making prints

Phoenix College is offering Introduction To Printmaking (ART250) this semester.  We have a new art building opening it’s doors, this Spring…and the department has purchased a brand new press.  If you are detail and process oriented, like paper, and like experimentation, then printmaking could be for you.

I studied printmaking at UTEP with Kurt Kemp, and at NMSU with Spencer Fiddler. They studied under master printer  Mauricio Lasansky.  Kurt and Spencer influenced my work and process considerably, as did Mr. Lasansky’s imagery.

For the last two years, each summer, I have designed compositions, made the plates and pulled the prints. I spend the rest of the year collaging and hand painting each print, making each completed work an original. Though I can choose surfaces like zinc or plexi-glass to work on,  I prefer  the more traditional copper.  I appreciate the material, and it’s a softer metal, in general. The technique of choice, at the moment, is drypoint, which is considered an Intaglio process. I work and scratch directly into the plate. Drypoint has to do with making lines at various angles and depths  and lifting burrs that will hold ink to various degree.  This is done with a sharp needle tool.  It’s direct method appeals to me, because I enjoy  the drawing-like quality . It can be as planned, or as free flowing as I choose.  I tend to start with a general composition,  but loosen and play with textures and patterns after I have scratched in the main design. Working on metal, I can sand or burnish out mistakes. Once the plate has been altered one will always see a mark of some sort, that will in fact hold ink…and this too can add unplanned quality and richness to an image. After the image is complete, I file down and smooth out the four edges of the copper plate.  This will prevent my paper from being ripped as it runs between the roller and the press bed. 

plates

drypointed copper plates

I can’t run as many prints off of a dry-point  as I can with an acid etched plate. But pulling the print, is the same.  I ink the plate, using etching ink.  My preference is a dense, deep, black ink. I wipe it carefully, using a Tarlatan cloth.  I wipe and clean the plate bevels, lay the plate onto the press bed, lay a damp, high quality printing paper (like BFK Rag) over the inked plate,  cover the paper and plate with three various press blankets and finally I run the whole thing through the press, tightly, smoothly, and evenly. Each time I take the plate through the press it flattens out the lifted burrs and alters the scratched lines to some degree which is why drypoint prints are a very limited edition.

Prints

Prints

I can pull a dozen or so good prints off of one dry-point image.  

Collaged and Hand Painted Prints

Collaged and Hand Painted Prints

In time I will hand-paint and collage each print.  Note the embedded plate marks, this is one way to identify a true print, as is the numbering and signing of the work. 
I am drawn to the process and the look of a print.  Both are like nothing else.

I will tell you about the process of a specific print in the next post…conception to delivery!

2 thoughts on “making prints

  1. man…I miss printmaking (still have a couple copper plates in the studio)! I’m working on a drawing for clay right now – instead of making lots of pots for the tour – because I’m drawn to the printmaking process. Well, as I’ve manipulated it to work with clay: drypoint, ‘inking’ of the plate/tile and the hand coloring/glaze. Sometimes I think Kurt’s class influenced my clay more than the clay process influenced my clay.

  2. Beth and I went to the same college, the University of Texas at El Paso. And now we both have found ourselves in Arizona. She attended ASU, where she received her MFA.
    She recently opened up her own ceramic studio/shop, Dessadogtoo, located in Gilbert, AZ. I will tell you more about Beth, her work, and her ceramic art studio in an upcoming post.

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