Sunday, January 10, 2010
Printmaking with Mariann and Janine
I have just finished a wonderful week of printmaking in the Atelier Conti with two charming and talented printmakers, Mariann and Janine. Mariann and I got to know one another through Etsy and Printsy. She is a very talented painter and printmaker with an avid following. She has a great blog which includes very helpful printmaking how-to videos. I had already learned a lot from her before she ever arrived. She proposed spending a week in our studio since she had not before explored aquatint as a way of creating tone for her intricate and delicate prints and she also liked our space. Mariann splits her time between Singapore and Spain, although she is Danish and grew up in Sweden. She proposed bringing along a printmaking friend from Singapore. Janine is a publisher but also a very talented artist and printmaker. She originates from South Africa. The week began with snowfall. Janine, who has mostly lived in rather warm climates, was overjoyed to have a bit of inclement weather. She took lots of gorgeous photos of the snow. We immediately established a pleasant routine in the studio. Of course I learned as much from Mariann and Janine, as they learned from me. One trick they showed me was that to de-grease a copper etching plate, the best product of all is soya sauce! It works like a charm. They also use regular vegetable oil as final clean-up of plates and surfaces. It cuts down on the use of solvents. We were hard at it from morning until dark each day, exploring techniques and creating images. I think Mariann and Janine each made at least 6 or 8 outstanding plates during the time they were here. I was able to come up with two, one relatively successful, and one a failure. Mariann's images contain mysterious stories. She told me that she always has a story of her own in mind, but that she never reveals it to the viewer, allowing them to come to their own conclusions. Her titles can give a clue. The print on the right is called Waiting for Visitors. Much of Janine's work is based on sketches from life she has done previously. She is a very faithful draftsman. While the rest of us went to bed, she often stayed awake drawing. She took some images of nudes and treated them in various ways to create different printed results. During my correspondence with Mariann last fall, we discovered that we approached inking of plates with completely different methods. I have always inked up using a hotplate, which keeps the ink warm and supple until you print it. Mariann on the other hand uses cold wiping which involves mixing the inks with linseed oil until they are very soft but not too greasy. Her method requires no heat. Janine, who had never tried warm wiping was game to give it a try. Mariann and I did a sample of each kind of inking on one of her little test plates. On the left is the warm wipe, on the right is the cold wipe. Mariann leaves more ink on the plate, which suits her imagery. It gives a very velvety quality. I tend to wipe off as much surface ink as possible, to get the greatest contrast possible. Neither of us convinced the other to change methods, but I'm quite happy to know about hers, as it does give me another tool to pull out from time to time when an image demands it. I like the feeling of the warm copper in my hand while wiping. For her part, Mariann says she'll probably buy a hotplate at least for the application of varnishes on the plates, it makes their application more even. The week went very quickly, with comradeship in and out of the studio. The weather continued to be cold and frosty, to snow from time to time, but at the same time to offer crystal clear moments, and fabulous light. On the last day she was here, Mariann inked up some plates a la poupée, which is a technique she specializes in and which I learned from her video. I was very interested to watch her in person. She was not at all sure it would work well with the aquatint. In the past her shading has been done with crosshatching, which works brilliantly for adding color a la poupée She wasn't positive the color would be easily applied or stay clean with the the continuous tone that aquatint provides. It's such a marvelous technique, since any number of colors can be added to a single plate. Colors are applied with Q-tips or little poupées (dolls) made of tarlatan. You're limited only by your patience! This is one good reason to use cold wiping, as the inks won't dry out, no matter how long the inking process takes. This rather complex image took Mariann less than 5 minutes to ink! the results were really fabulous and the aquatint inked up very well indeed! Mariann will be building an aquatint box in her own studio! Janine had some wonderfully creative ideas too. She took several of her snow photo images and turned them into photogravures. She intends to print them as very light back grounds behind her hand-drawn images. She has promised to send me the results. I can't wait to see how they turn out! I created an image I call Happy Hounds, inspired by a group of hunting dogs we saw at the Château de Cheverny. I loved the way they draped over one another to take a standing rest on their neighbor's back! The week went past way too quickly. The cold weather never affected the warmth in the studio. It's always such a pleasure to work with other printmakers. Montmirail is a quiet and inspirational location, albeit far from Singapore!