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Posts Tagged ‘printmaking Granada’

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

We’ve had a bit of all that in the past few days but it didn’t slow down the art studets and professors from  The American School in Switzerland (TASIS). Twelve students from Italy, Turkey, Mexico, the USA, Russia, Afghanistan, UK, and France have come to Maureen’s studio for an intensive five-day introduction to solarplate printmaking.
Art professor Martyn Dukes and photography professor Frank Long have returned this year with another crop of young artists and photographers. Some of the photographers were asking themselves what they were doing in a printmaking course, but when they saw the first prints made by tracing over photographs on acetates, burning them on photosensitive plates and putting the plates through an etching press on beautiful paper, they quickly changed their minds.
Here’s the first snapshots from day one. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at some of the work they’ve done.

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Your first portfolio is a milestone. This is the point where you’ve practiced enough printmaking techniques to make a respectable showing with your first formal project. Your confidence has grown to an almost viable level—along with an equally-heightened case of nerves and apprehension. This is the big time. What subject should you choose? What techniques should you employ for this first effort? If I may offer my advice, choose a subject that is familiar to you, something you love and is close at hand. As for techniques, keep it simple. You’re just starting out. There’s plenty of time to get fancy as you go along.

Shall I tell you about my first portfolio? It was 1978 and my maestro, José García Lomas (Pepe Lomas to his friends), suggested that I might be ready to make my first portfolio of prints. I had been studying with him at the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation in Granada for more than two years. Pepe  offered to guide me through process of making the portfolio. What a luxury that was.

He was delighted when I told him I had chosen a nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, by the English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, Edward Lear. This was a poem that, for some reason, I remembered vividly from my childhood. Pepe agreed with me that it offered splendid visual possibilities.

I must confess that the five plates that I created for The Owl and the Pussycat were not precisely simple. I worked on them for six months, pulling untold proof prints. Encouraged all along by my maestro, who wanted to see me show off the techniques he had taught me, techniques that I had practiced every weekday morning for more than two years, I went to work enthusiastically. So the etched zinc plates incorporated line work, aquatint, and soft ground. The Rodríguez-Acosta workshop had a wonderful big aquatint box with paddle bellows and we were still in the age of immortality. I suspect we all breathed a lot more resin than was good for us.

Before I even touched the first plate I did sketches for all five of them. Any comments Pepe made were always limited to technical considerations, as he always scrupulously respected his students’ artistic criteria. I started by varnishing five zinc plates and lightly etching in the basic drawings, then working the plates all up together starting with the aquatint. Though all the plates were different, this approach insured some degree of coherence across the whole portfolio.

We decided on an edition of 50 portfolios and 50 loose sets. Multiply that by five etchings plus a cover illustration and it adds up to 600 prints. Pepe insisted that the whole job be done by Angel and Pepillo, the workshop’s two printing technicians. The artists at the Foundation seldom touched the etching presses. While they did that I went off to find an offset print shop to print the cover text and colophon.

I presented The Owl and the Pussycat along with other work in an exhibition at Granada’s wonderful Palacio de la Madraza, the 14th-century building opposite the cathedral. La Madraza housed Granada’s first university and belongs to the University of Granada today.

This was the most successful portfolio I ever did.

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Farewell to Granada’s Beloved Etchers’ Haven

A Small Miracle for Artists in Granada

The Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta was the brainchild of the Granada banker/philanthropist/artist, Miguel Rodríguez-Acosta. Miguel was the grandson of the excellent 19th and early-20th-century painter, José María Rodríguez-Acosta. In the mid-1970s Miguel reconditioned a floor of one of his family’s buildings in the center of Granada, hired a good painter, Jose García Lomas (Pepe) and sent him to be formed as an etching master in Barcelona and Rome.
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When the workshop was fully equipped Pepe trained two assistants (the artists never touched the etching presses), the brothers Jorge and Pepito. Besides being a consummate technician, Pepe Lomas had a fine artistic sensitivity as well as an extremely respectful teaching approach with his artists. He was an exacting and demanding teacher but he never imposed his own creative criteria. Pepe was important to me not only for what he taught me about printmaking but also for what he taught me about teaching.
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Admission to the Founation’s etching studio was via a selection committee to which artists from all over the world submitted a portfolio of sketches. When I first saw the etchings that were coming out of the Foundation–work by artists like Claudio Sánchez Muro, Teiko Mori and Pepe Lomas himself–I thought I could never achieve that standard. But I presented my portfolio and was accepted. For the next two-and-a-half years, until it closed in1980, I went to the Foundation studio every weekday . This was the most intensive learning period of my life. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, and I am eternally grateful, both to my maestro and to the Foundation for the opportunity.
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Dave McConnell, Boston, USA

Dave McConnell was a special person and it was a privilege to have him in my studio for a  week’s collaborative work in photogravure solar plate. To begin with, a few days after he returned home to Boston he turned 90. He was accompanied on this trip to Spain by his son, a banker with the Boston Fed. Dave, who had spent his working life as a photographer at the Boston Globe, was the quintessence of the charming Irishman with a young heart, excellent humor and that glint in his eye. His project was to make a four-color solarplate photogravure print from a color photograph he had made many years before. This was new territory for me; we both learned a lot from the experience. And we had a grand time in the process. Here’s some pictures Mike made.

