Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Day With Master Printer Dirk Hagner

posted by Nancy Young
In October 2011, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the Irvine Fine Arts Center with master printer, Dirk Hagner, who teaches at Saddleback College. Dirk allowed me to photograph as he printed the final layer of a reduction woodcut, registering the block for printing, mounting a print and hand rubbing his prints.

He marks his block outside of the printing area and uses this to register the layers. For each color he does a tracing and lines up each layer using the same marks.

Pine is good for its grain -- pick your wood based on the effect your wood  can contribute to the work. Plywood can even be OK, it just depending on the thickness of the veneer. Hardwood best for precise lines.. Fruit wood, if you can afford it is hard enough and has very even grain though harder to work with, and it does not come in larger sizes. Poplar is good. White pine is available at Home Depot. Select based on the location of the knots. Bass wood, which is similar to Shina is easy to carve. Lemon wood is available at McClain’s only in small pieces. Dirk does not usually like to print using a press since wood blocks tend to bow so he usually hand rubs his prints.

Portraiture is his personal way to pay tribute to his subject. Music as well as Philosophy inspires. Drawings are bsed on photos, then transferred to the block using carbon paper. He then covers the drawing with Min Vac, a non water based wood stain which dries quickly so he can see the contrast when he carves. He doesn't use a water based wash as it warps the wood.

Inks :: Graphic Chemicals – oil based block print black, or Caligo. Mixes all his colors, only the black does is straight out of the can. He prefers colors thin to allow the other colors to come through so to thin the ink he uses Flash Oil #4, and reconditions it throughout the da keeping extra cans on hand to store any colors mixed. Best not to ink in to the non printing area – if any gets ink in there wipe it off.

Paper: Japanese Mulberry rice paper, it needs to have some sizing and long fibers. Japanese Mulberry is much thinner than BFK Reeves -  you need a thinner paper to print by hand; even so you must rub the paper hard so the paper also needs to be strong.

How to tell if there is enough ink on the block, there will be a sheen – and by how it prints.
When rubbing be sure to give it “all you have”, the paper is strong. Note – if you use Teflon it will make your paper shiny. It usually takes three prints each time to get a good print.


Plans all color layers before beginning cutting

 Use a heavy item to hold down the paper so it won’t slip while rubbing.  Rub with the grain
You will see the color come through
Continue to check for any sand grains which could cause the paper to tear.

Printing: Dirk's editions are usually 15, so he prints at least 20.

 He uses many undercolors which makes the final layer of black, pop. He uses a 4” Takech medium brayer, inking from various directions and only inking the area to be printed. Using the registration sticks, he places the paper on the inked block.

Hand rub the print with circular motions as well as straight up and down, using a custom baren that looks kind of like a a 1-1/2” diameter doorknob. You can also hand rub using a wooden spoon.

Stick registration: Marks on the back of the paper and matches this mark up and makes a corresponding mark on a stick. Also marks the block.

Registering a large piece.
Make a stick/bar. Line up the top of paper, center mark (though no mark on paper/notched out stick), so clips a stick on paper using binder clips. Keep stick on for entire process.

Rolls paper face out and lines up stick to bar, then rolls down – keeps from lifting and laying down.
Prints final black layer, then removes clip

He brought out another reduction – a smaller print that will have one more layer for shirt and not quite black.

Tools for carving: Dirk uses various sizes of “U” gouges 1-1/2, 3, 6 mm. He starts with the smallest first, then follows up with larger

Inking the block for the final layer

rubbing rubbing rubbing - can see the wood grain through the mulberry paper
In some works he cuts the board in different parts, inks then puts back together using a plywood base to fit/lock in the pieces.

Plan your wood purchase. You can use bbq brushes to bring out the grain of the wood, enhance the grain.

Even large prints are hand rubbed, but are initially run through a press to set.

The wood grain of the  plate is utilized as part of the print.
Mounting a print

Wet mounts can be reversed(and is archival):
* Uses Henkle wallpaper paste, Metyln standard:
 2 cups water
5 tsp Henkle
let sit so becomes jelly like – leave overnight.  (Check, you may need to add more Henkle.)
It can be stored.
Tearing the Japanese paper – difficult since fibers are long. Determine size, wet the paper using a brush – then tear using a straight edge or the edge of a table.
Uses gaterboard or plywood – very light but very stable.

Prep: using paper tape, tapes paper to gaterboard. Moisten/sprayor if smaller BFK.

Smaller works – print face down on table, glue apply to back of print with glue applicator. Once you start, don’t move the pice. BFK line up and place over print using shower crubber to smooth on. Paper tape BFK with print on to board so won’t buckle.

BFK on gator board is dry
1)   relax paper by squirting with water andy water based ink preset with Krylong
2)   roll it up using a roller
3)   apply glue over all
4)   roll over using brush (wallpaper brush)
5)   glue top
6)   newsprint over – smooth with shower scrubber
7)   wipe excess glue away from paper

Ideas: mounting old photos – archivally on linen

Can reverse mounting by spraying with water and peeling off.
When can’t be typeset must be relief etching
Printed from back

When asked how to price art?  He said it's really really hard – gallery usually takes 50%. You can try to figure your price by the hour – it can be a full time job to just promote yourself.

Visit Master Printer Dirk Hagner's website here:

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