Durham News: Community

Brushstrokes: Professor spreads gospel of print making

Portrait of Supergraphic screen printing owner Bill Fick (cq), Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 with en etching press for making leaf prints in the back studio area of a former 6,000 sq. ft. auto repair shop at 601 Ramseur St., Durham, NC. Fick, a visiting professor at Duke University, opened his artists' workshop/studio/gallery space in April, 2013, featuring two private studio spaces and six more semi-private/shared artist studio spaces. The large photos on wall behind Fick are by Durham photographer Jeff Whetstone.
Portrait of Supergraphic screen printing owner Bill Fick (cq), Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 with en etching press for making leaf prints in the back studio area of a former 6,000 sq. ft. auto repair shop at 601 Ramseur St., Durham, NC. Fick, a visiting professor at Duke University, opened his artists' workshop/studio/gallery space in April, 2013, featuring two private studio spaces and six more semi-private/shared artist studio spaces. The large photos on wall behind Fick are by Durham photographer Jeff Whetstone. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Bill Fick moved to Chapel Hill from New York City in 2005.

Immediately, he discovered a crack in the Southern part of Heaven.

“There was no place for anyone to make prints in the area,” said Fick, who is a visiting assistant professor at Duke University’s Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies where he teaches comics, drawings, and design.

So last November, when the lease was up on the Fick’s personal studio space in Durham, he decided to fill this void.

In May, he opened Supergraphic at 601 Ramseur St. in Durham.

“It is necessary,” Fick said. “I am interested in spreading the gospel of printmaking and also connecting with printmakers who have not had a chance to work.”

Making prints requires a lot of equipment and space. Fick knew that there are many local people who, while studying art in college or graduate programs, worked in their institutions’ printing studios. With graduation came lack of access.

Supergraphic is a 6,000 square-foot facility where anyone can come to acquire skills, hone existing ones, or just have space to work if they are interested in screen, relief, collagraph, or monotype printing.

“We have print jams, which are open studios, where people can pay to come and use the space and equipment here,” Fick said. “There are screen printing tables, a darkroom to expose and coat your screen, etching presses, drying racks, an inking area and much more. We provide all things for the clean-up as well.”

Paying to work at Supergraphic on an hourly basis is also an option. There is an introductory process that interested parties must complete so they are comfortable with the nuances of the space and equipment.

“I have modeled Supergraphic on Artists Image Resource in Pittsburgh,” Fick said. “I was a visiting artist there, and it was great because you just could go in there and work. I hope people will come here and want to try their own thing.”

Fick is sole owner of Supergraphic but several artists are supporting his efforts, including Jeff Whetstone, who is an assistant professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Art Department. “We are working to create a place where some really great things can happen,” Fick said.

Whetstone, whose photography has gained world renown, has set up his studio at Supergraphic and will be offering digital printing including large format. Preparing for an upcoming show has recently kept Whetstone in his studio non-stop. “I have met tons of people since I moved my studio here,” Whetstone said. “I like feeling part of something that is bigger than me.”

Two other members of the UNC-CH Art Department who work in print media, Beth Grabowski and Mike Sonnichsen, taught recent workshops at Supergraphic and are exhibiting work there through August. A reception will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, during Third Friday Durham.

Sonnichsen is an experimenter.

“I think a lot of people come up with an image idea that they will aim towards realizing,” said Sonnichsen, who manages the Art Department’s printing lab. “I come up with some pieces of an image or elements to work with and then set up a system to print without knowing what the outcome will be. This opens up potentials that I would not have seen if I had a goal that I was aiming for.”

Two of Sonnichsen’s pieces were made using unfolded security envelopes. He loves to use familiar objects as print subjects. “Everyday objects are really interesting but easily overlooked,” Sonnichsen said. “I am simply trying to show that when properly revealed, these familiar objects are actually more profound or beautiful than we usually sense.”

The Introduction to Screen Printing workshop Sonnichsen is teaching on August 17 just filled but another is slated for September. Supergraphic’s schedule is at supergraphic.com or email durhamsupergraphic@gmail.com.

Grabowski, who is a professor in the UNC-CH Art Department, met Fick several years ago when the two co-wrote the book “Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials and Process.” They are now working on a second edition.

Four of Grabowski’s exhibit works were created in Bern, Switzerland, in 2010 when she had the opportunity to spend several days with Tom Blaess, who is featured in the book.

“Tom is a good master printer which means being a good collaborator. They are attentive to the kind of artist you are and suggest a direction that might open up something for the artist that will not end up driving the work,” said Grabowski, who made a dozen prints while in Bern. “The process is accelerated because you have two brains working on it. Someone comes from another point of view and feeds into your thought process. You have someone who can support your impulses.”

In most print studios, artists work side by side even if they are not collaborating.

“You inspire each other. It is a really rich exchange. Supergraphic is so amazing,” Grabowski said. “We have needed it for so long in this area. It is a gift to the community. I want to get people there.”

Deborah Meyer writes about the arts every month. She can be reached at writetoeloise@gmail.com

  Comments