6.29.2010

Printmaking Camp, Days 3 and 4

Day 1.
Day 2
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The Participants
Tim McDowell, master printmaker and painter
Marcia Wood, gallerist and all around muse and support
Kim Anno, Kate Javens, Don Pollack, Katherine Taylor and me, the artists making prints
Brown Sanders and Clara Euam, technical assistance
Ellen Barnard and Lucas McDowell, producer and cameraman, respectively


After taking what seemed like 5 hours and 15 lbs of ink, I'd mixed my green. But I'm getting ahead of the narrative . . .
Photo: Brown Sanders

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I got in early on Day 3 to work on colors for my print. The two plates I’d proofed the previous day were not working—partly, I think, because I was still thinking like a painter—but also because I wanted a density of line that those first plates were not giving me. The second set of plates, both heavily incised, are meant to print at 90-degree angles to one another, like the weave of a fabric, which is where the image came from—my Silk Road series, which was in turn inspired by the grain and iridescence of douppioni silk.
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In the quiet print studio at 8:00 a.m.
The Cummings Art Center was built with a serrated roof to take advantage of the north light
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The process we are using is intaglio. The plates are not copper but steel-backed polymer, with the registered name of Solar Plate. The process is safer than the conventional copper-plate etching, because instead of using acid to etch the image, we use UV light on the polymer plate.

Tim and Clara had burned my second set of plates at the very end of the previous day and I hadn’t yet proofed them. I was thinking about the palette I wanted. On the way from the dorms to the print studio I spotted orange construction netting with the grass visible through it. That was exactly the kind of transparency and overlay I was looking for, just not in orange and green. I wanted to keep the colors more analogous—warm with warm, or cool with cool. Madder over a cadmium yellow/orange hadn’t given me what I wanted the day before. So this morning I'm thinking green over green. I printed a few proofs, making no attempt to register them, just to see what the color would be like. A yellow-green, overprinted with a transparentized pthalo viridian (which is pretty transparent to begin with) seemed right.
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The kind of transparency and linearity I saw on campus, via this construction screen, is what I was aiming for in my print
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Below, a proof in madder over cadmium yellow/orange from the previous day; two unregistered proofs from this morning. I'm liking this blue/green over yellow/green
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Above, working with Brown Sanders
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Below, my inked plate ready to be placed on the press
Both photos: Marcia Wood
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How I gained a few extra inches to see the press bed from a sufficient height. Photo: Marcia Wood
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When he was burning the plates, Tim suggested turning the square on its point. I’m so oriented to the horizontal and vertical I might never have thought of it. Since my new approach was to not think like a painter, I went for it. I liked it. And that’s how we did the prints. Working with Brown Sanders and Clara Euam, we printed an edition of 30 on Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Tim offered assistance and advice as requested, but mostly it was the three of us, working slowly. Clara and I prepared each plate for printing, with Brown helping me align the second plate, and Marcia stepping in occasionally to lay paper or to rack. Everyone took turns at the crank.


One of the first prints in the edition. I'm a happy camper.
The emerald hue and the diagonal orientation give this image a gemlike quality, no?
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Marcia racking the print
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On Thursday, Katherine Taylor and Kate Javens, working with Tim, printed their editions. I was printing while they were printing, but I did manage to take a few photos. Take a look:
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Katherine Taylor's palette . . .
. . . for the print Clara is pulling


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Katherine's print on the rack . . .
. . . with Katherine, another happy camper
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Kate Javens's image of a ram was made with one plate followed by an overprint with two partial plates, which Tim placed onto the initial printed image. (Sorry, I don't know the correct print terms.) What you're seeing above are the partial plates for the blue horns, which you can just make out, below
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Coming later this week: On Day 5 Don Pollack's print gets editioned, Katherine and Kim sign their prints, Tim makes two more prints for his edition, and we decide on a name for the project. On Day 6, you get to see the finished prints. Stay tuned . . .
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6.28.2010

Marketing Mondays: The New Emerging (or Re-emerging) Artist

More of Printmaing Camp on Wednesday
Click here for Day 1 and Day 2
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Image via the Internet

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An artist emailed me privately last week to chastize me for Marketing Mondays: "You are promoting careerism over integrity. I have lived in poverty all my life and although it has not been easy, my art is better for it."
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Really? Poverty makes art better? How thoroughly have we been indoctrinated into the concept of angst and penury for artists that we cannot see that creativity and professionalism are partners? We don't expect gallerists or collectors to live in garrets and die of consumption; why should we expect that of artists? (Not to be ageist, but I'm guessing my writer is old school, like maybe maybe art school from the Fifties.)

