PRINTMAKING 101

Last week, I attended a printmaking class.             

I call it Printmaking 101, because the actual hands –on process  of creating a print was very new to me. I admit, I’m a Novice.

Not that I’m new to the world of Prints – I’ve been a fan for many years, and I’m fairly well-versed in the various processes of woodblock prints, etchings and engravings. I’ve long admired such masterful artists as Rembrandt, and Durer and their contemporaries.

What I haven’t done, is actually made a print myself. However, I can tell you it was a lot of fun!

I came to class armed with nothing but my imagination. I hadn’t received the e-mail reminding me to bring a picture, or drawing, for inspiration, and to wear old clothes, but I had figured out the latter on my own, and ended up winging it on the former.

What I created was the equivalent of a woodblock print, but lucky for me and everyone else in the class, we were able to lean into the process by carving a piece of eraser-like rubber, called Easy Cut, rather than a hard-to-carve piece of wood.

While carving my design, I had to think in terms of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. The positive areas were the parts of my eraser pad that remained raised and would receive the ink, compared to the sections I was carving away thereby termed ‘negative’. (The negative areas of the carving medium essentially end up below the surface, and are therefore untouched by the ink).

In design, when we refer to positive and negative space, it is a very different concept. The positive space that interior designers are accustomed to, refers to the furnishings in a room – positive space– versus the lack of furnishings in a room – the negative space, or what I like to call ‘breathing room’.

This is because every room needs a place for the eye to rest.

The same holds true for Art. Regardless of whether you are an artist, or designer, anyone who is skilled at their craft knows when to pull in the reins and stop. Stop carving, stop painting, stop designing. Know when you are done.

In the end, what an artist ‘leaves out’ of the final work can be just as important as what you DO see.

I had to keep this in mind while carving my little masterpiece. I use that term loosely, of course. Everyone at my work table was in agreement that our first efforts would probably NOT be masterpieces.

Every so often, someone (including myself) would mutter ‘ooops’ as they slipped with the carving knife. I had to re-think my design more than once.

Even more difficult was learning to think in reverse, because however the design looks as you are carving it, once you place a piece of paper over the inked block and flip the whole thing over, every detail shows up in reverse.

Tricky? Yes. Fun? Absolutely! I highly recommend this kind of brain activity, but even more satisfying is the chance to explore one’s creative side.

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