Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Legacy of America's Pioneer Robert Blackburn and the Printmaking Workshop

Robert (Bob) Blackburn is a name that will live in the hearts of printmakers and artists worldwide for generations to come, and the person behind the name was one of the most giving and generous men of his age. Although he left this earthly realm nearly ten years ago in 2003, his was a life full of experience and adventure and at the age of 82, few can have claimed to have done half as much.

"We console ourselves with the knowledge that he had an extraordinary and productive life" - Jane Stephenson, Executive Director, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts

Born in Summit, New Jersey  in 1920 to Jamaican immigrant parents, Robert (Bob) Hamilton Blackburn was raised in the Harlem neighborhood of New York during its Harlem Renaissance period. In addition to the Harlem movement, Blackburn was influenced by European abstract art and American and Mexican social realism. He was mentored by several Harlem Renaissance artists like Charles "Spinky" Alston, Augusta Savage, and James Lesesne Wells and studied lithography, etching, woodblock, and silk-screening with Riva Helfond at the WPA Harlem Community Art Center. The Center was also a gathering place for black writers and artists such as Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Jacob Lawrence. A scholarship to the Art Students League in 1941 made it possible for Blackburn to study painting with Vaclav Vytlacil and lithography with Will Barnet, who later became a close friend. 
Blackburn’s early black and white figurative work gave way to colorful biomorphic abstractions and he became known for his artistic abilities as much as for his teaching and technical skills as a Master Printer for numerous artists of the age. This was due in part to the modernist trends in 1940s-1950s New York, including Abstract Expressionism, and the aesthetics of Atelier 17, a  print shop run by the renowned printmaker Stanley William Hayter.
In 1948 Blackburn and Barnet established the Printmaking Workshop, an 8,000-square-foot loft at 55 West 17th Street in Chelsea as an informal cooperative studio for experimenting with innovative lithographic techniques.
Blackburn’s own complicated, varicolored abstractions prefigured and complemented projects produced at ULAE, but his early experiments in color lithography during the 1950s literally propelled an American graphic art explosion over the next ten years.
After working at ULAE, Blackburn returned to his Chelsea studio (Printmaking Workshop) in 1963 where he encouraged thousands of artists to work in the printmaking medium. Some of those artists included  Kathy Caraccio, Roy DeCarava, Ernest Crichlow, Mel Edwards, Terry Haass, Antonio Frasconi, Mohammed Khalil, Thomas Laidman, Krishna Reddy, Faith Ringgold, John von Wicht, and Charles White among many others. Under his direction, the Printmaking Workshop became one of the most vital collaborative art studios in the world. It was celebrated in the printmaking community for its open and  innovative atmosphere, and it brought together a wide variety of artists, including longtime friend Romare Bearden.
In his lithograph ‘Faux Pas’, Robert Blackburn refers to Robert Rauschenberg's Accident, the "gaffe" which became a milestone in contemporary printmaking. Through the middle of the image, a white stripe of paper breaks apart the image, alluding to the fragile nature of the limestone. Blackburn continued to explore the broken stone concept with a suite of calligraphic works, that revealed his interest in Sumi ink drawing.

In 1971, the Printmaking Workshop became a non-profit corporation, with a mission to maintain creative and artistic quality, support and encourage innovation, create opportunities for Third-World and minority artists, and foster public appreciation of the fine art print. Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop was directly responsible for fostering similar workshops internationally, including the Lower East Side Printshop in New York City, the Asilah Workshop in Morocco (working with Camille Billops and Mohammed Khalil), and the first Namibian printshop for black artists in post-apartheid South Africa. Blackburn also worked with other internationally-recognized artists such as Diogenes Ballester, Elizabeth Catlett, Pavel Ouporov and Suzanne Scherer.

Due to financial difficulties, Blackburn approached the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in 2001 to maintain his workshop. It is now located on West 39th Street in Manhattan. The Foundation has mounted a fundraising campaign to continue to operate the Printmaking Workshop, and house the Printmaking Workshop's archives and Blackburn's papers at the Library of Congress.
Under his guidance, the Printmaking Workshop has helped artists realize their dreams, and explore a new medium. Side by side in the studio, artists, black, white, young, old, American, foreign born, have sought to render their artistic visions in print.

In addition to his work as a master printer and mentor, Blackburn taught at the Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, New York University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Rutgers University, amongst many other institutions.