The new breed of artists—and many mid-career and even late-career artists, who are purging themselves of ingrained old-think—are not just working in their studios but presenting themselves to the world.

A favorite recent example: Two mid-career artists, attendees at a conference, opened their hotel suite for an exhibition of their work. New Yorkers, they understood well the concept of the hotel fair. After conference hours, their "311 Salon," named for the hotel room number, became the place to be at. Work was seen. Sales were made. They raised the bar for what was possible entrepreneurially at a small conference.

And, of course, the Internet has changed things dramatically for artists. Where previous generations had the co-op gallery (a model that remains viable), we now also have websites, and—with some entrepreneurial motivation—online salons, exhibitions, businesses. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen Matthew Langley's
246 Editions offering high-quality but inexpensive digital prints of selected artists' work, a complement to such dealer-generated projects as Compound-Editions and Artist of the Month Club.
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Businesses like this might not last longer than a year or two; sometimes that’s all it takes to get things moving. Then again, they might thrive for a good long time. Witness Jen Bekman’s 20x200 Project. My favorite here is David Schoener’s Hassla Books, a project the artist, who is a photographer, began as an art student in Massachusetts and continues as an artist/publisher in New York.

Many art schools, mindful of the need for their students to understand how to make a career for themselves after graduation, now offer courses in professional practices. (I teach one, but you know that.) Students are leaving school with an understanding of the artist-dealer relationship and realistic ideas about how the art world works; they're prepared with well-crafted, if sparse, resumes; statements; business basics; and career-enhancing instruments like business cards, websites and blogs. Compare that to the decade-of-reinventing-the-wheel that most of us underwent back in the day.

They also understand the value of having a goal and a plan to work toward it. I think about my own "plan" early on--a series of crummy part-time jobs which I maintained while in haphazard pursuit of a series of often crummy, dead-end exhibitions.

Not that we don’t want to work in partnership with gallerists and curators; we do. But it's a big art world out there, and this new breed of emerging artist has learned there's no need for artists to sit around suffering. They’re taking their careers into their own hands until a gallery relationship develops. Then they will be prepared to deliver in all the big and small ways that are necessary to work successfully with a gallery. And if that gallery relationship never develops, they still have a career to develop along the pathways already laid down.
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And if you happen to be the old fart who wrote me that email? It's never too late to reemerge with a new attitude.
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6.25.2010

Printmaking Camp, Day 2

Day 1
Days 3, 4

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The Participants
Tim McDowell, master printmaker and painter
Marcia Wood, gallerist and all around muse and support
Kim Anno, Kate Javens, Don Pollack, Katherine Taylor and me, the artists making prints
Brown Sanders and Clara Euam, technical assistance
Ellen Barnard and Lucas McDowell, producer and cameraman, respectively
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"Printmaking Camp" doesn’t do justice to the intent of our project, which is to create a limited edition of six images in a portfolio of 30. But it is fun. So the name stays for now. I’ll tell you the actual name on the day we decide it, which is Day 5.
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To give you a sense of the chronology, our week of printmaking is taking place this week, June 21-26. Since I’m working on my print and helping out in the studio, my reporting must take a back seat. Today (Friday), I’m showing you Day 2, which was actually Tuesday, the 22nd.

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Tim setting out prints for study

Viewing the Print Collection
We started the morning looking at master prints. Connecticut College has an extraordinary collection of works by masters from the 17th century on. Today we looked at etchings by Rembrandt, Goya, Cassatt and others. You can see a few below. My favorite is the reclining figure by Rembrandt, with its dark tones against dark tones and an exquisitely simplified silhouette.

Rembrandt etchings above
and below . . .

