Tuesday, January 7, 2014

doug osa - kc printmaker

As a 30 year old student, fresh out of grad school and working a day shift as a composition tech at Custom Color in Kansas City, Doug Osa was looking for a way to continue exercising his excitement in etching. Osa shares what he did. One minute.
I can't see, having worked as an artist, especially AFTER HAVING FOUND MY WAY INTO ETCHING, to just have experimented with it, and put it aside and not doing anything with it after that. Just, IT WAS A BIG ENOUGH DEAL that when I got out of school, and I was trying to figure out HOW I WOULD KEEP ON WORKING IN PRINTMAKING AND ETCHING. The thing that I ended up doing was taking the biggest part of the summer, in evenings after I got off work, and I actually went out to a friend of my dad's who owned a machine shop and HE HELPED ME BUILD my first, MY ONLY PRINTING PRESS, WHICH I STILL USE. All these prints I've done have been pulled off of a handmade press that I built that summer. IT WAS THE ONLY WAY it was going to happen. This was long before you find stuff on the Internet. I didn't know how to go about looking for used print presses or anything.      Doug Osa
Close details of etched lines from one copper plate.
Double click on images to enlarge.


     Painting was his core classwork and his first love in grad school. He also took an elective class in intaglio, at the University of Kansas, under John Talleur, where he learned the basics of etching. Osa said, there was a whole different approach at developing an image when one etched. Instead of mixing pigments in paint, a value was created with layers and layers and layers of lines, almost a science of lines. Instead of wielding big brushes, he used a very fine needle. Osa said, that later on, etching would give him a mental break from a painting he was working on. He found himself recharged, given a reprieve from painting concerns. He often worked impulses from painting into an etching and from etching into a painting. But that, in both mediums, he had a drive to involve the senses when he worked outdoors en plein air. He used every means to suggest the details, even down to the insects at his feet. Because the richness of that experience called for it!!

A passion to describe all of it outdoors. Two minutes.
A lot of what I was trying to accomplish in prints and in painting was capturing the light that was literally at my feet, while I was out working outdoors. Right down to, painting insects in, not painting the insects themselves, but painted images of painted insects in paintings, and, smaller and smaller details. If I could see it, I tried to paint it, or tried to put it into a print. And that is why these, you know, foregrounds, in both the paintings and the prints from that era are just CROWDED WITH ALL KINDS OF DETAIL. I was simply TRYING TO GET EVERYTHING that, added up to WHAT IT WAS TO BE standing out in someone's field, on a particular morning, a particular day, and the weather was, something was happening about the weather. And it was THIS MOMENT IN TIME, where everything around me just seemed to be, uh, just as important as the rest of the area!!   Sometimes I look at it and think maybe I, it was to a fault that I tried to put so much detail in to it, but, in looking back I don't think I could have done it any other way. IT JUST SEEMED IT HAD TO BE THERE OR THE WORK WASN'T FINISHED!!      Doug Osa
details of insects in the foreground
inked impression from the copperplate etching 
Double click on images to enlarge. 

Olmstead's Farm by Doug Osa, etching.
One minute view of hedge rows.
More on Olmstead's Farm, click HERE.

Doug Osa enjoys the manual rigor of etching. The real creating takes place on the copper plate itself. It is physical. To use some metaphors, it is like dragging your equipment along your property, and digging post holes for a fence. What begins with penciled ideas is tilled into the metal. Then the scenery is overhauled - shoveled - broken down - scraped - and managed. In due time, the transformation, pulled up on an inked proof pleases his eye.

Action on the plate.Three minutes.   

Olmstead's Farm inked impression and copperplate, respectively.
Three minutes.


County Line Sunset,  2 3/4" x 3 1/4"  Click on image ABOVE. Entirely dry point. This is an intaglio process in which the lines are produced by drawing on the plate with a sharpened point which leaves a groove in the plate and a raised burr alongside the groove. You could think of it as being similar to a plowed furrow in a field.  By holding a little extra ink, the burr produces the characteristic soft edged lines when printed. The amount of burr used in the image can be controlled by pressure on the drawing point, the angle that the point is held at during drawing, scraping away unwanted burr after the lines are drawn, and during the wiping process.  The crisp lines in County Line Sunset have had the burr entirely removed leaving a line similar to an etched line.  The softer areas in the print have been produced by the burr.
The breakthroughs in an individual's career or sensibilities happen by accident, just by pushing the envelope, outside the comfort zone, trying something that you thought, 'well I wonder how that would work?' but you've never really done it. Either jump in and give it a shot or you never do.    Doug Osa   

A painter considers mezzotint. Three minutes.
I liked the idea of, in this case it's, in my mind, it's taking a step closer to painting, than just etching. Instead of working with lines and creating edges and shapes with lines, it was more like taking this value that was black, but then modifying it almost like adding in white paint to get lighter greys, and then, finally, like pure white to get whitening in the print.  So, it was a little closer process to painting, you know making an image strictly in values.     Doug Osa 

Facade detail

Doug Osa (DO) and Karl Marxhausen (KM) discuss the creation of Facade. Three minutes.
DO: Facade, the process that I used in making this image is called mezzotint. The plate begins clean, polished, and without any marks at all on it. A mezzotint rocker, which is kind of a curved chisel-like thing, that has, it's lined with teeth along the edge, is rocked over the plate. It's kind of walked back and forth. LAYERS AND LAYERS. You basically do a pattern of lines that you rock with this thing. And you move the plate, and kind of walk that rocker, LAYING DOWN ROWS OF THESE LINES 
KM: Sort of like tire tracks?
DO: Around the clock. So, you basically rock THE ENTIRE PLATE through twelve different directions. And it is a real tedious, long process. But the whole point is to arrive at a plate, that if you were to print it at that point you would get a jet black, solid image, just a black rectangle. (simulated image, NEXT)

DO:  And then, the image is arrived at by scraping and burnishing that burr. The teeth in that rocker punches little dots down into the plate, and each one of those dots has a little chip or a burr of copper pushed up beside it. And, uh, uh, that's what holds the ink. And to get rid of that you scrape and burnish. So, you can do a very small amount and get something like a real dark grey. Or you can scrape and burnish it back to a polished plate, in which case you get a totally white area within the image. And that's how this was done.

KM: So, like the door area (in the Facade detail, NEXT)

DO: This area (points to white door area, ABOVE) right here would have been nearly scraped and polished back to a shiny plate. And all these others (in shadows left of the door and at bottom of the steps) like down here there was just a very small amount of scraping and burnishing. You know, the shadow area up through the doorway, maybe nothing at all was done in there. And then you can look and see that there are some etched lines, which I also added in as I got the values put down where I wanted them. Then I added some etched lines, just to help clarify some of the architectural detail, and stuff like that. But basically this is entirely a mezzo tint print.   Facade,  full image BELOW, 6 3/4" x 3 3/4", Double click on image to enlarge.

In each medium 
the main thing  
is to find out
for yourself.

The time is better the EVER to try it your self. One minute.
Osa is member of the Nelson Atkins Print Society. 
He was one of 20 vendors at the Fine Print and Paper Kansas City Expo, April 19 and 20, 2013. The exhibit was in the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Crossroads District.
Follow Doug on Facebook, click https://www.facebook.com/doug.osa
(Photo of County Line Sunset provided by artist, Olmstead's Farm courtesy of the Spencer Museum of Art, http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/farm/osa.shtml, and Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/doug.osa,  accessed Jan 7, 2014)
Interview took place June 9, 2013
Submitted by Karl Marxhausen

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