‘Mixed Grit’ Highlights Printmaking Work From 24 Creatives At The Firehouse Art Center – Boulder Daily Camera

'Mixed Grit' Highlights Printmaking Work From 24 Creatives At The Firehouse Art Center - Boulder Daily Camera

Returning in winter 2019, the Denver-based engraver Gregory Santos was having coffee with a printmaking friend, discussing a potential print swap — one that would include a cross-section of creatives of varying styles from across the country.

From left to right, “Mixed Grit” prints by Ash Armenta, Craig Zammiello, Ali Norman and Todd Herzberg are on display at the Firehouse Art Center. (Lisa Doane/courtesy photo)

As director of engraving at Denver Arts Gym – a sprawling, collaborative creative space, located at 1460 Leyden St., Denver – Santos works with a myriad of Colorado-based artists, but its creative network is found on both coasts.

With guest artists moving through town quickly, they often didn’t have enough time to visit Art Gym and complete their work.

Gregory Santos, creator of the collaborative print exchange “Mixed Grit”, performs a lithograph created by Kathryn Polk, on stone, at The Art Gym in Denver. Works by 24 participating artists are currently on display at Longmont’s Firehouse Art Center through April 24. (Gregory Santos/Photo courtesy)

Santos realized that the artists didn’t need to be in the same zip code for the collaboration to take shape, as he could send sanded lithograph stones through the United States Postal Service, ask the creatives to draw on them, then receive them to make limited prints. .

From this concept came “Mixed grain.” The diverse exhibition – featuring the works of 24 artists to date – opened at the Firehouse Art Center on March 11. The fascinating exhibition will remain in place until April 24.

“In January 2019 — before sending out the first batch of four stones — I created a master list of 100 artists I potentially wanted to work with,” Santos said. “’Mixed Grit’ is designed to encompass 36 artists and I knew a roster of 100 would leave room for creativity in combinations and groupings of artists.”

Seeing the evolution of his project – which started with just four artists, including Ali Norman, Todd Herzberg, Ash Armenta and Craig Zammiello – Santos is excited to move forward and give more artists the opportunity to create.

“It was a special moment to see the value of two years of work on display,” Santos said. “’Mixed Grit’ is about community and providing artistic opportunities for other artists. To have all 24 current prints on display together, and so beautifully and professionally staged by the Firehouse Art Center, really emphasizes how many of the creative talents of artists have been showcased and it all culminates with this exhibit.

From left to right, “Mixed Grit” prints by Rachel Shelton, Opal Deruvo, Bryn Perrot and Tanja Softic are on display at the Firehouse Art Center. (Lisa Doane/courtesy photo)

In order to achieve a variety of work, true to the creators, Santos did not provide the artists with any specific topics, concrete prompts or guidelines. He provided them with the sandstone — weighing roughly between 20 and 23 pounds — and Korn’s No. 3 paper-wrapped lithograph pencil.

“All artists who participate in ‘Mixed Grit’ have creative freedom,” Santos said. “The only rule given to them is that their drawing must be ‘of quality and purpose’. Apart from this request, they can all draw, stylistically, anything they wish. This allows for a complete variety of compositions since there is no unifying theme.

From carpenters to seasoned engravers, guest artists jumped at the chance to team up with Santos and explore this medium.

“When Gregory (Santos) contacted me, I was thrilled to come on board straight away,” said Carrie Lingscheit, an intaglio printmaker based in Champaign, Illinois. I liked the premise, that all I had to do was draw my image and send the stone back to him for processing and printing.

Untitled print by Carrie Lingscheit for “Mixed Grit”. (Carrie Lingscheit/courtesy photo)

Every four months, Santos would send a stone, measuring approximately 8×10 inches, to four different creatives.

“Gregory took care of all the magic etching chemistry of the lithograph and the tricky parts, like troubleshooting during printing,” Lingscheit said. “I was only responsible for the part I’ve always loved in lithography – drawing on stone.”

