Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Chuck Close edition: Phil (Spiral)

Chuck Close - Phil (Spiral), 2014. Etching on Arches Cover Cream. 15.37 x 11.87 in. (paper 30 x 22 in.) Edition of 50

Magnolia Editions’ latest edition from Chuck Close is a tour de force of contemporary printmaking, but its origins lie in a masterpiece of engraving created almost three hundred years ago. Phil (Spiral), a portrait of Close’s friend and longtime subject, the modern composer Philip Glass, was inspired by the 17th-century French painter and engraver Claude Mellan’s print The Sudarium or Veil of St Veronica, which owes its fame to Mellan’s remarkable use of a single line to engrave a realistic human face.

Claude Mellan - The Sudarium or The Veil of Veronica, 1649. Copper plate engraving.
Photo by John R. Glembin.

Detail of Mellan's Sudarium. Photo by John R. Glembin.

As an artist who has created groundbreaking etchings for more than thirty years, Chuck Close was naturally touched by the singular achievement of Mellan’s Sudarium, even acquiring his own copy of the famous print. During a recent visit to Close’s New York studio, the artist proposed a challenge to Donald Farnsworth: could the contemporary printmaking wizardry of Magnolia Editions convincingly recreate the famed and reputedly “inimitable” technique of one of the great French engravers?

An early plate experiment for Phil (Spiral).


Naturally, the route to a successful Phil (Spiral) etching was an indirect one, with many twists and turns: at first, Close and Farnsworth used a combination of digital engraving tools and algorithms to generate a series of largely unsatisfactory tests and to roughly identify areas of light and dark where the line would need to change shape. Ultimately, the single line making up the print had to be manipulated and adjusted entirely by hand over a period of several months.

Detail from Phil (Spiral), 2014

“The existing algorithms and programs can turn your image into a series of concentric circles,” explains Farnsworth, “but they give you none of the depth that makes Mellan’s print so impressive. To achieve that kind of dimensionality, the line has to traverse the topography of the face at angles that demand a radical departure from the spiral. Even the smallest single hair on Phil’s head required a corresponding, minute undulation in the line.”

Nicholas Price pulls a proof of Phil (Spiral) on the etching press at Magnolia Editions.


Printed at Magnolia Editions by master printer Nicholas Price in an edition of 50 and signed and numbered by the artist, Phil (Spiral) reflects an ongoing dialogue between printmaking’s past and future, into which Chuck Close and Magnolia Editions continue to introduce unexpected and exciting possibilities.

For more information and detail views of both Close and Mellan's prints, please see this press release:


More artwork by Chuck Close from Magnolia Editions

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Stanford University workshop at Magnolia

Students from Stanford University's SIMILE program at Magnolia Editions in October, 2014.

Undergraduates from Stanford University's SIMILE program, an intensive program in which students explore the history of science and technology, visited Magnolia Editions this weekend for an intensive three-part workshop.

Photos of the event below were taken by Era Farnsworth, who coordinated the workshops with SIMILE assistant director Kristen Haring.

Nicholas Price and Donald Farnsworth with students from Stanford University's SIMILE program

After a quick tour of the studio's latest mixed-media innovations and print techniques, workshop participants learned to use raw materials to fabricate their own handmade ink, pens, and paper under the guidance of Magnolia's own Donald Farnsworth, Tallulah Terryll, Nicholas Price, and Heather Pratt, with additional demonstrations by artist Guy Diehl, book binder extraordinaire John DeMerritt, book artist Clifton Meador, and expert calligrapher Georgiana Greenwood.

Haring, together with Stanford professors Paula Findlen and Reviel Netz and SIMILE program lecturers Marcelo Aranda and Katherine McDonough, brought the group of more than fifty students to the studio in late October, just before Halloween. Appropriately, participants had the chance to grind their own inks from charred pig bones and oak gall, giving everyone an opportunity to get into the spirit of the season.

Oak gall, used in ink-making; photo by Guy Diehl

Tallulah Terryll with students from Stanford's SIMILE program, making ink at Magnolia Editions in October 2014

Oak gall, ground up and used in ink-making

Students from Stanford's SIMILE program making ink at Magnolia Editions

Students from Stanford's SIMILE program making ink at Magnolia Editions

Students from Stanford's SIMILE program, making ink at Magnolia Editions in October 2014

Tallulah Terryll with students from Stanford's SIMILE program, making ink at Magnolia Editions in October 2014

Painting by Guy Diehl: coffee black pigment made at Magnolia Editions

Pigments made at Magnolia Editions, September 2014

Meanwhile, John DeMerritt and visiting photographer/book guru Clifton Meador supervised a demonstration of basic book binding and stitching techniques in Magnolia's front workroom.

