Monday, October 22, 2007

This is how we do it.

"Printmaking in the United States could probably be mapped out like a family tree. It would show a mobile and legendary cast of characters, with stories of influence, longevity and interconnectedness. This "map" would be about knowledge not yet available in the conventional history of art. Rather, the history of printmaking is largely oral and ageing and reflects regional dynamics, the influence of particular programs and personalities. Somehow, largely by absorption, this culture is being transmitted to students. It's a subtle initiation, where students acquire the history while talking over the presses with their faculty mentors. For students, this telling of the family history instils a desire to become part of the group. The print world represents a tangible future, on that is more attainable than dreams of success in New York or of joining the ranks of the mythologized painter superheros. In printmaking the legends are represented in the latest portfolio exchange box, arriving as guest artists to work next to you, expressing a willingness to talk and share at the next conference. This makes the possibilities of the printmaker's life real."
- Karen Kunc in her essay "Teaching Printmaking: American view" which was published as part of the book: Sightlines -Printmaking and Image culture - edited by Walter Jule.

A very good book by the way. That quote struck me as especially true, and it proofed to be true again yesterday. I am currently working on ballgrain litho plates and I wanted to find out which works better for what I am trying to achieve.. Autographic Ink or Liquid Tusche. And even more important how are they etched. I was pretty sure that one only needed gum arabic on it or it would burn out and the other needed crazy amounts of acid to work. I just couldn't recall what Fred Wessel had told us during the demo... 3 years ago. So I opened my Lithography Bible.. aka the Tamarind book on Lithography. And looked for it. Well this rather outdated wealth of information talks about Autographic Tusche... uhm, what is that?
Printmakers have a wealth of knowledge in their favorite techniques. When you learn from a printmaker you learn it the way he has figured it out to work the best for him. Since printmaking is all about problem solving, they don't tell you every possibility in the books. Especially not in the rather outdated books. So where do we get this knowledge from if we can not look it up in books. We go to our fellow printmakers and if they don't have an answer we call up the person who taught us how to walk. No not your parents... but your godfather/godmother of printmakers. The person that taught you the foundation/basics, one's own way of working is based on theirs so they are more likely to have an answer and most importantly we trust them.

Well and if that for some reason doesn't work, you will have to suck it up and learn by doing. Which in printmaking due to the heavy processing can be a rather rocky and long path to walk down on.
My point is, Karen Kunc is right. We are like a family and the family recipes are passed down over the "generations" of printmaker's. And along with it the troubleshooting, problemsolving and adaptation to media, new materials and new techniques. Each one of us become experts that will automatically pass on their way of doing it to the people that work around them in the shop. There will always be questions, there will always be endless possibilities of doing things.
Many professors give handouts when they teach a technique or demo, but the most important information you will need again and again is what they say between the lines. Most things that are printed you can look up in books. If you don't have the craziest memory then you should write down every word the printmaker is saying to you! Those are the things that he has figured out by himself, the secret ingredients that come directly from his/her experience.

Lesson learned!


Anonymous said...

Love you.....

Maria Doering said...

:D thanks, love you too mutti!


Anonymous said...

I was talking to a visiting artist at LSU today, he was talking about an unspoken unity between printmakers and ceramicists. I think you hit the nail on the head in this post. This is the very reason I love the ceramics community as much as I do.

Mind you, I drunkenly told the artist to shut the fuck up, because Printmakers are a bunch of fucking posers.

But that doesn't include you.

Love and Kisses,

Maria Doering said...

lol thank you jimmy!! haha. that just gave me a really good laugh.
that was definitely a JIMMY comment. But I am glad you liked my entry.

And we are not much more posers than you guys so the world is balanced yet again.
How is it going down there btw?