|Urhobo Historical Society
By Bruce Onobrakpeya
No doubt, Printmaking
is one of the most difficult aspects of visual art. But come
Silk Cotton Tree and rubber-stamp Engraving
Looking back, I now realize that my first art
done when I was a pupil of the now defunct Eweka
Memorial (High) School near
I do not know how this stamp making started; it must be one of those things boys learn from one another at school. Certainly, it was not part of the handwork lessons. What is important, however, is that thorn carving, without it then, was my first attempt at printmaking.
I had just passed into standard three when I
A fountain pen of any description was regarded as an expensive commodity in those days of the Second World War. My cousin Joshua Onakufe, who was my guardian then, did not believe my explanation of how I came to own one. He seized it and I never saw it again.
Stamp engraving got me into trouble again at the Secondary School, the Western Boys High School, Benin City. The school’s rubber stamp and the principal's signature were forged to claim a registered packet containing postal orders. The six of us who were known to be stamp makers were rounded up and bundled to the police station. Fortunately, all of us were released after interrogation. Such were the hazards of my early printmaking practice.
Baptism in the Acid
By 1967 I had reached what looked like the peak of block printing (lino and –wood cut) techniques advanced with my innovation of the bronzed lino relief – a type of collage made up of used Iino and wood blocks, fibre and resin. The resin a wood binder, fixes the used or cancelled blocks unto plywood and also forms texture on the uncovered surfaces. The resulting low relief Is given a bronze patina.
At this point, my etching press arrived from
In May 1968, I visited the sculptor and painter the late Erhabor Emokpae in his Lawanson Surulere Studio and residence. He was then binding large quantities of coins into a rather tall wooden sculpture of Olokun the goddess of fortune he had carved. These coins symbolise the material wealth - one of the attributes associated with the deity. Casually, he mentioned that the binder which goes under the trade name Araldite could hold things together firmly, particularly mental-to-mental. Returning to my studio, I nursed the idea that I might be able to salvage the ruined Travellers plate by mending the unwanted holes with Araldite. So I bought the two-part glue and, digging up the plate, filled the holes. In the process, some random drips, which I did not bother to clean up, fell on the plate. The glue was allowed to set and cure. Then I used the engraving tools to reduce the patched portions to the level of the zinc plate. When a test proof was taken, the random drips and tooled areas revealed forms, textures and line possibilities.
Working further on this plate, I used more
glue to redefine
the image, which followed, which were aimed at perfecting this
three-dimensional print technique, I
discarded the use
of acid completely. This is the origin of deep etching technique, which
named photography. The results were very exciting but I did not even
I had a breakthrough in a technique, which was later to play a very
role in the development of printmaking as a major form in the
Metal Foil Deep Etching
This Is a plastograph print in which aluminum foil is used to draw out the engraved Images. The thin foil is cut and placed on an engraved plate and then embossed in a press. The embossed sheet is removed, turned over and filled with resin to stabilise the relief. The resin-filled-foil is then laminated on plywood -- or on any other surface.
I developed this technique in 1979 after I
came across some
metal foil sheets in Okoya Art shop then
I take advantage of the reproduction of six of my original prirmes it the Joachim Kahls’ collection to compile “Print Notes and Comments No. 8”’.Tr~e prints in their original form have been exhibited extensively and have found other homes both in private and public collections. These reproductions even exposed them to a wider public when they were used for the 1981 Alumaco Calendar. Before commenting on them, I will use the pictures to illustrate some important points to watch for in signing prints, a universal practice which helps collectors to determine both originality and value of this type of art which is roc, justa major one but also regarded as representing the true spirit of the jet age.
Artists originate plates or blocks which
are transferred unto paper or other materials to produce preconceived
accidents’ images. The process of multiplying an image through the
of the plate is called printmaking. Although these pictures came from
block, or set of blocks, each possesses a subtle difference, that
notwithstanding, modern convention stipulates that each print must
information to distinguish it from a similar copy. This is where the
prints comes in. A signed print should show the number (in the series),
title, the medium, name of the artist,
place and date
of production. Signed original prints should not be confused with
The pictures in this reproduction are signed original prints.
The first mark on a print will be like 2/8 (as in Ada Erinvbin), 3!50 (as in Qgban Igosimisi) or 4/8 (Artist Proof) as in ‘Calf for Prayer’. Test or experimental proofs are usually made from a new plate to help determine the success of the plate. These test proofs have the sign before them. If there were 8 of such proofs, the first will be noted as 1/8. If after some test proofs have been pulled, the plate is altered, the next group of experimental proofs will constitute a second state. This can go on to the 3rd, 4th, or 5th state until the artist is satisfied with the picture. Because the experimental proofs or states are few in number or because the plate may loose some good qualities during subsequent alterations, these first proofs are regarded as rare items and therefore more valuable than the series, which they have helped to determine.
After an experimental state, the artist decides the number of prints that should form the series. If he intends to pull 30, then the first one becomes 1/30 and the last one 30130.There is no hard and fast rule about fixing the number in the series, what to bear in mind is that the greater the number of the prints from block, the cheaper the prints, and also that some countries tax a series that is beyond 75 in number: Some plates like dry point wear out very fast, so the number of such prints must be kept low.
At the termination of a series, an artist is allowed to mace a few extra prints of records or exhibitions. These are called artist proofs. They should be few and must be numbered. An example is 4/8 (Artist Proof) “Call for Prayer”. Should the artist decide to run a second writs from the same plate. He must change the colour scheme and differentiate it from the first one by merely attaching the colour base to the title like “Call for- Prayer (Red base)” an artist may want to develop another plate bearing the same title or content as one already produced. He should place II (Roman figure) next to the title to indicate that the plat is a second one in a series.
The next most important mark written at the middle bottom line of a finished print is the medium or technique used. Terms like Deep Etching, Wood or Lino Engraving, Metal Foil print, Collagraph, Mixed Media, etc, are used to describe the prints. Next to this, the artist writes his name, signature, or special mark, immediately followed by the name of the place, town, city or studio where the work was produced. Finally, the date the print was released is indicated. All these information are written on the print in pencil, regardless of the fact that the artist may have already engraved his name on the printing plat.
It is important that an artist keeps a register where he makes notes about his prints. The notes should show date of release, number c’ experimental proofs, number anti colour of series, if possible, he should make coloured diagrams to help hint remember the colour schemes in cases where prints are pulled over. long period. Collectors should be free to aspect this beck in the artist’s studio When at artist has completely drawn out the drawn out the optimum number of prints from a plate, it is cancelled by defacing it. There are several approaches to this, but the most, popular is to engrave lines and word “cancelled” on the plate. Cancelled plates should not be thrown away. They are themselves rare art works which are in great demand by museums and other art collectors.
In conclusion, I will like to add that a truly great contemporary print should not only be aesthetically appealing and technically perfect, it must also be properly documented. The information given above provides the basis for such documentation.