Posts Tagged ‘printmaking’

Dyeing Paper with Plant Material

Posted on: July 14th, 2015 by jmbroekman 3 Comments

Nothing like long sunny summer days to inspire some brand new studio adventures.


The latest studio adventure involves collecting all kinds of raw plant material, stuffing it into folded packets of paper, submerging it into boiling hot salt-sea-water and letting it cook for a while. The result is dyed paper, and generally, not anything that you might expect. It has all the elements of surprise of making a print, multiplied about a thousand times.

Photos above show from left to right – drying flowers to use as raw material; packets that have come out of the pot, but not yet been unwrapped; and the first unwrapping. Below from left to right are: a packet with a copper plate as part of the wrapping process (the copper definitely changes the outcome); and two views of a variety of the first batch.


The above photos are from my first forays into this world. Below are pictures of paper drying on the line yesterday, when I couldn’t resist trying again. I made a stab at being a little more methodical this time, keeping better track of what I did. This is a good example of where art and science converge – both start with an inquiry, and are all about exploration and discovery. None-the-less, it was the artist within who won out when it came to monitoring and recording notes. One of the few things that I did note, however, is that the dying daylilies did not leave an orange or yellow residue, but rather produced a pretty deep bluish color. Go figure!


The earth suddenly seems to have awakened from a long dark sleep now, and everywhere I look, I see bright color. You would think with all those different greens – the light yellow green of the early goldenrod, the soft grey green of the vetch weeds, and the dark shiny green of the bittersweet – that green would’ve been the predominant color on the paper. No such luck. It turns out, green is one of the hardest colors to come by. I did an entire book of herbs – rosemary, sage, lemon balm, thyme, oh, and a giant broccoli plant leaf. Not one piece of green in that book!


Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by jmbroekman No Comments


The Presence in Absence

That which was, but is no longer, still is. The absence of that which is no longer present and the fugitive pieces left behind has always interested me. The ghosts left on the plate, then printed; what was once blank now filled with remnants, memories. Bombs may blow up streets, bookshops, and teahouses, but they will never obliterate the stories we tell, nor the human need and desire to gather. We will continue to meet for tea, and explore the world through intellectual and creative pursuits, finding the presence in that which is absent, bringing it back to life.

Three of the final prints for this project are above. You can read more about the project and my process here, and more about the project in general here.

A Million Vessels

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by jmbroekman 6 Comments

A few of the million vessels are above, and If you’d like to see more of the working prints (not the final prints, which I will post soon, but three of the potential sets of 5) clickHERE.

Maybe not a million, but lots and lots of them

I’ve been working for almost a year on a project that is not like anything I’ve ever worked on. That’s not to say vessels haven’t shown up in my work before, but this time it’s different. This project even has a name: Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. You can Google it. It’s that kind of project. And since I haven’t posted anything here in a long time, and I am required to write a statement about my contribution to this project, I thought I’d work out my thoughts on this electronic piece of paper. I welcome your comments (and I warn you, this will be by far the longest entry on my news page ever).

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is a an international coalition of writers and artists responding to the car bombing of the literary district of Baghdad, Iraq on March 5, 2007. Beau Beausoleil, a poet and bookseller in San Francisco spearheaded this series of responses: first with letterpress broadsides, then publishing an anthology of poetry and essays, followed by 260 artists’ books, and now a call to printmakers.

Accepting the invitation to join the coalition of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here artists was the easy part. The printmaking response, with a theme of Absence & Presence, immediately resonated. Still, I knew, right from the start this was going to be a challenge. For one thing, my work is not usually politically motivated; and then, how would I visually describe that Al-Mutanabbi Street starts wherever people gather to talk freely and exchange ideas?

My solution was to create something that spoke about time and existence; that what is here in one moment may not be here in the next. It is an idea I’ve been exploring for a very long time: how what has been, and all that we experience, shape and inform who we become and how we respond to the world around us; thus what is absent never completely disappears, but is carried forward within us through the memories we hold and stories we tell.

Why a Vessel?

I settled on an image of a vessel, a teacup, in part as representative of the tea shops destroyed in the bombing, and in part because it symbolizes one of the universal ways we share time and space – over a cup of tea.

Drawing vessels (cups, sugar bowls, and creamers) is a practice I come back to over and over again. So this project became, to a certain degree, an extension of work I had been doing. However, in this case I needed to push it a lot further. It was no longer my mother’s sugar bowl, it was a vessel that was meant to symbolize our need to communicate and connect.

Even when I finally settled on the cup as an image to work with (and it took several months to get to that point), I made more than 50 prints before I felt like I hit it. I was looking for something that both reflected some of the violence – in a very non-literal way (through the marks and color), and allowed an image to move in and out of focus – to be there and not exactly there. By using both fully inked plates and residually inked plates with ghost images I was able to let the cup move into the foreground and settle back into the background somewhat simultaneously.

Adventures in Printmaking

Usually, my prints are fodder for other work (cut up and remade into collages, or as base sheets on top of which I continue to draw). In the case of this project, I wanted to make “just prints”, which required that I go back to Printmaking 101, reminding myself to build the layers slowly, one plate at a time. The prints had to be a lot more than a bunch of random seeming marks. They had to add up to something, communicating specific ideas. This was a challenging and novel approach for me. It pushed me way beyond the edge of my comfort zone.

The requirements of the project ask for an edition of 5 prints. It is rare that I create editions. So I decided to make a series that clearly were meant to be together and thus when separated would in some very subtle way be missing something. Each print is slightly different and has some counterpart in another print in the series. You won’t necessarily know that something is missing, though you will see ghost-like images alongside the more visible vessel.

I started this project with a whole bunch of uncertainty and allowed myriad possibilities to present themselves to me. I am still intrigued by some of those unexplored possibilities, and though my prints are due in Boston this month, I suspect I’ll continue making vessels for a while longer. I am grateful to both Stephanie Stigliano for inviting me to participate in the project, and toSissy Buck (who is also a participant) for collaborating with me early on and at some point making an offhand comment suggesting I consider a vessel as a means to move forward.


Posted on: January 21st, 2015 by jmbroekman No Comments

Purple Vessel for Anneke’s 88th Birthday


Treasures Lost and Found

Posted on: November 10th, 2013 by jmbroekman 2 Comments

Happy finds in my mouse and squirrel ridden loft

Serious demolition has begun in the studio. Half the building is down to bare studs. The chore that I was most dreading – cleaning out the loft space – is pretty much complete. There is little that can’t be done when you put a mask on your face and your mind to that which seems insurmountable. It was disgusting up there. But lo and behold, even though I thought every last thing was going to find it’s way to the dump or a bonfire, I was wrong.

I knew my old prints of many moons ago were there, but I dared not hope they’d be anything salvageable. There were several old portfolios, all zippered up and miracle of miracles, un-infested. What a great surprise I got when I finally hauled the portfolios down and opened them up. The contents within were pristine.

I’m pretty sure the litho at left was done when I lived in NY and worked at the Art Student’s League. That would’ve been over 30 years ago