I used to get a lot of phone calls asking if we have printmaking classes. At the time, we didn't, and I would have to dash the hopes of our potential students. The office was desolate, and tumbleweeds rolled by my desk. Then instructor and printmaker extraordinaire Jaime Ursic rode in like John Wayne, there was a swell of music, and now we have Printmaking: Monoprints.
There are so many great things to say about Jaime, but I picked three:
1. She built the press that she uses in class. With her hands. And a car jack.
2. She has really good handouts.
3. The work that the students produced in her last class was AMAZING. Really, it was fantastic, I am not exaggerating for blog purposes. If you don't believe me, come to our student show and see some great examples for yourself.
Here is a picture of a happily printing student, and also a shot of the final projects, on display outside the classroom.
After seeing the students' creations, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about Jaime's process and background with printmaking.
How did you get started with printmaking, and what draws you to it?
My first experience was an “Introduction to Intaglio Printmaking” class that was required. I dreaded the class before I started because I didn’t want to waste time with anything outside my painting studio and printmaking sounded like so much busy work. In the end, the dread turned into enthusiasm when I scratched into my first hard-ground plate.
The graphic control of the mark making and the complete submission to dropping it into acid hooked me. I fell in love with the entire process—from preparing the plate to drawing on the ground, then dropping it into the acid, inking and running it through a press. So many ways to change one image! The idea of multiples intrigued me and the world of variations I could create by printing the plate in different ways. It was as if I was an alchemist with no idea of what I was about to discover.
What mediums/materials do you enjoy working with? Is there a particular style that you prefer?
I began to play with monoprints as compositional sketches for paintings, using oil paint cut with clove oil. Soon I realized that what I enjoyed in the monoprints was a freshness and serendipity that I couldn’t achieve in a more labor-intensive painting. The light and color I could create with monoprinting was instantly gratifying along with rhythms and patterns that I could quickly adapt and essentially recreate. Color, shape, translucence, rhythm, and figure-ground relationships-- all took on new meaning. And that was before I began experimenting with different papers, plate surfaces and inks.
My style is grounded in traditional observation but I pull from and abstract my visual influences on a daily basis. I was still interested in line and mark-making, but with monoprinting I could draw with anything I found (string, floss, beads, shards, hair, pompoms, jelly bracelets, etc.) Also, I could now push into the paper and even emboss forms to create a composition that was active in all directions, not just across the picture plane, but actually into it.
For students that are new to printmaking, what kinds of assignments do you start them off with in class?
Students experiment with a variety of techniques creating monoprints with a special emphasis on using line, tone and texture. In my monoprinting class, I begin students with technical examinations of the process and we discuss successful formal strategies for composition. Students experiment with the process and use the plate as a drawing surface, practice additive and reductive inking techniques, create collographs, chine collé, etc. Along with in class demonstrations, I cover the historical context of monoprinting, a bit of connoisseurship, and the role it can play in an artist’s studio practice.
What artists or other work in this genre inspires you?
The inspiration in monoprinting for me is its spontaneity, color translucence, and how it’s a hybrid combination of printmaking, painting, and drawing mediums.
Everything I see inspires my work in some way or another.
Whether it is in the mark, touch, tone, inking, or composition, the following artists provide continual inspiration: Rembrandt, Seghers, Castiglione, Blake, Goya, Degas, Cassatt, Gaugin, Prendergast, Morandi, Picasso, Bonnard, Chagall, Miró, Matisse and Kollowitz. Contemporary artists I look to for inspiration are: Maurico Lasansky, Terry Winters, Kiki Smith, Peter Milton, Donald Sultan, Jim Dine, and Chuck Close.
The work below is by Jaime - to see more examples, visit her excellent website, jaimeursic.com. Class starts again this Saturday, and I can't wait to see what her students produce this time.