July 2018 Newsletter

Long overdue, I’m finally getting another newsletter out. I’ve had to take the long way around to get to this point in year but things are looking good. My regular full-time day job presented me with some challenges that severely cut into my time as an artist. Through this though, my most recent work has left me excited about what I’m creating and the direction of my work (with the exception of the plate I essentially ‘melted’). But that’s a story for another time.

Over the last month or so I’ve made some sizeable updates to my website. The two largest are a shop section and a more streamline newsletter method. This should allow me to send out newsletters at a more consistent rate. This will also make it easier for me to include media such as images and animations to illustrate some of what I’m describing.

Below you’ll find some ramblings about my working process, some of the most recent books I’ve read and a list of things I’ve been listening to. But before moving onto that, here is the obligatory list of upcoming events.

Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff
July 14-15Booth #108St. Joseph, MI
Ann Arbor Summer Art FairJuly 19-22Booth MN312 (Main St. & Liberty in front of Shalimar)Ann Arbor, MI


Please share your thoughts on this newsletter and let me know what you’d like to see in the future. It’s far from perfect which I view as an opportunity to make it better.


I just finished up a new piece that I’m rather enthusiastic about however I don’t yet have images of it to share at the present moment. I should have some up on my site and/or Instagram in the near future. I do however have a small GIF to share of my working process.

With etching there are many ways to create an image on the plate. The most straight forward way is to simply do a straight etch where the plate is placed in the etching solution for a single timed period and then removed. This leaves all lines and marks etched at an equal density. The downside here is that everything is uniform on the plate and leaves the image often boring. If you want to add some variety to the density and strength of the lines, there are a number of ways this can be achieved, but two that are more common then the rest.

The first being a method where with all the line work done on the ground (waxed) plate, you etch the plate for a short duration to create the lightest density lines. Once this lightest etch is complete, you stop-out (mask) the lightest area with a varnish, covering the areas that are etched to satisfaction. Then place the plate back into etching solution and continue to etch darker portions of the plate. This process can be repeated until the entire plate has been etched in various densities to create a variety of ‘zones’. This method allows you to get some variety in areas such as background skies which often require a lighter/shorter etch time and the foreground which often includes strong shadows and contrast. The downside to this method is that by stopping-out (masking) areas, you can create a blocked feel where the delineation between zones is noticeable. It is also quite terrible for small, fine detail as you have to paint the stop-out varnish onto the plate and covering a single line or tiny detail can be difficult and lead to accidental coverage of adjacent detail.

The second method and the one I prefer is to work in states (layers). As suggested, this is achieved by building layers of lines and marks over top of one another, each etched at a different duration. This allows you to build up and control transitions between areas of the image more carefully. An additional set of lines and marks are added and etched at a different interval than the ones before. With each set of lines, the plate must be cleaned and re-ground (waxed) with a very light coating so that you can see the existing line work below. Too thick, the wax will prevent you from seeing existing lines and too thin will leave the wax ground porous and won’t adequately protect the copper below. The two greatest disadvantages to this method are time and increased chance of error. You are essentially creating multiple etchings on a single plate. This means that possible mistakes are also multiplied.

As you can see with the GIF above, this piece was created with eight sets of lines. Each having a different timed etch. The darkest lines were etched for 25 minutes whereas the lightest lines in the sky were etched for 90 seconds. The next image is a ground (waxed) plate with an a 5th state being worked on.

My goal moving forward is to better document my process so that I can share better visual references to accompany my descriptions. I hope this has given a little insight into my process.


I’m not going to sugarcoat it, my summer reading fell off a cliff. It has really come down to a combination of shifts in my day job that doesn’t allow for much, if any reading during the day and a string of books that hasn’t help the matter. Though with ‘Nathan Coulter’ by Wendell Berry, I feel like I might have found a rhythm.

Nathan Coulter – Wendell Berry (1960)

The first in the Port Williams series of works, I thoroughly enjoy Berry’s grace and ease of presenting life from the perspective of the young character, Nathan. What I admire most in this work is the way the themes are kept in proper alignment with the characters perspective. With themes such as lose and depression, we are able to see these unfiltered through the eyes of an adolescent youth in 1930’s Kentucky. We aren’t asked to explore how we feel, we are simply provided his experiences as matter-of-fact. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful way to capture the characters and places as they are, simple and honest.

The Ambassadors – Henry James (1903)

I’ve really enjoyed early Henry James. I’m not entirely sure what to make of my first foray into late James. The plot and the narrative of the story fit well with what I find pleasurable in his works but his style became so wordy and plodding that by the third page of a single paragraph I had forgotten where I had just come from. I found myself constantly having to backtrack to find some reassurance that I indeed had not fallen asleep. Back to early James it is!


Here’s a brief list of what I’ve been listening to, in no particular order…

  1. ‘The Man Who’ – Travis
  2. ‘The Aeroplane Flies High’ – Smashing Pumpkins
  3. Old Freight’ – Alan Barnosky
  4. ‘Tim’ – The Replacements
  5. ‘Bach: The Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites – Yo-Yo Ma / Johann Sebastian Bach
  6. ‘Used to Want to be a Cowboy’ – Chris LeDoux
  7. ‘Sea of Noise’ – St. Paul & The Broken Bones
  8. ‘Dwight’s Used Records’ – Dwight Yoakam
  9. ‘99% Invisible’ (podcast) – Roman Mars
  10. ‘Reconstruction Site’ – The Weakerthans

And with that, I’ll let you get back to your regularly scheduled distraction from work or where ever it is you find yourself reading this. It’s much appreciated that you’ve signed up for my newsletters and participate in engaging in the arts. Again, please let me know what your thoughts are on my newsletter and what you might like to see in the future.