Public Collections:
Library of Congress
Brooklyn Museum
Bronx Museum
the United Negro College Fund
Baltimore Museum of Art
Asilah Museum (Morocco)
Tel Aviv Museum

1953-54 - John Hay Whitney Traveling Fellowship
1957 - first Master Printer hired at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), a lithographic print shop founded by Tatyana & Maurice Grosman, in West Islip, Long Island.
1988 - Governor's Art Award from the New York State Council on the Arts
1992 - New York Artists Equity Award for "dedicated service to the printmaking community."
1992 - John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship
2000 - Lifetime Achievement Awards from the College Art Association and The National Fine Print Association 

"Bob Blackburn's groundbreaking vision and achievements have influenced American Arts, African American culture, and generations of artists throughout the world. Master printer, mentor, teacher, brother, uncle, friend -- Bob made a major difference in the lives of so many of us. His legacy -- as a printmaker and as the founder and director of the Printmaking Workshop -- will long continue in the arts community; his countless acts of kindness to thousands of artists and many others will remain in the hearts of people everywhere," -Ted Berger, Executive Director of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Pride of Jamaica: Albert Huie

Jamaica's painter/printmaker Albert Huie - who died in 2010 at the age of 89, was a man truly in love with his work. He was born in the town of Falmouth, in Trelawny, and was a largely self-trained artist. Born into a poor family during colonial rule,  his grandmother was only person of his family who encouraged his artistic ambitions.

At 16 years of age, Huie moved to Kingston and took a position as a china painter.  His family wanted him to become a teacher so he began some formal art training with the Armenian painter Koren der HarootianHe then met and became a part of the circle of friends and acquaintances of sculptor  Edna Manley. She became one of Huie's first admirers and he later co-founded an art school with her called the Jamaica School of Art. He taught classes there from 1940-44.  

 In 1939, Huie's work was selected for two world art exhibitions, one at the New York World's Fair (he won a prize) and the San Francisco Golden Gate exhibition. He later exhibited his work in the United States, Canada, Cuba and England, including an exhibtion at  the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia.

 In 1943, Huie's  first major solo exhibition was at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston, which was notable because it was the first solo show ever given there to any living Jamaican artist
Huie then went to the Ontario College of Art on a British Council Scholarship in 1944. He went on to study aesthetics at the University of Toronto.  Later that same decade,  he moved to Britain and studied at the Leicester College of Art, and the Camberwell School of Art in south-east London, were he studied under artists Victor Pasmore and Claude Rogers.
The National Gallery’s Chief Curator, Dr. David Boxer said,  “Albert Huie in these early days turned principally to portraits and to figure compositions which dealt with the everyday life of the average Jamaican. Baptismal scenes, the reaping of crops, market vending, washing by the river, all became subjects for his precocious talent.”
By the early 1950s, Huie’s style was fully developed. His work was relatively small in scale but it possessed an epic, monumental feel reminiscent of Diego Rivera’s murals.  His visual ties are also aligned with artists like Cortez, Millet, and Courbet in that he chooses to show the masses working together, although one doesn't sense the drudgery of the job as much as a comraderie of a team effort to complete a task.

Dr. Boxer also wrote, “Huie has subjected reality to  into a single composition showing a myriad of activities: growing sugar cane, hoeing, planting, reaping, dressing, sorting, bundling, and carting, all enacted against the almost Cubist backdrop of the sugar factory.”

The only thing that seemed a slight to Huie's artistic dominance in Jamaica was that the intellectual elite of his own countrymen had turned away from the type of art ne produced in favor of the untutored, Rastafarian-influenced artists, whose work resembles Haitian voodoo imagery. These were thought to be more representative of Jamaican sensibilities  linking themselves with African their African roots.
In spite of that, Huie was often described as the father of Jamaican art. He produced folkloric simplified compositions, showing his love of Jamaica's rich landscape and its beautiful people. His legacy is still growing and we can only hope the people of Jamaica and the world continue to embrace his rhythmic and sincere depictions of the working class.
Huie 's genial personality was much loved and he was always celebrated whenever he returned to Jamaica.

The Institute of Jamaica, Silver Musgrave medal -1958
The Institute of Jamaica, Gold Musgrave medal -1976
The Order of Distinction -1983
Commander of the Order of Distinction -1992
Jamaican postage stamp, "The Vendor"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tennessee Printmakers sponsor Nashville Print Revival!

Nashville Print Revival was organized by printmakers and educators from Tennesse and Kentucky including Mark Hosford of Vanderbilt University; Andrew Kosten & Meghan O'Connor of Middle Tennessee State University; Jennifer Leach of Tennessee State University; Brady Haston of Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film; Jessica Owings of Belmont University; and Blake Sanders and Hannah Sanders of Murray State University.


