Printmaking in Venice

Wednesday, February 19

Church bells ringing, high heels on the stone streets, the sound of the water bus outside our window – new sounds in a new place. We’ve been walking about 7 miles a day, getting lost in the small streets. Glued to the gps on our phones like the other tourists around us. I can’t count the number of times I’ve overheard someone saying, “this isn’t right, it says we should turn here.” But this meandering is good for us.

Shel and I decided that the project we would work on at the Scuola would be a photo-based etching project. We both love to take photos in new places. It’s an excuse to roam aimlessly and look at the details of life around us. But Venice is so picturesque! Every corner offers a view of an charming canal, a lovely bridge, peeling plaster, eroding bricks, doorknobs and windows! All so gorgeous. And history, so palpable around every corner. How do we capture something of what we are experiencing without being cliche?

We decided we would begin by focusing on the mascaroni, the keystones that decorate and hold up the archways throughout the city and the ubiquitous figure sculptures that adorn every piece of architecture. It’s public art that’s been here for centuries, but is often overlooked. They are mostly faces, but sometimes also animals or boats. They feel like they are watching us as we wander.

So today, we started making plates based on our first images. We’re using a technique where we print our digital photos onto a Pronto plate (polyester litho) and then ink it up with BIG etching ground instead of ink and transfer it onto an aluminum plate. We then cure the ground and etch the plate in Copper Sulfate Saline solution. We’re going to be teaching this process on Monday, so we figured this was also a good way to get to know their set-up for working with BIG and etching aluminum. Lucky for us, Carolyn Webb had just completed her residency here where she introduced the Scuola to Copper Sulfate Saline etching for aluminum. The baths were already set up and ready to go!

Roberta and Alessia have a dedicated area for non-toxic printmaking. I’m hoping that our presence here and work in this area of the shop will inspire more artists to make the transition to safe practices. The studio itself is well organized and very welcoming. It didn’t take long to feel at home in the space.

Tonight, we’ll sit in our little library in the Palazzo and choose new images from our daily walk, tweak them in Photoshop and prepare to take them to the copy shop in the morning where they will be printed onto the Pronto plates. It’s another walk through the student section of the city – a very different vibe. And always, more wonderful sights to take in. It’s Carnivale after all.

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