Sunday, June 4, 2017

Making Zamorano Club Facsimile Keepsakes

First, a word from your blogger. I must apologize for the delay in posting. Kitty has been working away at her project, diligently sending me posts that have languished as I have been juggling too many things at my day job to get them up online. My apologies, as I know many of you are waiting eagerly to learn of her progress! I'll speed up the posting a bit to get us back on track. Allons-y!

I mentioned earlier that I spent a week at Atelier Coloris in July of 2015, cutting and coloring about fifteen stencils for the five facsimiles in the edition. The decisions about the more complicated areas at the top and in the half-moon area on the first page had to be made quickly during that week. So I decided that I would spend a couple of weeks in February and March of 2017 looking carefully back at all those decisions.  I was scheduled to give a talk at the Zamorano Club in Los Angeles on April 5, 2017, so I made a new edition of facsimiles on 8.5 x 11 paper as keepsakes for the club members and for my underwriters.

The keepsake edition for the Zamorano Club on Frankfurt Crème paper.

There were several items that I needed to pin down. How long would it take on average to complete one color on 200 sheets of paper? How many might be rejected upon completion (hoping for no more than 10% waste)? I wanted to look at the special effects that were added once the stencil plate was removed. I also had to decide which of the original color systems would be copied--I chose to use the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's newly-acquired copy. Then, I had to mix all of the colors anew to match that copy, rather than the Yale facsimile I had used in France.  I was keeping track now of the Pantone colors I had assigned to three originals: the LACMA copy, the Getty copy, and the Legion of Honor copy. This document is being refined continually each time I see the originals again. Gouache swatches are made for each original as well.

Pantone colors for the pochoir and the type on three originals.

The plates I made in France were for twenty-inch tall paper, and I had a quantity of already-cut 8.5 x 11 Frankfurt Crème paper to use for the keepsakes. I had to attach an extender piece of scrap paper at the top so that I could still use the registration system for the taller paper. The normal registration system of cutting holes to match parts of a previously stenciled color needed to be refined. In addition to those holes, I decided to draw perpendicular lines on a board for the paper position so it could be placed in the same position every time and taped down with removable 3M label tape, and to use artist tape to hold the stencil into position to align with the holes. Then you could just flip over the stencil once the paper was in place, and then make tiny adjustments if necessary. This is not the way that I was taught at Atelier Coloris. There we simply placed stencil into position carefully over the paper and did the coloring, without any tape holding down the paper. Your left hand would hold everything in place as you swirled with your right.

The stencils were already cut (I showed that technique on the last blog entry). I’ll show even more details about cutting stencils on the next entry. So I just needed to mix colors, make my registration boards, put bacon fat onto the reverse side of the holes and swirl it around with a dedicated brush, and manage the amount of color put onto the brush each time. (3)

Bacon fat, held in tin foil and kept in the freezer, is dabbed near the edges of the stencil hole; a dedicated brush is used to swirl around the fat to make it even and minimize the application.

 The sequence of application is shown in the following five photographs. Note that the stencil for the red color is small and has only two registration holes. Often we would tape additional pieces of aluminum onto the stencil to extend it, in order not to be wasteful with the expensive plates. I enlarged this one to add more registration holes for the next set of facsimiles that I made for testing three new papers. I will talk about this in the next post.

Paper taped into position onto two perpendicular lines (note waste paper added to the top of the page, to be removed later). The dark green area was previously stenciled over two yellow areas and the edge was softened with a brush filled with water.

The stencil for red is placed into position matching the registration holes and is taped onto the board with artist tape at left; the tape on the right edge is used for lifting the stencil repeatedly. Note that several colors are under the stencil already.

The red color is swirled on, watching out for the unwanted mixing of the green underneath into the red. The last strokes of the brush are not swirled but are vertical toward the top edge to pull any mixing of colors to the edge.

The stencil is now flipped over to the left and the red edge is ready to be softened with a brush.

The small brush is dipped in water and smoothed over the red edge with an up and down motion.
The insights that I gained by making these keepsakes over a period of over two weeks, with the help of my assistant Chris Yuengling-Niles, are many. First, the very simplest stencil color took at least five hours to complete two hundred and nine sheets, not including the mixing of the color or preparation of the boards and stencils. We found that we needed to clean the plate and add bacon fat more frequently on some colors.

Starting with two hundred and nine sheets, there were seventeen that were rejected at the end, with less than 10% wasted, which was excellent. We also made a set of seventeen progressive prints. The final count was an edition of one hundred and seventy-five copies. We gave the Zamorano Club one hundred and thirty sheets and sent a sheet to each of the highly appreciated underwriters for the project and to several other supporters. The others will be used for publicity. (9) 
The final edition with all the colors on 8.5 x 11 paper.

There are several videos following that show the action of applying the color. The yellow color was a dream to apply; it slid easily over the stencil holes and rarely seeped under the edges. But the green color at the right edge posed problems. The solution to minimize mixing of colors was to make only one long pass directly over the green towards the top, lightly. I had even put six to eight drops of gum Arabic into the bottle of gouache, but that did not help significantly.

The dark green was applied over the yellow. Note that the color separated quickly in the bowl and had to be mixed again every time it was used. The stencil is removed in order to soften the lower edge of the green area with a brush filled with water. Note that this video was made before I decided to tape down the stencils:

The orange color was applied and the stencil was removed, in order to put on the little brushy areas at the edge of the orange. We found that it was best to pinch the big pochoir brush somewhat so that the marks stayed in the desired area. You also had to start this action near the center of the area and not try this just at the edge. In the video, watch as the stencil is removed so that the brushy marks can be applied with the same pochoir brush:

The darker colors were in general harder to apply. On this Frankfurt Crème paper, they would show streaks easily. So we dipped the brush into the color only after using the brush on the stencil, in order to give it a little time to sink into the bristles. We also put more pigment into the small bottle. The sky blue is more pigmented than many of the other colors and required a light touch to avoid streaks:

We found that we didn’t need to fill the bottle to the top for almost all of the colors. Only a few times did we need to mix more color, and that’s where you have to have your gouache samples in front of you to match the new color to the old. This might explain the slight difference between some of the colors on the different original copies. We mostly used a pipette to extract the color from the bottle, squirt it into the cup, and then lightly dip into that shallow puddle and swirl around the brush in the second cup to even out the color. At Atelier Coloris, we used a brush dipped into the bottle, placed a bit onto a flat plate, and then swirled around the brush on the plate. Saudé said in his 1925 book that you could actually do four or five stencils without charging your brush again, but we were cautious in trying to get a system going.

In the next entry, I will talk about paper choices. The paper you use for pochoir is quite particular: streaks can be avoided and color seeping under the stencil can be minimized with the right paper. Note that the longer you swirl over the stencil hole, the darker the effect is, but then there is danger in abrading the paper. Keep an eye out for the next post to learn more.