Distinctive marks

'Red Line,' by Diane McLeod is created by a method called spit-bite intaglio.
'Red Line,' by Diane McLeod is created by a method called spit-bite intaglio. The Tribune

Modern generations may think that printmaking means making photo copies on a printer, but it is a well established art that results in one-of-a-kind work. They are not reproductions; each is unique. China began woodblock printing in the third century.

The diversity of later methods includes etching, solar plates, lithographs, linoleum cuts, and a dozen more.

Juror Sandow Birk selected a monotype for the Best of Show for the Central Coast Printmakers’ exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Show organizers — who invited artists statewide — decided to bestow only one award, so there are no honors for first, second or third place, nor any honorable mentions.

All told, about 50 prints are on display, including several from Central Coast residents.

Birk is showing some of his prints in SLOMA’s lobby, the First Gallery.

If the selected award winner, “War II,” looks like a painting, complete with brush strokes, that’s because it is. Masha Schweitzer said monotype involves painting with printer or etching ink onto metal or plexiplate, then putting it through the press.

The Los Angeles resident earned her degree from UCLA in painting and printmaking in 1962, and has been making prints for more than 50 years.

Her winning work portrays a large standing dog, facing forward, a desolate scene behind it.

“I’ve done a lot of dogs,” she said. “They are like stand-ins for humans.” Schweitzer is touched by their vulnerability when their masters are absent — during wartime, for example.

The exhibit ranges from serious to humorous, from abstract to realistic, from modern to neo-Gothic.

Bay Area artist David Avery falls into the latter category. Trained as a classical musician on oboe, he switched to printmaking 20 years ago. His intricately detailed etch ings are shown worldwide.

The Library of Congress recently purchased his “A Post Traumatic History Lesson,” which is also in the SLOMA exhibit. His work is surreal, ranging from the comic to dead serious. He sticks with black and white, believing its tonalities and subtleties better express the psychological mood he hopes to impart.

Avery’s source material is “stuff in my brain,” he said. “It comes out of the (creative) stew.”

Diane McLeod of Seal Beach is showing two works in a method called spit-bite intaglio.

“In the old days, they actually did use spit or acombination with an acid,” she said. The acid solution on a metal plate is removed with a sponge, leaving a ghostly image, McLeod said.

Her “Red Line” was partially a premonition of her sister’s death in 2010. The abstract figures represent the sister in different life stages, “kind of other world images of her,” McLeod said. After the metal plate went through two runs on the press, she applied fabric with ink for a third run.

McLeod studied printmaking at the University of Minnesota, New York University and Cal State Long Beach.

In 40 years of doing printmaking, she’s glad the art form is gaining popularity.

“The whole field has advanced over the last decade, it seems,” she said.