Back in May I spent a week at Grafische Atelier Alkmaar or GAA as it’s known. Alkmaar – roughly a 50 minute drive from Amsterdam – is an historic Dutch town famous for its cheese market.
I went to make a lithograph with master printer Marja Vleugel and work alongside two of GAA’s founders, Jos van Amsterdam and Rolluf van Laar. This was my second visit and a rare opportunity to draw on the Bavarian limestone slabs used to make lithographic prints.
The greasy drawing materials feel unlike anything else to draw with, as does the surface of the stone itself, super sensitive.
Dutch: the word I hear most often from Marja is ‘Nee’. ‘Nee nee…’ slowly with a gentle shake of the head meaning ‘don’t worry but that’s not the way’. ‘NEE!’ loudly with a sharp movement, meaning ‘keep the clean sponge out of the oil’. All her nee’s are nuanced.
Here she is teaching me how to registered second and third colours using pins and two holes made with an etching tool in the actual stone. Infinitely patient.
I make monoprints rather than an edition, with the aim of maximising this opportunity to learn. I layer them up watching the inks overlay. The inks are also a revelation: newly developed water-soluble oil based inks by Hawthorn. They are fantastic. There is a particularly wonderful graphite colour. The prints themselves are experiments in mark making and technique. As works of art they lack content.
I give a talk at the end of the week. We publicise it through my blog, a paper invite, an (e)mailout and the Atelier’s website. I talk about my working practice, artistic research, how I support myself, the two print workshops I rely on, the people I teach. I like giving talks and often learn something from the experience but this one is not good. I’m too tired to pick a clear path through all the information I could be giving, and I know the prints I’m showing are weak but I am sincere. The audience picks up on this and responds warmly.
Before I leave, Marja and I talk about the possibility of a project linking technicians from Europe. We also talk about exhibiting future work (mine) at GAA, the Atelier’s forthcoming return to the Gröte Kerk and the optimum timing of a Bath / Alkmaar exchange (this conversation is on behalf of Bath Artist Printmakers). I promise a room to anyone who wants to visit Bristol.