Why I love Printmaking

Tunnel ©1990 Ayn Hanna, 9"x7", linocut

Some of my etchings and woodcuts will be on view at  “Proof No. 1: The Art Lab Printmaking Experience BIG SHOW” at ART Lab in downtown Fort Collins, opening this Friday, Sept 17.  The show of local contemporary printmakers’ work will be open Sept 17/18 and 24/25 and will include prints such as etchings, woodcuts, and letterpress prints – the kind of prints made by hand on big clunky presses.  There will be some presses and artists on hand at the gallery and visitors will get the chance to learn about printmaking and even have an opportunity to make a print of their own to take with them as a souvenir from the show.  See Art Lab Fort Collins’ home page for full schedule of demos and workshops associated with this show.

Although I’ve been focusing my work on textiles most recently, my first love has always been printmaking, and my etching press (a Takach 3460 floor model) was the first piece of equipment I installed in my home studio.  With this print show coming up, it got me thinking about the reasons why I love printmaking so much.

Coincidentally, I was on the Moo.com website, to re-order some of my moo minicard business cards (I love these cards because you can upload up to 100 different images/set of 100 cards to their site and they’ll print them out and send them to you for a very reasonable cost – what a great way to carry around your portfolio with you and be able to hand it out to people with your contact info printed on the back!), and while I was on their site, I ran across an article which helped me identify in part, why I love printmaking.  Quite simply, I love the whole process of producing something printed by hand!

Some of my Moo mini-card business cards in the cute little box they arrive in.

A sampling of my artwork, printed on my Moo mini-card business cards.

– I love the physical-ness of printmaking techniques done by hand: painting, drawing, scratching, scraping, incising, gouging, sanding, polishing, rolling and wiping ink on the plates and then cranking them through a press.

– I love textures and surfaces and the rich variety of mark making that is possible only within the fine print medium.

– I love process; preparing the plates with grounds, drawing/painting/cutting the surface, etching the plates, inking and printing the proofs, and then editioning the final image.

– I love the graphic print quality and the ability to make multiples of a single image; printmaking helps to make collecting original art more accessible to all.

– At the same time, I like that the physical plates do wear out over time (or in the case of a reduction woodcut, the plate is gone once you print your last color), so editions are very limited and usually quite small (like less than 100 prints and often more in the range of 20 – 50).

And there is something very magical about pulling a first proof of an image that you’ve created by hand – drawing, scraping, scratching, etching, inking, wiping and wiping and wiping and then cranking it through the press – and seeing that image realized so graphically on the beautiful 100% rag paper as you peel it off the plate after running it through the press.

Upright Monster © Ayn Hanna, 32"x16", Collograph

And then, to print an edition, you have to go back to the inking slab and re-ink that plate and re-wipe it, each time to print another proof of it.  And try as you might to wipe the plate the same each time, each proof that you pull is going to have some little variation in it (makes it special and a little different from the others, showing the “human-ness” of hand-printing, and qualifies it as an “original” print), but still will be close enough to the others being printed to be a part of an edition of original prints.  I start getting excited about printmaking while even just talking about it!

If you would like to learn more about fine art printmaking, be sure to stop into Art Lab during the show over the next two weekends in Sept.  And, if you can’t stop by the gallery during the show, you can also check out this very cool interactive demo from the Museum of Modern Art for everything you ever wanted to know about printmaking – What is a print?


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One Response to “Why I love Printmaking”

  1. Barbara Says:

    I love printmaking too! I also LoVE reading your blog!

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