Katherine Petty Prints
By Jason Machulski
Lake Charles native Katherine Petty is a fine arts graduate of McNeese State University. She started off in elementary education, but took a printmaking class and it caught her heart. Printing since 2003, her favorite form of printmaking is call intaglio, an amazing process that is fascinating to watch. Petty has her own press and makes beautiful prints as her time permits.
The following is a brief rundown of the intaglio history and process:
Intaglio printmaking emerged in Europe well after the woodcut print, with the earliest known surviving examples being undated designs for playing cards made in Germany, using dry point technique, probably in the late 1430s.
Engraving had been used by goldsmiths since ancient times to decorate metalwork, including armor, musical instruments and religious objects. The niello technique, which involved rubbing an alloy into the lines to give a contrasting color, also goes back to late antiquity. Scholars have suggested that the idea of making prints from engraved plates may have originated with the goldsmiths’ practice of taking an impression on paper of a design engraved on an object in order to keep a record of their work or to check its quality.
In intaglio printing, the lines to be printed are cut into a metal plate. This is done either with cutting tool called a burin, held in the hand – in which case, the process is called engraving, or else through the corrosive action of acid – in which case, the process is known as etching.
To print an intaglio plate, ink is applied to the surface by wiping and/or dabbing the plate to push the ink into the recessed lines, or grooves. The plate is then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the excess ink. The final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old public phone book pages, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top of the plate, so that when going through the press, the damp paper can be squeezed into the plate’s ink-filled grooves. The paper and plate are then covered by a thick blanket to ensure even pressure when going through the rolling press. The rolling press applies very high pressure through the blanket to push the paper into the grooves on the plate. The blanket is then lifted, revealing the paper and printed image.
JAM: In your words, how is this process done?
KP: Intaglio is a process where I engrave on a metal plate with a tool called a burin. I put etching ink on the copper plate and wipe it off with a fabric called a tarlatan until I get a certain glow from the plate. I then use damp paper called a pesha, which I lay over the copper plate and pull it through a Conrad press that is hand-turned.
JAM: What was your first work?
KP: My first piece was of purple magnolia I titled “Moonlit Magnolia.” This piece earned me the Chandler Printmaking Award in a student juried exhibit. I knew then that I loved printing even more.
JAM: What are some of your accomplishments?
KP: I have published in the MSU arena two different times as an undergrad in a poetry and art publication.
JAM: What artists inspire you?
KP: My favorite contemporary intaglio artists are Gerry Wubben and Rudy Pozzatti. Gerry Wubben was my favorite mentor in printmaking as an undergrad and his mentor was Rudy Pozzatti. I studied Rudy’s work on my own and when I finally met him, it was such an honor. I have a signed book of his work that he personally gave me. He’s a true inspiration that is very much part of my love for the intaglio process.
JAM: Where do you keep your press?
KP: I am very fortunate to have a good-sized studio right next to my home. I have my press and everything else I need there with plenty of space to create.
JAM: What are you currently working on?
KP: I am currently working on another shell for my Nautilus Series, a mezzotint, and a tricolor plate I have been commissioned for.
JAM: What plans do you have for the future?
KP: I plan on continuing my work. I hope to spread the understanding of this beautiful process so more people can enjoy it.
JAM: Where can we find your work ?
KP: I sell my work at different events and privately. You can find a piece or two at Pujo St Café in downtown Lake Charles. I also have a Facebook page, K Petty Prints.
JAM: Do you have some words of wisdom for artists?
KP: For those that are pursing anything they are passionate about, remember to be true to yourself in spirit and mind
And LEARN, GROW, and HAVE FUN DOING SO.