Power of the press

Reno Press/Studio 3

Gary Castagne's mission is to make printmaking accessible.

Gary Castagne's mission is to make printmaking accessible.

Photo/Kris vagner

Reno Press/Studio 3 is located at 3 N. Virginia St. Hours are usually noon-6 p.m., but can vary. Calling in advance is recommended: 250-4879.

“Not everybody’s going to be a Rembrandt,” says Gary Castagne, clad in an ink-smeared apron and rolled-up sleeves. But he does think that folks not planning to be trailblazing, Dutch masters of Renaissance etchings might as well get their hands dirty and make some art.

Castagne’s mission is to make that easy by making printmaking as accessible as possible. He opened Reno Press/Studio 3 in January inside a tiny storefront on Virginia Street, across from City Plaza. He welcomes seasoned printmakers who’d like to bring in their own etching plates or linoleum blocks and run an edition on his Sturgis press. And, in the spirit of The Clay Canvas or Picasso and Wine, where people can drop by to learn to paint ceramics or canvases, he’s also set up to cater to complete beginners.

He explains, “My idea was, instead of buying a piece, you could make a piece for $20.” A printmaking session costs $45, which includes instruction, studio time and materials to make two poster-sized prints.

Most of Castagne’s clients start with monoprinting. It’s an easy process in which ink is spread onto a clear plate of acrylic, designs or images are made in the ink, and the plate is pressed onto paper to make one original print. The same plate can then yield several variations of that image, but no two will be exactly alike.

“This is to have people get the idea of what a monoprint is,” Castagne says. “That gets you ready to do other processes.”

When someone comes in with an idea for a finished image and prior knowledge of the process, Castagne shows them the inks and the press and lets them have at it. For beginners, he’s got the equivalent of art-school training wheels at the ready: A scrapbook of about 400 photos of animals, nudes, portraits, landscapes and abstracts to help you choose a subject.

He’ll demonstrate how to transfer an image onto mylar or cut a stencil of the picture using a heat tool. Then he’ll demonstrate an assortment of techniques and tools to choose from, giving as much or as little guidance as needed.

Getting artist’s block just thinking about it? Castagne has a wealth of solutions, a resourceful nature and a knack for making the process look easy. “After you take the first class, you’re going to know how to do this,” he says.

He demonstrates how a small rubber kitchen spatula makes marks that look like wide blades of grass. He gestures to lines in a finished print that look like dimensional, twisted thread and says, “If you want to do one of those marks, you take one of these cards.” He points to a small pile of one-inch square scraps of mat board. Those alone make at least a dozen different textures in the thinly spread ink.

“It’s supposed to be spontaneous,” he says. He finds that people get into the process easily, becoming absorbed with what they’re making. Many, including Castagne, find printmaking meditative.

“Once you lay ink out the rest of the world goes away—Baltimore and the Middle East,” he says.

In about an hour, he takes newcomers through the entire process of making a monoprint. “This is to show people you can do anything in art,” he says.

Reno Press/Studio 3 is in its nascent stages, and Castagne is still determining which direction it’ll take. He’s considering offering workshops for guest printmakers in the near future. Currently, it’s a destination on the monthly Reno Art Walk, and he welcomes calls or texts requesting hour-long, learn-to-print sessions.