Experiencing printmaking in the 21st century

The audience crowded around to see a print made from a photocopy during Phyllis Fannin's demonstration.

One dictionary defines “artist” as “somebody who does something skillfully and creatively.” The people who attended a program by Phyllis Fannin on Nov. 8 at Porter Library were well aware that they were experiencing an artist of skill and creativity who is fired by a passion for her work. 

While the art of print making, lithography, dates back to the late 1700s, Fannin works in a relatively new (20 years) method called paper lithography or Xerox lithography. While using modern technology might suggest a quick process, nothing could be further from the truth. Fannin said each of her prints takes about two months to complete.

A display of completed prints revealed Fannin’s creativity, her attention to detail and a compelling strength and beauty. Her slide presentation provided insights on her work and her studio.

But Fannin’s demonstration of paper lithography, producing a print, using toner-based black and white photocopies, rolled with oil-based printers’ ink, in a water resist, drew the complete attention of her audience.

The emotions experienced by families of military personnel, through photos of departures and homecomings, has been the focus of Fannin’s work for the last two years. Beginning with photocopies of photos, she uses a myriad of designs as backgrounds for her layered prints. The prints in her military project are done in three layers, using topographical maps as the design motif. Each layer, printed separately, is carefully cut and put in place.

Fannin, whose studio is in the Screw Factory Open Studios in Lakewood, explained the challenges of the process such as the difficulty of getting the right density of ink on a photocopy to produce the desired print result, the reality that many times the photocopy will make only one print requiring more than one perfect photocopy. The right ink mixture for rolling on the photocopy and the length of time for these inks to dry are also important components of success.

In an unwavering dedication to bring art, in all forms, to the community, the Westlake-Westshore Arts Council sponsored Fannin’s interesting program.

Louise Seeholzer

Publicist for Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 4, Issue 23, Posted 9:22 AM, 11.13.2012