Artist holds printmaking workshop
An artist is nothing without his printmaker. Printmaking is unique in the art world. It relies largely on what master printmaker Dan Welden said is “a love for process” while other art forms, such as painting, rely on perfecting the piece. Welden stated that painting is “more direct from the heart to the canvas.”
On Friday evening, Welden, a master printmaker, painter, teacher and author gave a lecture that focused on the study of printmaking at the Goldman-Schwartz Fine Arts building. He then hosted a workshop on Saturday and Sunday, instructing on the method of solarplate etching. Welden has more than 50 years of experience in printmaking and is credited with the development of the solar plate. His work has been featured in 80 solo exhibitions and 700 collaborative exhibitions worldwide.
Prof. Susan Lichtman (FA) introduced Welden, who began the lecture by asking those in the audience about their familiarity with printmaking. He prompted the audience with questions such as “How many printmakers are here actually?” and “How many of you don’t consider yourself printmakers?” To those who said they were not printmakers, Welden said, “I wanna see you guys. You’re the ones I wanna try to reach ... Printmakers have already been bitten, right?” After cracking the joke, Welden explained his proposed changes to printmaking terminology. Instead of the term “relief printing,” he prefers to call it a “high print.” In relief printmaking, the artist carves around the image so the printed portion is raised. Instead of an “intaglio print,” he prefers to call it a “deep print.” In intaglio printmaking, the image is created as acid bites into exposed portions of the plate. He told the audience that he wants to change the terminology of printmaking.
Lithography is a process in which grease is applied to a stone and then the stone is cleaned with a water sponge. Oil-based paint is then applied. Welden showed attendees lithographic prints detailing various techniques, including one detailed image by a student in 1971 that took 96 hours to draw and one more freehanded image by Welden’s friend, whom he called “Bill,” that took less than an hour. Lichtman later pointed out that Bill was in fact Willem de Kooning, a notable abstract expressionist. In fact, de Kooning named Welden “his master printmaker.”
While Welden began his printmaking career in lithography, he recognized a challenge inherent in traditional printmaking methods. It is a challenge for an artist to carry a sizeable stone in order to make a lithograph.
Welden has developed a type of printmaking called “solarplate etching” — an environmentally conscious alternative to intaglio etching. The plate also has an extended level of diversity — it can accept ink as both a high print and a deep print.
Welden noted the significance of maintaining the craft of printmaking in an age of technology. “The heart of what this is all about are the five senses. Cause you walk into this room and immediately, you … smell what’s going on. You’re touching things, you could even taste. You hear the sound of the stones being grained. You’re getting into a physical activity,” he said. In other words, he recognizes that while it is perhaps easier to print something from your computer, there is something lasting about being able to smell, hear, feel and touch the materials.
Throughout the evening, Welden recounted his experiences working with famous artists, including David Salle, a printer, painter and developer of postmodernism. He also worked with Dan Flavin, an American minimalist artist known for his work with fluorescent sculpture. Welden said Salle provided “the easiest and most wonderful collaboration.” Flavin was the most difficult to work with. As a printmaker, Welden explained that his responsibility was to adapt to the individual personalities of the artists he works with and assist them in developing art through the most effective technique possible. The creativity was left to the artists alone.
At the end of the evening, Welden shared his portfolios, which consisted of both his work as a printmaker and his work as an artist. Much of the art was produced through a variety of printmaking methods and paint. The portfolios also featured photographs.
Welden left the attendees with a message. “Why are we artists? Why do we do what we do? What makes us artists?” Welden responded to his own question by sharing the message of composer Robert Schumman. He found there is not one reason why we are artists but five. Welden found that the best reason was the fifth reason by which “there is no reason, you just have to do it.” “That is my favorite,” he said.
—Editor’s note: Jessica Goldstein ’17 attended Dan Welden’s printmaking workshop.