How do I do what I do?
BASIC DIGITAL PROCESS
This is my basic digital process, although there’s much more to it, I want to give you an idea of how your print came to be.
I start with one of my photographs, illustrations, or eco-prints that I want to be the basis of my piece. I search my huge file of textures – photographs I’ve taken for textural purposes or textural papers that I’ve created and scanned – and choose some that I think will work well toward my final visual goal. I’ll often use other photographs that might enhance the primary photo and sometimes will illustrate details (pen and ink or graphite) or create a painting (I love working with my hands) for areas that I want to enhance. I then digitally layer these elements in Photoshop and combine them in various ways, generally masking out specific areas so that I can use a different effect on them. Through the process, I am constantly making or adding new layers with different effects, so I often end up with anywhere from 20 to 50 or more layers. I then use digital effects – filters, painting, blending, transparency, etc — until I either get what I visualized…or…the magical world of Photoshop takes over and gives me something far better than what I was aiming for.
My digital prints are printed on archival paper that has a metallic emulsion on the surface. My eco-prints and illustrations are on printable watercolor paper.
A few years back I learned about eco-printing while cruising through some videos on different art forms involving leaves. (I find leaves fascinating and beautiful). I didn’t attempt it until last year (2019) and fell in love with the process and outcome. The resulting prints are subtle and soft, but I generally can’t leave well enough alone so decided to add watercolors to the prints. A little about Eco-printing ~ it all starts with me collecting leaves, flowers, petals, etc. I bring them home and lay them in big trays of water to keep them moist, I cut different sizes of watercolor paper to print the plants on and prepare the bath. The basic mixture is water with alum, apple cider, and “rusty bits” along with other things, such as turmeric and onion skin or beet skin for color, as well as natural dyes. I then lay the plants out on the sheets of paper, arranging them – paper, plants, paper, plants – creating a sort of sandwich and tying them into a tight bundle. Next, I put them in the bath and simmer them for well over an hour, pour the water off and leave them overnight. The next morning, the reveal is very much like Christmas morning. I get a bit giddy. The mixture of components in the bath causes the plants to release their tannins, leaving a sort of print on the paper. The prints usually need to be flattened so I spend a bit of time ironing each one. The “print” is sometimes a bit vague and hard to identify. Interpreting what I see, I paint the print with watercolor, which is challenging, as the sizing (what makes watercolor paper so wonderful) is destroyed in the bath. The result is well worth the effort. The full process can be time-consuming, but I am enjoying it immensely and find it can be quite meditative. If you’re interested in trying, there are a lot of YouTube videos to learn from.
The images above are from just out of the bath through the watercolor process. I will try to take some photos of my bath preparation and process the next time I do a batch.
“As an aspiring writer, myself, I admire any artist who is brave and determined
enough to put their art out on display for the world to see.
Your work is beautiful. Thank you for being an example of what can happen to artists who are willing to go through the efforts to achieve their dream.