Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Frank X Tolbert 2 and the Texas Bird Suite

Frank X Tolbert 2 and the Flatbed Printers, Tracy Mayrello, Cordelia Blanchard and Katherine Brimberry accompanied by Terry Allen's "Red Bird"

"I want to make seven Texas birds," Frank told me on the phone.  We had been discussing a large suite of Texas birds that he was planning to create as etchings at Flatbed starting in the late spring of 2014. We were brainstorming about the project.  Frank wanted to work on a larger format (image 30" x 22") and in full color. We specialize in etchings at Flatbed and know that color etchings have the luminous color that other media can't touch.  My printer's brain was whirling because I knew Frank's drawings and paintings and I knew that his idea of color meant COLOR in a big way.  Color etchings are tricky to create, since every color for an image needs its own copper plate created by the artist, and this would be our first color etching with Frank.  We had printed his huge woodcuts and two smaller relief prints, and I knew that Frank was an enthusiastic and energetic artist who would be able to jump through the hoops we'd throw for him to make this marathon etching project possible.

Starting in February of this year Frank began his preparatory drawings to plan for the birds.  He claimed at one point to get "bird block" when he wasn't sure which birds to pursue. That didn't last long and by the time he came to Flatbed Press at the beginning of June for the first week of collaboration he had over eight images developed in sketches that would be used to inspire the etchings he created in the shop.   During the week of collaboration Frank proved to be a natural at drawing on the copper plates using a technique called "soft ground."  He could be as gestural with wide crayon like marks as he wanted and not be constrained to thin, laboriously drawn lines.  Since he is as familiar with using brushes as crayon drawing tools, he also used sugar lift aquatint techniques to add brush marks.  The week was a success and we had the beginnings for seven images:  Horned Owl, Golden Crowned Heron, Black Necked Stilt, Chicken Hawk, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Snowy Egret and the Pileated Woodpecker.  Frank was scheduled to return the next month and draw and etch the colors for each of the birds.

In July, Frank's second week at Flatbed, we were able to get all the plates completed and proofed to approve for Golden Crowned Heron, Horned Owl and Black Necked Stilt.  In August Frank finished Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Chicken Hawk and Snowy Egret leaving the seventh, Pileated Woodpecker, and last but not least, a Texas Green Jay as the eighth in the series to complete.   On October 24 Frank finished the work of developing all the plates, twenty eight copper plates in all, proofing them for color and approving the eight for printing in editions of twenty four.

We are underway creating the finished editions for each of the birds.  Enjoy a peek at the development stage of these etchings when Frank was at Flatbed's studio working with Tracy Mayrello, Cordelia Blanchard and myself.

Impressions are still available from these small editions.  Contact us at Flatbed to reserve one or the whole suite. Finished editions are to be signed in April.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seeing Palindrome: I Saw A Crow, Orca Was I

I SAW A CROW              ORCA WAS I        

Many artists come to Flatbed Press to create original prints.  For some it can be a bit like wandering in the jungle particularly when a complex process is undertaken as was the recent successful intaglio collaboration between Austin artist Jules Buck Jones and Flatbed’s master printers.

An emerging talent known for his drawings, paintings and installations, Jones first worked with Flatbed master printers - myself and Tracy Mayrello  - in early 2013 to create an etching titled Continental Divide. “This initial project,” says Jones, “ is a clean graphic depiction of dense forest imagery, broken down and abstracted with exaggerated shapes and rhythms.  It is based on observational drawings I made while in Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica.  This etching was fun to make and was a friendly introduction to the possibilities of printmaking.”  (see our blog Jules Buck Jones- In the House

Jules Buck Jones signing Orca Was I
“I had to rearrange my usual approach to image making and work collaboratively.” says Jones. “ At times I was working completely backwards and blind.  There is a level of complexity I can achieve in my paintings by layering, covering and opening up areas with little planning;  it is all attack.   The large print required a game plan.  The back and forth of painting was possible but in a less immediate fashion.  A lot of problem solving came into play which was super fun to work through, like putting together a large puzzle. “
I worked with Jones to plan the project.  During a studio visit, his current work suggested that a colorful multi-layered etching would fit his vision.  The solution was for Jules to make two copper plates with distinct matrices to create a dense tesserae of shapes and gradations.
Jules Buck Jones with Plate 1
Enjoy a few images below of the development of the prints.

His second project started in August of 2013.   Jules chose a large format of 45" x 32." He was inspired by the scale of the 1996 Self Portrait by Luis Jimenez which is used multiple  45" x 32" copper plates. 

Jules began the first plate using a soft ground technique which allowed him to draw a linear image onto the plate. Next, he added dark shapes using the “sugar-lift” technique.  Here, the image is painted directly onto the copper plate with special ink made out of sugar, ink and soap.  This allows the artist to incorporate brush strokes as he painted a bold pattern of shapes suggesting the jungle and its inhabitants. He repeated the process, adding additional shapes until he achieved an almost claustrophobic jungle environment.  In all, the plate was exposed to five acid baths to etch the complex image. What emerged was again dense jungle imagery as in Continental Divide but in a much larger format. Jules was ready to dive in to create color variations, but as is often the case, he faced unfamiliar territory, full of unknowns, and processes that were tedious and unlike [his] primary medium.

