02 03 The World in Relief: You can't always get what you want 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

You can't always get what you want

Dry midwestern lake bed. Would you put this on your wall?
Every artist blog needs an image. So when a print you have poured yourself into for weeks does not turn out, it is difficult to know what to do. It is heartbreaking, and a bit embarrassing as well.

During the summer, a nearby lake was drained to repair a leak in the dam. A severe drought helped the process, and by August you could walk on the lake bed and take pictures of these interesting patterns.

I really wanted to use this pattern, but as dry earth, it only conveys lack, desperation and death. Not really the type of image I work with. So I tried to turn it on its head and imagine evaporation, perhaps with some tasty Mediterranean sea salt as a by-product.

The print that shall not be named (detail).
To try to get the idea of crystallization, I turned to etching for some interesting textures. I have now remembered why I prefer the dryness of relief printmaking. In this detail, you can see some of the areas that were etched. I actually etched the block three times, and found it to be a very random process. The changeable autumn weather played havoc with the experiment as well. Sometimes the etch dried quickly, and other times it stayed hydrated and ran off the block -- and under the tape I had applied to protect the MDF (medium density fiberboard) block.

Pulling out all the stops in the studio.
As I was cleaning off the block the last time, the MDF was beginning to expand and decompose. I knew this was the last time I could print with this block, and there were still many problems to be solved. So I pulled out all the stops -- a frisket for some details, and two different gradations. I gently eased the block back and forth from press to table, but in the end there were perspective problems that had been there from the beginning, and couldn't be solved with another layer of color.

I thought long and hard about whether to put the whole print on the blog, and decided against it. Once it is here, it has a life of its own. At my house, it glares at me as it dries in the studio. We need some time apart, this print and I.

Time to head to Starbucks for a ridiculously expense coffee, sketchbook in hand, to try to regain my artist inspiration. You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you can stuff it in a bottom drawer.

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