Thursday, Februrary 21, 2013:

Midwest Pressed: Tim Dooley & Aaron Wilson

Vanderbilt University: Midwest Pressed 3-D Print Project 9:00am-12:00pm
Open to the Public! Midwest Pressed will be working on a 3D print project with art students at Vanderbilt University from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Feel free to drop on by and take a gander at the project in progress!
The Project will take place at the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center, Room 314 on Vanderbilt's campus.

Laura Berman

Belmont University Gallery: Reception for Laura Berman's exhibition 5:00pm-7:00pm.
Live printing events by Tim Dooley & Aaron Wilson of the University of Northern Iowa (visiting artists at Vanderbilt University) will also take place at the reception!

Friday, February 22, 2013:

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film:
  • Open Portfolio! 3:00pm-4:30pm. SIGN UP BELOW!!!! Austin Peay University's Print Shop will be doing some live letterpress printing during open portfolio and the visiting artists' work will also be displayed.
  • Dinner Break! 4:30pm-6:00pm Eat some delicious Nashville food at local restaurants... Check out our travel page for some suggestions.
  • Visiting Artist Talks 6:00pm: Artists visiting at local insitutions will give short, back-to-back lectures for the public! To see the line-up, please check out our VISITING ARTISTS page.

Print artists and print studios will present a Print and Poster Show! This will be an exhibition as well as a big poster/print sale, as all of the artists and print-shops will be selling their wares. This will be reminiscent of a mini "porter flea" with all things print and poster for sale. Local Nashville Print shops and artists including Isle of PrintingHatch Show PrintBoss ConstructionSawtooth PrinthouseLaura Baisden, and many more will also be present and participating!

An open portfolio session will be available, as well as exhibitions, lectures, and live printing!February 21st-23rd.

Locations of Events and Nashville Musts!

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film will be hosting our artist lectures and open portfolio!
2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN 37228

Barista Parlour

Host of The Spectacular Poster Printacular Print Fair!, with lots of local artists and presses present and representing!
519 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206

Vanderbilt University

Hosting Midwest Pressed: Tim Dooley and Aaron Wilson of University of Northern Iowa.
E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center
1204 25th Ave. South
Rm. 240

Belmont University Gallery

With an exhibition of works by Laura Berman and live printing by Midwest Pressed and Austin Peay University's Print Shop!

Middle Tennessee State University

MTSU will be hosting visiting artists Brandon Sanderson and Matt Hopson-Walker!

Platetone Printshop

Platetone is located at 535 4th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
4th Avenue South is a one way street, heading South and Platetone is located at the corner of 4th Ave S & Lea Avenue, just North of Rocketown.
Parking is available at the front of the building, along Lea avenue, in the alley behind the building, or in the parking lot between our building and our neighbor's.

Hatch Show Printshop

Got some free time in between events? Check out this legendary local print shop!
Hours: 10:00am-5:00pm
222 Fifth Ave. South Nashville, TN 37203


Nothing official for the Print Revival, so you'll have to do your own research on this one!

Fine Eateries

Inbetween Friday's Open Portfolio and Artist Lectures, grab some dinner at these nearby eateries:

Decent BBQ right next door:
Excellent Thai cuisine 10 minutes away:

Monday, February 18, 2013

James Albon, a Traveling Printmaker

While on the eternal search for people that love the smell of ink, British printmaker James Albon's work  caught my discerning eye as I was on the search for Ethiopian printmakers. He popped up for having done a residency in Ethiopia (envious), and his colorful relief images grabbed my attention, as I am sure you will agree, he has a painterly sensibility via the block and ink.....
James Albon is known moreso as an illustrator than a printmaker., although he, like so many other illustrators, makes his images via a print-based method. He studied art at Edinburgh College of Art, and as one of Britain's younger artists, has been traveling to distant places gathering impressions of culture and daily life for his work.
Albon has jokingly said before that his main inspirations are nicotine and alcohol, but then he goes on to say he feels inspiration comes form seeing like and making critical assessments on society.  A lot of his work is about drawing out what he finds interesting in real life. 
Albon is drawn tot he printed image because it is a counterpart to the immediacy f his drawings and sketches. Above, we see a group of men inside a storefront while people walk by on the street. Some of the other images in this article show people moving about street markets and avoiding crowded avenues filled with tourists,  cabs and motorcycles. Overall, one gets a sense of the bustle of the place and it make us curious to follow the people on the street to round the next corner and see what new adventure lies ahead.