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. . . with a closeup of one


Mary Cassat above
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Albrecht Durer below

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Viewing the prints: Tim (green shirt); Ellen (light blue shirt, with back to camera), Kate, Marcia, Katherine, Clara
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Back in the Print Studio
After our visit to the print collection, we walked back across the hall into the present. Almost everyone had had their plates ready for proofing. Some of us were happy with the result, others (that would be me) were not. I was still thinking like a painter. Ink needs to sink into the paper, not sit in an impastoed film on top of it. And with my lightly striated image, my print will live or die by the color. After a number of proofs, I took a little break to think about what I’d do next--the results of which you'll see in the next post.

Meanwhile we produced Kim Anno’s edition, and Katherine Taylor got a good proof. Sounds simple, right? It was a very full day. Here are some pics.

Tim inking the plate for Kim's print
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About midway through the edition: Tim inking and Kim racking; Clara has just pulled a print
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Marcia, Tim and Kim in a groove on Kim's edition
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Kim 's print, and Kim, below, with the completed edition
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Tim and Katherine discussing her proof. We'll print Katherine's edition tomorrow (and I'll proof mine)
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Apparently tie dye is back
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Kate Javens, working on her image, talks with Jule Sanders McDowell, a sculptor (I'll have pics of her work later in this series)
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Above, Ellen Barnard, who's producing the video of the making of the portfolio
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Below, Lucas McDowell, cameraman

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6.22.2010

Printmaking Camp

Day 5 
Day 6
Coda: The Pull exhibition in Atlanta
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This week I’m at Connecticut College in New London working on a print project developed by Marcia Wood and Tim McDowell. Marcia owns the Atlanta gallery that bears her name, and Tim, one of her artists, is head of the printmaking department here. There are six of us making the prints, all of us represented by the Marcia Wood Gallery: Kim Anno, San Francisco; Kate Javens, New York City; Don Pollack, Chicago; Katherine Taylor, Atlanta; plus Tim, who lives in Noank near the college; and me..



A view of the printmaking studio at Connecticut College, with Clara Euam, printmaking studio assistant, in the foreground. Background from left: Lucas McDowell, Ellen Barnard and Brown Sanders
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We’ve gathered to produce a portfolio of six prints in an edition of 30. I’m excited about the project because I’ve never done anything like this (and neither have most of my colleagues, painters all). Fortunately we have two master printmakers, Tim and his father-in-law, Brown Sanders) and Tim’s studio assistant, Clara Euam. Filmmaker Ellen Barnard is producing a documentary of the project for Tomorrow Films, her Atlanta-based company, with her cameraman, Lucas McDowell. I’ll have links and info as the project progresses.
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The ‘Print Project”—still unnamed but dubbed "Printmaking Camp" by my buddy Nancy Baker in a Facebook conversation--
had its inception a couple of years ago when Tim suggested to Marcia that his print room was available in the summer. "I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring six strong artists together to do their signature work in a new medium and process," says Marcia. So after about a year of planning, we’ve flown, driven, trained and bused our way here.
Day 1Everyone’s working on their plate, or the drawing or transparency for their plate. There's a lot of consulting with Tim and with one another. We're making color swatches and proofing the plates. Take a look:

 Kate Javens with drawings.

Don Pollack with transparencies he made from paintings and photographs. He's the only one of us who arrived with the requisite images; the rest of us scrambled to produce our images when we arrived.

Kim Anno working her transparency over the light table. Her print will be the first to be editioned tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Katherine Taylor worked on this transparency drawing all day, but she was the first to have completed proof, which you'll see tomorow (I'm writing a bit after the fact because I needed to work on my own transparency and plate.).


I made transparencies from a unique digital print, which is an ink-and-paper variation of an image from my series of Silk Road paintings. All of us had to get over the hump of thinking like painters. "You're making prints," said Tim McDowell. I'm still learning how to do that.


Tim and Clara made Tim's edition of 30 before we arrived, because he's spending all of his time this week helping each of us

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Tim consulting with Kate.


Tim consulting with Katherine.


Don and Katherine talking color and image

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Kate and her ram.

Above, Don's color; below, mine
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Those tins of ink are so dense with pigment (milled with a tiny bit of linseed oil) that each weights about four pounds.

Above, Clara preparing paper for Don's proof
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Below, Tim about to place the plate, as Julia Pollack and Brown Sanders look on
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Our culinary schedule for the week--and Tim's advice on how painters should approach printmaking
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You talkina me?