DIRECT-TO-PLATE PHOTOGRAVURE PRINTMAKING

Photogravure printmaking originated in the late 1800s and is widely regarded as the most challenging, labour-intensive and beautiful of the photographic printing processes. A photogravure, or photo-etching, print is produced by mechanically pressing a sheet of paper onto an etched, inked metal plate. The result is a beautifully detailed print with a full tonal range from deep blacks to bright highlights. Unlike other photographic prints where the image lies on the surface of the paper, with a photogravure, the image is literally pressed ‘into’ the paper. Due to the nature of the process, each print is a unique, hand-crafted object, with a depth and textural feel unlike anything else in this age of mass digital printing.

The modern version of the process, referred to as polymer or solar-plate photogravure, is a low-toxic alternative to the chemically hazardous copper-plate etchings of the past. It combines the precision and health improvements of modern technology with the manual craft of the traditional process to produce photographic prints of astounding beauty and refinement.

I teach direct-to-plate (DTP) polymer photogravure, a further improvement on the process made possible using modern Epson printers. DTP simplifies a complicated process and eliminates the need of a vacuum frame, transparency films, stochiastic (aquatint) screens and potential problems associated with double exposures. I use a calibration method that is simple but accurate, ensuring a full reproduction of tonal values in equally measured steps, from rich blacks to bright highlights. The DTP approach allows the printmaker to concentrate more on creative matters than on technical ones.

You will learn how to print a calibrated photographic image onto a polymer metal plate, expose it to UV light and etch it by processing it in water. Oil-based inks are rolled onto the plate and pressed into the etched grooves. The plate is gently wiped to reveal the image. The deeper grooves retain more ink than the shallower ones, corresponding to the tonal range of the image. Then the plate is positioned on the bed of a traditional printing press with a dampened sheet of paper placed on top of it. They are rolled - or ‘pulled’ - through the press, and the always exciting result is a unique hand-crafted photogravure print.

For further information on the history of traditional photogravure printmaking see  The Art of Photogravure and Graphics Atlas.

 

THE STUDIO

The print studio is fully equipped for polymer photogravure printmaking, digital image processing and printing. Our equipment includes a UV light exposure unit, indoor/outdoor exposure meters, a 50-year old Harry Rochat cast iron etching press, a digital printing station with a calibrated Eizo monitor and an Epson SC-P800 A2 printer. For photography classes we have a small studio suitable for portraiture and still-life, with pro-lighting, stands, backdrops and props, plus there are numerous places around the property for studio-backdrop set-ups and outdoor photography.

The materials for photogravure printmaking will include Toyobo plates, Charbonnel oil-based inks and a range of papers from Canson, Hahnemühle, BFK Rives, Somerset and Garza Papel. Inking tools, gloves, wiping cloths, studio aprons, cleaning supplies, paper towels, etc, will be provided. Participants are encouraged to bring their own materials to work with if they wish. There will besufficient materials for the course. Additional materials can be purchased if needed. 

There is a small library with an interesting collection of photographic and art books for inspiration and ideas which participants are welcome to browse through.

 

 

THE LOCATION

The workshops are held at Casa da Cabaza, a farmhouse B&B and creative retreat centre located on the shores of a countryside lake in rural Galicia, northwestern Spain. Charmingly renovated from an old stone farmhouse, it has several private, en-suite, guest rooms, a large dining/recreational lounge and lovely gardens. It also houses the photography and print studio facilities. 

 

Casa da Cabaza provides the accommodation, meals and drinks for the duration of the courses. The food is delicious and healthy, mostly vegetarian, organic and locally sourced. Dietary requests can usually be accommodated if notified in advance.

 

Casa da Cabaza is a peaceful, creative place, ideal for learning and developing new ideas and work.

 

For more info see Casa da Cabaza

 

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