This past summer, I rediscovered printmaking in my repertoire of art techniques. For years, I’ve been working in the language of mixed media. It challenged and entranced me with all its layers of information, combining and balancing a multitude of materials, and of course, the mystery and intrigue the layers communicate. It was like getting to know a person, peeling off the layers until the core was revealed and you could finally see what is really there. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would ever convert to anything else to fulfill my constant desire and love of working with layers. How could any other medium resonate so deeply?
Mixed media became my true and only love. It understood me and I understood it. It was so comfortable and easy, that is until copper came along and stole my heart.
Truth be told, my mixed media work taught me many great and wonderful things, yet it was time to move
on for now at least and experience a new challenge, to push against my artistic boundaries and to enter
into a new relationship with another material. I wanted this new material to teach me instead of me teaching it. So, I started searching. I found myself doing more photography and writing, less mixed media. Mixed media began to fade into a dim memory. I knew and trusted that the right person, place or thing would present itself and guide me to my salvation. I would begin anew. I put blind trust in this belief.
Sure enough, one day it did. An art comrade of mine, Michael Rich; artist, professor and yogi, posted a video of AS220 Industries Printshop on LinkedIn. I was mesmerized. I watched it over and over again.
It brought me back to college, at Parsons School of Design, where I studied general printmaking as a
mandatory part of the illustration program, along with photography. In retrospect, I realize how integral those initial immersions/experiences were to my artistic development. I was introduced to Intaglio, Lithography and Silkscreen techniques. Intaglio resonated with me most out of the three techniques. It provided depth and mystery, two elements I constantly explore in my art making. Silkscreen was too flat, too graphic for the way I communicate. Lithography was beautiful, but that huge heavy stone. You can’t carry it with you to work on.
Intaglio, that shiny surface, reminiscent of a blank canvas, offered endless possibility. The act of carving
onto this surface with metal tools, the array of tools and mark making objects you could use, the challenge of the reverse image, the unknown manifestations of chemical and natural applications, like acid and aquatint. It interested me as an undergrad student, but not to the extent where is would deviate my attention from illustration, the marriage of text to image.
But then, almost thirty years later, it did. As fast as I could, I was getting a tour at The Printshop and taking some individual lessons from Carey Good, an amazing printmaker and teacher. I am learning. I am inspired. I am working and challenging myself again. It is art heaven. The Printshop has given me a sense of art community I was lacking and craving. Art creation is a very lonely existence and also being a creative person can be. We need to have other people like us around us. We need that cumulative art energy. It is like food or drink.
Some months back, I spoke about ritual and art creation. The role of ritual is critical in any genre of creativity. We all do things as ritual to help us transition into that creative zone where magic happens.
I believe we need to embark and use daily ritual to enhance and trigger our creative processes. This ritual even can also be found within the actual components of art creation.
Intaglio is a very ancient form of art making. It was used in 1477 in the form of a Flemish book called, “Il Monte Sancto di Dio.” Most interesting, is the fact that the history of printmaking dates back to China during the T’ang Dynasty of 618-906. It is fascinating that the first official prints were created by early Buddhists, depicting spiritual ideas with sutras and imagery. These were relief prints, created on wood and printed on paper. I discovered that throughout the printmaking timeline, mostly all the early work tends to be of a spiritual nature. Unlike the history of painting, the history of printmaking includes spiritual texts to accompany imagery, bound in book or scroll format. It occurred to me that there is a clear connection between the sacredness of both the content and process. Imagine Buddhists being drawn to the Printmaking process; it makes total sense in the grand scheme of their ideology. Anyone who has any experience in the art of printmaking will tell you the importance of staying present. Not only could you seriously hurt yourself if you didn’t, but also there are so many steps to the process, that it is a necessity. The multitude of steps can be seen as teaching tools for the printmaker. They teach patience, respect and gratitude of the craft, concentration and non-attachment (to the image because it is always evolving and changing). The whole process is like a long meditation, as what the Buddhists call “mind training” in day-to-day activities.
In printmaking, there is much to be learned within the process and oneself. It helps you slow down and
reflect, to transition smoothly from one task to another. It gently beckons you to learn patience, progress and process. It teaches the fact that the journey is the most fulfilling, not the destination. The rituals you learn guide you to trace and retrace your steps of true understanding of both your art making and yourself. They help you refine and perfect, to take away what is not needed and add only what is necessary. It forces you to stay present and aware, to understand and embrace change and growth.
This is why I’ve fallen madly in love with copper. It is a love affair that will last a very long time.
by Kim Celona
Prolific Artist & Writer