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Abbie Luck, London, UK

At the time Abbie came to my workshop, in 2005 I think, she had just gotten a job as art teacher at a fancy girls’ school in London and was eager to expand her repertoire of techniques. She took naturally to solarplate printmaking and did some interesting work while she was here. She liked solarplate particularly as it was something she could teach her students without getting involved with acid and resins. She quickly made friends with Karoline Piedra, the American artist from Massachusetts who was on holiday from her day job in Switzerland. That’s the two of them below, captured on a day that Mike and his mate, Curro, were doing some electronic flash tests that somehow got mixed with a wine tasting. That’s probably why the two girls seem to glisten in the photograph.

From a comment by Abbie on my Printmaking Courses in Spain blog: “Thank you for everything. I am leaving with a wealth of knowledge, but also wonderfully relaxed. You have been so welcoming. I have come to feel really at home in your studio and in Granada. I couldn’t have asked for a better working holiday. I will most definitely be back to visit.”

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Maureen etching press

Here’s What We’ve Been Up To for the Past 15 Years or So

Mike and I were reminiscing the other evening about all of the wonderful people who have come to Granada to work with me in my studio over the years when he said, “Why don’t we do a multí-chapter post that is a tribute to all of them? Do you have samples of their work?” That’s how this project was born, and it’s turning out to be a fascinating stroll for me through years of printmaking, teaching, and collaborative work with other artists. I hope it will be that for some of you, too.

What follows is the first chapter in a retrospective virtual exhibit of work done by the artists who have worked with me in my studio over many years. They have come from all over the world, from Canada and the U.S.A to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Australia, and many places in between. They appear here in roughly chronological order. Their work includes a wide variety of techniques: traditional acid etching, collage, variations on solar-plate printmaking, liquid metal, photogravure, linocuts, etc. The photographs used here of the artists and their work were mainly done by Mike while they were here. Where available we have included excerpts from the messages they left in my visitors’ book as they were leaving. Let’s start at the beginning.

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My first portfolio, The Owl and the Pussycat, 1979, edited at the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation

 Photos by Mike Booth

Painting Came First

I was a painter for 16 years before I started studying fine-art printmaking. Like many nice things in my life it happened in a serendipitous way. I had known for some time that Granada had a private art foundation that selected artists from around the world for training in their exclusive printmaking workshop, but I was convinced that I didn’t quality to apply there. I had seen an exhibit of etchings done there and they seemed to me like sheer magic. I thought, “How on earth did they do that?”

Then one day I bumped into my English painter friend, Louise Waugh, and she was over the moon because she had just been accepted to work at the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta, the printmaking foundation created by Granada artist and philanthropist, Miguel Rodríguez-Acosta. “How did you manage that?” I asked her. “I just presented a portfolio of sketches.” The following week I showed up trembling at the door of the Foundation’s workshop with my portfolio under my arm. A couple of weeks later I received a note instructing me to show up at the taller on Monday morning ready to go to work. I couldn’t believe it.

Pepe Lomas, the Heart and Soul

Pepe Lomas Miguel Rod.-Acosta

José García Lomas (left) and Miguel Rodríguez-Acosta in the Foundation workshop

The heart and soul of the Foundation printmaking workshop was José García Lomas, the maestro grabador.  Pepe had been formed as a master printmaker in workshops in Italy and in Barcelona and was a meticulous teacher, respectful of his students’ own styles and creativity, always conscientiously avoiding the imposition of his own. I worked under Pepe’s guidance for two and a half years, until the Foundation workshop closed. I thought I was there learning to etch. But now that I have my own workshop and work with artists I realize that my maestro was also, at the same time and by subtle example, teaching me to teach. For that I am eternally grateful.

If Pepe thought you were serious he was lavishly generous with his printmaking knowledge. As I was usually the first one to arrive at the studio and was very keen, Pepe went out of his way to see to it that I was given a proper formation in etching. We would have breakfast together most mornings—café con leche and pastries– at the Sibarí bar on the corner. And when my husband Mike came to pick me up at midday we would all have a couple of wines together at the tapas bar halfway down the block. I was in my element; those were good times.

There weren’t more than a dozen active artists at the Foundation and rarely did more than three or four of them show up at one time. Many days I had the workshop, the maestro and his two assistants all to myself. I felt privileged, like an apprentice in a Renaissance etching studio, only better. I didn’t have to sweep up. Looking back I can conceive of no greater luxury. The norm at the workshop was three or four working proofs per plate. But if Pepe saw you were onto something he would let you keep on pulling proofs for as long as you needed. I say “pulling proofs,” but the truth is I never printed a single plate in all my time at the Foundation. That was always done by one or the other of the two studio assistants, Pepito and Ángel.

The All-Important Atmosphere

Miguel Rodríguez-Acosta

Miguel Rodríguez-Acosta, the workshop’s founder, at work

Whether by luck or by design the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta studio was an ideal setting for making prints. The walls were lined with benches with individual lights over the work spaces. Except for the light over the big motorized etching press, that was the only illumination and it created an almost monastic atmosphere of seriousness and purpose.  There, under Pepe’s watchful supervision I made my first plate. On it he taught me to use different tools and chemicals to achieve the principal traditional etching techniques: acid etching and aquatint, soft ground, sugar lift, carborundum and dry point, along with something Pepe called “craquelado,” “crackling.”

My maestro was a meticulous artist and teacher and he made me meticulous. He was a stickler for the preparation of the plate, scrupulously polishing the surface and beveling the edges. Sometimes, even today, I’m shocked to see printmakers come into my studio with rough, ragged-edged plates, and I always think of Pepe.

Some of My Early Work

Stay tuned for more to come in Part II

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