Saturday, July 25, 2009
An Etching Class
Last week we had an etching course at Maison Conti. The participants were Barbara from Seattle, Judith and Jan from Sheffield, England and Maggie from Colorado. All four are excellent artists and very experienced printmakers, although etching is not their usual form for creating their prints. They were a delightful group of people to spend a week with and they worked very well together. Each has a very different approach to their image creation, but all very competent and independent. Four printmakers in the studio is a very nice number. We were able to work around one another without getting in the way of one another. It's very pleasant to do art work in a small group. We learn so much from one another and take inspiration from the different points of view each individual brings to their art. Each artist brought their sketch books and photos to work from. There was generally a focus on making images, rather than printing them, as all four women have access to a printing press on a weekly basis. Barbara focuses her work on birds, Judith does very delicate images inspired by her beautiful garden. Maggie is trying to work more abstractly, although she also made a wonderful image of a couple of dogs. Jan had several images of places and things which when viewed in close-up become quite abstract. We focused mainly on hard-ground and aquatint techniques with a little bit of soft-ground and sugar-lift. All these techniques create very different kinds of marks. In hard-ground one can make very precise lines, like an ink drawing. Aquatint creates a range of even tones, more like ink washes. Sugar-lift allows the artist to effect very fluid lines while soft -round has an almost charcoal-like line quality. Soft-ground also allows one to create an impression from natural objects, such as leaves, feathers or pieces of lace. Another tool a printmaker has to greatly expand the possibilities for the final image, is the way she inks and prints her plates. This group was very interested in adding color to the work. Etching is naturally suited to monochrome, but color can be quite effective as well. We tried various color-adding techniques such as à la poupée, adding several colors to one plate, in one press pass; multiple plates, each plate with one color and passing each colored plate separately though the press and registering them to create a final image of several colors; and chine collé, which is the addition of transparent colored tissue paper adhered to a printed image with glue. The etching course is three days in the studio and four nights at Maison Conti. We provide three meals as well. We ate together in the dining room. Lunch is my favorite meal of the day and so the one I enjoy most making. After the first day of studio work, we had a meza plate with tabouli, hummous, feta, black olives, garden salad (from our own garden of course). We had mint lemonade and Rick made a beautiful apple crumble. All the artists created a nice little oeuvre. They got a lot done. It was, in fact, hard to pull them away from the studio once they got going. Jan was usually already working by the time I came down to get breakfast on the table, it was hard to detach them when it was time for lunch, and they tended to work right up until dinner time. This always seems to be how it goes since there is something so beguiling about the process.