Monday, August 27, 2012

Song of a Red Winged Blackbird

There is a red winged blackbird and it is perched on a bare brown twig. Behind him is an arabesque riot of dark and lighter green foliage.  He has been discovered while in full song and sees us mid-note.  He holds us with his gaze.  Billy Hassel created this beauty of an etching at Flatbed and it was editioned in 2007.

When a painter who loves color as much as Billy Hassell comes to make an etching at Flatbed, a separate copper plate must be etched for each color. This can be complicated but the results can be rich.

Billy Hassell is well known as a painter and lives in Fort Worth, Texas.  When he came to Flatbed to work he had images of richly colored birds on his mind.  As a painter, he had been creating large paintings of birds and wanted to create unique multiples of one of his abstracted images in color.  We decided on a square format featuring his image of a bird, a red winged blackbird, using 12” x 12” copper etching plates. Making a multiple plate/color etching is similar to building an image one color at a time. This particular etching technique required us to use an aquatint process.  In this case, Billy painted the shapes we needed to etch directly onto the plates and we used a technique called “sugar-lift aquatint” to create the four plates.  His abstract rendition of “Red Winged Black Bird” started to take shape as we etched yellow, red, blue and black plates with aquatinted areas that would overlap and build the final image.  The floral green background of the image was achieved with blue overlapping yellow, the violet with blue overlapping red, and so on.  In trying different printing papers we discovered if we printed on an Asian Kitikata paper, we could achieve another depth of color. This way of printing required an additional step in which the Asian paper was collaged onto a heavier backing paper to give it support.  Billy signed one of these prints as the B.A.T. which stands for “Bon A Tier” a French term meaning  “good to pull” or good to print.  Our job as the printers was to make the multiples in the edition match this signed print.  We agreed to do an edition of 40.
The printing took a team of four printers including myself, Teresa Gomez Martorell, Lucy Flores and Amy Spencer.  Each printer took charge of one of the four plates and a registration system was devised to make sure that the colors registered precisely.  Although this system was a little out of the ordinary, it worked.  I made a video that might give you a little insight as to how this was all accomplished.   

Despite the complications, it all felt worthwhile when those forty impressions were finally finished and signed by Billy. The Blackbird still sings and most have flown, but there are two impressions left.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Introductions Are In Order

It could have been difficult with the transitions we are experiencing at Flatbed, but sometimes the changing of the guard can go with military smoothness. When you come to Flatbed these days you will likely be welcomed by Tina Weitz who is now on board as Flatbed’s Gallery Assistant Director. Under her direction, Flatbed’s reorganization is making smooth and steady progress and her commitment to being at Flatbed on Saturdays makes visiting our gallery a great Saturday destination!

 Tina came to Flatbed with extensive gallery experience, having owned and directed Studio2 in Austin for ten years. She has served as juror and judge for over 50 exhibitions since 2002. Studio2 is still operates with regular pop-up shows which leaves Tina time to concentrate her talents on Flatbed’s exhibitions and to manage Flatbed’s 02 Gallery space, now open for exhibition proposals. She is also a well-known and exhibited photographer. She has participated in numerous exhibitions, regularly offers photography workshops and is well known for her expertise in architectural photography in the design world.

Stop in and meet Tina. She'd love to show you what Flatbed as been up to this summer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Is For Artist Allen

If I were to write an alphabet book for artists, this image would be the first page.  This is the etching "All Artists Try To Be God And Will Burn in Hell" by Terry Allen.  Terry, who has worked at Flatbed on two separate occassions, did this print in August 1998.  It was his second time around at Flatbed.  He approaches printmaking with a very direct approach.  He knows what he wants to say or draw and uses the most effective way to go about it.  In this print's case, Terry had been playing around with this image for a while.  He had even created a branding iron and burned it onto various surfaces!  For you Nauman savvy collectors out there, yes, he just might be poking a little fun at Bruce.  Terry's supreme sense of irony responds to Nauman's "The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths."  Allen, having grown up in the Bible Belt, gives us the other side of the coin.

In this case, Terry scribed the image in reverse onto a grounded copper plate which I etched very deeply.  It took several hours.  Terry would say, "Etch the hell out of it."  I think he meant that literally.  The plate was proofed in several reds but a deep, complex "blood" red was chosen.  The plate was etched so deeply that when printed, the ink stands on the surface of the paper.  He chose a skin colored Japanese paper (no accident there) called Okawara. We printed it as a chine collé with a large backing of Rives BFK in an edition of 21. (Allen likes the number 21.)   Flatbed published this print in 1998, and we still have a couple of impressions in stock.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

To Be Continued...A New Project

Although the dog days of August are upon us, we at Flatbed have been staying busy with multiple printing projects, our summer exhibition and an overall reorganization of our print files.  It's time to update you on these and other exciting changes that are ongoing at Flatbed.

 With the help of our dedicated assistants we have been reorganizing and inventorying all the prints in our flat files.  We are combing our drawers and re-discovering some rarely seen and beautiful works that have been created at Flatbed over the years.  It makes our job of cataloging these works a true labor of love with some eureka moments:  "Wow, I remember that one." "Why isn't this framed!?" and  "Look at that one...I remember what we had to do..." Then I usually launch into the history of the collaboration involved in making that print.  Needless to say, our project is taking much more time than I had planned.

Seeing this visual feast has brought me to somewhat of a mid-summer's dream, or perhaps a resolution.  I plan to write a short and candid history of some of the print collaborations that I've been reminded of this summer. I'll post it weekly for all of you Flatbed fans who would like to know a little about the back stories. If this is too much information for you to bear, gentle readers, please let me know.  In fact, I would love to have your suggestions as to which prints you would like to know more about, as well!  Look for this to start on Monday, August 13.

Meanwhile, here is a little eye candy, a monoprint by Veronica Ceci entitled "Uploading Rialto."  I encourage you to drop by tomorrow, August 9, for the last full day of our summer exhibition, "The World is Flat: The Observational Printmaking of Veronica Ceci." Veronica, our Lithographic Master Printer, is leaving for Kent State to pursue her MFA.  This fine exhibition of primarily monoprinted images is worth taking a closer look and you may even want to take one home.