Please visit http://prints.intaglioeditions.com for more information on how to purchase my prints online.
I recently decided to post my video tutorial online and began working on a project outline so viewers could try these printmaking techniques on their own. To participate, please watch my photogravure video tutorial on printmaking techniques, follow the project guidelines below, send me your images and comments via this contact form for public critique and discussion. I will respond!
Contrary to popular opinion, Ansel Adams was not the greatest photographer in the world. Adams was known for his exquisite prints.
This project is to help you begin to incorporate any new printmaking techniques that I demonstrate in the printmaking techniques video to see if you can improve the number of tones and richness you are currently getting in your prints. The assignment is to make 10 unique prints from the same plate, making slight changes to each, analyze what worked, what didn’t and why, and report back to the class on your findings.
Getting solid, repeatable results is the goal of most people involved in printmaking. An incredible amount of time and resources go into fine handmade printmaking, so anywhere time and resources can be saved means more time and money that can be spent toward other work or endeavors!
Printmaking is as much of a science as it is an art or a craft. And, as noted by management thinker Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Being able to observe the effect of something and understand its level of significance, as well as its cause, is central to being able to improve any process. Printmaking is no exception. By documenting your inking and wiping changes you can repeat your successes.
Apply one of the new techniques shown in the class video to your workflow with each new print, and take physical or electronic notes about your changes, your expected results and your actual results to the outcome in a diary. Your print diary should include extensive details about what was changed in each iteration including:
- The paper used (weight, texture, soaking time, any paper calendaring employed)
- Ink used (proportions of ink and modifiers used)
- Environmental factors you might want to jot down may include the amount of pressure used, room temperature, blowers or fans being used in the vicinity, and anything you’ve found to be a significant environmental factor that affects the quality of your results.
After critiquing all your prints submit your three favorite from among your ten. Compare and contrast them in your journal post. Also note where there is room for greater improvement or perhaps areas where you may have lost some fidelity by doing something differently. Perhaps a certain wiping technique improves your contrast but loses highlight details. Printmaking is an ongoing, but increasingly effective, cycle of wins and losses.
There are hundreds of ways to affect a print during the proofing, as every printmaker knows. You can change the paper you are using – going from something like a cotton Rives BFK 300 gram paper to Kitakata, a 33 g/m2 Japanese kozo will produce a dramatic shift. Not just in tone and color, but in sharpness, clarity, and added depth.
Subtle differences can be achieved through the use of ink modifiers, such as 00 burnt plate oil, EZ-Wipe or by using different colored inks or mixing them in various proportions. Often times you can open up shadow details by cutting the ink with a little bit of 00 grade burnt plate oil. You can also experiment by intentionally leaving more ink in certain areas of the plate, or less. Carefully document what you did and your results and post that to the class as well. Your assignment, again, is to make 10 variations on a print changing only the ink, how you are wiping the plate, or the paper used and post your 3, favorite with comments.
Here’s a breakdown of each of our steps along with variations you could try when making your ten initial prints. Write down your observations about how subtle changes in your execution affect the final print.
Part 1: Preparing the Plate
Sanding the plate is critical for safety. Here are some aesthetic considerations/variations:
- Rounded Corners
- Try different degrees of rounding your corners.
- Try using Fiskar metal sheers to cut your steel-backed polymer plate into a shape, sand the edges, and try to ink and print it! Watch those sharp corners!
Part 2: Mixing the Ink
Here is where you will have the greatest number of choices in how to ink your prints. By experimenting with different inks and modifiers you can adjust contrast, density and translucency in your prints.
- EZ-wipe –note the increased ease of wiping!
- Burnt plate oil 00.
- Magnesium Carbonate for thickening the ink again if it is too loose.
Part 3: Brayering and Wiping the Plate
Brayering is simply to get ink onto the surface of the plate without scratching it. In wiping the plate, we push ink into the pits embedded in the plate, creating a richer image. One aspect of intaglio printing is that ink can remain both on the surface of the plate, and recessed into the plate. This causes the ink to be embedded both in and on the paper. Some things you can do during this stage of the process to affect the results:
- Try leaving excess ink in areas that require more density.
