February 16, 2006

Hooray for Little Feat!

Since the name of the blog reflects my obscure preference for the band Little Feat it seems apropriate to mention that I have been listening to way way way too much as of recent. My two new favorites are "Mercenary Territory" and "Spanish Moon," which incidentally seem to find themselves in close company on all three Little Feat Albums with varying versions (er, two) of those two songs. Five versions of "All That You Dream" and counting....

You Say You Want a Revolution...

"All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become anitquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."
- Marx/Engels


...but what does that have to do with communism? It is my understanding that Marx was compelled to investigate what he perceived to be a broken socio-economic system (yep, capitalism). He determined that this establishment perpetuated a false consciousness, one which he was able to transcend thus endowing him with special insight into the condition of man.

To claim that such an awakening can occur in unadulterated isolation from one's own potentially flawed personal motivations and biases may be unduly founded. There seems to exist a limit or selection of introspection which contributes (or initiates) so many accounts of philosophical pontificating. Marx's ideas, not unlike any other, built on existing modes of philosophical thought and applied them to a case-specific social/economic world, the one in which he lived. It is clear to say now, if not then, that certain dimensions of Marx's ideology could be considered obsolete or ill-functional in the contemporary socioeconomic climate - for instance, violent revolution.
This is not to say that the thoughts, as a whole, of Marx or any other of his peers in the field of thought, are to be categorically discarded. Yet, the independent functionalism of each case should be examined, placed into contextual perspective, and handled accordingly.

That being said, the life of a radical Marxist revolutionary does have a certain appeal...

February 15, 2006

Hello from Calvin College,

Here are a couple of prints from my Intaglio Printmaking winter session. This was certainly an interesting course; each day for three weeks I worked in the Calvin print shop from nine o’clock in the morning to four or five in the afternoon. I learned a lot about a variety of techniques and procedures involved with this form of printmaking, and I was also able to produce a good number of different projects.

A few words on the intaglio printing process:

Intaglio printing involves scratching or carving grooves into a flat metal plate (copper in this case). These scratches can be done manually with a sharp stylus, scraper, roller, etc. They can also be achieved by etching. This process involves covering the plate with a thin coating (called ground) and scratching through that to the metal surface. Then the entire plate is placed in an acid bath which reacts to the metal and eats into the surface of the plate.

Once the surface of the plate has been prepared the real fun begins. Each plate’s edges must be beveled by file so that it will not slice through the soft paper when it is pressed. Once the edges are filed the plate is inked over the entire surface and slowly burnished clean with stiff gauze called tarlatan. If wiped properly the unscratched surface of the plate retains only a very thin layer of ink (called plate-tone) while the grooves remain filled with ink. Now the plate is ready to be pressed.

Before the paper can be pressed it must be soaked in a water bath to soften the pulp a bit and allow it to conform to the small grooves in the plate and absorb as much ink as possible. The soaked sheet of paper is blotted or dried between large sheets and a rolling pin. Then the plate is placed face up on the press bed (similar to the one pictured) and the paper is laid on top of that. A layer of dense felt separates the paper/plate from the press’s roller. Once the image has run through the press once it is ready to be pulled or separated from the plate. Now the plate is ready to be re-inked and pressed.

That’s really just the basic overall process; there are a lot of variations and intricacies involved in other aspects of intaglio printmaking. For instance, the blue water in the “Little Glen” print enclosed was achieved by mixing blue ink and a bit of mineral spirits. That solution was then painted on the plate before each pressing in only that specific area after the rest of the plate had been inked in black and wiped clean.

Each of the plates for the prints included in this package was prepared mostly by etching with acid, but they both are augmented by manual scratching (called drypoint).

I hope you all enjoy the prints, even if that means just having them on the fridge with a couple of magnets for a week or two (“Eggs & Bacon” would seem to work well in the kitchen).