Josephine Halvorson

Josephine Halvorson, Fire, 2019
Five plate aquatint etching with dry point, soft ground, spit bite and sugar lift on white Somerset Satin paper
Signed, dated and numbered by the artist on recto
Plate size: 18 x 22 inches
Paper size: 25.5 x 29 inches
Edition of 20
Printed and published by Wingate Studio

In the studio

Wingate is its own very special shop, not just a shop to make a print, but part of a bigger set of values–kindess and patience.

-Josephine Halvorson

We discovered we were a half way point on Josephine Halvorson’s commute between her home in the Berkshires and Boston University where she is the Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting. We’d been wanting to work with Josephine for a while, and it turned out she and her adorable puppy Jason were down to do a project. Josephine and Jason visited Wingate many times over the course of a year to complete this glowing etching.

The etching features the wood stove in the Studio, which keeps everyone warm on cold New Hampshire days as we work. Josephine was immediately drawn to the woodstove which is a Jotl, the same brand her parents sold when she was kid.

As you might know, Josephine makes paintings on-site in close proximity with her subject. So we set up a drafting table and built fires for her to paint. She started with a Sumi ink value study to figure out how long to etch the plates. She made a line drawing, and then a quick watercolor to plan the colors she would need. Now she was ready to start working directly on the copper plates.

Josephine had never made an etching before, and was used to completing a painting, usually en plein air, in a short amount of time, sometimes even within a day. As she explored different etching processes, guided by our master printers James and Peter, she discovered which ones worked for her and which didn’t. She painted on the copper plates with acid (a process called spit bite), scratched into the plates with tools to create physical marks (dry point), drew on coated plates (soft ground), and painted a sugar-based solution onto the plates which were then etched (sugar lift).

Check out Our Processes page to learn more about how this all works. Needless to say, the laborious drawn-out process of etching was in stark contrast to Josephine’s direct and immediate painting process. This took some getting used to.

The image began to emerge, but it wasn’t quite right, so Josephine kept scratching away at the plates, taking things out and adding things in. Each of the five copper plates was inked in a different color and printed on top of one another to create the composite image. Every time Josephine wanted to see what the full image looked like so she could see what needed to be changed, the printers would ink up each of the plates and print the full print. This time-consuming, but ultimately rewarding, process is called proofing. On a cold late-fall day we pulled a proof that Josephine said was the one. This print is called the BAT (in French, bon a tirer, or “ok to print”), and the edition of 20 is based on that particular image.

Wingate is grateful to have had this opportunity to work with Josephine. Her responsive, confident, intuitive approach taught us a great deal about achieving a direct painterly mark through the etching process.

This project, along with several other Wingate etchings, will be featured in the forthcoming book Prints & Their Makers by Master Printer Phil Sanders.

In conversation with Sanders, Josephine talked about how the setting and the values at Wingate are rare, especially in these times, prioritizing time to explore, to slow down. Through the process she was reminded of living by one’s values in an uncompromising way. Watching time pass in the outside world versus the print shop, she learned a great deal about the life she wants to lead. Josephine described Wingate as its own very special shop, not just a shop to make a print, but part of a bigger set of values that includes kindness and patience.

About the artist

Josephine Halvorson holds a BFA from The Cooper Union (2003) and an MFA from Columbia University (2007). She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Vienna (2003 – 4), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant (2009), and was a fellow at the French Academy in Rome (2014 – 15). This fall, her work is on view at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston as part of The James and Audrey Foster Prize Exhibition.

Halvorson’s work has appeared in many solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. This past spring, Halvorson made a body of work in Matanzas, Cuba which was exhibited a part of the Havana Biennial. In 2016, she exhibited large scale sculptures at Storm King Art Center and in 2015 had her first museum survey exhibition, “Slow Burn” at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC. Her work is represented by Sikkema Jenkins and Co. in New York and has been written about widely in a variety of art publications.

Halvorson is also a teacher and holds the position of Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting at Boston University. She has also taught at the Skowhegan school of painting and sculpture (2018), Yale University school of art (2010-2016), Paint School (2018), among many other institutions