A WPG PAST EVENT
as described by Rosemary Cooley
with photographs of the event by Dave Mann.
Dan Welden taught us how to work with Solarplates and Vitreography in September, 2015.
It is said that printmakers are the most generous of artists. “It’s only a technique”, we reason, and we part with these willingly, knowing that artists will use the methods we share in their own unique ways.
But, some printmakers are more generous than others. Master printer Dan Welden is such a person. When he announced that he would be coming to Washington for the opening of his exhibition of Vitreographs at Maurine Littleton Gallery in Georgetown, I asked him if he would consider reprising his lecture of spring, 2015 at WPG. This time, I suggested, maybe he could speak on Vitreography and making relief plates with Solarplate.
Inventor of Solarplate, Dan took no time in responding to the invitation: “I’d love to!” he said. He packed up his Conrad Press and all his materials and drove down from Sag Harbor, NY along with Deirdre Humphrey, his able printmaking assistant.
His exhibition opening at Littleton Gallery coincided with the autumn Book Hill Art Walk in Georgetown. The streets were teeming with art lovers visiting the nine galleries within a two block stretch of Wisconsin Ave. NW on a balmy autumn evening.
Early next morning, Dan could be seen rolling in his press and suitcases of materials and tools out of the back of his Prius and into the gallery. In no time, he was set up as the gallery filled up with a full house of artists and printmakers ready to listen and watch.
Simply put, Dan engaged the group with his humor, talent, humility and generosity of spirit. Within one hour and 15 minutes, this artist had coated a plate, drawn on it, exposed it for two minutes in sunlight, washed it out, post-exposed it for ten minutes, then intaglio and relief inked it in four colors with rollers and brushes. Deirdre appeared with the dampened paper and the plate was printed. You could hear a pin drop.
The finished work was a gem of layered color and terrain, as the two-minute-long exposure had bitten deeply into the Solarplate, creating a print with many colors and eloquent relief levels.
Dan regaled the group further with stories as he turned the inking station into a pristine surface with a graceful slight of hand as he cleaned the water based inks from surface and plates. After a quick wash of his hands, he slapped a large box on that table and showed the group two portfolios of prints, one by himself. The other was work by other famous artists who have studied with him or for whom he was master printer.
Speaking of ways to make a Solarplate print, we were shown a dizzying array of images, some photographic, others expressionistic and color laden. “It’s only a technique”, but we now know that there exists an endless range of possibilities with this steel, photo-sensitive polymer coated Solarplate.
We at Washington Printmakers Gallery are deeply grateful for Dan’s sharing of his talents. While watching him was mesmerizing, it was his lasting mantra that “true art comes directly from the heart” that will long be with us.
Photos of the Solarplate Demonstration
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