Beyond printmaking workshop New York
Efa Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop
Printmaking is my identity and my matter. When you start with yours first etching it gets you.
I still remember my first zinc plate when I was just 16 years old. Our art teacher, Bojan Kovačič at Art High School in Ljubljana, was master printmaker, and he was the one, who taught me first steps of etching and printmaking.
There is this special invisible bond between printmaking students and their teachers. I was very lucky that I had many good masters as teachers while studying and attending different workshops.
Not only Bojan Kovačič, in the 1995 I had an honor to be a one term student at NYU at the printmaking giant Krishna Reddy and as Devraj Dakoji silently said to me: “My guru, Krishna Reddy!”
There is always connotation in the role of master’s printmakers in printmaking workshops as they are carrying the printmaking heritage further to the next generation. As an exemplary teacher and master, I honor both, Krishna Reddy and Bojan Kovačič.
Krishna Reddy (1925 – 2018) Bojan Kovačič (1949 – 2017)
Robert Blackburn and Elisabeth foundation
When I try to explain to my friends and family, where in New York I was recently working with my printmaking project, they ask me, who Robert Blackburn actually was.
Robert Blackburn was one of the first African American master printers for Universal Limited Art Editions. According to Elisabeth foundation home page: he collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell and he presented graphic technique in the new light to American artist.
Robert Blackburn established his workshop with the help of his teacher Will Barnet in 1948 and they started workshop with one lithographic press on the 55thStreet in New York.
Today is Robert Blackburn printmaking workshop part of The Elisabeth foundation on the 39thstreet, West Midtown, New York and the heritage of Robert Blackburn lives further as a part of working ethic in the printmaking workshop. Robert Blackburn workshop was and still is the meeting point for all printmakers from The United States if America and from the rest of the world. Blackburn’s intention was to create workshop affordable for any artist. He and his fellow printmakers had carefully built workshop system through the years.
So, if you are just curios to learn screen printmaking, lithography or etching technique, you can apply for classes which usually cost between 200 to 400 USD, where no previous knowledge is required.
As an artist printmaker you can make edition of any graphic technique, so you can hire printer without press and you will get professional help for your artistic project. One hour will cost you approximately 36 USD.
On the entrance of the workshop a supervisor of the day greets you. This supervisor takes care of your registration and everything that involves working in the workshop. These supervisors are usually newly graduated artist from art school with waste knowledge in printmaking, so they are able to help you in your working process. In my modest opinion is this a good example from which Europe can learn a lot, as young artists are given the opportunity.
At this point it seems like Europe has forgotten the good old practice from the Renaissance time “Bodega”, where young Michelangelo started his learning practice with sweeping Domenico Ghirlandaio Botega´s floor. All young printmakers should apply for SIP program at RBPW and I am going to recommend it to them.
The part of Robert Blackburn working ethic is that everybody is helping everybody in the workshop and that even master can learn something from a student and mistakes are part of learning process. Therefore, kindness and respect for everybody is very important. It does not matter what nationality or color your skin is, you will be supported and respected and the personnel in the workshop will celebrate every artistic or technical progress with you.
I participated in the course “Encaustic Collagraph” with Elise Wagner. This was completely new technique for me. In this technique artist is using wax to build up relief of pattern on the polymer plate. This technique is quite new printmaking technique and is still developing and this is the reason I participated.
I have to admit as well that I gained some new friends among artists, laureates from Princeton. One can be surprised by the knowledge and vocation of participations of the curses at BRPW.
For my artistic project I selected to work with the largest lithography stone in the workshop and my fortune was to work with master printer Devraj Dakoji.
He is the spirit and the carrier of the printmaking heritage at the workshop. When I observed him how he prepared and etched my drawing on the lithographic stone, it was magical, and I know I can improve my own lithographic technique. At the end we managed to print 20 prints including the prove prints on Rives BFK paper. Just an inside advice; if you want to find a good printmaking paper in New York you need to go to “Da Vinci artist supply” on the 21th Street, Downtown.
Elisabeth foundation building has 12 floors and as I described on the second floors RBPW printmaking workshop and Gallery is facilitated. On the fifth floor you can find another Gallery called “20”, where we, Annual Members Show of RBPW have a shop. In the rest of the building there are individual artist’s studios. Elisabeth foundation supports artist creativity, across all art disciplines and techniques with studios and art equipment.
At the end of October, The Elisabeth foundation had Open Studios, where you have the possibility to visit artists in the studios and see their work in progress. At the end of the day of open Studios we had a party and it was just right to celebrate every individual artist achievement and my own artistic progress as well before I went back home Stockholm. Somebody at the party explained to me that is very hard to enter into the Elisabeth Foundation program and to be even entitled for an individual artist studio and beyond that it is supposed to be even harder than to enter the Yale University.
Kathy Caraccio, workshop master printer, comes sometimes to the Robert Blackburn and if you are lucky enough you can see her printmaking workshop and her collection of prints from artists all around the world. Now she has one of my prints as well.
Her studio is next door to the Elisabeth foundation. By visiting her in the studio you can learn a lot about printmaking and about artist printmaker. Besides that, Kathy Caraccio is also an artist, curator and professor and her work is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum. She told me that in her early days of her carrier she was working with Robert Blackburn as Supervisor in the workshop and that she met all the graphic world. We found out that we have common friends. Kathy is always open to give you very good advice.
She prefers to work in her own studio and usually she is having printmaking courses at Manhattan Graphic Center on 40thstreet on the other side of 8thAvenue in the neighborhood of New York Times. In the Garment District you can find several printmaking workshops.
I found out that Manhattan Graphic has more working space for screen printmaking. They thought me how to print screen without vacuum table. I have started my screen project in their studios, which I am continuing working on back home in Stockholm, but I am coming back in the City, because I do not want to miss it for anything in the world and it is my graphic world.
For my artistic project I selected to work with the largest lithography stone in the workshop and my fortune was to work with master printer Devraj Dakoji, October 2018