Students from Stanford University's SIMILE program with John DeMerritt and Clifton Meador at Magnolia Editions

SIMILE students try some bookbinding techniques at Magnolia Editions

Heather Pratt at a bookbinding workshop at Magnolia Editions

In the back room where Magnolia's framing and wood working usually take place, Guy Diehl helped the students create their own handmade ink pens out of bamboo, while Georgiana Greenwood used the newly fabricated pens to demonstrate some calligraphy techniques.

Guy Diehl with students from Stanford University's SIMILE program at Magnolia Editions

Made by Guy Diehl at Magnolia Editions; photo by Guy Diehl

Made by Guy Diehl at Magnolia Editions; photo by Guy Diehl

Georgiana Greenwood demonstrates calligraphy to SIMILE students at Magnolia Editions

And in Magnolia's handmade paper studio, Donald Farnsworth discussed the science of handmade paper and led a workshop in creating paper from raw pulp.

Donald Farnsworth with students from Stanford University's SIMILE program

Donald Farnsworth with students from Stanford University's SIMILE program

Heather Pratt with students from Stanford University's SIMILE program

Don Farnsworth, Heather Pratt, Clifton Meador and John DeMerritt in Magnolia Editions's handmade paper studio

Magnolia Editions would like to thank Kristen Haring and all at SIMILE for identifying Magnolia as a destination for students of scientific innovation, providing yet more evidence that science and the arts are simply two sides of the same coin. Haring tells us that the students will use the materials they made at Magnolia to produce their own medieval-style codices as a means to consider how scientific knowledge was transmitted over the centuries.

Thanks also go to the terrific group from Stanford for their enthusiastic participation!

Stanford students grinding handmade inks at Magnolia Editions, October 2014

To be notified of upcoming events and workshops, stay tuned to this blog and be sure to sign up for Magnolia Editions's mailing list here.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ramos Superheroines Up Next

Mel Ramos - Superman, 2014. 37 x 26.75 in. Edition of 30

The response to Mel Ramos's Superman and Batman woodcut/acrylic editions has been tremendous!

Revisiting some of his earliest Pop Art paintings and released only four months ago, Ramos's superhero prints proved to be especially popular with his European audience; only seven sets were acquired by American collectors, while the rest were speedily dispatched overseas.

The Sacramento-born Ramos lives and works in Oakland, where he is equally well-loved: a Batman print donated to Flourish, an annual art auction held locally to benefit the Oakland Art Murmur organization, sold before auction at a price well over retail.

Mel Ramos - Batman, 2014. 37 x 26.75 in. Edition of 30

Magnolia director Donald Farnsworth credits the artist's commitment to broadening the scope of his practice, as well as the innovative hybrid techniques perfected by the staff at Magnolia: "Having worked with Mel for twenty years," Farnsworth says, "he has been consistently fearless in diving in to tapestry, digital/analog print combinations, and the variety of mad science experiments he is presented with at Magnolia."

Farnsworth also points to the unusual intersection of content and technique from multiple generations that coalesces in Superman and Batman. "In these prints," he explains, "we're using an Old World woodcut matrix – but the content is classic Pop Art, and the artist is using digital-age tools to manipulate the composition and direct the cutting of the wood block."

Judging from the extraordinary response to these editions, Ramos's heroes are still able to profoundly affect their audience more than half a century since Ramos decided to paint his favorite comic book characters in 1962 and Pop Art was born.

Magnolia Editions and the artist also donated a Superman print to San Francisco's M.H. de Young Museum, which in 2004 acquired the iconic 1962 canvas upon which Superman (2014) is based:

Mel Ramos - Superman, 1962. Oil on canvas. 45 x 32.5 inches

“It is the most historically significant Pop Art painting in our permanent collection,” noted de Young Curator of American Art Timothy Burgard in this excellent 2012 magazine profile of Ramos.

Besides signaling the beginning of Pop Art, Ramos's early superheroes also marked an important transition in the artist's subject matter. Once the de Kooning-inspired abstractions of his art school days gave way to the unambiguous figuration of Superman and Batman, it was only a matter of time (less than a year, in fact -- cf. 1962's Phantom Lady and Wonder Woman) before Ramos began painting superheroines, which ultimately led to the colorful female nudes for which he is best known.

Accordingly, the artist is currently working on a new set of woodcut editions that will revisit the superheroines of his Pop Art past. Stay tuned to this blog for details, or sign up for the Magnolia Editions mailing list.