Albon's compositions are tossed askew and his cropping of the images help us become a part of them. This printmaker/illustrator is incorporating his images into books and plays and is a part of art's insistence that new artists want to be adept at multi-media. He is on his way, and we'll keep our eyes upon him.  
To read some more about JamesAlbon and to view more of his work, take a look at his website at

Further contact information:   Ph. 07858 957989

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Printmakers are Sweetest on Valentine's Day!

The history of Valentine cards is a special one, and wouldn't you know, printmaking is involved in this annual romantic tradition! To be sure, my fellow inked up colleagues, printmaking has it's hand firmly implanted upon the day for lovers. To be brief, I will give a little background to show how these images have evolved and connect them with the multi-billion dollar greeting card industry it is today. 
Since the Middle Ages, valentine greetings have courted prospective lovers, although it began with written verses after the production of paper in the 1400s. Paper valentines were then exchanged in Europe in the 1500s, being very popular in England. One of the first series of recorded valentine writings is attributed to Charles, Duc d'Orleans. He wrote dozens of valentines to his wife in France while imprisoned in the Tower of London. There are are some 60 remnants of his valentine writings still in the royal archives of the British Museum. By the 17th c., the tradition of writing to one's sweetheart was widespread in Europe and began to be celebrated on February 14th.

In the mid 1800s, a popular forms of valentines involved the photographic process of daguerrotypes, using a photograph of oneself in the center, surrounded by a decorated wreath. When the Civil War came around, the valentine became a true annual tradition - some had mirrors, or had a lock of one's hair enclosed. Any manufactured valentines at that time were hand-colored after the printing of an image. Fancy and decorative pieces with real lace and extreme artistry became the rage after the Civil War. A rare treat for collectors or admirers of this craft is when The Art Institute of Chicago, which has a collection of Victorian valentines with hand-drawn lithographic images and lace, puts them out for a short-term display.

The Victorian era saw an increase in the making of valentines with the lithography process and it became a popular method for reproducing them in large quantities. They were given a 'penny post' mark of one penny on cardstock. A popular Victorian past-time was to invite friends over to go through one's scrapbooks of  valentine cards. The opulence of these cards made them valuable items and still very collectible today.

In the Americas, the valentine custom developed from an influx of Austrian, German and English immigrant customs, and according to legend, an English Valentine received by a woman in Massachusetts inspired the beginnings of the American Valentine industry. Sending and exchanging of love letters or valentines was a custom among the German immigrants of Pennsylvania. The fancy cards made in Germany were elegant, with honeycomb paper insets, embossing, foldouts and ribbon embellishments. Some German valentines were cutouts with movable parts. There were ships, cars, trains and later airplanes. When a paper lever was moved their wheels would go around and the characters' heads would turn.

In the 1700s, a practice developed where men would send their paramours a written booklet filled with hand-written romantic phrases and it included a selection of romantic responses which women could send back to their beloveds. Some 18th and 19th c. valentines included religious references with a sacred heart and an angel(Cupid). It is believed that nuns created these cards with hand-cut paper lace. They were delicate and took a long time to produce. 

Around 1850, Esther A. Howland was a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and she began making Valentine cards after receiving a card produced by an English company. Her father was a stationer, so she sold her cards in his store. The business grew, and as she attracted more business her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts became the center of the American Valentine production.Her mass-produced, machine-made cards featuring chromo-lithography found their way to the U.S. marketplace and stunned everyone when she made $5000.00 THE FIRST YEAR. (SOME OF THE UNIQUE CARDS SOLD FOR AS MUCH AS $50.00 A PIECE!)  Howland hired local women artists to help decorate the cards. She named the business the New England Valentine Co.At its peak, the company sold 100,000 cards a year. The early Howland cards are marked with a simple red "H" on the top left corner.

During the mid-19th c., the traditional valentine breifly was designed to look like money.  Known as "love notes," these cards were eventually banned due to their uncanny likeness to authentic currency. It was around this time that valentines also gradually became  more overly-ornamental. During the "Gay Nineties," for example, the cards were adorned with garish spun glass, mother-of-pearl, imitation gems or silk fringe. Evidence of the less attractive and what might be considered "cheap-looking" valentine is seen in the "vinegar valentine"a greeting which ranged in sentiment from the caustic to the comical.

