This blog was created as a tie in to my graphic novel(la) series Threshold, an ongoing project first initiated in the final year of my BFA. This series, and contextual material surrounding it, is currently forming the bulk of my MA practice. Central to the series is the city of Threshold: a topographically unstable and ever-shifting morass of in-between and tranistory spaces that silts into existence at narrative peripheries.

The intent is to create a space where the city of Threshold, and the conceptual basis behind it, can be fleshed out in greater detail than is possible in the graphic novel format, and to tie in some of the other projects involving the city that are only alluded to elsewhere.

All completed installments of the series can be viewed on this blog, while printed copies are available at or through APE Games at

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Visions of Threshold--Cityscape Drypoints

Over the past few months I have been working on a series of drypoint prints depicting the cityscape of Threshold for use in the upcoming third installment (more on this in my next post). The idea was to translate the collage-city aesthetic used in the latter half of Sing Willow into a form that would be both more visually cohesive and easier to integrate with the way I was drawing the new book. I was also interested in producing pieces that functioned as both a stand-alone suite of images that could potentially be exhibited, and as components for a book. A few of these images appear below.

The drypoints start off as collages, executed in much the same manner as the cityscape collages appearing earlier in the Threshold series. Images are drawn from personal photographs, stock images, and the ever-handy Google image search. These are printed out at various sizes, slices into bits of various shapes, and reassembled. I generally do not have an overarching plan or composition in mind before beginning; rather, I work much like assembling a puzzle--trying out different bits in various places until I find something that feels right. This phase of the process is also the fastest, taking anywhere from two hours to half a day to assemble the collage.

The next step is to transfer the image to a sheet of clear acrylic, turning it into a drypoint plate. To do this, I tape down the previously cut acrylic over top of the collage and essentially trace the image onto the acrylic by scratching into it with an etching needle. This isn't as much of a mindless process as one would think, for at this stage I am constantly making editorial decisions about which parts of the image to emphasize (via heavier line or more detailing), which elements to cut, and whether or not certain features need to be altered to make the image function better. This is the stage I enjoy the least, as it can be quite physically uncomfortable for prolonged periods (it takes some amount of pressure to get a good deep line that will hold ink well, and solid metal etching needles are not the most comfortable things to clutch in a vise-like grip), and can take a substantial amount of time (the top image took approximately six hours, while the bottom image took fourteen).

The next stage will be familiar to anyone who has done any sort of printmaking before, but for those of you who haven't, here's how it works:

  1. The edges of the acrylic are beveled at a 45 degree angle to prevent damage to the paper and/or press blankets, as well at to allow the roller of the press to ride up onto the plate more smoothly.

  2. The acrylic plate is covered with etching ink (about the consistency of sticky tar), which is then wiped off the surface, remaining only in the lines that have been carved into the plate.

  3. The plate is placed on the etching press, and dampened paper is placed overtop (I use a heavy 100% rag paper).

  4. This is then run through the press, which uses a heavy roller to force the dampened paper into the lines in the plate, pulling out the ink.

This process can be repeated, producing multiple impressions of the same image. Because acrylic is a relatively soft material, I find that I am usually able to only get about ten to twelve impressions before the plate is worn down too much to use. With care, I can usually get all of the usable impressions for a single plate in half a day.


  1. I love the drypoints! We saw them at the Byzentine Winter Festival and I had to have one. It's now framed (we choose to frame it with a japanese hing over the mat rather than placing the mat over the edges, so that the rough edges of the rag paper are part of the overall look of the peice) and in my office :) It got alot of great feedback while waiting for framing at the store :)


  2. Glad to hear it! I prefer the look of float-mounted prints as well. I often exaggerate the raggedness of the deckled edge when I tear the prints down to size to draw attention to the beauty of the paper.

  3. Thanks for explaining this process to a newby artist today at the Art Walk! Cindy:)