One student artist’s journey from intro to printmaking to exhibits and conferences

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Rachel Hermes, senior in fine arts, brushes an electrolytically created mezzotint on Dec. 4, 2019. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

When she first came to Kansas State, Rachel Hermes, senior in fine arts and assistant director and exhibitions coordinator of Prairie Fire Printmakers, said she had no idea what printmaking was. She decided to take Intro to Printmaking as an elective with a friend.

“We started doing etchings, and it was so confusing,” Hermes said. “When I was creating the etching, I didn’t even know what I was doing. It didn’t make sense to me. I just followed what I was told to do, but when we first pulled a print, and inked up the plate, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is awesome.'”

Hermes really got into etching the next year in Advanced Printmaking, and last week she exhibited her prints and paintings in the Mark A. Chapman Gallery in Willard Hall.

Maggie Sheahan, senior in fine arts and creative director of the Prairie Fire Printmakers, described Hermes as “modest and soft-spoken.”

“She’s been developing her stuff for so long,” Sheahan said. “She’s like the master of experimentation.”

During her time at K-State, Hermes worked to develop an experimental new way to create mezzotint.

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Rachel Hermes, senior in fine arts, etches a design into a copper plate. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

“[Mezzotint] is an old process where you create texture on a copper plate, and then you burnish back into it by smoothing it out,” she said. “It’ll appear lighter.”

Normally, mezzotint is an annoying, time-consuming process, she said.

“With this, I use electricity to plate the copper and build up more copper onto the plate and it just naturally creates a very, very fine texture,” she said.

She said Prairie Fire Printmakers, a student-run club, frequently blends with her classwork as it’s all done in the same shop.

Jason Scuilla, professor of art and the club’s faculty adviser, said he thinks Hermes is a strong artist.

“I think she’s a good example of working interdisciplinary between multiple mediums, which is something that the art department feels strongly about — getting our students to be able to work throughout mediums and different materials,” Scuilla said.

He described the general printmaking process.

“Take a copper plate, put an acid resistant coating on the plate, then you can draw with a needle,” Scuilla said. “Anything you draw exposes the copper.”

The print then goes into an acid bath, and the acid eats the copper deep into the lines. Printmakers then wipe the coating off.

Hermes and other students had the opportunity to attend the Southern Graphics Council International Conference as members of the club.

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The finished product of Hermes's print. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

“It’s a really great experience, but it can be expensive,” Hermes said. “So, an important part of doing it with the Prairie Fire Printmakers is being able to fundraise and coordinate together and share the burden.”

The conference is an opportunity for participants to share ideas and network.

“It brings printmakers from all over, from famous artists to just students like me,” Hermes said. “You can attend demos, and see exhibitions and participate in the open portfolio and just kind of lay all your work out and have hundreds of people interact with you and talk to you about it.”

The Prairie Fire Printmakers has a sense of community around it, Hermes said.

“Printmaking itself is a community-driven form of art because we have to work in a print shop and share utilities and materials and things, otherwise it’s not very accessible to people,” she said.

Hermes’ art exhibition wrapped up on Friday, and this week Sheahan’s photography will be displayed in the Chapman Gallery.

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@kstatecollegian.com.