Stories From The Press

Getting to know Ross

By Renee Bott

Everything about working with Ross Bleckner is glamorous. Our new release of nine chromatically brilliant flowers and three mysterious, dark rondos serves as a perfect backdrop for the story of how Pam and I met Ross and convinced him to make prints with us in our first studio in Emeryville, California.

In 1998, Paulson Bott Press was just two years old. We entered the print publishing scene in 1996 with the release of four color etchings by Christopher Brown.

Renee Bott hold the victory “V” over Pam Paulson’s head. Emeryville Studio 1997

As huge admirers of Ross’s work, we decided to invite him to our studio. I found an address for him by sleuthing the Internet and wrote a letter introducing myself and asking if we could meet. I explained that Pam and I were going to be in New York in two weeks. The days passed and we never heard back from Ross. Time was running out. Katrina Traywick, our sales director at the time, was quick to point out that everyone in New York has their phone numbers listed (even famous people), and sure enough, I found his phone number in the white pages. Two days prior to our departure date, I called him. 

Katrina Traywick at the computer while Renee works with Radcliffe Bailey, 1997

Ross had no idea who I was, since he had not received our letter. I quickly explained. He was very sweet and friendly. He told me that we could meet at his opening atLehmann Maupin that coming weekend in SOHO.

On the plane to New York, Pam and I were chatting excitedly about our upcoming adventures when I flipped open Vanity Fair to a page with a photo of Ross. There he was, beautifully dressed in a tuxedo, drinking a martini at a fundraiser. I thought, “He is so glam. How can we possibly approach him?”

I remember how we carefully planned our arrival at the gallery for 4:30 pm. We were a few minutes early and found Ross preparing for the reception. I introduced myself and he shook my hand. Suddenly there was a video camera in my face and my whole introduction to Ross was being recorded for history’s sake! I’m sure I was underdressed for the occasion. I do know that I was able to secure a meeting with him at his White Street Studio for the next day. Mission accomplished.

That opening was perhaps one of the most memorable nights I had in SOHO as it used to be. Having worked at Crown Point Press for several years, we had the opportunity to meet and work with many of the art stars in attendance that evening: David True, Alex Katz, Eric Fischl, Gary Stephen, and Bryan Hunt, to name a few. Absolute Vodka was sponsoring the event, and several tables were set up around the gallery with fanciful vodka creations.

The next day at the White Street Studio, Ross was astute and quick to quiz us on our mission. Why make prints? Why with you? When Pam and I left, we were trying to weigh the outcome of the conversation.

It took about seven months to convince Ross to make the time to visit us at our Emeryville studio in 1999. Every time I called, he never said no. So I kept calling. 

Ross Bleckner, Leader Sequence, 2002, Color Aquatint Etching,Published by Paulson Bott Press

The first time we worked together, Ross completed ten stellar prints. He has come back three times over the last twelve years and has completed fifty editions with us. Each time he works with us, he sweeps us away with his New York energy and glamor.


Renee enjoying the glamor!


Slow Art

By Pam Paulson

Berkeley is considered by many to be a bastion of the Slow Food movement. Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and other local stars have challenged our need for speed. At Paulson Bott Press, we can relate. Making etchings is a methodical endeavor. The process demands tenacity. We often sow the seeds for projects years in advance. Once the artist is in the studio, we carefully tend the task of making the prints.  Sometimes the idea emerges right away and we refine, and other times it’s more trial and error. It’s Slow Art.

Kerry James Marshall, “Better Homes, Better Gardens”, 1994 Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Our experience with the artist Kerry James Marshall is a case in point. When I first heard him speak, I was amazed. ( If you ever get a chance to hear him, do!) Renee and I had just begun to publish prints when we flew down to San Diego in 1997 to meet Kerry and invite him to work with us. I remember my enthusiasm for his painting and for the visionary path he intended to carve through art history. I also recall my dismay when he didn’t immediately agree to come to our studio that fall. We kept at it.

Kerry James Marshall, “Visable Means of Support: Monticello and Mount Vernon”, 2009 Courtesy SF MOMA

Last year, 13 years after that initial invitation, while the dust was still settling in our new shop, Kerry finally came to Paulson Bott Press. Kerry was working on the installation of two murals, “Visible Means of Support: Monticello” and “Visible Means of Support: Mount Vernon ” in the atrium of SFMOMA, and we had the chance to collaborate.

We began with a very ambitious large image. As a young man, Kerry had tried etching. He had in mind a myriad of intaglio techniques that he would use to create the print. We started with a softground drawing of the basic image, then added successive plates (with aquatints, spitbites, sugarlift, and drypoint) to flesh out the color, value, and density. “Vignette (Wishing Well)” relies on a smorgasbord of techniques, including chine collé and hand painting, and it is a testament to patience. The print comprises six plates made over a two-week period.

Kerry James Marshall, “Vignette (Wishing Well)”, 2010; Color Etching; Published by Paulson Bott Press

During the first week, we were working towards a brightly colored image. Kerry introduced the idea of shaped plates to reinforce the structural components in the print. We all had fun wielding the metal nippers to cut the pieces of copper that were needed.  While we were proofing, the color direction changed, and some plates were abandoned.
The multiple tinted greys required the plates to be inked “a la poupée” (several different colors inked on each individual plate). Four printers work 2.5 hours to ink and print a single print, and it takes an additional 1.5 hours to print hearts, chine collé them, and hand paint the prints before they are ready to be signed.

Unused plates

A single plate can go into the acid numerous times before reaching a final state. This is true of each plate making up the larger print as well as the single plate prints. “Untitled Woman” was rolled with hardground drawn on and etched nine times before we pulled the OKTP.