- For stark whites, use a flannel rag and q-tips to wipe the plate in specific areas.
- Use multiple different colored inks on your plate and carefully wipe them into specific areas using tools made from rags or felt. This technique is called À la poupée.
Part 4: Wiping the Edges
Cleanly wiped edges are generally considered best practice and good form in traditional printmaking, so in this lesson I show you how to do it effectively. This is not to say it could not be used creatively, so maybe try these variations:
- Instead of wiping the ink off the edges, wipe it into the perimeter of the plate, creating a hand-wiped vignette effect.
The first couple of prints one makes are not usually that stellar. As I say in the video, polymer plates must be printed two or three times before the plate becomes seasoned and starts printing more uniformly.
Part 5: Preparing the Paper
There is a lot to be said on the subject of paper in printmaking, far more than the scope of this tutorial will allow me to cover. That said, you should be familiar with how to print on various kinds of printmaking paper. Printmaking paper is specially crafted to hold up to water and pressure required to make intaglio prints in the traditional manner. Generally speaking, heavily textured paper tends to break up the continuous tone of the image and introduce paper inclusions randomly throughout the print. This may or may not be desirable, and using different kinds of paper can affect your print dramatically.
- Obviously there is a wide range of papers you can use in your project. We have found Hahnemühle Copperplate, Hahnemühle Ingres, and the Magnani Rivere Silk lines of paper tend to work very well for this process to get a crisp, clean, continuous tone print (assuming the tone already exists in your plate). The advantage of these papers is no need to calendar the paper when using these specific types of paper. The advantage of being able to make a “normal”, clean print is you can then use that as a baseline to branch out into more creative approaches.
- Chin colle is a technique by which colored shapes of thin, fine art Asian paper such as Kitakata are placed strategically in the print’s composition to lend some color and attention to a given area of the piece. Generally lighter papers are used for chin colle.
Part 6 : Making the Print
Just as there are hundreds of papers to choose from, there are many different ways to work the press. The functional act of setting the pressure and running the press is a technical knowledge that’s required to control the process. Once control is gained, the knowledge can be used to make creative decisions to experiment beyond your established workflow as a conscious choice – not settle for something that looks kind of interesting rather than really good, because you can’t control the process!
Santa Fe printmaking artist Ron Pokrasso likes to work by continually adjusting and running the print through the press multiple times, keeping it trapped under the roller to aid in registration. By strategically adding layers to the piece each time it goes through the press (and employing techniques such as monotype, multiple plates, a la poupee, chin colle, and post-press techniques such as watercoloring) Ron and his students are able to build upon a composition by thoughtfully adding or taking away from the piece as needed. This is just one example of the many different ways the press can be used to enhance your work. Through continuous work, study and experimentation you will expand your repertoire in ways to express yourself visually through printmaking.
The goal here is to create something unique, and establish a process you can repeat again in the future. Once added to your art arsenal, as it were, and you have mastered it, you should then stray from it to create something hopefully original and beautiful.
To watch the full video click here! Please post your questions and observations and I will respond in kind!
Write me with any questions and I look forward to seeing your work and findings.
–Jon Lybrook – May 2015
Over 40 people gathered at the Brookover Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming this week to learn about modern techniques for producing handmade photogravure prints. Jon Lybrook of Intaglio Editions has printed nine editions for David Brookover so far with more scheduled for release in the summer. This spring David is going on an excursion to Iceland and Europe for over two months to travel and capture more amazing images of the natural world.
David has been photographing the great outdoors for over 40 years gaining an international reputation for technical and artistic excellence as a large format photographer using an 8×10″ view camera. In recent years, he has moved to digital and has begun publishing his prints as photogravures on handmade Japanese gampi as well as heavier western papers from Italy and Germany.
Historically the collaboration between photogravure artists and the printmaker has been based on a tremendous amount of trust and goodwill. The artist must trust that the printmaker will make the correct technical decisions and the printmaker must trust the artist will make the best aesthetic decisions. The lines between what is technical and what is aesthetic are often blurred and so, sometimes the roles of artist and technician are reversed.
