On Monday I drive to the studio at 9am, walk in, greet Peter Pettengill (master printmaker, and my boss, and connoisseur of excellent music) and start making some tea. Within a few minutes the studio has filled with more people. This week marks the 3rd visit of artist Walton Ford this summer, who is working on a print with Wingate Studio. He’s a painter who’s had a long relationship with Wingate Studio, making multiple print editions here, many of which, I must confess are the reason I wanted to come intern at Wingate in the first place. His work depicts animals, often birds, in complex, vividly colorful, scenes of conflict and action both beautiful and unsettling. These scenes tell stories of historical events and myths, featuring symbolic animals and plants. Today we’re working on creating the plates for a six-color illustration of bohemian waxwings feasting on blackberries amongst thorns, barbed wire, and bullets.
Once Walton has arrived things swing into gear. Intaglio plates are hand-wiped with ink in one room while in the other Peter aquatints a plate with resin and Walton burnishes away displeasing marks on another plate, using printed proofs as reference. Most of the groundwork in color and line have been developed already on the plates and so today we spend time honing in on details, shadows, mistakes, balancing colors so they look the way the artist wants, and other steps towards creating a final B.A.T.(reference) for the final edition of prints. It’s a complicated task, managing the way colors layer over each other within the print, and keeping everything in place. It’s no wonder I can’t keep track of which plate is which sometimes with such a complex print addition. Thankfully we have Peter around who masterfully guides plates where they need to be, lays them in front of Walton and takes them away, and keeps everything moving forward so we get exactly the colors and image desired.
While James (Peter’s son, an artist and printmaker, and amateur carpenter) and I wipe plates with cobalt blue, black, and red, Peter talks with Walton in the next room. Soon he joins us and we begin the careful process of inking all the plates for a full six plate proof. One by one the plates are masterfully inked and placed on a shelf besides the press. Then in specific order we run them through the press with a piece of paper, each meticulously aligned so as to line up and register with the others. After the last run through the finished print is lifted up and pinned against the wall for inspection. Like magic, blue, red, yellow, brown, black, and sienna have all layered together to create an image. There is a moment where we all appreciate our work, and then we begin to critique, writing notes on the print. Soon it’s time for lunch and we go out into the yard to eat our sandwiches in the summer sun.