Kerry in the Paulson Bott Studio

Slow Art is an apt description of what goes on at the press. Even when we are running around in a frenzy, we cannot go faster than the process’s inherent physicality, we cannot rush the steps and stages and the resonance of the image and our understanding of what the artist wants. It took awhile for this project to take root, and once it began to grow, it flourished. I hope you will be able to take a moment and spend some time with Kerry James Marshall’s exceptional work.

Keep on Trek-King!

By Rhea Fontaine

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has come and gone.  Nevertheless, I thought I would take this opportunity to honor the great man whom we celebrate on this day. This year marks the 25th anniversary of America’s honoring him with a federal holiday.

I just got off the phone with my mother, who was recounting where she was on April 4th, 1968. Forty-three years ago this January, she traveled from San Francisco to the Bronx to become a VISTA Volunteer and participate in what had begun with President Kennedy’s and Sargent Shriver’s domestic Peace Corps. program.(Shriver died yesterday at the age of 95.) Kennedy and Shriver’s vision in the early 1960s had led to the founding of a national service corps to help provide urgently needed services to both America’s rural and urban poor.

My mother and many other young and idealistic baby boomers had decided to serve their fellow Americans because they truly believed that a difference could be made that would change racial and economic inequalities in our country. After spending six weeks in the Bronx, my mother and a number of other VISTA volunteers were sent to Newark where they were working in the Central Ward on that fateful day in April. My mom recalls looking out of their second-floor apartment down to the street where policemen armed with shotguns had taken position. The world was expected to explode in response to the nightmare of violence that had taken Martin Luther King’s life, and it did in many communities across America. According to my mother, the fear was palpable for days and weeks.

More than that, it seemed that the civil rights movement, then focused on economic injustices, might be set back indefinitely.  Unbelievably, only two short months later, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. By the beginning of summer in 1968, there was scant light left to lead the idealists. The spirit of an entire generation, and all of America, was challenged in great ways, but King’s life and the strength of all he championed would not, could not, will never be turned around.  His truth survives and continues to transform our nation’s values. With him, we are all still marching towards “the promised land.”

Edgar Arceneaux, “1968”, 2005 Courtesy Paulson Bott Press

Edgar Arceneaux’s etching “1968” depicts the infamous day.   The sketched figures in the foreground point to the sky, where in the distance the USS Starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame enters the picture frame.  This juxtaposition humorously alludes to the disparate and sometimes conflicting accounts of King’s death.  It points to the absurdity of a still unsolved crime.  The two elements are demarcated by the title “1968,” also the year of the Star Trek episode, Assignment: Earth, in which the Enterprise travels back to earth on a mission to save the planet and its inhabitants.   Another side note is that Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was an integral part of the original series’ multicultural crew and one of the first characters of African descent to be featured on an American television series.  Nichols had planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, but following a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr., she was persuaded to stay.  He helped her realize what an important role model for the black community she would be.

I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a world that has benefited from King’s work, and I am forever grateful to the lovers and the thinkers who came before me who made the quality of my life possible.  I am also honored to work with artists like Arceneaux who continue to examine the past and the present through a truly creative and contemporary lens.


Edgar Arceneaux is fascinated by language, and by establishing unexpected connections among words, objects, places, and people. His installations may incorporate not only drawing, sculpture, and film, but also music, conceptual art, and science, juxtaposing representative elements of each and opening up newfound associations,unintended connections, interstitial spaces—in his words, “a different way to construct relationships among things.”

Arceneaux was born in 1972 in Los Angeles, where he continues to live and work. He currently serves as executive director of the Watts House Project, an “ongoing, collaborative artwork in the shape of a neighborhood redevelopment” across from the historic Watts Towers in Los Angeles; he has been working on the WHP since 1996. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Susanne Vielmetter Projects in Los Angeles and Berlin; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Albion Gallery, London; and Galerie Kamm, Berlin. He received a BFA from Art Center College of Design and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.

To read an interview with Edgar Arceneaux click here


New Year, new Blog!

By Rhea Fontaine

Happy New Year to all of our good friends and supporters!
Paulson Bott Press is happy to celebrate the New Year by announcing our new BLOG!  For us, this year means a renewed commitment to what it is we love: making and publishing fine art prints. We look forward to sharing more about our process, our artists and ultimately our etchings. We’re kicking off the year with an Opening for Shaun O’Dell Friday, January 14th, from 6-9pm. The show will include his five new etchings along with works on paper. There will be a live musical performance by Words (Shaun O’Dell, Randy Lee Southerland & Jeff Anderson). 

We hope you will join us.
Here’s to Health, Happiness and Art in 2011!

Three new prints by Shaun O’Dell
Overheard in the Studio:
“Shaun started this project by bringing in compositions made of collaged copies of his existing drawings. He really liked the graphic quality of the Xerox and was interested in replicating that ‘copy feeling’ in the prints. This led to our use of a soft ground fabric plate for the background of the three larger images.
“Our intention was to capture the grainy grays that were in the collages by manipulating the fabric.  It was a challenge to really capture the look, so we ended up using different color inks to emulate the various densities of value in the background.
Renee Bott & Shaun O’Dell in the Studio


Kota Ezawa, “Stairs”, 2009
“We also utilized the step etch spitbite method that we used with Kota Ezawa during his 2009 project.
Shaun O’Dell, “Plunged Into It”, 2010 (Detail)


“This method created all of Shaun’s tight little lines of varying value. The blue detail in “Plunged Into It” is a perfect example. It’s an extremely laborious way to do spitbite and it requires a bit of luck. If done correctly and luck is with you, the end result is beautiful.”- Renee Bott

Step Etch Spitbite in progress

To read an interview with Shaun O’ Dell please go here

Shaun playing music in the studio