the energy moving.

 


So that's what I am off to do right now.  I'm going to take my own advice and take some time to play.  

See you on the other side :)

 


Monday, September 6, 2021

On Creative Block

Since launching my last body of artwork, my print collages, I have been feeling tired and creatively blocked.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to share about this, but I've been feeling a strong urge to write lately, so I thought I would come clean.  

When I released my collages I felt like I had given birth, and in a sense, I had.  All together there were 13 pieces, all new work in a new direction.  And they were very well received.  So far 11 out of the 13 have sold.  That is both rewarding and encouraging.  And humbling.  I really enjoyed making them, and I can feel more are on the way.  But I also felt empty afterward.  Not in a bad way.  But as if I had released a big part of myself into the Universe, and then I needed to step back, and refill my creative well.  And that is what I am up to now.  

 

Another block to my creativity lately is my mental/ emotional state.  I am someone who has dealt with depression on and off my WHOLE life, or what feels like my whole life.  As far as I can remember, since childhood, it has been my norm.  It runs in my family.  I'm not sure if it is biological or a learned way of looking at life, or a combination of both.  I just know it has impacted my life, and I am dealing with it now.  A second year of living through Covid with no end in sight, the state of the world, politics, it can all be overwhelming at times.  I am Covid weary.  As many of us are.  

I think a lot of time what gets in the way of creativity is fear.  Fear of making the first mark.  Fear of needing and wanting the artwork to be perfect, even before we start it.  I am a perfectionist.  I know this one well.  I feel like I am in a grey area right now.   And there is a bit of this fear getting in my way.  I'm not exactly sure where I want to go with the next piece I want to create.  I have a vague idea.  But my vision is foggy.  

What I have been doing and what I am going to continue to do for now is make fodder for collages.  I would describe "fodder" as mixed media patterned papers that are used as bits of a collage.  They help create visual texture and interest in a collage.  I get a great amount of pleasure from making fodder because I get to use different mediums like acrylic paints, markers, metallics, etc., and the process is free form.  I am not creating a recognizable image, just creating random color and patterns on paper.  The freedom of the process is very fun.  Just loose and creative. 

So as I move myself through my creative block, I thought I would share some of my ideas that may be helpful for you too. 

Tools to move through creative blocks:

1. Take a break from social media.  It's so easy to get into feeling not good enough when you scroll past other's images of their creative expressions and get caught up in comparisons. 

2. Do some journaling.  I love to creative write.  But sometimes I just need to spill out what is bothering me on paper, not to share with anyone.  A way of releasing what is emotionally blocking me.

3. Get out in nature.



4. Read or listen to inspirational books, videos, podcasts.

5. Meditate. Pray.  Give yourself some quiet time to explore your internal world.

6. The book, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, is all about moving past creative blocks.


 

7. Julia Cameron suggests taking yourself out on an "Artist's Date", a time when you take yourself out, on your own, to do something you consider to be fun.  Go to a movie, a museum or gallery, to an art supply store, etc.   This is a way of filling your creative well.

7. Just make a mark.  Just start drawing, painting, whatever you like. 

8. Try a new medium.

9. Listen to music and get your body moving.

10.  Talk to friends, family, other artists for support. 

These are just a few ideas that I can think of right now.  I will add more as I think about them.  If you have any you would like to share, I'd love it if you would leave your ideas in the comments. 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Reminder for Us All - Normal Day



I have had this quote nicely hidden away in one of my many journals, and I thought I would share it today.  

Especially during this time of Covid and our isolation from what we used to know as "normal" life, I thought it might lend a helpful perspective.


It is written by Mary Jean Irion:

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  

Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart.

Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.

Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so.

One day, I shall bury my face in the pillow, or raise my hands to the sky,

and want, more than all the world, your return."

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in Review

For me, the year actually began on December 30th, 2019.  That evening, my husband and I had to bring my eldest cat Tiger to the emergency vet because he kept throwing up.  We all ready knew he had IBD, but his vomiting had increased, and his energy was very low.  The next day, New Year's eve, we also had an appointment at his regular vet, where he had some testing done, and we got some medicine to take home.  That night, I got a 24 hour flu.  I rarely get sick, and this knocked me on my butt. 


The results to Tiger's tests hinted that he might have cancer.  Tiger was sick during January and February, and we thought we were going to loose him.  Then he made a miraculous recovery in March and April, due to a new supplement I had found for him, gel potassium  that helped reinvigorate his appetite and his energy.  His cancer got the best of him, though, in May, and he passed away on May 15th.  His passing really colored my year with sadness.  I still miss him everyday.  

January 1st I was to start a new job, hanging my first show as gallery manager in a local restaurant.  Though it had to wait a day because of my flu, we hung the show on the 2nd, and all was a success.  That job as gallery manager lasted three months before Covid came along, and then hanging art and hosting openings just didn't seem like a good idea anymore.  

In January, I did get to hang a show of my work at a local business.  It was fairly large, and I exhibited my linocut prints, and some large watercolors I had left from my painting days.  




In July, I helped facilitate, through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), teaching 12 local artists about the business side of being an artist. We held weekly workshops, one night a week, teaching: marketing, branding, social media, presenting artwork to galleries, vendor fairs, and many more topics.  The workshops lasted 2 1/2 months, and it was a wonderful experience on so many levels. 

2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration.  My husband and I had our 20th wedding anniversary in August, and I turned 60 in October.  The original plan was a BIG vacation to Hawaii, one of my favorite places on the planet.  We didn't want to take the risk with Covid, so that did not happen. 


This year was the third year in my exploration in printmaking.  Usually I do an art show at the end of the year, a nice way to look back at all I have created in a year's time.  That did not happen this year, so I decided I would share with you what I created from January to December.  Fifteen new and unique images.  With different color editions, 21 new prints.  Not bad for a year of creative work.  









I look forward to my next year of printmaking and sharing with you.  Thank you for reading about my life in 2020.  

May 2021 be a better year for us all.  







Monday, September 28, 2020

Cherish

Because I take LOTS of photos of my work as I make a print, just thought I would share a few here with you.



This is the first block I carved.  Beautiful, isn't it?  Unfortunately, the word "Cherish" needed to be reversed on the block so that when I printed, it would read correctly.  



Here is what the initial block looked like when I test printed it.  Ugh!  I was bummed when I realized what I had done.  But because I really liked the image, I made a plan.  

I knew I wanted this to be a two color print, red and gold.  And I always cut my multi-colored blocks apart like a puzzle so I can ink the different colored parts separately, and then put them back together before I print.  Sooooo...




I decided to cut the mistake block apart and recarve just the heart again, this time, reversing the type.




And then I inked it to test how the block and the type turned out.  Perfect!  




Here I am, doing the actual print in two colors.




I used my new Wood Zilla press to make the printing easier on my hands.




The finished print.  I used Calico Safewash red ink and Cranfield oil based gold ink on thick, Stonehenge paper.  The finished print size is 10"x10."