Story of how I became a mezzotint printmaker

How it all started

Up until I turned 18 years old, I drew some scribbles in my notebooks, but nothing elaborate and thoughtful. At that time, I met Latvian printmaker Juris Putrams. Who, in consequence, introduced me to printmaking and art in general. He suggested that I should go and study at the Art Academy of Latvia. This idea stuck with me, and I decided to pursue it. To get into the Art Academy of Latvia, you should pass entrance exams with more people wanting to get there than there are open spots for students. 

Preparations to study in Art Academy of Latvia

I went to evening courses to get ready for entrance exams. Studies there are split into three years. Because I didn’t have any prior experience in art, I went to my first-course year. During that time, I was learning academic drawing and painting, plus composition fundamentals. It all was new and exciting to me, and that gave me extra motivation to be involved in the study process. After one intensive year of studies there, I went to test myself for entrance exams to the Academy. And to my pleasure, I passed entrance exams and got inside to study printmaking. Originally I thought I’ll need to study for another year before I can pass exams.

Art Academy of Latvia Building

First group exhibition

During my first year of studies, I participated in the printmaking group exhibition – “Hunting” in Cesis – Latvia (2009). It was my first ever group exhibition, and it was an exciting experience. That laid groundwork for my future art shows and gave me confidence in pursuing printmaking.

First attempt at mezzotint

My first encounter with the mezzotint technique was in 2nd grade at the Art Academy of Latvia. During that time, I was doing mainly drypoint, linocut, and woodcut. Those techniques gave me the ability to work expressively and fast. Mezzotint, on the other hand, requires more preparation work, and the whole process is not so expressive. That being said, I wasn’t excited about the result of my first attempt in mezzotint. So I just continued working in other techniques, and mezzotint went away from my radar for the time being.

Graduational work and BA in Graphic Art

In 2013 I got my Bachelor’s degree diploma in Graphic Art. My diploma project was done in the Silkscreen technique. It was a series of 5 works titled “Lost”. It was my interpretation of people who are too disconnected from the real world. Living in their own head all the time and not noticing anything that happens around them. Moving through their days as sleepwalking.

BA work by Sergejs Kolecenko

Break for one year and realization

At the time when I graduated, I took a break from the studies for one year to work and think about what I want to do next. I wasn’t sure if I want to continue education and what I want to do in the art world and for myself. The realization came to me in 2014 that I want to further advance my studies and pursue an art career.

MA in Graphic Art

In 2014 I went to study for a Master’s degree in Graphic Art at the Art Academy of Latvia. I needed to decide in advance what will be my diploma project and who will be my diploma thesis supervisor. First ideas came to my mind, and I thought which technique would be appropriate for those ideas. I was deciding between Aquatint and mezzotint – yes, mezzotint, even though my first experience with it wasn’t that good. In the end, I picked mezzotint since it gave me more control over the image and allowed for broad tonal values. I decided to work with Guntars Sietiņš as my diploma thesis supervisor since he mastered mezzotint technique so well. And my choice was correct. I learned a lot from him on how to make mezzotints and mastered all the nuances of this technique.

For the next two years during MA studies, I created numerous works in mezzotint technique and refined my skill and subject matter. At that time, I finally found love for this technique. I could create anything imaginable or non-existent in it and convey it with certainty to the viewer.

In 2016 I successfully graduated with an MA in Graphic Arts. My diploma work consisted of 8 prints and was titled “Digitalization”. In it, I explored human relationships with the digital environment and my own attitude towards it.

Digitalization – Mezzotint series for Master’s diploma project

First international award in printmaking

I got my first award in printmaking in 2015 for my mezzotint series – Silence. City of Sint-Niklaas prize for the best intaglio print during “The 20th Sint-Niklaas international bookplates and small printmaking competition”. That was an exciting trip to Belgium. There I met incredible artists and Ex-Libris collectors. And got my first Ex-Libris commissions there.

Winning this award gave me confidence that I’m on the right path, and mezzotint might be the technique I should pursue further. 

2015 City of Sint-Niklaas Award for best intaglio print

Workshops

In 2017 and 2019, I received an invitation to participate in Salekhard, Russia’s international festival of Graphic Arts and Design. During this festival, I held workshops in printmaking and lectures in digital art for various groups of people. I also participated in group exhibitions and had my first solo exhibition there (about that a little bit later). The overall trip and experience were great. I was nervous at first before having my first workshop and lecture. But it all went fine, and the reception was excellent.

Mezzotint workshop in Salekhard in 2017
Mezzotint workshop in Salekhard in 2019

First solo exhibition

During my first visit to Salekhard, I had my first personal exhibition there titled “Beginning”. It was a retrospect of my works in various printmaking techniques for the past 10 years. After that exhibition, I started moving forward and exploring even deeper my subject matter and ways of expressing it.

2017 – Solo Show Beginning in Salekhard By Sergejs Kolecenko
Linocut – Riga Nr1 by Sergejs Kolecenko

Present Day

Currently, I am working as a 3D artist in a company that develops video games. In my free time, I’m working on my mezzotints and continuously looking for ways to improve skills and compositions.


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