An Interview by Roberta Loach
RL: In your book “Printmaking In The Sun”, you mentioned that you developed the solarplate printmaking process in 1972. What brought you to this invention?
DW: Being a serious printmaker, with a specialty in stone lithography, I had to print everything and anything. I would use the skin of a chicken or an old license plate as a point of departure for my images. Stone was my first real love, although I had experience with intaglio for many years before that. I fell in love with the surface of the limestone, and the autographic nature of lithography. In 1970 my mentor in Munich, Kurt Lohwasser, showed me a polymer plate and said ‘try it.’ The first results were a bit boring. Years passed before I finally developed it to a further state.
RL. What advantages did you foresee working with the solarplate process?
DW. I didn’t see any advantages at first, except that I enjoyed etching in a different way than before. I guess I had been treating it more as a lithographer than an etcher. Since I always liked mark making, and the knowledge of seeing a black remaining a black, the process lured me further into more explorations, which led to a heap of advantages. Once I began drawing on the surface of grained glass, I was ‘sold’ on this approach. It became more ‘portable’ than the lithographic limestone.
RL. Do you find this a medium more attractive to painters than printmakers?
DW. Not necessarily, just different.
RL. Do you feel that solarplate is on par with the more traditional printmaking media of intaglio and litho, for example?
DW. Of course. I’ll be partial in this question, because I use it and favor it for many reasons over everything out there…perhaps it’s because it’s my ‘baby’, but in reality, I can get a quality image on a plate and on paper faster and more spontaneous than with any other matrix. We can see some amazing improvements since the early days of solarplate. It’s become remarkable in its ability to transmit ink in fine detail as well as powerful tonalities. The whole trick lies in the magnet principle, which is probably the biggest boon to the process.
RL. Wow…Tell me about this magnet principle.
DW. The speed of the inking process is greatly increased with the use of a piece of magnetic vinyl under the solarplate. This magnetic steel holds the plate down while inking and wiping. It can be found in crafts and sign shops.
RL. Do you do a lot of experimentation before getting what you want?
DW. Yes, I had lots of failures. It was years before I was happy and wouldn’t show anyone the results.
RL. How do you respond to people who don’t feel that solarplate is a serious printmaking process?
DW. I understand tham completely, since I was such a purist die-hard stone lithographer. I had four litho presses and over 200 stones up to 43 inches in size! People who think of solarplate as not being serious may not have had the positive feeling others have had with it.