Saturday, May 8, 2010

Printmaking processes

Since we opened Strata, a show featuring four printmakers using four different printmaking methods, we've gotten a lot of questions as to the different processes the artists use. So here we go, a brief introduction to the printmaking processes featured in Strata:

Linoleum printmaking - surprise! - starts out with a sheet of linoleum. The artist draws or transfers an image onto the sheet, and then uses a carving tool to scoop away the negative space in the image. That leaves a surface resembling a stamp, with a raised image. Then the artist applies ink to the raised surface of the block using a brayer (hand roller). The inked linoleum is then pressed on to a sheet of paper through a press or by hand with a rolling pin - or anything else that gets the job done.

To create multiple layers of color and add detail to an image, one can create multiple linoleum sheets to press onto the paper in a specific order according to color and shape.

above: Cold Shoulder, Ellen Shattuck Pierce, linoleum print, 24" x 30"

This is the method that Ellen Shattuck Pierce uses. In her "puzzle series," she creates different linoleum puzzle pieces that she'll combine onto one sheet, and then print.

Reduction linoleum printing - Susan Jaworski-Stranc's technique - uses just one sheet of linoleum to create all the different layers. This is also referred to as "suicide printing" because with each layer, you carve more of the block away - so once a layer has been printed and you start carving for the next layer, there's no going back.

above: Coastal Forces at Sunset, Susan Jaworski-Stranc, reduction linoleum print, 9" x 12"

Anne Silber creates serigraphs - a process also known as silkscreening or screen printing. You apply ink on top of a mesh screen and use a squeegee/hand-roller to press the ink through the mesh onto the paper. To define the image, you create a stencil that is placed on top of the mesh, so that the ink only marks the page in the negative space of the stencil. Once the ink dries, you create more stencils to make multiple layers of color and add complexity to the image.

above: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, Anne Silber, serigraph, 18" x 21½"

Marc Cote's pieces are woodcuts, which is the same process as linoleum printing, except with a block of wood. Two of Cote's prints in Strata are monotypes, meaning that he only made one print of each image. The other prints in the show are limited editions - the artists made a set of each image, and each individual print is labeled within the set, say "1/25" or "7/50". This helps keep the price down (compared to one-offs) as the artist's time and labor is distributed amongst the set.
above: Colossus, Marc Cote, woodcut, 11 1/4" x 14 1/2"