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Artist's Statement from exhibition of trace drawings and dry point prints

Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, January 2012 


The dry point prints and trace drawings in this exhibition were made during the last two years.  During this time, I turned to printmaking as a means of expanding my aesthetic.  Drawing has always been integral to my studio practice and is the genesis of these works. 


I consider trace drawings to be a hybrid of drawing and printmaking. Trace drawings are frequently called trace monotypes; yet, I purposely choose the term trace drawings, as it is the drawing that appeals to me most. I see the process as unique in the way it intensifies the line. I like to think of this as an amplification of the original mark. 


Unlike working on a single painting, making a trace drawing automatically produces a progeny, in which the traces of its original forms are echoed and can be gently transformed.  I find that this generative aspect triggers other images in me as well as adding a conceptual layer to the work. For example, an original image paired with its ghost creates duality.  Successive prints contain remnants of previous images, establishing lineage-like relationships.  The sequence of these works serves as a record of the evolving image and reveals a transformation -- a consistent theme in my works. 


The title of my exhibition, Traces, refers to marking time, absence, memory and loss -- all of which point to the source of what is left behind.  A trace is proof of something that once existed but is now gone, a memory made tangible.  To draw is to leave a remnant of the movement of the hand as it follows the eye or the imagination of the maker. Likewise, to trace is to discover by investigation.  For me as an artist, to create through tracing is a methodology that enables me to conjure up an elusive image. 


The images in my work are taken from within, from personal experiences and observations lodged in my memory. The images in this exhibition have their genesis in the human body, in particular the female form and its capacity for sustaining and giving life. I find a parallel between my subject matter – the female body -- and the generative quality of the trace drawing technique.


To explain my technical processes, here is an overview of the printmaking techniques I use.


A dry point typically starts with a copper plate that is incised with a steel needle – an acid etch is not needed to inscribe the line.  Instead, I draw on the surface of a Plexiglas plate with a soldering iron. I am partial to the direct use of drawing with the hand in the dry point method.  Additionally, the lines produced with this process are characteristically soft, rich and full of potential.


The process for making trace drawings is very low-tech. I fully cover a Plexiglass plate with ink using a brayer. Then, I place paper on the inked plate, and draw directly on the backside of that paper.  When the drawing is complete, the paper is removed from the Plexiglas plate, and an image results (on the paper) at the places where I have placed pressure with my drawing tool or hand.  Of course, some ink remains on the plate and appears as a reverse of the image on the paper.   If I then place another paper on the plate and burnish it, a second negative image is created, which is called a ghost. Also, I can draw on the ghost before I pull the paper off the plate or I can re-ink the ghost plate, to create successive images.  The resulting drawing is a two-sided artwork – on the front of the paper is a print and on the back is a drawing.  I have framed the drawings in this exhibit so that both sides can be viewed.  What I find inspiring about this process is that no two images are identical and I can achieve a variety of nuanced differences with consecutive images. 


It has been a pleasure working with Jane Deering in organizing this exhibition of my new prints.  I wish to thank the following people for their inspiration: Dane Goodman, who first insisted I try trace drawing; Keith Puccinelli, who contibuted to the stimulating studio atmosphere while collaborating with Dane at La Entrada in 2009; Bob Mask, for first introducing the trace drawing process to the three of us; and  Dr. Judy L. Larson, Director of the Westmont Museum of Art for her thoughtful interview and conversations.


Marie Schoeff

January 2012



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