Call it the little festival that could.
Three years ago, a handful of visual artists — all printmakers of one kind or another — decided that our considerable fine art printmaking community needed a celebration. Austin boasts renowned museum print collections, several respected university printmaking programs and a long-standing and nationally recognized independent fine art printmaking scene.
It just needed to be lassoed together. And that’s what artists Elvia Perrin and Cathy Savage did when they launched Print Austin, a monthlong series of exhibits and events spotlighting the city’s percolating print scene.
If not a wristband-and-a-weekend type of festival, Print Austin is nevertheless now an annual standout on Austin’s visual arts calendar.
It kicks off this weekend with a slew of exhibit openings and continues through Feb. 15. And most of the happenings are free.
Below is a list of our top picks and recommendations. Print Austin features plenty more goings-on, so consult the printaustin.org website for a complete list.
Most exhibits continue through Feb. 15
“Collective Identity.” Opening: 7 to 10 p.m. Invenio Gallery, Canopy, 916 Springdale Road
Artist-founded and artist-run, Print Austin is an all-volunteer effort. So it’s nice that its collective leadership — Annalise Gratovich, Brian Johnson, Elvia Perrin, Cathy Savage and N.J. Weaver — step into the limelight with their latest prints.
“Future Past.” Opening 8 to 10 p.m. Big Medium, Canopy, 916 Springdale Road. bigmedium.org
New York-based artist Melissa Brown creates beguiling images using a difficult layering technique to create linocuts (block prints) charged with narrative mystery.
“Out of the Ruined Place.” Opening: 7 to 10 p.m. Grayduck Gallery, 2213 E. Cesar Chavez St. grayduckgallery.com
Margaret Craig and Tonja Torgerson each have atypical approaches to printmaking. Craig uses a self-invented process to print on discarded plastic for her luminous “Trash Reef” installation. Torgerson explores existential themes via wheat paste street posters.
“The Contemporary Print” Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. O2 Gallery, Flatbed building, 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Print Austin’s national survey of the traditions and innovations of contemporary printmaking always proves a terrific overview of what’s happening and what’s new.
“Intersection.” Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. Gallery Shoal Creek, Flatbed building, 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. galleryshoalcreek.com
Karina Noel Hean’s layered, collaged prints are paired with Koichi Yamamoto’s innovative, large-scale works.
“Matter, Material and Metaphor.” Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. Camiba Art Gallery, Flatbed building, 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. camibaart.com
Orna Feinstein blurs the boundaries between printing and sculpture with her optically vibrant creations.
“Julia Lucey.” Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. Wally Workman Gallery, 1201 W. Sixth St. wallyworkmangallery.com.
Lucey’s intriguing aquatint etchings of wildlife lingering behind plants evoke a haunting sense of nature-in-waiting.
“PrintAustin Invitational: Layers.” Opening: 6 to 9 p.m. Link & Pin Gallery, 2235 E. Sixth St.
Print Austin co-founder Elvia Perrin invited artists who approach form with a fresh perspective and boldness for this select exhibit: Brad Tucker, Cassie White, Joan Winter and Ken Wood.
“Changing The Subject: The Women Artists of the Experimental Printmaking Institute.” Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. Bone Black Gallery, Canopy, 916 Springdale Road. boneblackstudio.com.
Founded in 1996 at Pennsylvania’s Lafayette College, the Experimental Printmaking Institute features work by minority artists. A traveling exhibit features noted women artists who produced work at the institute.
EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS
“Pinot and Print.” 7 to 9 p.m. Artist’s Screen Printing Cooperative, 507 Calles St. Suite 106. aspco.org.
Printing with wine? Why not? The Artists Screen Printing Co-op is a collective working studio. Join its member artists for a screenprinting with wine demonstration along with a chance to visit with artists and shop for their creations.
“Printmaker Happy Hour and Portfolio Viewing.” 4 to 6 p.m. Lion’s Nest Studio, 1008 E. Sixth St. thelionsnest.com.
See the hundreds of prints produced at this indie East Austin shop and studio while mingling with the artists.
“Exploring Print: 3 Artists Illuminated.” 1 to 3 p.m. Gallery Shoal Creek, Flatbed building, 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. galleryshoalcreek.com.
A progressive tour with three renowned printmakers — Koichi Yamamoto, Orna Feinstein and Miguel Aragón — each of whom has a different expertise.
When: Jan. 15-Feb. 15
Where: About 35 galleries, studios, arts spaces and museums participate
Cost: Exhibits and most events are free. Some workshops and classes charge a fee.
Print Expo + Bin Fest + Print Exchange. Noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 6. Canopy, 916 Springdale Road
Print Austin’s print fair and sale offers even those on a budget the chance to purchase original prints from local and regional talent. Participatory printmaking demonstrations, gallery exhibit happenings and open artists studios add to the afternoon’s family-friendly vibe at the Canopy arts complex .
Flatbed Contemporary Print Fair. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 13-14. Flatbed Press, 2830 E. MLK Jr. Blvd.
Some of the best fine art publishers and self-publishers from Texas and beyond offer collectors and just the curious the chance to casually peruse and purchase limited editions. Ongoing demonstrations in Flatbed’s nationally recognized print workshop illuminate the techniques behind the merging of ink and paper.
Visit the vaults
Two of the University of Texas’ most renowned repositories — the Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center — each offer a special opportunity for some up-close-and-personal viewing of rare art from their vaults. Both events are free.
“The Art of the Print.” 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 21. Blanton Museum, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. blantonmuseum.org.
The Blanton spotlights selections from its encyclopedic print collection, including creations by Andy Warhol, Edgar Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriel Orozco and James McNeill Whistler.
“Show and Tell.” 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 30. Ransom Center, 300 W. 21st St. hrc.utexas.edu.
Artists books, 19th European posters and prints by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Ed Ruscha are among the treasures in the Ransom Center’s collection.
What is a fine art print?
Fine art prints are not merely duplicates of an original like a mechanically printed poster.
Though a painting, drawing or sketch can be used as a starting point, each print is an original work of art, made by the hand of the artist who usually works in tandem with a master printmaker.
Printmaking is arduous work, with most techniques involving a complicated, slow-going series of steps demanding an exacting attention to detail.
Many printmaking techniques such as woodcuts, engraving, mezzotint, etching and lithography are centuries old./p>
Prints are created in sets, referred to as editions. But each print is a unique impression of the same image. Individual impressions vary from one another, sometimes widely.
Along with their signature, artists typically write the number of each impression on the individual prints.