In the Studio: Julia Lucey

This week’s In the Studio features longtime MiXX favorite Julia Lucey, a printmaker who has synthesized her own unique medium by creating intricate collages from multiple editions of her aquatint etchings. Her innovative practice produces densely detailed finished works that transcend the constraints of both collage and printmaking.

Julia’s pieces begin with aquatint etching, a medium that’s almost as much a science as it is an art. Her designs are scratched into an acid-resistant coating applied to a copper plate. The plate then takes a bath in an acidic solution that eats away the copper that’s been exposed by her scratched drawings, creating grooves that can hold the ink she’ll later use to print her renditions of California flora and fauna.

Once her plates are etched with linework, Julia begins adding depth with aquatint, a multi-step dance of painting resist over a semipermeable ground of rosin dots, and taking the plate for multiple, timed dips in the acid bath. This alchemic process allows her to create painterly shading to her delicately etched linework, adding a dimensional quality to her work.

Once her plates are etched and shaded, it’s time to print! Julia prints editions of each plate in multiple colors, giving her a rich palette to pull from when it comes to putting her collages together.

Julia then begins the painstaking but meditative process of cutting her prints to prepare the raw materials for her collages. Leaf by leaf and petal by petal, each element is deftly clipped free from its background. The resulting piles of intricately formed flora and fauna are then ready to be pieced together into complex miniature worlds.

Some hand-painted pieces, like the fox to the right, make their way into the dense environs of Julia’s collages as well. Once everything is glued into place, a coat of clear acrylic seals and protects the finished work.

A dedicated environmentalist and lover of nature, Julia’s work seeks to imagine the inner lives of her animal subjects as they experience the loss and destruction of their homes in the face of human intervention and a changing climate. Her constructed environments allow them space for peace and quiet away from the chaos of their lived reality.

Twining leaves and stems, waiting to be glued down.

“Instead of editioning my etchings in a traditional way, I have instead been using the etchings as a base to build new landscapes. Where I have been closely paying attention to the shapes and locality of species in my etchings, I have become much looser in the way I collage and color them. I hand cut each plant out of the paper and then reassemble them on panel to create new worlds. In some of the worlds I reference narratives and folk tales I imagine could happen, but with local animals as the characters. In other collages, I set the animal gaze out toward the viewer in judgement. And in others, the pieces are simply about the magical feeling of being in a wild space.”

Julia in the printmaking studio, inking a plate with tarlatan.

Click the link below to browse Julia Lucey’s work on our Artsy page.