Often, artistic excellence stems from the need to accommodate slight flaws, and for Lingscheit, a slight flaw dictated the direction his work would take.

“My piece for ‘Mixed Grit’ was inspired in large part by the shape of the stone I was given to draw on,” Lingscheit said. “The stone sent to me actually broke during shipping, which explains the irregular shape of my printed image. After talking with Gregory, I decided to go ahead and to continue drawing on the stone and letting the unique shape guide my design – from some sketch ideas I settled on this image of a couple lying in bed which seemed to fit the shape perfectly.”

For Lingscheit, the project gave him the opportunity to revisit a cherished art form.

“Lithography was the first printmaking medium I fell in love with as a student,” Lingscheit said. “The velvety, toothy surface of the stone shares textural similarities to the mezzotint plates I typically work with now and are an absolute pleasure to draw on.”

Returning to lithography, Lingscheit once again relishes the practice.

“The drawing process is a bit simpler and more straightforward with lithography, closer to the process of drawing on paper with a pencil,” Lingscheit said. “Intaglio often requires more “opposing” thinking. Not only is the image mirrored – like with lithography, the text has to be drawn backwards – but also often the part of the image that I “draw” with tools is what will be the hardest parts. lighter in the final print, so it can be more akin to drawing on black paper with white chalk.

From left to right, “Mixed Grit” prints by Carrie Ann Plank, Tonja Torgerson, Brandon Williams and Rebecca Gilbert. (Lisa Doane/courtesy photo)

Not only does the print exchange provide a community and professional network for participants, but it also offers artists the opportunity to enrich their art collections with new works from their peers. Each artist in a round receives a stamp from each of the other artists in that round.

“I personally like that he uses a diverse range of papers,” said Brandy Coons, curator at the Firehouse Art Center. “He said he buys all his paper from Meininger in Denver to support his local art supply store, and so he chooses the best paper they have for each print and their stock variations. That’s a lesson in the range of printing papers.And because the works are unframed, you can really see the qualities of each when the light shines through them.

The collection includes an eye-catching portrait of Kathryn Polk, complete with a hanger-shaped earring. From Jun Lee’s mischievous wide-eyed cat to Rebecca Gilbert’s MC Escher spiral, the work dives into all sorts of territories.

“‘Mixed Grit’ is an amazing project for us, as we’re able to showcase works by talented professional artists from across the country, and they’re a true expression of ‘grit’ – not just as a description of the process of stone lithograph, but also as the word is used to describe a general attachment to it; a labor of love and community,” Coons said.

Gregory Santos, creator of the “Mixed Grit” collaborative print exchange, performs a lithograph created by Jun Lee, on stone, at The Art Gym in Denver. Works by 24 participating artists are currently on display at Longmont’s Firehouse Art Center through April 24. (Gregory Santos/Photo courtesy)

Fueled by a desire to collaborate and provide a platform for fellow creatives to shine, Santos continues to seek out artists to join the inventive crusade.

“The project is produced at its own expense, with no extras for sale,” Coons said. “In one show, we are able to introduce our audience to two dozen engravers and attribute value to art for art’s sake.”

On March 31, Santos will host free lithography demonstrations at the Firehouse Art Center. While the first installment is exhausted, interested participants can still register for the 7 p.m. session.

Communal commerce continues to evolve, and Santos has already selected artists Mary Claire Becker, Scott Minzy, Michael Ezzell and Elvia Perrin to be part of the next engraving cycle.

From left to right, “Mixed Grit” prints by Kathryn Polk, Edie Overturf, Jeffrey Dell and Jun Lee are on display at the Firehouse Art Center. (Lisa Doane/courtesy photo)

“Excitingly, Round 7 of ‘Mixed Grit’ is about to begin,” Santos said. “I will send four stones to the artists at the end of March 2022. They will have the whole month of April to draw their images and we should see finished print editions by the end of June. As long as there are no more interruptions, I will proceed to Round 8 and finalize Round 9 at the end of 2022.”