Arts & Culture

Los Osos artists share their etchings and techniques with the public

Rosenthal combines watercolor with many of his etchings.
Rosenthal combines watercolor with many of his etchings.

Years ago, Robert “Rosey” Rosenthal started selling painted drawings at art fairs. This was long before it became somewhat acceptable to reproduce fine art digital prints on inkjet printers.

“I wanted to make multiples,” he said.

He could have drawn reasonable facsimiles and added his paint touches, but he decided to return to a medium he hated in art school — printmaking.

Classmates used to take up too much space and he had to wait around to use the press. But in his own studio he could find his groove.

“When I started etching I was loose, messy and impulsive,” he told Central Coast Watercolor Society members at their February meeting at the San Luis Obispo City/County Library.

Rosenthal refined his technique and started to make a living with his mythic-fantasy etchings. He fills in much of his work with watercolors.

He and wife Barbara, also an artist (etchings and pastels), have 500 plates between them. Their talent and prolific tendencies required them to have an agent and allowed them to move to Los Osos from Los Angeles about 30 years ago.

The Rosenthal’s collection of plates are generally steel, copper or zinc and are part of an intricate process that involves cutting lines into the plate to hold the ink, which is transferred on to paper. This is a less than adequate description of the process that Rosey Rosenthal has learned to love. Please see for a more sophisticated answer to the question, “What is etching?”

Rosenthal makes 50 to 100 prints from each plate and often paints them with watercolors. He made a plate of a calla lily and produced several prints for the attendees at the library lecture. He demonstrated how each one can be different depending on the colors and placement of the watercolors.

He invited the artists to take a print to their home studios to add their own touches. “That way you’ll have a hand-painted Rosey. I’d like that,” he said.

A plate can take one day to one week to create, which can delay gratification more than some art techniques, but “printmaking will do everything the artist wants,” he said.

The watercolorists were intrigued with the process and asked so many questions that Rosey invited them to take one of his April classes.

Rosey and Barbara Rosenthal’s work can be seen at Studios on the Park in downtown Paso Robles.

Contact freelance writer Monica Fiscalini at Monica_Jane2000 .