In the Studio With Carolyn Witschonke

This month, we visit with Printmakers member Carolyn Witschonke as she works on a new set of prints for an artist book.

Printmakers Ink: What are you working on here?

Carolyn Witschonke: This panda print is part of a series of six different panda images which I will be using for an artist book that I am preparing.

Carolyn Witschonke's panda aquatint, fresh off the press

PMI: Why pandas – what was your inspiration for these prints?

CW: The inspiration for these images came from a relationship I had with a panda teddy bear I had as a toddler. After recovering from a serious illness I was left frightened at night and suffered from night terrors. To help me through this, my mother asked my panda, Sammy, to protect me during the night. I trusted him and my nightmares went away. While doing research for this project I discovered that in China the panda is a symbol for protection.

PMI: What technique are you using? Tell us about the process.

CW: For this particular series, I’m using aquatint. First, a fine layer of spray paint is applied to the zinc plate to create a resist that will repel acid. I incise my image with sharp tools into the paint layer to expose parts of the plate through the ground.

Carolyn Witschonke preparing her plate for "Panda"

Before dipping the etched plate into acid, I coat all of the areas that I don’t want exposed with an asphalt-based “stop.” When I dip the plate into an acid bath, the acid bites into the zinc and creates a permanent line. It’s these grooves that will trap the ink for creating a print. The length of time that the plate is exposed to the acid determines the “weight” of each grove, and therefore the light and darkness of the image. This is done repeatedly until I am satisfied.

Carolyn Witschonke preparing her plate for "Panda"

I then remove the resists, ink the plate, and remove excess ink with a tarleton cloth. For this print, I’m using dampened Rives BFK. To pull the print, I place the plate directly on the press bed, layer the damp paper onto the plate, place a layer of blankets, then run the whole thing through our etching press. The damp paper picks up the image to create the final print.

The inked plate on the press, ready to print

PMI: How many prints will you make?

CW: I’m pulling an edition of ten for each image, in addition to the book.

A freshly-pulled print still on the press

PMI: What are you working on next…any big projects on the horizon?

CW: I am concurrently preparing for my solo show at Printmakers that will take place in May and June of 2012.  The title of the show is Out of Africa and will feature prints and watercolors inspired by my recent trip to Botswana and  Zimbabwe.

Carolyn’s work, along with the rest of Printmakers’ work, is on view now in our current exhibition …And The Living Is Easy through the end of August.

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