Jules shared: “The image is still of congested forest information, but this time  [the multi-stepped process] provided a spectrum of darks and lights, that the first project did not attempt.  Here, the entire emotion and temperature of the etching changes with the manipulation of the colors,” 

After experimenting with the key (first) plate, and creating a series of multi-colored monoprints, Jules created a second copper plate using an stage-etched aquatint process which allowed him to etch shapes of different values.  This adds a dimension of both color and depth.   With both plates ready, the printing began; experimental color trials were pulled combining a varied range of colors.  The results were stunning, and with some difficulty, two versions were selected to edition. 

I Saw a Crow, the key plate created with soft ground and sugar-lift aquatint and inked in black, dominates the space.  Printed over the lively raw sienna background plate, the nuances of the mark making lying over and into the tesserae of dimensional shapes give a sense of the entanglement of a jungle,  Orca Was I provides a stark contrast.  “Here, the key plate was inked in white, the back plate in dark brown,”  notes master printer Mayrello.  “This allows the imagery from the back plate to come forward allowing tones to fade in and out, suggesting a very surreal environment.”

Read together the two titles create a palindrome - I Saw a Crow and Orca Was I - cementing the relationship between the two views.  Seen side by side the two images play off of one another and give new expression and beauty to the jungle imagery.  The light changes, hidden images appear, the density of the foliage closes or opens and chaos reigns within the rule of nature. Together they form a visual palindrome.

These editioned prints,  I Saw A Crow and Orca Was I, exist in editions of 15 each.  They, along with the monoprint series titled with the complete phrase,  I Saw A Crow Orca Was I  and numbered  I - X are ready for viewing and purchase at Flatbed.  Call or email us (Katherine Brimberry or Anna Gratovich) at Flatbed for more information. Link to our web site here for contact and edition information:  I Saw A Crow  or Orca Was I.

Enjoy the images below which chronicle some of the development of the plates and printing during the project.

Second proofing of first plate.

Beginning with a soft-ground drawing.

Using sugar-lift solution to create shapes and marks.
Jules applies varnish for the aquatint stages of  the second plate.

I Saw A Crow Orca Was I:  Monoprint variations with hand applied color.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ricky Armendariz, "Saturn and His Children"

Flatbed is pleased to announce the new publication "Saturn and His Children", a woodcut by Ricky Armendariz in an edition of ten. It's a stunning woodcut that measures 36" x 48" without margin and printed in a dark blue-gray. 

Ricky Armendariz signing a proof of "Saturn and His Children"
I first saw Armendariz's work at a PrintHouston exhibition a year ago.  A woodcut by Armendariz had been chosen by  Peter S. Briggs, the Helen DeVitt Jones Curator of Art at the Museum of Texas Tech University, for the PrintTX exhibit at the Museum of Printing History.  I was bowled over by the direct cut of pattern and detail Armendariz uses.  What I didn't know was that he had been cutting blocks like this for some time and primarily using them in his painting practice as well as printing blocks.  When Armendariz approached us to print this block, we jumped at the chance to publish the print.  

Saturn and His Children is now available at Flatbed.  Price starts at $1800 and is subject to change according to availability.

Contact Katherine Brimberry or Anna Gratovich at or call Flatbed Press 512.477.9328 x 30.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Welcome Back Ceci!

PHotography credit:  Geoffrey Berliner, Penumbra Foundation
Veronica Ceci, Lithographic Master Printer,
Credit to:  Geoffrey Berliner, Penumbra Foundation
Flatbed is pleased to welcome back our Tamarind trained Master Lithographer, Veronica Ceci.  Ceci spent the last two years at Kent State University in Ohio, where she refurbished the neglected lithography program while working toward her MFA.  While at Kent State Ceci further polished her already impressive skills in the medium by repairing broken-down equipment as well as designing and implementing a brand new curriculum for both introductory and intermediate lithography classes.  Additionally she found the time to exhibit extensively, including shows at the International Print Center New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art and was featured last month at the SELECT fair, a satellite to Frieze. Follow the link to see examples Ceci's work listed on Flatbed's site:  Veronica Ceci

Lithography is unique amongst printmaking techniques in that the creation of the image for a lithograph does not require the artist to learn a new skill set. Lithographs are made by drawing on a stone or plate with special pencils which operate very much like charcoal or with a wet medium similar to watercolor paints. Once the image is made in these familiar ways the printer takes care of the rest.

Prior to her sabbatical from Flatbed, Ceci had worked with artists such as Luis Jimenez, Sarah Canright, Dan Rizzie and many others. See two of her past lithographic collaborations below.  

