Sunday, February 19, 2012

Printmaking Fun and Fellowship

After a couple of weeks of the bitterest of winter weather, pre-spring has sprung again. All this week we woke up to the glorious singing of blackbirds outside and sun streaming in through windows.

This weekend my friend Mariann Johansen-Ellis came to do some photo etching with us. She brought her sister Monica. Mariann runs a printmaking school in a beautiful historic village in southern Spain. Her sister runs a Bed & Breakfast in central France.

It is such a great treat for me when I have the opportunity to work with someone I enjoy so well. We share ideas and laugh a lot.

I hadn't met Monica before, although I had heard all about her adventures from Mariann. She and her husband have taken a derelict building and turned it into an incredible holiday destination. We can hardly wait to find a time to reserve a room.

Mariann is going to be offering photo etching courses at her school but she hasn't as yet built the exposure box. She wanted to come try out ours to see if the process suited her. It is wonderful to work with someone with so much experience. She came prepared with lots of photos to work from. She was very well organized and knew exactly what she wanted to discover and she answered a lot of her own questions by experiments she made with the materials.

One critical element to the success of a photo etched print, is the choice of the proper photo to work with. An image like the one below, with a range of values nicely balanced over the entire picture works very well indeed.

Like myself, Mariann learns much more easily by doing, rather than by reading. Rick showed her all the steps once and after that she was off and running.

My favorite part of photo etching is the development process, done in a plain water bath. It seems rather magical to gently brush the plate and have an image begin to emerge. It reminds us of the movie Blowup.

Mariann is a really excellent printmaker and generous teacher. She has several videos on various aspects of printmaking on her site. I never fail to get some new insights from working with her.

We had one intensive day in the studio. Mariann produced 5 plates. Some worked better than others. She specifically brought various kinds of photos to experiment with the process and push it to its limits.

The first step is always to make a transparency of the photo which is then used on top of the photo sensitive plate. Mariann immediately thought of adding marks on top of the photo with sharpie pens. What a great idea!

Some of her images were quite mysterious and abstract. This, a close up of a cactus plant, looks to me like something Georgia O'Keefe might have done

The time passed quickly and before we knew it the ladies had left, heading home via the Loire Valley. I would really like to live much closer to Mariann, as I enjoy her fellowship and company so much.


I have decided to keep this blog as it has been over the last few years, a kind of report on our lives. I created a new space for my artistic endeavors. You can visit it via the link in the right hand sidebar if you would like.


  1. Looks like a lot of fun!
    Also looks a lot colder than our current weather! :-)

  2. Hello Nancy,

    Working and creating alongside a friend is a wonderful thing, isn't it?
    Looks like everyone had a fun and educational time. I am fascinated by the whole print making's like magic!

    Happy your weather is warming..ours is also.

    Janet xox is our little baby?