Jes Lee

Sometimes the baby steps seem boring

It has been awhile again since I have posted, but I have been hard at work on this project since the last update.

All along I knew this series would involve a lot of experimenting. I am far from an expert at this medium, but I am in love with it. I have learned to use new equipment, work in a different environment that what I have in the past…

All of these lead to much trial and error. When it comes to trying to keep up a blog about a project, it often seems like all the trials, and especially the failures, are boring to talk about. But they have their place in this journey as well, and it is time some of them are acknowledged here.

Nikki Schneider, the printmaking professor at ARCC, the studios where I am creating this work, encouraged me to test out a bit of the graphite color ink we have in our supply. Her words were “try it, I bet you fall in love, and then you’ll buy your own 1-pound can of it”. She was right! I tried one of the not-so-successful prints with it, and fell in love with the tones. Off I went to buy ink.

I have heard so many people love the Akua soy based inks. Doing anything in a way that is somehow better for the environment is always on my mind, and I felt I should give them a try. So I bought two colors, one of course being graphite, and headed back to the studios. I never posted any of those results here, because they are not good. The inks are very runny, and very light. I tried modifying them, but could see right away that it was going to take a lot more work than what I had time for. I was discouraged, and after many conversations with the other artists around me, I went back to using oil based inks. I’m not giving up completely on the soy inks, but I can’t dedicate that much research time to this series on ink alone.

The last print I posted here was one of the best plates and prints I had made so far. There were still parts of the image that were not quite right though, and needed adjusting. Part of the back ground was a bit too blown out, and the layer with the street signs was showing through too dark. Now the challenge of making those fine adjustments, and making another plate.


I like how this print turned out better, and I am thrilled that I am getting the hang of adjusting the image to what I need to make a plate that I want. This has been the hardest (and possibly the most expensive!) lesson to learn through all of this, but it is encouraging to see the progress.

Last week I also did some experiments with color. My earlier work has been full of bright colors, and while I don’t expect (or want) this medium to take on the same qualities as my earlier work, I am very curious about how color choices will play into this series of images. Most of all, I wanted to know how possible it would be to ink and wipe a plate with two colors of ink on it. How much control would I have over the edges where the colors met? Or would everything just mix together to be an ugly brown blob?

It turns out, inking a plate with two colors is not that hard. What is harder is feeling that I have mixed the right colors, and that the colors are actually adding to the feeling of the image. I still have a lot of research to do on that piece of the puzzle.


The first image I made with a much harder edge between the two colors, and I was surprised at how easy it was to control where that edge would be, and how I could control what blended and what didn’t.


The last print I made in that short run, I blended the edge a lot more, letting the colors bleed in to one another. I know I have a lot more questions and challenges to work out with this, but it is exciting to see that the potential is there.

So far all the images I am working with are double images. This is a challenge with this process as it is very easy for areas to get too dense, or to not have enough detail. I have not yet mastered it, but from my first many trials, I am learning a lot about what type of image I am looking for and what the transparency should look like.

I have a long way to go still before this work is displayed this summer, but I am feeling perhaps a bit more sure about myself with this. Every time I make a plate, and pull a print, I am thrilled to be working in this way, and letting myself run wild with future possibilities and projects. And that is something I can not give up on.

I know I have jumped with both feet into the deep end. Thank goodness for all that taught me how to swim!