The successful print

Thursday I went in to the studio before my work shift started, intent on making one large plate. Maybe a print too, but for sure a plate.

I cleaned the plate maker, clean glass, new transparency.

Deep breath.

Light coating of baby powder on the plate and giving the vacuum table time to run and settle before flipping it over for exposure.

62 light units for the aquatint screen.

3.7 light units for the image.

One of the students followed me into the darkroom to watch the plate develop.

15 seconds of just water swishing. 40 seconds of brush washing. Blotted dry with smooth newsprint.

“I’m so excited!!”, the student watching said.

Yeah, me too.

I dried the plate. Time for post exposure. This time I taped it to the outside of the glass so nothing could stick to it.

“Are you going to print it!?”, I’m asked. Looking at the clock, I have just enough time.

I ink it, and pull one print before I am scheduled to work.

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It is the best print I have gotten since starting this project with this medium and this plate burner. No, it isn’t perfect, there are areas I want to tweak, and make a new transparency and a new plate and try again. But this is the first that doesn’t have the spots, the splotchy-ness, the fuzzy edges, the uneven exposure. I know the steps, I know what I have to do. Now I just need to work on the images.

Stay tuned! Those are coming!

Progress! Sweet progress!

There was a lot of testing done. And over the last two weeks I have spent a lot of time with this little machine.


After spending many hours one Sunday making test strips out of polymer plates, I knew I was close with the exposure times.


Results like this kept me going. Not perfect, but better. I started testing plates that were just a little larger. I know that this series will have layered images. But I was uncertain how that would translate to this medium. I realized there were two approaches I could use. 1. To make the layered image in Photoshop and print a transparency with them layered like I want, and make a plate from that. Though I figured that would be challenging due to the fact that layering images in Photoshop can make some areas very dense, making a difficult image to make a plate from. Option 2. would be to split up the two images, make a separate transparency and separate plate of each and do the image layering on the press. I knew this would be a challenge to get the images to blend together smoothly, and registration of plates so they lined up during printing could be a night mare.

I started playing with images, and trying both ideas. It also gave me a chance to play with ink tones and colors a bit. Everything was helping, and getting me closer to what I wanted. I could see that. But nothing was “it”. ┬áThe exposures were decent, but the images were fuzzy, and spotty. I started doing more research through blogs to troubleshoot what was happening.

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Once I had learned more about what could be going wrong, and after a pretty rough week, I decided to try one more plate. I was somewhat confident that I knew what was happening, that my aquatint screen and my image transparency were not making good enough contact, due in part to the fact that I was using a smaller plate to test, but not necessarily using a smaller screen or image. I was trying to save money in plate material to test, but it wasn’t necessarily giving me proper tests.

So I took a deep breath, and jumped in. Stay tuned for how that turned out!

So what the heck is photo polymer photogravure?

Good question!

I tend to explain it as being a modern version of a very old process.

It comes from old intaglio printing methods. Gravure prints were used in the high-end magazines back before digital printing. Alfred Stieglitz was a strong supporter of gravure prints, their quality, and their feel. I could go on into more of the history, but my knowledge still has a lot of holes and areas I still need to research. So I will stop before I confuse anyone or say something wrong.

Photo polymer photogravure, the modern version I am working with today, uses a light-sensitive plastic polymer coated plate, that is exposed with an image. The image (in my case) comes from a film image, scanned in to my computer, tweaked and altered in Photoshop, and then printed on a transparency medium to create a positive to expose the plate with.

The plates are exposed with a UV exposure unit. I often refer to them as plate-burners, though I can’t remember where I first heard that term. The parts of the plate exposed by the UV light get harder than the parts that aren’t exposed. The plates are then washed out in a water bath with a special brush that removes the unexposed polymer. This creates a plate that when inked by hand and placed on the bed of an etching press, creates an image with very subtle tones.

These are a few images I made in the workshops where I began learning and working with this technique.

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My inking technique was much better in the top image than in the bottom two, but I wanted to include a few examples so you would have a better idea of the outcome.

Hopefully soon I’ll have a few new images to show you!

Summers that are everything

I have not been letting my days of my break from work slip by unnoticed. Each day I have been steadily working towards two goals: getting the rooms in our house painted (I hit the halfway point last week!) and most importantly, creating new artwork. I have slowly been creating and editing new compilation images using some of the photos I took during our trip to Okinawa last winter.

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This image is one of about 6 new pieces I have been working with. Everything is still a work-in-progress. Some of these images end up on my Instagram account if I feel like they are close to being complete.

Last week I had the idea to pick up some screen printing equipment. Thanks to a conversation over beers and dinner with a very awesome, smart friend, I heard of a technique I had not thought of (this happens quite often when I am around certain friends). I started playing with it, and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.

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I am able to create colored backgrounds, and then ink jet print images over them.

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It needs a lot of tweaking, and many new decisions to be made on colors, and color density, and how it works with each image, but I am thrilled that it worked!! I’m excited to keep experimenting with this throughout the summer.

Last week I was thinking about how many of the images I take don’t get printed, don’t end up in any compilation images, and basically aren’t seen by anyone but me. After recently teaching a class on creating a one-sheet book, I decided to play with that medium, and created this little book.

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This one was so much fun to make, and I plan on making many more. I see them more as ‘zines’ than fine-books. Zines are something I have wanted to make for quite a while, but was struggling with an idea for. I think these making these simple little books will help with that craving.

Each day I have off of my day job, I try to savor. I know all too well that the summer can go by in an instant. So far, it has felt like a wonderful, long break, and I still have many days left to come. I have already done more creating that I ever hoped to, and I have no intention to stop.

May you all enjoy the summer and warm weather as much as you can, whether you are working or not!