Making an Impression

by Gary Smith

Horizon Reporter

When you are walking the halls of the Laidlaw Center, you might not realize that there is something very interesting going on upstairs. Part science and part old world art, Intaglio printmaking is becoming very popular at Whatcom Community College.

            Intaglio printmaking, which essentially comes from the Italian word meaning “to engrave,” was invented in Germany in the 1400s. It is “fundamentally incising or etching an image into a metal surface and then printing that image on paper by transferring it from the plate to paper, with the use of an etching press,” said Caryn Friedlander. She added that you can also draw through an acid resistant surface, then place it into an acid bath so that it eats away at the lines and reveals the image.

Intaglio printmaking is taught by Friedlander, who has been an instructor  at Whatcom for over 20 years. She started her career in art by studying intaglio etching in New York under master printers Kathy Carracio and Tony Kirk, before receiving her master’s in fine arts from the University of Washington.

            Intaglio is offered only twice a year,“both for beginners and for more advanced students who want to major in art or just try a different art form,” Friedlander said.

“The class is a very visceral experience,” said Sarah Kindl, an art major who is in her second quarter in the class. “It’s not at all electronic.”

            The class relies heavily on teacher demonstration and student participation. Friedlander showcases the skills needed to learn the styles, but she also knows that students like to do their own thing.

“After an introductory first assignment, students determine their own subject matter and how they want their images to look,” she said.

“There are dozens of techniques in intaglio, all of which have their own unique look, so it is challenging and interesting to find a method for an image,” Friedlander said. When one student decides on the method, she will demonstrate it for everyone, which she thinks will help them become interested in that technique.

One aspect of the class that Ash Church is looking forward to is the acid bath. She said that it looked exciting.

            Picking your technique isn’t the only challenge of Intaglio Church said. Another is drawing the image. The artists have to plan precisely where they want everything to go, she said, because when it’s printed on to the copper it will be reversed.

Others feel that the etching can be challenging. “It’s difficult trying to turn my drawing into a copper plate,” said Karissa Spafford.

Melissa Leith agreed.“It’s hard to tell what it looks like,”she said.“It’s like a whole new language. It’s something I’ve never done before.”

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