The talk was sponsored by the Teton Photography Group of Jackson and covered a brief technical explanation of the polymer photogravure plate and printmaking process followed by a show-and-tell of materials, papers, and techniques for printmaking. Examples of chine colle, the technique of applying fine, colored papers onto a handmade print were shown as well as descriptions of how a typical intaglio plate is inked and printed on a press using dampened, fine art paper. Jon Lybrook also showed examples of his own printed work, both photographic and non-figurative and those of other photogravure artists he has worked with.
The International File Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) is an annual print fair of epic quality and scale held in New York City every year. Fine, printed work from every era, traditional technique, and genre is represented by around 100 exhibitors, and includes artists and printmakers as varied as Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt, Picasso, Damien Hurst, Robert Mangold, Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauchenberg, and Judith Rothchild. In additfion, many different types of printmaking and sculptural prints are made available including multiple-plate, traditional etchings, photogravure, polymer photogravure, mezzotint, monotype, monoprints, linocut, woodblock, lithographs, screen printing, and mixed media — to name just a few.
This print fair has a level of quality which often surpasses that of the large museums, as private curators and collectors will sometimes have higher standards (and budgets) than those of prestigious museums. Since many of the vintage works in a museum come from bequests from private collectors, the work donated might not be optimally cared for throughout the decades or centuries. As it concerns contemporary prints, I suspect the quality is better too because museums sometimes get their acquisitions at a discount or even pro-bono in exchange for the exposure and bragging rights an artist gets for having their work in the collection of a major institution.
Some of the highlights of the four-day show, which ran from November 7-10, 2013, included seeing contemporary lithographs by Shark’s Ink in Lyons, Colorado. Bud Shark was one of a handful of printmakers on-hand to answer questions about the process and the artists he represents.
The work of painter Donald Teskey was skillfully printed by Stoney Road Press based in Dublin, Ireland. The line art was rendered with a polymer plate charged with black ink on top of several chunky, coarse, carborundum plates to present impressionistic seascapes. Looking almost like acrylic paintings, the plates revealed the different layers of thick ink that went into each print, and the guys from Stony Road even offered to point out the slight differences among prints in the edition.
Other work of interest included luscious, technically superior, 4-color polymer photogravures of mushrooms by Niels Borch Jensen Editions out of Copenhagen showed a strong command of the process by achieving smooth, continuous tone, color, and registration in their prints.
Pace Prints of New York demonstrated their expertise and versatility through the clean etchings, dignified colored shapes with embossment and thoughtful spirals in prints by Robert Mangold as well as larger more ambitious works by brothers How & Nosm (Raoul and Davide Perre).
Crown Point Press had a number of fine printmaking techniques on display, including artist Shahzia Sikander who, in using Indian ink and multiple plates created artful and skillful figurative compositions including a “secret” language of glyphs. Crown Point’s Tiffany Harker did not hesitate in answering academic questions regarding editioning and numbering practices and was both patient and professional.
A generous assortment of high-quality, reasonably priced mezzotints, photogravure, and vintage works were being shown immaculately by Corad R. Graeber Fine Art of Maryland.
Probably the most satisfying and masterful contemporary work printed in a traditional manner were square, copper photogravure prints by Chuck Close which illustrated the mastery of printmakers of Two Hands of NY.
In terms of rich, sensual, creative approaches to traditional techniques, the large, non-figurative prints of Japanese artist Tamekane Yoshikatsu by Tolman Gallery of Tokyo were certainly among the most dynamic and colorful available at the fair. Tasteful design juxtapositions of chine colle, ink and generous embellishments of gold leaf in the artist’s work made for a multi-layered feast of the senses. I have decided to give my own, personal “Best of Show” to this artist.
In addition to the wonderful array of exhibitors and artists work on hand, several talks and tours were a part of the fair — including an insightful talk with David Acton, the Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photography at the Worcester Art Museum.
