I had an opportunity to return to Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (PCCI) in Hastings, MI yesterday for an artist’s retreat. I had a terrific time and met a great group of artists two years ago when we went.
Many of the same folks and a few new ones gathered again this weekend. I was only able to go for the day, but it was a gorgeous day. Temperatures were in the high 60s and the sun was shining. Fabulous after this long, cold winter! I managed to get some good sketching done and also had a surprise workshop from the first PCCI artist-in-residence, Doet Boersma.
I arrived to PCCI at 9 a.m. and the day simply flew by. We started the day by heading to Doet’s studio. She is an amazing artist and so generous to share her knowledge, time and equipment with us. A gracious host, she made sure we had our coffee or tea before we started! Then she proceeded to give us a quick class on etching (technically, drypoint – using an etching press to make prints.) We each chose a drawing or photo – either something from our sketchbook or a photo of our own from online that we printed out. I chose to work with one of my magnolia photos that I took last summer in South Carolina.
From there, we each cut a small piece of plastic binding cover material and chose an etching tool, which could be anything from a screwdriver to a scratchboard point or whatever hard-tipped scratching tool you prefer, as long as you can scratch your design into the plastic. The focus is on scratching the dark areas of the design as the print will be done in reverse, e.g., whatever you scratch the most will retain the most ink and print the darkest.
It turns out that my choice was a little ambitious since there is a good bit of dark background around the magnolia blossom and within the leaves. However, I plugged away and managed to get something decent to work with on the press.
Once our designs were finished being scratched into the plastic, Doet showed us how to choose various ink colors, with darker ones working best, roll them out and coat the plastic or “plate”, working ink into the scratched areas with our gloved fingers, if needed. After wiping the excess ink off, we held the plates up to the light to see where we wanted to remove or add a little more ink. Using cotton swabs, I was able to take more ink off of the white flower to bring more light into the design.
Once we finished inking, we took a piece of water-soaked cotton rag paper that we prepared earlier and placed it onto a scrap piece of paper on the etching press. Carefully, I centered my etching ink-side down on the damp paper and put another scrap piece on top. I rolled the blanket layers down and then cranked the press to create a print. You can reuse the plate again and again, applying more ink, different colors, choosing to darken or lighten areas depending on how your print comes out.
My first print included mainly some green ink and turned out alright, but I wanted to tweak it some more.
For my second print, I added some brown ink to the background and darker areas, but clearly did not incorporate it as well!
It was such a fun process! Once we all did our first print, you could feel the creative energy rising in the room as people started thinking of how they wanted to tweak their prints, bustling about for more paint, wiping their plates to get the right amount of ink and “dirt” in the background. Everyone did at least 3, some 4 or 5. It was a productive few hours! Great to learn more about this traditional craft.
We left the prints to dry while we took a lunch break and spent the afternoon outdoors. Stay tuned for my next post with photos and sketches from the afternoon hike!