Photography and Text by Joyce Wilson
My career as a professional photographer has been a wonderful journey, but somewhere along the way I became disenchanted and needed to get back to “art “ and feed my soul…that’s when I began giving myself personal projects and experimenting with alternative processes. For over 25 years, I was a happy camper in the darkroom working with platinum/palladium, lith printing, van dyke, cyanotype, and bromoil.
Whoops…along came the digital revolution. Kodak, along with many other suppliers, quit producing some of the materials for my work. Brooks Institute, a highly respected photography school where I had been teaching, closed their darkroom and I was faced with the dilemma of creating a curriculum for a fine art course that did not involve a darkroom. I had been attending Saturday classes at Santa Barbara City College taking a printmaking course, and decided to add Polymer Photogravure to our course. The students LOVED this process, and some are still showing up at my home/studio to work on projects.
I was reluctant to embrace digital technology (let’s be real…the first digital capture was pretty bad)… but ultimately digital capture became really good and Photoshop offered a world beyond my wildest expectations. With Photoshop, I can composite and produce images I’ve visualized, and create negatives from the digital file. I am able to work from a painters perspective, and this feeds right into a multitude of alternative processes to create art pieces beyond the traditional photographic imagery. This first post will concentrate on the lucious and beautiful process of Polymer Photogravure Etchings. In posts to follow I will discuss other processes to create one-of-a kind art images with your photographs, such as inkjet over metcallic leafing, collage and encaustic wax.
Polymer Photogravure Etchings
Gravures are etchings hand printed by the artist using an intaglio printing press. Photogravures are etchings that begin with a photograph. With the new technology it is now possible to use digital files and create a positive image that is printed on clear inkjet media. This positive image is placed in contact with a light sensitive polymer plate and exposed to ultra violet light. The plate is then developed in water and gently scrubbed with a brush. After the plate is dried and hardened, printing ink is worked into the etched grooves in the plate and then polished. The plate is then placed in contact with damp printmaking paper and pulled through an intaglio press under extreme pressure. The paper is forced down into the grooves of the plate where it picks up the ink and the image is created.
Are you ready to jump off the cliff and create art with your photographs?
A parting thought…I recently ran away for a week. I do this at least once a year, and it is a marvelous time. I take time to study with another artist, or to be with kindred souls and pursue art in some fashion. I turn off the world, the noise and chaos and just listen to my heart. Once you give yourself permission to play, I guarantee you’ll have an endless love affair with your camera.