Printed and Pressed: Print Austin & The Time-Honored Art Of Printmaking
by Lauren Jones
In Austin, each January marks an exciting time, a month filled with growth, educational opportunities and inspiration. Since 2013, PrintAustin, a nonprofit which aims to showcase both the traditional and modern styles of printmaking, has given local makers, as well as print artists around the US, a place to showcase their work during its annual festival.
And while the Texas capital has always been a print town, with UT, ACC and Texas State all having strong programs, printmakers weren’t always getting the exposure they longed for and deserved.
For artists like Annalise Gratovich, pictured above at local Slugfest Printmaking Workshop, she’s found PrintAustin to be invaluable for those in the creative community and was on the founding board of the organization, doing everything from daily administrate tasks to later hosting artist talks and workshops.
“[It] has built us up individually by strengthening our community, but has also made printmaking more popular,” Gratovich says.
The nonprofit, which is the brain child of artist Cathy Savage and co-founder Elvia Perrin, who has since left the organization, puts on numerous workshops each year from January 15 to February 15 all with the goal of educating the public on this beautiful art form.
“Printmaking is a technical art form and a lot of people don’t understand it. Plus, there are a many different forms of printmaking. It’s confusing for the average person, and even gallerists are unsure sometimes. You have to think in reverse, there are so many steps you have to follow and it’s like solving a problem, but when you pull out a print, it’s this beautiful surprise. It’s magical,” Savage says.
With the fiscal support of Big Medium, a local organization which founded both the East and West Austin Studio Tours, as well as help from friends at printmaking studio, Flatbed Press, PrintAustin has been able to not only get off the ground but continue to grow over the last six years. Now, from January 15 through February 15, the Austin public can attend artist talks, print-focused happenings and educational workshops.
During PrintAustin 2019, DIY workshops were held on many forms of printmaking, including a screen printing workshop at West Austin’s Laguna Gloria. Screen-printing is the most commonly recognized form of printmaking and is often used to print T-shirts, but the world of printmaking is quite vast. For instance, there is relief printing, where an artist carves out the white space on a piece of wood or linoleum and the ink stays on the surface like a rubber stamp. Intaglio, which is the opposite of relief printing, is where a design is etched onto a plate, such as copper, using tools or acid. The plate is then covered in ink, wiped clean and a wet piece of paper is laid on top before being run through the press. Gratovich often uses the intaglio method in her work (pictured above).
In this region in particular, there is a tradition of printmaking and for those talented artists like Gratovich who create these stunning, sometimes emotional works of art, exposure and community is everything, something PrintAustin has helped to develop.
“In the beginning we were reaching out to galleries and suggesting artists who would match their curatorial vision, but now galleries have researched artists on their own and showcase printmakers on their own during PrintAustin,” Gratovich says.
While more and more galleries are beginning to regularly feature printmakers like the Wally Workman Gallery, Flatbed Press, Gallery Shoal Creek and the Russell Collection, which caters to the more high-end buyer and collector, living and working as an artist has become increasingly difficult.
“In Austin, we are in this really uncomfortable growth period,” Gratovich says. “The industry here is changing. There are developers that are changing the landscape that want to capitalize on the creative community here, but the spaces they are offering aren’t affordable. We need space to create, share and exhibit the work we do.”
With ever-skyrocketing rents —up 69 percent since 2011 —and continuous new construction, it’s no surprise that the dialogue between the creative community and the City of Austin has reached a boiling point.
“If we are going to live here and make our work here, something has to change,” Gratovich says.
The issue of affordable housing for artists has not only become visible in Austin, but in cities nationwide.
“There is a grant due soon for spaces that have been lost or displaced, which will help people get new leases. That’s a good thing I see the city doing, but I hope it’s not too little too late. A lot of people have already left to outlying areas,” she says. “It would be great to have spaces subsidized and grant access to new developments for creatives. A lot of cities could do more.”
Austin has always been a desirable place to live due to its thriving artist community, but without support from the city that could change. Luckily though, Gratovich knows her fellow printmakers are quite the resilient and creative bunch when it comes to finding solutions.
“Our strength comes in our numbers and the ways we can help each other and support each other,” she says. “If we don’t have access to something, we find ways to make it work for ourselves. I’ve found that more and more we are finding our own spaces and pooling our resources and being creative about how that’s done.”
To learn more about PrintAustin and support printmakers, visit printaustin.org
Guayaki Presents Come To Life Austin: The importance of art goes beyond its ability to connect and inspire. It is the conduit that spreads important ideas when barriers are present and words simply are not enough. Unfortunately, creators often do not have access to fundamental basic needs. During our time in Austin we are partnering with local groups that are solutionary in ensuring artists’ needs are met so they can not only continue to be makers in their community but movers as well. Join us on cometolife.com and at our many events over the month of April as we explore this theme in more detail.