If you have ever had the pleasure or the opportunity to work with handmade papers then this short documentary on the papermaker Gangolf Ulbricht will hit right at home. There is nothing like it. In contrast to so much around us that is easily disposable, the experience of handmade paper is transformative. It brings back memories of hours spent at the paper store, combing through hundreds of paper samples to find the right combinations of papers that evoked the experience I was hoping to create went felt in hand.
When Albrecht Dürer’s Triumphal Arch was produced between 1515 through 1517 it was one of the largest prints ever produced. The oversized woodblock print glorifying the military achievements of Maximilian I was created with 195 blocks and spanned more than 36 sheets. Combined it was 140.5 inches wide and 116 inches tall. It was one of Dürer’s most ambitious projects and still remains one of the largest woodblocks.
This video from The British Museum, details the painstaking work that went into restring and preserving this monumental work. They also produced some wonderful blog posts on the process it took to restore the work and what will go into eventually reassembling it again. It’s definitely worth the read.
700 copies of the first addition were made. The original print, when complete, was meant to be hand colored. While the version at the British Museum is uncolored it’s an imposing work none the less.
Watch The Video: The video was removed because of autoplay.
While I am attracted to the subject matter and imagery that Justin Guariglia is working with. For the purposes of this post I am most interested in his unique approach to photographic printing. From my past posts on Factum Arte’s multilayered printing process, you can see this is a subject that intrigues me. An artist shouldn’t just be reduced to process but it’s the process that really peaks my interest. Thankfully in Guariglia’s work, both are tightly combined.
He coined and trademarked the term “Plasticene Printing” to describe the process of printing, sometimes in multiple layers, with UV cured polymer or resin inks on surfaces wich are slow to break down over time, such as aluminum and polystyrene. Process and concept collide wonderfully here, using materials and processes that speak directly to the time scales in the landscapes and global process that he is capturing. The term is also a play of Anthropocene time period we live in, due to the measurable presence of plastics in our environment and the impact we are having on the geology and ecosystem of our planet.
The use of large formate flatbed LED UV inkjet printers (swissqprint) gives Guariglia the ability to print on a multitude of surfaces that don’t easily work within traditional chemical or inkjet processes. The UV cured inks, particularly when used with the flatbed layout, allow for registered multilayered printing. In Guariglia’s case, this gives some of his work a three dimensional quality as multiple layers of cured resin build up. Traditionally flat works can have dimensionality without having to first manipulate the printing surface as the source.
The graphic quality of a wood block print is striking. Strongly defined lines, layered with translucent blocks of vibrant color. These depictions of the California landscape hit particularly close to home. It’s one thing when an artist’s impression takes you to an unknown landscape, it’s another when you recognize those same experiences in a work.
Tom Killion’s wood block print landscapes of California do just that. Raised in Mill Valley, California, Killion grew up in the hills and terrain of Marin County and Northern California’s mountains and shorelines. Many of his works are gathered in his large format books depicting the landscapes he knows best, the California coast, the High Sierras, and Mt. Tamalpais walking trails.
Woodblock prints can have the disadvantage of feeling static. Defined black lines and blocks of color can leave a flat impression. Killion’s landscapes are anything but. His images are built from sketches made on location. The detail he renders in the final print, the texture and breadth of background and atmosphere, make his images dynamic. The subtle gradations of color give the images depth and warmth. Looking at them I feel very much on location with him.
It’s important to me that I start with sketches that I’ve made on site. I also take notes and utilize my memory and impressions. I give myself permission to not completely stick to “reality”— especially with colors. The sketching process is so personal and I think people respond to my work because there’s an intimacy to it— I’m there on site, surrounded by the landscape, soaking in all the details, and not relying on a photograph.
The image is first reversed onto an initial or key block, which is usually the darkest and most detailed of the multiple blocks needed to make a print. The key block contains the outlines and visual information necessary to make all the succeeding blocks print their colors in register on the final print, so it is carved first and its image is then transferred to several more color blocks, which are then carved. The actual printing of the multi-block image begins with the making of a set of proof sheets from the key block, which are then used to insure perfect registration of each succeeding color block. Beginning with the lightest color, the first color block is set in the press and adjusted in relation to the proof sheets. When the color block is perfectly aligned with the key block image, the handmade edition paper is then used, and a number of sheets are pulled equal to the edition number of the print. This process is repeated with each color block, allowing a day or two between each print run for the preceding color to dry.
– Tom Killion
He appeared in the episode “Arts and Crafts in America: Process”
A short documentary by David Loeb Weiss, a former New York Times proofreader, chronicling the final day of hot metal typesetting on the 1 July 1978.