Thursday, July 17, 2014

PBI 2014: Guest Blogger Charlie Wisseman and Printing in Relief

Charlie Wisseman is a retired pathologist who now does mixed media art with a current emphasis on book arts and papermaking. Charlie creates some rather amazing works of art, and I encourage you to visit his website and looks at some of the pictures: Charlie took a printmaking class at Paper and Book Intensive this year and agreed to share some of his thoughts about it here on my blog.

Ryan O'Malley, assistant professor at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi,Texas, taught a class in reduction relief printmaking at Paper and Book Intensive in May 2014 at Ox-Bow. As a first-time printmaker with no graphic training or drawing skill, I was a little worried going into this class, especially after seeing the amazing work that Ryan brought to show. His aesthetic is darker and more graphic-novel-like than my usual taste, but the work is dense and graphically powerful enough to pull any viewer in. I chose a graphic from a book to use as my image, and did fine.

Charlie's reduction print made in this class

Ryan taught us the basics of reduction printmaking using carved MDF panels with red and black colors on white base paper. This process is simple and cheap enough for me to play with at home, using an old etching press that a friend passed on to me. I do not aspire to have the astonishing speed and control of carving that Ryan demonstrates, but this is definitely a beginner-friendly process. Ryan was available until late every evening to help, and always willing to assist with corrective carving. By the end I was becoming almost too aggressive with the carving tools. Easy to remove material, but difficult to correct mistakes!

A few of Ryan's printing blocks.

A display of the prints made by the students in this class.

Ryan showed us a simple registration system using Ternes Burton registration pins taped to a jig, affectionately known as "Frenchy". Experience with students has taught Ryan to add some protections to prevent accidentally running Frenchy through the press. As a bonus, Ryan showed me how to print my brain image onto a tee shirt. The print I brought home looks great. My only regret is that the reduction process of carving the block between colors means that there is no going back to do any more complete prints. Only the portion of the image for the final color remains, but the block itself is worth framing.

- Charles Wisseman

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