A Printer’s Diary (Part II): Continued Adventures at Tamarind

Color mixing, tap outs and draw downs, oh my!

The past seven weeks at Tamarind have flown by, leaving only five short weeks  in the fall semester of the Professional Printer Training Program. After water and solvent tusche tests on both stones and plates were completed, we leapt into collaborative printing, each student creating imagery for other students to print. For most of us, this was our first experience working in a traditional professional printer capacity. We presented our artists with prepared stones, plates, tusche washes, and, later, mylars for multiple layer imagery. We discussed paper choices, registration techniques and color decisions. We proofed– oh, how we proofed! Once we were officially introduced to color ink mixing and modification (the Tamarind Way, of course), the proverbial flood gates were open. We learned to accurately mix color to an old Handschy color swatch book printed in the 70s, how to create proper draw downs and tap-outs, and how modifiers make the ink do your printerly bidding (usually).

For four solid weeks, we were at the presses, working on two complicated assignments, each involving extensive color trial proofing. We had at least two six-hour long demos– “Savage!” as Rodney, The Education Director, describes them. I filled an entire notebook full of technical how-to’s, observations and on-press notes… and then started a new notebook. We learned toner transfer techniques (beware those midtones that pop up while editioning), laserprint transfers (gotta put those into lacquer) and how to make beautiful flats using ruling pens (I’ve learned to love old drafting tools). We learned how to control blends using a half sheet roller in order to print 20″ x 28″ flats without lap marks. For this assignment, we used stone and plate, ideally creating three overlapping flats using proper ink films without resulting in shiny ink. Oh, and one of the runs had to use spray painted texture. Believe it or not, despite all the kitsch, the resulting prints were quite stunning! We also experimented with Dolphin transfer paper, gold leafing and pigment dusting, all within one glorious, gaudy edition.

Each editioned assignment is methodically scrutinized in one-on-one curating sessions with Rodney. Newsprints, Trial Proofs, ATPs, and BATs are meticulously compared to the resulting edition for accuracy of printing, registration, cleanliness and proper notation on slip sheets, the backs of each print and documentation sheets. The edition is laid out in order of light to heavy ink films, with the lightest and heaviest ink films usually rejected. As the semester has progressed, the parameters for what constitutes a professionally printed edition have become more and more constrained, as intended editions of 12 are whittled down to ten, eight or even five.

As busy as the student side at Tamarind has been, the professional printing side has been just as hard at work. This year, there are two senior printers, Maria and Justin. They work under the tutelage of Master Printer Bill Lagattuta, who is retiring in June after 27 years of collaborative printing at Tamarind. Since August, there have been three invited artists working on new prints. Artists Robert Pruitt, Toyin Odutola, and Adam Feibelman all approached lithography and their time at Tamarind differently. After their residency in the studio, each of the artists gave a public presentation about their work and studio practices, and reflected on their experience working at Tamarind. It’s exciting to see artists’ visions come to life on the press after such an incredible amount of work goes into the creation, processing and proofing of images. The  collaboration between artist and printer is an artform in itself, full of experimentation and creative thinking.

In the final four weeks of the semester, we’ll be wrapping up with manière noire, photolithography working with digitally derived images, and an assortment of other processes Rodney refers to as “kitchen sink” litho.  I can only guess what will be thrown our way. I’m sure, however, the weeks will continue to fly by.

Color mixing, tap outs and draw downs, oh my!

From left to right: Senior printers Maria and Justin, PTP students Jackie, Alice, Danielle, Candice, Amanda, Nora and Judith. Pictured front row: Rodney Hamon, Tamarind Education Director and Bill Lagattuta, Tamarind Master Printer and Workshop Manager

From left to right: Senior printers Maria and Justin, PTP students Jackie, Alice, Danielle, Candice, Amanda, Nora and Judith. Pictured front row: Rodney Hamon, Tamarind Education Director and Bill Lagattuta, Tamarind Master Printer and Workshop Manager

Danielle rolling out a blend with a half sheet roller.

Late night color mixing only to discover where I draw my inspiration from during clean-up.

Metal leafing, drier and pigment dusting demo.

Bill gave a lecture about collaborative printing to our Administration class. This was an impressive multi-panel print. Jackie for scale.

Rodney at the press giving a demo on Maniere Noire.

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