Here’s another work in progress of Randy. I started this drawing with a number of gestures and then a block in, all in graphite. Once I had a good block in, I transferred it to a clean piece of Strathmore 500 charcoal paper and continued in vine charcoal. I actually like the block in better than the charcoal drawing – the block in has more energy and more interesting line quality.
Now that I’m able to render smooth tones in charcoal, I’ve started on a new Bargue plate copy. The plate I am copying is from the Charles Bargue Drawing Course which is a set of plates used to train classical artists in the late nineteenth century. The course begins with simple drawings from casts, initially focusing on individual body parts. It progresses to portraits, torsos, and finally full figures. Vincent van Gogh copied the complete set of plates in 1880 and 1881 and then again in 1890.
We closed out the year at the atelier with the opening of the Best of Gage show on June 14th. There is a lot of fantastic work in this show from many talented Gage students. The show is in the Steele, Rosen, and Entry Galleries at the Gage Academy of Art and it runs through July 26th.
The Glen Alps press presented a bit of challenge when it came time to move it from Vashon Island to my studio on the mainland, but this was also part of the appeal. Had I purchased a new press, the manufacturer would have arranged for a motor freight company to drive it to my studio and drop it off with a forklift. In the case of the Glen Alps press, I could have hired movers, but the cost would have been exorbitant, and I relished the idea of an adventure on the ferry and a challenging engineering project.
Fortunately Tom, the seller, had a lot of experience moving heavy items by hand, and together we were able to come up with a pretty good plan. The idea was to use sections of ¾” steel gas line pipes as rollers to move the press across the shop to a truck with a liftgate. This worked out pretty well, taking a couple of hours for three of us to load the press. The main challenges were getting the press up a 3” ramp at the edge of the liftgate and rolling the press across the gaps between the liftgate and the truck bed.
We used a 4” x 4” x 8’ board as a pry bar to get the press onto the rollers and to turn the press and get it moving. When we got to the ramp, we had to pry the press up a half an inch at a time and build up a stack of boards underneath until the press was as high as the top of the ramp. We used a block and tackle to pull the press on its rollers into the truck and used the pry bar to help us across the cracks.
My friend, Kevin, a third year student from the Aristides Atelier, helped me unload the press. Since there were only two of us, I rented a pallet jack and this greatly simplified the unloading.
Brains are more important that brawn when moving heavy objects by hand. The reason is that in many cases you and your helpers won’t be strong enough to rectify the situation if the load gets off balance and starts to tip over or rolls away from you on a ramp. The key is to think everything through before starting and then move inch by inch while constantly communicating and reevaluating the situation. You need contingency plans in case you get stuck – every move should be reversible. Also, keep fingers and toes and larger limbs well away from the load and anywhere the load might go if a support failed. Avoid applying strong and abrupt forces – it is easy to pull a muscle or push the load into a dangerous position.
The photos below tell the story of the press’s journey from Vashon Island to my studio.
Meet the newest addition to my studio – a very large, and very sturdy etching press. This press was designed and built over 30 years ago in Seattle by the late Glen Alps. Glen was head of the University of Washington Printmaking Department, and taught there between 1949 and 1978. He is credited with developing the collagraph technique of printmaking. Glen designed and fabricated about 30 of these very durable presses over his lifetime. This was one of the last presses made while Glen was still alive.
The press is really robust, made of sheets of 3/8” steel. I’m guessing it weighs about 1500lbs. The bed is 40” wide and 63” long and it is powered by a really sturdy electric motor. The top roller is 7” in diameter and the bottom roller is 16”. The pressure adjusting screws on the top roller are linked with a chain so that both sides move in unison.
I had been interested in a larger press, but wasn’t actively looking when I stumbled upon this Glen Alps press in a cabinet maker’s workshop on Vashon Island and it struck a chord with me.
I like the design which is completely utilitarian, but elegant at the same time. As an example, the press has these lovely curves cut into the side. The curves give it a great esthetic, but the real reason they are there is that the press was designed to be constructed with minimal waste from couple of sheets of steel and the curves are the result of cutting out the circular end pieces for the large bottom roller. The entire design is similar – every facet of every part exists for a reason and the function is always apparent from the form.
Another thing I like about this press is that it is a bridge to the past and to the region where I make my home. The gentleman who sold me the press studied under Glen Alps and eventually became Glen’s teaching assistant and close friend. Glen made the press for him in the 70s and helped him move it and set it up. Now Glen’s protégé has helped me move the press to my studio and I will continue the tradition.