Printmaking is the process of transferring an inked design from one surface to another. A fine art print is called an original because it is produced from a surface - usually a block or plate - that the artist has created. The total number of prints pulled from a block or plate is called a limited edition, which means that the plate or block will never be used to reproduce the image again. Each print must be signed and numbered by the artist (e.g. 2/50 means the second print out of an edition of 50). Unlike original fine art prints, reproductions are photographic copies of images produced on machine-driven presses. They are not considered original even if they are signed and numbered by the artist. Holman artists usually produce an annual collection of 24-30 prints each in limited editions of 35-50. Not included in the edition may be the artists proof (AP) or print workshop proof (PWP). Holman prints are marked with the communitys identifying designation or "chop" - an ulu with "Holman" written inside.
THE BEGINNINGS OF PRINTMAKING IN HOLMAN
Printmaking enables the community to remember the past, to keep traditional ways of life alive, and to tell community and personal stories. Printmaking in Holman came about in response to the growing need for economic development, and it enabled the community to use the visual arts in place of written history. Father Henri Tardy, a priest who ran the Catholic mission at Holman from 1949 to the early 1980s, was inspired by the success of the arts and crafts enterprises in other Arctic communities. He and a group of artists formed The Holman Eskimo Co-operative in 1961. Four years later, the Holman collection was praised by the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council (CEAC).
THE CANADIAN ESKIMO ARTS COUNCIL (CEAC) AND THE CO-OP SYSTEM
CEAC acted as an independent arts advisory council, evaluating the aesthetic, rather than commercial value of Inuit prints from the various northern communities. Through a formal jurying process the Co-op determined which drawings were to be rendered into prints for the annual collections. Communities would present their collections to the CEAC for approval before final editioning and marketing by Canadian Arctic Producers (CAP). Since the dissolution of CEAC in 1989, Co-ops have transported their annual collections directly to CAP which distributes editions to various Canadian and American dealers. The prints are also sold to collectors as far away as Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. CAP receives a commission for its marketing function with the bulk of the revenue returning to the artists and the community. The artists are paid for individual drawings while printers are paid per print. Some artists, however, have begun to sell their work privately.
THE EVOLUTION OF PRINTMAKING IN HOLMAN
As printmaking continued, Holman prints were soon characterized by crisp silhouettes and a limited use of colour. Stencil and lithography were introduced to the print shop in 1976 when John Rose was hired as manager. The stonecut process became decreasingly popular with the artists due to the health risks associated with the dust it created. The Holman printmakers expressed some regret about the loss of the vigorous stonecut technique which was addressed by introducing woodblock printing. Unfortunately, a number of woodcuts had a cartoon-like character that proved unpopular with southern collectors, and its use declined thereafter.
Since 1986 the main techniques have been stencilling and lithography which allow for the detailed, naturalistic depictions that are now the main interest of Holman artists. Initially, sealskin was used to produce stencils.
Later, wax paper was used. This process is described by Mary K.Okheena:
To make our stencil paper, we would heat a flat copper sheet in the oven until it was hot enough to melt wax. Wax was then poured evenly over the top of the copper plate. Next, a piece of drawing paper was placed on top and left there until the wax adhered to the paper. We would then peel it off, and hang it up to dry. While the plate was still warm enough, we would put another layer of wax on it, another sheet of paper on that, peel it off, and hang it to dry. The plate would then be washed in soapy water, dried, and we would do the whole process again until we had enough waxed paper to do a number of prints. This was what we used for our stencil paper.
Stencil has evolved into a very precise technique using mylar, a polyester film, a technique Elsie Klengenberg in particular has developed to great effect. The growing popularity of stencilling transformed the nature of Holman prints allowing artists to create delicate tonal gradations in their images. Forms appear three-dimensional and colours are mixed to create a variety of hues. Through lithography, like drawing, it is also possible to realize a high degree of detail. Most recently, printmakers have also experimented with acid-free etching.
DRAWINGS TO PRINTS
Prints begin with an original drawing. Sometimes, the person who draws the image is not the one that translates it into a print. Many artists only do the drawings and are not at all involved in the printing process. Other artists, such as Louie Nigiyok, have become adept at the printing process and work exclusively as a printmaker for other artists. The example of Stanley Klengenbergs Cold and Hungry shows how faithfully the drawing is translated into print.
Mary K. Okheena recalls that it was challenging to create stencil prints from the artists pencil line drawings. Her descriptions of the process attest to the close working relationship between artist and printmaker:
It was sometimes frustrating if you colour it one way and then you go to the artist, who would say it wasnt right. So you would have to do it over again. I found that it was best to let the artists trace a drawing [onto another piece of paper] and then I would have them take it home and put colours on it with felt markers. Then they would give it to me. That was easier than me putting in the colours and them telling me they didnt like them!
The ability of Holman artists to change, develop, and adapt has allowed their production to continue and remain vibrant for over forty years. Artists are now well-known for the unique Holman graphic spirit - detailed, naturalistic depictions produced through delicate tonal gradations and the depiction of spatial depth.
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