Photogravure at Renaissance Press

This August I was fortunate to attend a five day photogravure workshop with Paul Taylor at Renaissance Press. I've been planning to attend for over a year, and it was worth the wait. Like carbon transfer, photogravure is difficult.  There are nuances of the process and the materials that would have been fiendishly hard to learn on my own.  

 Paul inspecting positives with different contrast curves before exposing a photopolymer proof plate.

Paul inspecting positives with different contrast curves before exposing a photopolymer proof plate.

Well known as an atelier for his work in gravure, Paul was also an exceptional teacher. Over the course of five days I learned enough to carry on in gravure on my own. However, I was also happy that we when through the entire linerization process for producing high quality film positives for gravure. What I added to my knowledge of digital film was almost a workshop of material in itself.   

The days were long, but we were also able to take a crack at photopolymer gravure as well. All in all, I was able to produce two copper and one photopolymer plate and spend most of one day printing all three on the press. The printing time was enough to make inking and wiping the plates feel familiar and allowed Paul to show us a few special techniques like retrosage, dodging with hand and chalk, and stipling defects on the plate.

 Two copper gravures ready to be inked.

Two copper gravures ready to be inked.

 Stippling a defect in a plate. Photoshop 19th century style.

Stippling a defect in a plate. Photoshop 19th century style.

Beyond learning a specific process, I've found that attending a workshop is equally valuable for the exposure to exceptional prints, presentation, and working methods. As printers in high end niche processes, it's a rare and valuable opportunity to see exceptional work. Experiencing masterful work is inspiring and also offers a benchmark for where you are in your own craft. This was true for me when I took my first workshop from Sandy King and equally so at Renaissance Press. 

I highly recommend Paul's workshops. His studio is in a beautiful, but very rural part of New Hampshire. I biked the entire trip having flown into manchester from Austin. However, if you are going to bike it, expect some long rides and steep hills. Otherwise, look at renting car and having a relaxing stay in Keene or Brattleboro.