– J.A. Richard

Newsletter 02/14/2018

Newsletter Sections: Books My work2018

A quiet stroll to the Ann Arbor District Library.

Greetings to all, it has been an enjoyable and snowy winter (by Ann Arbor standards). Of course I suppose that’s all based on you’re perspective. The snow has provided a nice backdrop for all the reading and studying I’ve been putting in. And since I only have a mile and a half commute to work, I’ve largely avoided having to drive in it.

This year I’ve so far knocked off eight books and figured I’d start with talking about those since it’s sure to have an impact on my work in the future. Before I begin that, I have a small disclaimer that needs to be said. It’s at the bottom so it doesn’t clutter up things to much.

Up next is a little about my work. A few things that I’ve recently completed and a few long term projects that I have in the back of my mind. And finally a small glimpse into 2018 as it’s still early and I don’t have my calendar situated as of yet. Continue reading Newsletter 02/14/2018

Newsletter 08/28/2017

Thank you for taking a minute to give this a read. I’m trying something a little differently this time around. Here’s a little context.

If you’ve visited my booth at any number of shows or events, you’ve probably seen my sketchbook out on the table. I put my books out because it’s a chance for anyone who is curious and engaged to take a more in depth look at what goes on behind a finished piece.

Perhaps in some small way, it’ll foster more conversation, encourage someone to pull their own sketchbook out or simply build upon someones enjoyment of what they are looking at. Whatever the end outcome, I put it out there for anyone who enjoys more out their art experience.

From my point of view, learning more about an artist and their methods provides a deeper connection to their work. A great example of this is that every time I visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the first things I see is the the Thomas Cole drawings on display. The DIA has over 2,500 of his drawings and I’m fascinated by his style. Being a paper work, they ever show a small handful at one time, so there’s always something new to see. His drawings are an abbreviated shorthand form of note taking that allowed him to work with his belief that a scene should be aged before being painted. He liked to allow time to de-clutter a scene and allow the important access to come through. Here’s an example of one of his drawings.

Now onto some of what I’ve been up to…

In the last month I’ve moved to a larger apartment so that I have a little more space to work. Been cycling a fair bit. Built an aquatint box. I’ve also redone my website and finished updating all my current work. It should be a little more streamline, work on all devices and be a lot quicker to update. It took me the better part of ten days to complete, but I think the time investment was worth it.

What I’m working on… New landscape pieces

I’ve had a series of sketches and paintings in my sketchbook for some time now. Marine landscapes reflecting on water in a hazy misty atmosphere. Before I could proceed with creating them in intaglio, I needed an aquatint box (briefly speaking, aquatint is a way to create tones and large areas of ink). Depending on how it’s used, it can offer a watercolor style effect. Now that I’ve built an aquatint box, it’s onto sorting out how to recreate the effects I achieved in the sketchbook.

So far, I’ve printed a number of test plates and have begun to sort out how to layer three colored inks with two plates. I’m struggling to control the consistency of the colored layers to my liking, but that will come with time. This week I hope to start the horizon landscape. When all is done, each print will have been printed with three plates.

What I’m reading… ‘Travels with Charley: In Search of America’ by John Steinbeck

A travelogue written in the early 1960’s, it captures Steinbeck’s cross country trip with his dog, Charley. Save for a few outdated phrases, the content reads as a rather timeless piece of work. Even with the disputes over how much of it Steinbeck may have fictionalized, his take on the fabric of America is a good read and still very relevant today. I’m about half way through but I’d recommend it. It’s a quick easy read that I think will at the very least will inspire a different view on your next road trip.

What I’m listening to… ‘Rockingham’ – BJ Barham

This is a great American singer/songwriter album that chases topics revolving around the American dream. The leading track of ‘American Tobacco Company’ frames the tone of the rest of the album beautifully. It is a poignant narrative of a returning WWII vet and the contrast between the life he leads and the one he fought for. I really love the turn of phrase he uses as well as the frankness from which he writes. So far it’s been a nice easy read that I’m glad I picked up.

What I’m watching… La Vuelta a España

If you’re not up on  your Spanish or your cycling, this is the Tour of Spain. It’s Spain’s version of the Tour de France. It’s a three week bike race through Spain in much the same style as Le Tour. Watching the big European cycling events is a great way to catch small tidbits of history. The commentators need to talk about something during a 4-5 hour bike race.

Now that other stuff… Upcoming events

September 2-3Art in the Park (Port Austin, MI)
September 8-10Art and Apples (Rochester, MI)
September 16-17Common Grounds (Birmingham, MI)

We are nearing the end…

I’d like to thank everyone for taking a moment to interact and engage with me and my work. If anything, I can only hope that it fosters more engagement in the arts. Next time you visit a show, I encourage everyone to take a minute and look a little deeper than the surface. Ask questions and be curious.

And now that we’ve reached the end and all has been said, I’ll leave you with the words of the great Porky Pig. “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

Thank you

J.A. Richard