Both "vinegar valentines" and "penny dreadfuls" came under close social, religious and postal service scrutiny. The practice also led to a somewhat obscene number of valentines being produced which caused several countries to ban the practice of exchanging cards through the mail for a period of time. For example, in Chicago, late in the 19th c., the Post Office rejected some 25,000 cards on the grounds that they were "not fit" be carried through the United States Mail.
During the early 1900s, a card company called Norcross began to produce valentines and the Hallmark Company owns a collection of rare antique varieties which it will occasionally put on display. Today, a valentine card is usually accompanied by the more elaborate gifts of candy, flowers and perfume. Nevertheless, Valentine's Day Cards remain extremely popular . In terms of the sheer numbers of greetings sent annually, February 14 ranks second only to Christmas
Vintage cards should be stored in acid-free, archival-quality sleeves or boxes and away from heat and direct sunlight. Cards should never be stored with their envelopes. The glue on the envelopes eventually yellows and will leave a stain on any material when in prolonged contact.
So the next time you purchase a box of valentines or buy one special Hallmark card, thank a printmaker. Without us this popular cultural tradition wouldn't be nearly as fun  and creative.Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sir Lionel Linsday: Australia's Select Printmaker

How many of us printmakers come from a creative family? Some argue that creativity is as much environmental or acquired as much as it may be inherent within our DNA. Upon discovery of this post's entry, there is some substantial evidence to support the idea that creativity runs within families like genetic traits of one's hair or eye color.

One of Australia's outstanding printmakers has been Sir Lionel Lindsay. The third son of ten children(five became artists), Lindsay's family were seriously into the arts, and his siblings (Norman, Percy, Ruby and Daryl) were recognized artists in their own right.  Lindsay's parents, Robert Charles William Alexander Lindsay,   a surgeon from Londonderry, Ireland, and  Jane,  the daughter of a Wesleyan missionary, the Rev. Thomas Williams were originally from Ayrshire, Scotland. The Lindsay family prospered from the linen trade, but  Lionel's father sailed to Melbourne, Australia in 1864 as a medical officer,  married Jane, and thus began the Lindsay artistic dynasty.

In 1874, Lionel was born in Creswick, in Australia's Victoria district. He was educated with his brothers  at Creswick Grammar School, where he edited the Boomerang magazine. Lionel's early interest in art was encouraged by his maternal grandfather who took him to galleries and museums.  He taught himself to draw by copying illustrations from periodicals, and became an admirer and collector of the work of the artist Charles Keene. Lionel became a pupil-assistant at the Melbourne Observatory (1889–1892) and later studied at the National Gallery School,Melbourne. Lindsay also taught himself printmaking in the 1890s. 

In 1907 he held an extremely successful exhibition at the Society of Artists. The work consisted of etchings about The Rocks, a run down section of old buildings in Sydney.  Two decades after 1907 he was still active with the Society of Artists and in 1921 Lindsay became president of  the Australian Painter-Etchers' Society. He  exhibited in London in 1923 and had his most successful exhibition with a London art dealer,  Colnaghi's Galleries,   who helped establish Lindsay as a major British printmaker.  

Lionel had settled in Sydney as a freelance artist and journalist. He worked for a number of publications and magazines, namely the Hawklet, the Daily Telegraph, the Bulletin, the ReviewPugh's Almanac the OutpostWeekly TimesClarion and the Arena. Between 1905 and 1919 Lionel  illustrated twenty-six books published by the New South Wales Bookstall Co., he was a contributor for the Lone Hand.

In 1926, Lindsay and his family lived in Monte Carlo, where he worked on copperplates, making his prints from portable press, and the next year he had an exhibition at Colnaghi's of sixty-seven etchings, dry-points and wood-engravings.  The exhibition was a great success. 'Lindsay made further overseas visits, continued to exhibit regularly with the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney, and the Sedon Gallery in Melbourne, and served as a trustee of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1918-29 and 1934-49. In 1941, Lindsay was knighted for his services to Australian art.

As an art critic in newspapers and art magazines, he was highly influential. In books such as A Consideration of the Art of Ernest Moffitt and Conrad Martens, the Man and his Art (1920) he pioneered tAustralia's he publication of art monographs. Lindsay wrote about  art he admired, yet his tastes did not extend beyond Post-Impressionism and he detested Modernism, expressing his feelings in a publication calleAddled Art (1942).

Lionel Lindsay died in 1961. He left his Keene drawing collection to the National Gallery of Victoria. The Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, Queensland, hold a representive group of Lindsay's works, and an autobiography, Comedy of Life, was published posthumously in 1967. 

Lindsay's etching and his magnificent wood-engravings of birds and other animals have not been surpassed in Australia.  They are comparable to John J. Audubon for their sensitivity of form and attention to detail. They are joyously left descriptive in black and white rather than hand-coloring them. Lindsay's contributions to science and art are notable and we have him to thank for aptly describing the breadth of Australian fowl and local scenery.