At the IFPDA Print Fair in NYC last week, “Conversations with the Curator” was an interview with David Acton, author and Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photography at the Worcester Art Museum, and John Dorfman, editor-in-chief of Art & Antiques Magazine. Throughout the interview, Mr. Acton touched upon the appreciation of the print as a work of art, how things have changed since he first became a curator and how it differs from being a collector.
Preserving art and ideas for future generations has traditionally been a large part of a curator’s job and is mostly how it differs from the goals of a private collector.
Waxing nostalgic, Mr. Acton spoke of curators of yesteryear being sophisticated, experts of the world especially with regard to art, and the sciences involved in making art. It was mostly about being a “connoisseur of objects.” Today this profile has changed in part due to technology, which he said is another aspect of appreciation. Sometimes the internet, for example, can help inform the investigator more quickly than extensive library research, but since the authority of the information on the internet is questionable at times, it’s also easy to dismiss. The same is true of digital images of prints themselves. This means of immediate access to art lacks the tactile appreciation of working with art.
What made printmaking great was the necessity for artists and printmakers to know much more about the art and technology of the day, as well as throughout history, in order to make prints, and appreciate the craft of making prints. Printmaking was a broad specialty, leaking into painting, photography, chemistry, sculpture and many other disciplines. Mr. Acton went on to say the excitement of holding a work of art that has survived through the centuries has largely been dismissed as ancillary information to people new to the field. The joy of connoisseurship, and of holding a work of art, being present and engrossing one’s self in the details of how the ink sits on the print, evaluating the condition of the paper, and the historical context of the work, are being dismissed too quickly by the younger generations. It is no longer being taught. Patience, savoring, being fully present, and experiencing what is being observed is becoming a lost skill.
The disparity he expressed toward Millennials’ lack of patience to “be” with an image before dismissing it was brought up several times. The saturation of images subjected to a generation growing up with the internet should not come as a surprise. How a printed work on paper, which can sometimes take months or years to create, can be dismissed so easily should be understandable, yet is deplorable. While work must speak for itself regardless of process, it is so much harder to appreciate an image solely on the 2-dimensional nature of the composition without being in its presence and feeling the weight, seeing the relief, texture with the knowledge of the technique that went in to creating the image, as well as the composition and color that can be only marginally represented on the computer. It’s no wonder younger people find it easier to reject images so quickly.
This is, in part, inherent in printmaking since it is, and has been, largely about disseminating work broadly. Why should the experience of holding a print be savored if one knows they can pull up an image of it on their cell phone at any time by merely Googling the name or artist? Printmaking solved the challenge of the day about how to share information, and with the internet we are continuing that challenge, yet there is more to appreciating a work of art than merely appreciating its composition.
As far as technology, Mr. Acton made clear that what technique or innovation was used in creating a print should not become a gimick for selling the print. This could be true of both old technologies as well as new. The beauty of a print stands on its own regardless of the technique used to create it. While inkjet was not addressed directly, it seems clear that an inkjet print, that may take time to compose and little time to actually print should not cost more than, say, a 9 plate etching edition of 25 due to the time and skill involved in rendering such an image.
Lastly, David Acton made it clear that for many artists, printmaking is social means of expression and collaboration that gets them out of the studio. To many skilled artist the exchange of ideas and freeing themselves from the technological impediments to making art is an important reason to make prints and provides another facet in the work and lives of many successful artists.
Recently we attended a arts fundraising event in Denver to raise money and awareness for what’s being called Mo’Print, or the Month of Printmaking. The event was well-attended in spite of the rain and tornado warnings. Great food, wine, conversation, and a fine art print auction of work donated by supporting artists was included. We also had the privilege of touring the house of Sue Canyon who has a large and intriguing art collection.
Mo’Print is a new, month-long, city-wide event to promote fine art printmaking in all its forms, but primarily traditional, hand-printed works on paper. The idea is to have this event every other March, opposite from when the well-established, biennial “Month of Photography” festival occurs in Denver .
The Invisible Museum, which sponsored the event, is a 501(c)3 non-profit who’s mission is “To facilitate projects in the visual arts that would not otherwise be imagined proposed or completed.”
More information on Mo’Print Denver can be found here: http://invisiblemuseum.org/MoPrint/