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drawing in new orleans!

February 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

I got stuck in New Orleans for five extra days last week, because of the many feet of snow that fell on the mid-atlantic cities, blocking all airport connections. So I got some extra time down there to draw, watch the Saints win the super bowl, build a loft with Meg in her room, and work a little bit more on a new print. It wasn’t really *warm*, but we did get some good sunny days, and it was really good to be there.

post breakfast
[looking skeptical, but actually feeling great, on a typical street in the Bywater neighborhood… my facial expressions rarely correspond to the internal emotions!]

Going through the photos of this trip and my visit in December, I realized there are way too many to put up here, and I should probably finally bite the bullet and make an account on flickr or something like that… but for now, here are just a couple of pictures/notes.

My experience with metal-plate-based printing is very slim: I made a couple of drypoints back in 2002 as part of a wintersession class that I partially audited before fleeing Providence (heartbroken!) on a two-week greyhound-bus Punch & Judy tour. Now, Meg is running a community printshop at an arts non-profit in New Orleans, and they have two large etching presses… so one of my goals for visiting was to print those drypoints again, and to work on a new plate… or two… or however far I got.

meg’s favorite factory

I’ve been really drawn towards just looking & drawing, as I’ve written about here before, and I had an idea about drawing directly on the printing plate… Well, this was more complicated than I thought it would be, because it’s very hard to see what you are drawing in the shiny metal, and even harder to understand how it’s going to print.

Sitting outside and drawing the factory was really rewarding, but the technical demands of the plate made those rewards fewer and farther between. You scratch a line in the metal – it feels like it was deep enough – but it might print really lightly, or really darkly — it’s hard to tell… and you can’t tell for sure until you pull a print from it, which is a bike ride and 45 minutes of work (at least) away.

preliminary pencil drawing and metal plate with tools…
[left: preliminary drawing on paper, and right: beginning to transfer it to the plate]

I guess I should say that it’s hard to tell *for me*, a beginner. Also, it’s really hard for me to feel like a total beginner at something: and the learning curve is pretty steep here, at the point where I am, and in this process which is ancient and demanding. Right? So, I can go easy on myself. Or, I would like to be able to…

reflection & scratched lines…
[out-of-focus scratched lines in the plate…]

The initial proofs look good, but I’ve got a ways to go… somewhat like all my other projects right now… argh. I don’t know why I expect anything different, at this point. My friend Sandy, who recently moved to New Orleans, brought up the idea of doing a series of prints about the city… I would like to… maybe studies of building details, especially of awnings and overhangs… I took some pictures while I was there for source material… but there are so many things I am trying to do!

Here’s Meg’s loft under construction (for some reason there are no pictures of it completed – yet):

meg with the drill
[yeah, we know you are supposed to use nails and not screws to hold joist hangers — but she wants to be able to take the whole thing apart and re-assemble it, if need be…]

A moment of celebration after the Saints’ victory last Sunday:

dancing on the bar

Another neo-classical pediment on an early-20th-century industrial building :

neo-classical pediment!

(this is right along the Mississippi, I am standing on the levee to take the picture)

Okay, so this is *not* a picture of New Orleans, but I got to spend some time with an amazing, giant! screenprint by Richard Estes (in the private collection of the owners of the office building where my friend Will works in New Orleans… whew…) which made me consider the possibilities of beginning with something like this image and making a screenprint.

potential print?

I was never that interested in photorealist paintings… but the Estes screenprint, decisively photorealist, but with its subtle transformations of photographic and observed vision into drawn perspective, the possibilities for abstraction that flat printed color offers (different than those offered by paint)… well I am incoherent here, but suffice it to say I was delighted and enraptured, and the bar has been exponentially raised.

And finally, an old brick warehouse, early evening… it looks like this building is casting a shadow on itself.

shadow / roofline

I think my main realization from being in New Orleans so far is that I am already doing good work, and that I don’t necessarily need to change paths drastically — as I maybe thought I did… I’m not sure if I can explain this thought very well, or at least not right now (my schedule is totally messed up, it’s early morning and time for bed), but it’s basically the understanding that I am in a good place and just need to keep working on the goals I have already laid out… that I don’t need to try to forge a whole new territory of work for myself.

Also, that I need to take pictures and document the things that I am finding beautiful in Providence and New England, as being away helps me see what is around me more clearly… and that what I love about this place here won’t be here forever, and that I do want to have a record of it… that photos can be important… a strange realization…


  1. There is a lot going on here. No moss growing under your feet. Keep taking pics.

    Comment by Phil Staudt — February 17, 2010 @ 9:37 am
  2. jean coz- master of light

    Comment by jacob — February 17, 2010 @ 12:51 pm
  3. jean!

    i love the pictures of your trip. when i spent time in new orleans, i stumbled upon a great place to drink coffee in the bywater neighborhood, but sadly, was never able to find it again. i’d like to think you did.

    as always, it’s wonderful to follow your adventures. hope you’re doing well.

    Comment by eric — February 22, 2010 @ 12:11 am
  4. why don’t you try a plate with soft ground, it will hold teh quality of your lines when etched, and you’ll be able to see what you’re drawing… darn it, now I want to print something!!

    Comment by deb — February 22, 2010 @ 11:29 pm
  5. deb! other people have advised me in the same direction: I think that is gonna be the way to go. I have started one etching, but without much success yet because I think I was using the wrong kind of needle to draw in the ground, and it didn’t push all the way through to the metal in every place… so not all the lines etched… and I don’t even know if it was a hard or soft ground, it was what Meg set me up with at the printshop!

    in actuality, I am stalled on the metal-plate-printing projects since I am trying to get other stuff done while I am back here in Providence; website work, drawing on paper, screenprinting, moving various projects forward… and hopefully finishing (or re-writing at this point) the letter to you that I started a long time ago…!

    eric – well, I may have! I am still somewhat puzzled by the breadth & scope of New Orleans, which I have barely begun to explore. I think in any case of going to a new city you are always finding new places, each corner’s turning seems new and surprising… but in New Orleans, I kind of expect the street grid to lift up and switch around on me at any moment… it seems like it has strange folds and twists in it, waiting. I’m always kind of amazed when I can successfully narrate myself from one part of town to another, or come across a familiar place a second time. it makes for good confusion & exploration…

    I am headed back for more drawing and printing there in the second week of March – I’m also going to be teaching a silkscreen class at the Louisiana Artworks printshop. Crazy. I’ll send along further reports! and more photos, hopefully.

    Comment by jean — February 23, 2010 @ 1:30 am
  6. That Meg sure is wearing a nice set of coveralls. What a dame!

    Comment by E. Novak — February 27, 2010 @ 3:16 am

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