For the past 35 years I have been learning and experimenting with anything that has to do with printmaking from traditional 18th century methods to modern technology. The directness of pure drawing is the essence of my approach to many print techniques. Combining elements from both old and new, I literally build layers of tone in metal, plastic or wood as I would build layers of pencil in a tonal study on paper.
An ORIGINAL PRINT is the result of a fine art process that produces one impression or multiples of the artist’s image. In no sense is an original print a copy or a reproduction. Each impression or print is itself the original. The print is created through contact with an inked or un-inked surface that has been worked on directly by the artist. The total number of images printed from a plate makes up the “EDITION.” Each print in the edition is numbered and signed by the artist. The bottom number gives the total number of prints in the edition; the top number indicates the actual number of that print in the edition. “Ed. Var.” next to the number denotes a variable such as hand coloring, indicating each print will be slightly different. In a monotype or monoprint – “mono” meaning “one” – each print will be unique.
RELIEF is one of the oldest technique in printmaking. The relief block starts out as a smooth surface (usually a type of wood or linoleum) into which the artist cuts with gouges and knives. Any of the areas that are cut away are now below the surface of the block and will remain un-inked when printed. The remaining raised surface areas print as parts of the image. The block can be inked with rollers (brayers) or by painting on the surface with a brush, as in the oriental manner. It is placed into a registration template (jig), which allows the paper to be properly aligned with the block. The paper is put face down on the block, which is then run through a press or rubbed by hand with a wooden spoon or baren. Accurate registration is essential when multiple blocks are used to develop several colors in a print.
INTAGLIO, from the Italian “Itagliare,” to carve or cut, is used to define a series of printmaking techniques, such as etching, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint, and solar plate etching, where the artist in some way creates grooves or pits in the plate to hold etching ink.
POLYMER PLATE INTAGLIO uses a thin steel plate covered with a light-sensitive polymer gel. There are numerous methods used to create the image on these plates. Methods range from working directly on the gel plate to using computer-generated Mylar film, which is then laid over the unexposed plate. Once exposed to UV light, the polymer hardens in the areas not covered by the black lines and tones of the image. These protected areas remain soft and water-soluble. The plate is developed in a water bath that rinses away the soft, unexposed areas of gel. A final exposure to the sun or ultra-violet light hardens the image and the plate is ready for printing. Inking the plate can be approached as an etching (ink is pushed into any incised areas with the surface area wiped clean), as a relief print (an inked brayer is rolled over the surface and any incised areas remain white), or as a combination of both.
CHINE COLLE’ is a technique that combines collage with printing. A thin paper is bonded by glue and the pressure of the press to a heavier support paper and overprinted in one run through the press. Often the delicate paper has a different tone or texture than the support paper, which creates a subtle difference in the image area of the print.
MONOTYPE is a one of a kind printed image often termed “the painterly print”. The artist works directly on a metal or plastic plate with watercolor, oil paints, or various printing inks. This plate is then covered with a piece of damp printmaking paper and printed. As with most printmaking techniques, the image, which is lifted from the plate to the paper, is in reverse. Occasionally, enough of the paint or ink remains on the plate to allow the artist to produce a second image termed a ghost image. The monotype print can be enhanced in a variety of ways either by printing over the existing image or reworking the print with other media. Each monotype is unique, even if it is grouped in a series.
AQUATINT is derived from the Latin words “aquafortes” meaning “strong water” (acid) and “tinto” meaning tone. Simply put, acid is used to texture the surface of a metal plate into something like the surface of sandpaper. Each degree of roughness holds a certain amount of etching ink. The rougher the texture, the more ink is held and the darker the tone when printed. By controlling the length of time each design area of the plate is exposed to the acid, a range of tones from very light to blackest black can be achieved in the same image.
POCHOIR meaning “stencil” in French is a stencil-based technique employed to create prints or to add color to pre-existing prints. It was most popular from the late 19th century through the 1930’s with its center of activity in Paris. Pochoir was primarily used to create prints devoted to fashion, patterns, and architectural design and is most often associated with Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Pochoir begins with the analysis of an image into shapes defining color tones. Numerous stencils are designed and cut to create the image. The stencils were originally made of aluminum, copper, or zinc but today the material of choice is Mylar. Along with this transition of stencil materials, there was a shift away from the use of watercolor towards the broad, soft, opaque layers of gouache. The gouache pigment is applied through the stencil cutouts using a variety of different bristle brushes. The manual aspect of pochoir is very labor and time intensive. Each print is unique because it is done by hand. Pochoir can be done as an edition or a monoprint. The color application can be painterly by varying a color inside the stencil or flat color shapes.