Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mail Art Experiment, Solarplate Marking a Day in Tucson

It was a warm and quiet day. The sky was clear, the quail, the grackles, the rabbits and the desert finches owned the yard of Fuerte y Claro. I'm good with that.

I've had an idea for a mail art piece again and this time it included solarplate prints. Guess I'm approaching this thing backwards because I've got photos to share of today's work, even though I'm only just beginning the project. This next one is the first small cactus image on white paper.

This second one is of a landscape I've never actually visited, but the image was a public one and I manipulated it enough to use it in my work. Each image is approximately 3" x 4".

You can see that I was thrifty with the paper and, I'm happy to report, the solarplates that have been sitting in the dark for a couple of years (at least!), actually produced images.

Mirabile dictu:

I took some photos.
Manipulated the images in Photoshop.
Visited the local office supply store and had transparencies printed of my images.
Dug out the old solarplates and cut them to size.
Put them altogether in the glass sandwich and exposed them to the sun for 2 minutes, 34 seconds.
Washed the plates in cool water for 5 minutes.
Found scraps of BFK Rives paper and dampened them in the bathtub.
Inked the plates with black relief ink.
Printed the images in the Ettan press (how I've missed the dear press and how lovely she prints.

Et, voila!

I'm seeing that I've been away for way too long. Goodness, guess that Life in Hell cartoon I found the other day

hit me a bit harder than I'd thought...And gee, after such a fun time with the last post. Sheesh. Hey, we can laugh and cry about this.

Hope you're all feeling energized with spring and happily working on meaningful art.
Here are photos of two of the solarplates I used. You can see how thin the plates are and the polymer side with faint image:


Barbara Muir said...


I love what you're doing, and I'm so impressed by your energy. I read on just absolutely amazed and feeling like creating a monument to so much effort used to produce art. You are great, and your work is wonderful.


Melinda said...

Oh my, Barbara. Thank you so much. Things just clicked today and I'm glad you like the work. Maybe it seemed easy to me because I've been assembling all the elements for a week!

You're very generous.

Edgar said...

Cool plates! I wanna try! Great recipe you've provided. You really know how to cook.

Matt Groening: oof. But it's better to laugh than to cry about it, no?

Melinda said...

Well, Edgar, first you gotta let them there solarplates cure awhile in the studio for a year or two. Then, you have to let the sun and chemicals do whatever they want and be happy and work with the result.

There just ain't enough hours in a day to work, paint and play guitar, oh yeah. And, there Ain't No more Cane on the Brazos, either.

Melinda said...

Oh, and it tickles me so that Matt knows all about the art struggle. What a genius.

A cartoon like that keeps us humble on the good days and comforts us when we're down, don't you think?

SamArtDog said...

Good to have you back; your silence has been deafening. Thanks for sharing some of Spring in Tucson and your solarplate prints. The best art comes from recognizing the good bits and pieces, throwing them together and knowing when to stop. You do that very well.

Life In Hell is hilarious and as dead-on as only the best humor can be. Having someone else tell the joke we are is, in a weird way, so reassuring.

Melinda said...

Thanks so much, SamArtDog. You're absolutely right about the humor. It is oddly comforting. Now, I don't know about being good at throwing things together and knowing when to stop, but I'll keep heading in that direction.

Feeling pretty confident about throwing things, though...;)

Anonymous said...

These are very cool images, and a technique I wasn't aware of. Are these then mono-prints, or can the plates be re-inked a few times? Eagerly awaiting more!

Melinda said...

Hi, diddamsdigitalart. These are metal plates that have a photo sensitive polymer on one side. The cool thing about this process is that this is a non-toxic way of making an etching. So yes, you can make as many prints from the plates as you want.

I will update with photos of the plates so you can see what they look like.

These plates do degrade over time--in a few years they become less crisp.

You might enjoy visiting the creator of this process. His name is Dan Weldon.

Careful now. This stuff is addicting!

Anonymous said...

So impressive these creative hikes you take us on. I'd have had no idea of the steps involved in producing such beautiful, evocative images had you not written about it.
Samartdog had written something on her recent post about different styles that we present in our work.
Why limit our range, as you keep reminding us.
I just love how wide ranging your talents are.
Oh and hells bells that cartoon just affirms that Matt Groening lives in my root cellar and has been eavesdropping. Too funny.

Melinda said...

More like an evening stumble than a hike, don't you think, Bonnie?! :)

Thank you so much for your comment. That Matt Groening guy has multi-personalities and has them distributed throughout the land.

I'm confident to write that you're not one of the "three out of ten."

Does this mean you're going to experiment with roots?!

cohen labelle said...

Melinda I love the description of your process. You are clearly a woman of ritual and process – combined with your wild imagination yielding fascinating results images. Even if I’d never heard of solar plates before – and before your post, I hadn’t – with your description of the steps you took, I was walking along comfortably with you like a school kid eagerly watching as you bathed the plates, dampened the BFK rives, then inking the plates and then (the best part) printing with your Ethan press. I thought, I’d love to do that too – she, Melinda’s having so much fun, I’d like a turn at that too.
Also I must say the Matt Groening cartoon struck a cord. That’s a good one! Great post!!!


Melinda said...

Hi Marcia,
I'm glad you walked along with me through this process. Did you notice how far away the tub was from the print table in the studio? From the bathtub, walk through living room, around the corner and through the addition, outside and across the front yard and into the red studio to the drying table. Whew. I'm glad it's not hot yet or the paper would have been dry before I got to the press! Wish you could have been here. There is a kind of magic that happens as one washes away the polymer to reveal what the sun hath wroth. Plus, you get a tan while waiting in the light.

Yes. That Matt. Wow.

Jeane Myers said...

mmmm, this is a totally unknown process to me - what a wonderful batch of work you made - lovely and I'm fascinated :)

Betsy Grant said...

I love the originality and color in your work. Wonderful...please visit me at I created this blog for people like you (artists/creative people)

Melinda said...

Hi Jeane,
It is a really fun process with a gazillion possibilities. I wonder how it would fit in with your work?

It might slow you down, but it could be a new option for you.

However, your work is spectacular just the way you have it now!

Melinda said...

Thank you, Betsy, for visiting and leaving a comment! I just visited your blog and love your music and your attitude about being an artist.

Your work is spectacular and I wish you every success.

Linny D. Vine said...

You are amazing, Melinda. You dance from one medium to another and create beauty with every beat!!! (My fingers and thumbs are doing "the snap thing" in appreciation of you and your art.)

Anonymous said...

An interesting project. I always admire artists who try a bunch of different things. I like the results.

Melinda said...

Hi Linny! I can see you now, snapping those fingers in that joyful and cool "Linnyland" way.

You've made my day.

Melinda said...

Hello Jean,
Thank you for your comment. It can be fun to experiment every once in awhile. Maybe it also helps the regular work as well...

Deb Schmit said...

These are wonderful Melinda!!
I'm dropping in to get my dose of inspiration and am glad I did.

Life is Hell:
SamArtDog "Having someone else tell the joke we are is, in a weird way, so reassuring."
Thanks too, for that!

Melinda said...

Hi Deb!
It's so nice to have you visit. I'm glad you like the work and find the cartoon funny.

It gets me every time.

Thank you for stopping by. I'll bet you're painting lots of gorgeous paintings.