benjaminguffee.com • oil paintings

314.315.1986

Oil paintings by Saint Louis artist Benjamin Guffee

During February 2015 I had the honor of working on a printmaking project with Amanda Verbeck of Pele Prints in Saint Louis.  The majority of the work was completed during a single week - one extremely demanding, rewarding week!

With the prevalence of digital printing, many people today hear the word "printmaking" and think "reproduction."  This is not that.

Traditional printmaking is an art form that dates back to at least the 5th century.  In the simplest terms, printmaking involves the artist creating marks on a plate which is then inked and printed on paper or other surface.  Artists like Rembrandt and Dürer created stunning works on paper using a variety of techniques including woodcut, etching and engraving:

Albrecht Dürer, "St. Antony," copper engraving, 1519

Printmaking enjoyed a kind of rebirth in the 20th century as new materials and styles were developed.  Printmaking studios today continue to practice time-honored techniques while also exploring and expanding the boundaries of the simple plate/ink/paper formula.  

My project at Pele has been quite a while in the making.  Amanda and I have known each other for years and we've done various small shows and openings together.  When she saw the paintings from the series I've been working on for the past several years, she asked if I'd be interested in doing a printmaking project at Pele based on related imagery.  I was extremely excited at the prospect and I'm thrilled with the results!

The project really began in earnest with a studio visit in 2014.  After we discussed the technique and intent behind the my paintings, Amanda worked on experimenting with different printmaking processes that could be used to create works on paper that paralleled the paintings.  After a number of tests, we came back to the first technique she had suggested - a variation of collagraph specially suited for the images we were trying to create.  

Creation of a plate for the project - in progress.

Creation of a plate for the project - in progress.

The plates were created using a plastic sign-maker's  board which was then covered with a adhesive vinyl coating.  The shapes were drawn on the vinyl and then each shape where ink was intended was carefully cut out and removed.  

The plates were inked:

...and then rubbed until the vinyl areas were completely clean and the ink was evenly set in all the areas where the board was exposed.   Here's an image of one of the plates ready for printing:

(As an aside, I had no idea how thick and tacky printing ink is and how physically demanding this whole process would be.  I gained an entirely new appreciation for the demands of the work Amanda and Carly were doing!)

The paper was then dampened, laid on top of the plate, and passed through the press.  Prints started coming out quickly and filling the walls!

As an oil painter, I'm used to working on a painting for days, weeks or months... it was pretty disorienting - and exciting! - to see so much work being created so quickly.

After each plate went through and the print was taken off, there was still a good deal of ink left on the plate.  We immediately laid down a fresh sheet of paper and fed it back through the press to create a lighter "ghost print" (see gallery below).  In some cases the ghost prints are my favorites - they have a delicate, ethereal quality that I love.  Here's a gallery of all of the prints, more or less in the order in which they were created:

All of the prints are now available for sale - contact me for pricing and availability!

 

Below are some snapshots from throughout the project:

a plate ready for the press

a plate ready for the press

full prints on the left (before the final layer of color was added) and ghost prints on the right (complete)

full prints on the left (before the final layer of color was added) and ghost prints on the right (complete)

The "XL" plate as we lovingly called it...

The "XL" plate as we lovingly called it...

detail shot

detail shot

Very satisfying to see these stacks of paper...

Very satisfying to see these stacks of paper...