For more details on the Batman and Superman woodcut editions, please see this press release:

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Japanese Papermaking class in October

Custom watermark moulds fabricated using Magnolia's 3-D printer

On October 4th, Carol Brighton’s popular Japanese Papermaking class returns to our recently renovated paper studio! Please reserve your spot by emailing papermagnolia@hotmail.com, and don't hesitate to pass this info on to anyone you know who might be curious about how paper is made.
  • Japanese Papermaking with instructor Carol Brighton will meet on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 10 am to 4 pm:
    Japanese paper (washi) is world famous for its beauty and strength. Learn to make traditional washi step-by-step from cooking and beating the fibers to sheet formation and drying. We will make sheets on sugetas (Japanese moulds) and Western style moulds, learn to laminate inclusions in collage, and explore other techniques for decorative papers. Students are encouraged to bring items to use as inclusions such as dried flowers, lace, fabric, or printed papers that will not bleed when wet.

    Instructor Carol Brighton is an artist whose handmade paper expertise is evident in her printmaking and pulp paintings. Her latest paper works, many made during a recent visit to the Awagami Factory in Japan, can be seen in an upcoming exhibition at the UC Faculty club in September. Brighton recently retired from teaching papermaking at the Academy of Art and now conducts private workshops at Magnolia and in her own studio.
Photo by Michelle Wilson from her most recent papermaking workshop in Magnolia Editions

Classes will be limited to 8 participants each, so early reservations are recommended. Your place will be considered reserved once we have received your payment.

The fee for each workshop is $160 per person; materials will be provided at no additional cost. Each participant will also receive a free copy of Donald Farnsworth’s book A Guide To Japanese Papermaking (while supplies last).


(A note on cancelled reservations: cancellations will be refunded in full if made at least three days before the class, or if we can fill your spot. Cancellations occuring within three days before class that cannot be filled will be given a 25% refund.)
Again, to reserve a place in these workshops, please email papermagnolia@hotmail.com.

Handmade paper with custom Magnolia watermark

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Monday, June 30, 2014

"Way Out West" Takes Over Advertising Space In SF


Magnolia Editions is pleased to team with San Francisco's Art City Project for "Way Out West," a public art exhibition that will take over outdoor advertising spaces in the city's Inner Mission neighborhood for six weeks beginning July 7th.

This month-long exhibition will replace advertising on billboards, transit shelters, and buses with imagery by artists. Magnolia Editions will partner with Art City to create limited edition prints and multiples by many of the participating artists, which will be sold to raise funds for "Way Out West."

"Way Out West" artist Zio Ziegler and Donald Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions


Farnsworth prepares a Ziegler image for printing


Zio Ziegler with print on papyrus at Magnolia Editions

The opening reception for "Way Out West" will be held at Heron Arts on July 17th, 2014 from 7 pm to 11 pm, where the original works and limited edition prints will be available for sale. For more information on purchasing tickets, please visit www.helloartcity.com or check out the event on Facebook. If you can't make the opening reception, you can still show your support by purchasing prints directly through the Art City Project.

As part of the exhibition, "Mission School" favorite Chris Johanson will be taking over MUNI bus advertisements, creating new interior and exterior pieces inspired by his personal experiences with the city's current social temperature. Double Zero, a collaborative duo made of Annie Vought and Hannah Ireland, are conducting an interactive campaign to encourage strangers to tell stories and interact with one another through a telephone hotline. San Francisco-inspired work by three artists from Creativity Explored, a local non-profit that helps artists with disabilities, will replace all of the advertising on a MUNI bus.

Double Zero at Magnolia Editions


Apex and Alicia McCarthy with Donald Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions


Other artists taking part in "Way Out West" include Brett Amory, Apex, Pakayla Rae Biehn, Anthony Discenza, Jeremy Fish, Casey Gray, Desirée Holman, Jet Martinez, Alicia McCarthy, Alia Penner, Andrew Schoultz, Dave Schubert, Jen Stark, and Zio Ziegler. The exhibition is curated by Tova Lobatz and Jenny Sharaf.

Donald and Era Farnsworth write:
The Art City Project gives us an opportunity to put the latest technologies in printing and fabrication in the hands of a new wave of West Coast artists, and to bring the environment of discovery that we strive for in the studio directly to the streets. By replacing billboard advertising with contemporary art — and by giving artists access to techniques beyond what’s sold in stores — we can continue to shift the cultural focus away from corporations and big business toward dreamers, pioneers, and creative explorers.

Above: examples of billboard and advertising sites where Hello Art City will place public art


Print on gold leaf by Jet Martinez at Magnolia Editions


Jet Martinez and Donald Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions

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