Thursday, April 13, 2006

Monotypes and making a difference

In the late 70's I took classes at the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts (now the Oregon College of Art and Craft). While a student there I formed a close friendship with another printmaking student, Susan Rostow. We were both at crossroads in our lives and found support and comfort in our friendship. Susan was etching and making collographs in those days and I was experimenting with drypoint and etching. All of our inks and solvents were oil based and you could always tell the printmakers from the other students by the crusts of black ink in our fingernails and on our hands. In addition, the materials we used for photo etch, grounds and acids were based with benzene and other toxic materials. We etched with nitric acid and cleaned up with paint thinner. Rumor was that these materials were among the most toxic used by artists (next to those used in the ceramic studio) but we crossed our fingers and we were young.

This is an oil based monotype I created during that era. The oil based printer's ink was painted onto a plexiglass plate and then printed in an etch press onto black Arches paper. It measures 20x24 inches and I like the effect of the translucent ink on the black ground.

Recently I took a one day workshop here in Portland from Gail Ayers to learn the basics of water based printmaking. For several years I'd been hearing rumors of a water based product that was superior to others on the market and when I went to art fairs and spoke to other printmakers it was invariably the product they used. It was kind of a secret that it was so beautiful and without the traditional hazards. The inks were named Akua and those were the inks we used in the workshop. The next group of monotypes are from the Akua inks.

Akua makes inks for both monotypes and for intaglio. I have tried both and they just amaze me. This is such a boon to artists; safe materials that perform as well as the toxic ones did. Well, when I went to the Akua website the thing I discovered was that the inks were developed by my friend Susan during her pregnancy to solve a dilemma for herself and other mothers-to-be who wanted to continue working in a safe environment. She lives across the country now but we've connected again via phone and internet and I am so proud to call her my friend. She has accomplished something in her life that will help countless others and she has done it by following her own artistic path and being a caring person. So Susan, this one's for you.

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