Now having completed her graduate program, Ceci returns to Austin eager to get back to work creating new collaborative lithographs. Give Flatbed a call or email if you are wanting to start a lithographic project or would like information about how to go about it.  Contact us at: or call Katherine Brimberry at 512.477.1073 extension 27.
Sterling Allen, untitled, color litho,2007,
collaboration and  printing by Veronica Ceci
Veronica Ceci, circa 2003, preparing
 to print Flatbed's "Texas Medium" litho stone
with image drawn by Cynthia Camblin.
Luis Jimenez, Abu Ghraib, stone lithograph, 2008, 
printed by Veronica Ceci.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Cauldron, Purgatory and Consummation

Cauldron, Color etching, image size 9" x 16", edition of 20, 2014
 In October 2013, Sharon Kopriva came to Flatbed to make a print.  I had been intrigued by Sharon's sculptures over the years and asked her to collaborate on an etching at Flatbed. If you are not familiar with her work, take a look at this link to her web site:  Sharon Kopriva.  She is a highly painterly sculptor and highly sculptural painter.  Her work can be described as passionate and energetic.
Purgatory, color etching, 9" x 16", ed. 20, 2014
Consummation, color etching, 9" x 16", ed. 20, 2014

The first etching immediately spawned ideas for two more color etchings that would constitute a suite of three.  In addition, these three prints would each have a chine collé version which we would edition as well. The first image set the stage. Sharon used her three hairless Peruvian dogs as subject matter.  They pursue each other in a cauldron of either water or fire.  Glimpses of fish give a clue that this is a supernatural space. We remarked to Sharon that this seemed to be Dante's inferno.  Sharon had recently visited Istanbul's ancient cisterns where you can explore walkways beneath the city surrounded by the vast waterworks which are eerily lit by red lights. Sharon titled the print Cauldron. The second etching carries the subjects into a state of longing and separation.  Sharon titled it Purgatory.  Following the progression, the third etching brings the subjects into a state of bliss and union and is titled Consummation.
I'm sharing the pictures of the color etchings and you can see all six through this link, Kopriva Suite, including the chine collé prints. Sharon signed the editions on May 1 and they are now available at Flatbed Press.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Villagers, Carrying Things From Home

When Annalise Gratovich approached us about her project of printing eight over-sized woodcuts, she was wise to bring her six foot carved woodblock to show us.  The stunning image was deeply carved to create a stark imposing but benevolent horned figure standing and holding a rabbit.  The effect it had on me was like being confronted by a religious deity, an icon.  It held me with its mystery.  Anna explained that she had planned a group of images she called "villagers" to be carved on the same scale and printed onto paper then color added.  Proofing the first block gave us more reasons to join her in the quest to create the group of villagers.  The proofs were stunning.  Flatbed's master printer, Tracy Mayrello, worked with Anna to achieve the color using hand-dyed mulberry papers applied by chine collé method to areas Anna chose to color.  Seeing the proofs up and drying on our walls was exhilarating and we knew that when the eight were complete we would have a powerful yet beautiful experience to offer.
This summer the first four woodcuts are slated to be editioned.  The editions will be small, seven of each image.  

Annalise explains that the images are rooted in her family heritage as immigrants from the Ukraine two generations back. More than heritage, Anna is interested in aspects of memory and burden.  Each figure carries a burden and presents it as we often present treasured bits of history and memory. Each is surrounded and clothed with objects and seemingly symbolic patterns and details.  They are weighed down with their own precious and valued objects.

For more information, just write us at Flatbed Press. ( And look for an announcement of the publication of the four at the end of the summer.

Annalise with three proofs.
Annalise positioning the block for printing.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

La Ventana

L A  V E N T A N A

Alice Leora Briggs, La Ventana, chine collé woodcut, 61 1/2 x 41 1/2 inches, 2013

He looks up at us from a neo-natal position, coiled on a sagging wood floor. He is wary, almost cowering as he observes us staring back at him. Behind rises a chaotic landscape of architectural debris, a battered airplane, and industrial windows. They frame a basilica of wreckage, beyond only a distant building and a hint of undergrowth. A sparrow finds its way above the ruins. It is an alternate Lewis Carroll world: "We are all mad here," but it is another place and it is another man. 
Alice Leora Briggs notes that "All of my work is about Juárez." She fixes on her experiences and spends much time in northern Mexico, just across the bridge from El Paso. She travels as often as possible to an asylum built by a visionary and sited on the desert fringe of Juárez. She helps, she talks, she looks, she takes pictures, she brings tools and supplies, she works with the residents on art projects. They share meals together. She smells the place, touches the restraining bars, befriends the dogs, and listens. She is drawn to the people here and drifts to this place again and again. It resembles both heaven and hell.
This monumental woodcut print, La Ventana, is one of many images that Alice has conjured from the asylum in Juárez. Printed as an edition of ten, it is available at Flatbed Press and Gallery. Alice's large woodcut is the largest chine collé relief project (61 1/2 x 41 1/2 inches) created at Flatbed Press. Her carving of the wood panel at this scale yielded a richness of minute details articulated over the entire surface. The chine collé refers to the natural buff color in the print that was created with pieces of a Japan paper called Kitikata collaged onto the print while being printed.   

La Ventana, translated from the Spanish as "the window", may be the closest some of us will get to this borderland. Just like the border between the U.S. and Mexico, we see through a glass lens and perceive a barrier. Maybe it is a mirror.