Thursday, March 25, 2010

Home art studio solutions for small spaces

Here is my print studio in a low ceiling poorly lit basement
I am considering buying and assembling a prefab satellite structure that could be housed in the back yard 

Some of my artist friends are part of studio tours here and in other communities where they live and work. They have been fortunate to have spaces in their homes where they can have people come by and see them working on their art and also have a display of work on the walls for viewing. I have not been so fortunate to date with my own set up.
My partner and I live in a fairly old 1-1/2 story small house (it will be the grand old age of 100 in a couple of years) and since we have lived in it (14 years now) and has been undergoing updating in small increments as time and money will allow.
I have a small number of my art work in frames and hung on walls but they are scattered around the house. Some are not even really accessible to guests for viewing. So I have had to decline invitations to participate in studio tours to date. To be honest I am even embarrassed to have other artists see my printing I avoid showing it at all costs...until now that is (see photo above).
Anyhow I have been seriously thinking of late about trying to find space here at my home where I can  have a prep area to work on designs but also have my printing area close by and a wall or two for gallery, in other words an all in one studio space. At present I have three seperate areas in the home I use. The large pine table in my dining nook (which provides wonderful natural light as it has 2 walls with windows) and is where I create drawings, do my block cutting and engraving, etc... I have another room (office/library) where we have our Dell pc and Epson printer/scanner. This is the room where I do photo editing, scanning of artwork and printing of transparencies.
Finally there is the printing area. This is an area in my basement that has a low ceiling (6 ft of overhead has to duck under the main support beam when they are navigating around). It is a bit dark down here, it is not finished and can be damp in the warmer weather (not so great for an etching press). There is a dehumidifier that helps during the year when the gas furnace isn't running, plus have rigged up several daylight compact flourescent lights around my printing table and press, but....things could be better. Given that my health is getting more fragile as I age (especially with things like air quality and mold, dust allergies) it would be nice to be in a place where I can breath healthy, have natural light to work by and be able to have a work desk in one corner, my press and printing bench in another and also some area with organized shelving for paper, inks and tool storage.
Given that I do not have any other options inside of my home for a proper studio I may have stumbled across a possible solution.
One of these is something that caught me eye by accident while doing a Goggle search on art studios. It is called a Modern Shed. Given that there is a bit of free area in my backyard this just might be the solution I am looking for.
In the third and fourth photos posted below is an interior of one the sheds. I like the angled ceiling idea with the bit of light allowed in at the front at the top in addition to that from the windows. This structure for my own use would definitely have to be insulated given the area of the world where I live and would have to figure out a way to keep it heated in the winter (solar, small gas fireplace or wood burning stove?) and have a source of electricity (solar panel mounted on top or nearby perhaps or something immediate such as running an extension cable from my house plugged into an outside outlet?).
As an artist/printmaker who uses a lot of water soluble or water based mediums (enviro friendly non- toxic thankfully) I would most likely have to construct some form of washing up area (perhaps an acrylic laundry tub that could drain into a pail underneath). I really don't want to have to worry about complicated plumbing installation so I would try and devise a practical solution for this.
Then there would be security. Maybe an alarm system that could be powered off the solar battery? Luckily I have good neighbours close by who also are around a good deal of the time so that helps.

I also did a bit of Goggle searches and found other small structures (some prefab) which might work too.

This is an interior shot of a structure made by a company called Modern Cabana

and a company here in Canada manufacture perfab spaces such as this little beauty

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adventures with Monotypes

I have been a little under the weather the past couple of weeks battling a rather nasty virus which had me finally resort to getting a prescription for an antibiotic. Although I prefer to treat ailments using homeopathy or naturopathic medicine, in this case neither was really helping to defeat this virus so hopefully the prescription will do the job?
Needless to say my energy level has been running at about 50% and also suffering with sore achy body. However have managed to at least create something that doesn't require a great amount of physical labour (as say carving a lino surface). I was able to achieve a couple of studies created using a type of printmaking that produces a one off image.

Below are two examples of painterly printmaking. Both are Monotypes.

The first pictured above was created by first sanding the surface on one side of a piece of thin plexiglass plate lightly using a fine grit sanding sponge. I then coated this surface with a thin layer of diluted dishsoap solution and allowed it to dry. Then applied pure watercolour pigment straight out of a tube using brush. You can also use water colour crayons or pencils.
This was allowed to dry. Using masking tape I hinged a piece of Masa paper to the edge of a an equal size piece of paper (the registration sheet) and then centered the plate and drew a pencil line around the edges to mark it's position. A fine mist of water was sprayed over the paper and then I folded it over to cover the plate. The moisture on the paper will reactivate the watercolour pigment which will probably have dried before being printed. Using the back of a metal spoon I used hand burnishing to transfer the reactivated watercolour onto the underside of the paper.

I then folded back the paper and removed the plate which I washed clean and repeated the process with coating the plate with the diluted dishsoap and applying a new layer of watercolour. The plate was again set into the pencil outline on the registration sheet and printed again using hand burnishing. I repeated this several times to build up a series of layers of colours.
The print is a bit organic in it's composition and the layering of colours created some interesting effects.

 This is the plexiglass plate with the final colour (dark indigo) painted on the surface.


This is my second study and is a that uses a process of removing ink.
It was created by first coating a piece of plexiglass using a brayer coated with a thin layer of oil based black relief printing ink. Ink was removed from the surface of the plate (here is where the subtractive comes into play) using a variety of tools that included the pointed end of an old paint brush, q-tips, wood toothpicks and my finger tip with small bit of tissue wrapped around it.

The plate was printed onto damp Somerset paper. The plate was first set onto a sheet of white bristol board which had the plate outline marked in pencil in the center and cross marks in pencil to indicate where the corners of the printing paper should align. This was set on the press bed with the inked side of the plate face up. The paper was placed on top, then a piece of newsprint and finally three layers of wool felt blankets over top of everything. The entire works were then passed under the roller of the etching press and transferred the image to the paper underneath. This is the same routine you would use to print an intaglio etching althought not as much pressure is required. My plexiglass was thin enough that I didn't have to worry about bevelling the edges ahead of printing, If it were a little thicker then I would file a bevel so that both the print paper and blankets do not get damaged from the edges of the plate under the pressure of the roller.

The inked plate with details created by removing ink using a variety of tools.