During the lockdown, we produced a series of blogs - conversations with some of our tutors about 'How to Have a Go at Home' with various crafts. Students dived in with questions on live Facebook chats. We published the whole series at the end of May but it's nice to reflect on a few of these again now we are back. It's still great to have a go at home!
Q to Karen - How did you first get into printmaking?
My first proper experience of printing was at art college on my foundation course – there was a lovely new printing dept full of big scary presses and the smell of oil-based ink.
I’d never really done any printing before (potato printing doesn’t count!) and this was a whole new world to me – and I loved it. I loved the process of making the plates; the unpredictability of the actual inking and printing and the fact you could make multiple copies and play with the image. I was totally hooked and tried out all sorts of techniques – I’ve never really specialised in any particular one – just weaned out those that are too messy, toxic or long-winded for my liking.
Q to Karen - Can I have a go at home, and as a beginner where should I start? Which form of printing would you suggest?
There are so many forms of printing and lots of them don’t need a press or a lot of specialist equipment. When I run workshops I try wherever possible to use materials and techniques that can be done at home. A lot of my materials are everyday things such as polystyrene pizza bases, juice cartons, Tiramisu containers etc (there’s a lot of eating & drinking involved in my work!). Techniques such as linoprinting, monoprinting and stamping are really easy to do at home and combine well with paint, collage and mixed media.
Q to Karen - is your diet based around your need for printmaking supplies??
Definitely - I'm living on pizza and family sized tiramisu! All in the name of art of course! 😄
Q to Karen - Can you recommend a starter kit and suppliers?
If you want to do something specific like linoprinting there are some good kits on the market by Essdee ranging from around £12 (very basic) to around £30. You can also buy rollers, tools and printing inks separately from a number of suppliers (listed below).
For mixed media printing you can use all sorts of things – anything fairly flat that you can apply printing ink or paint to and take an impression such as foam, polystyrene, textured wallpaper, leaves etc. I use acrylic paints combined with block printing medium (to keep it wet for longer) and apply it with a sponge or roller for this. You can get most of the materials from Amazon. Specialist printing suppliers such as Handprinted.co.uk and Intaglioprintmaker.com are great and for more general supplies as well as printing materials Great Art is fantastic. They all have online and phone ordering.
Q to Karen - I have been trying my hand at linocutting. I don’t have a press and I have been burnishing by hand. I have upgraded my inks, which has produced better results, but I am still finding it hard to get consistency across the whole plate. Some patchy areas even though it looks as though I have applied the ink evenly to the roller. Any tips?
I do all my linoprinting by hand with a dessert spoon and use Caligo relief inks which are oil based but water soluble - they give really consistent results. Also, try different papers - Hosho is lovely to print on - hope that helps.
Q to Karen - Can you recommend any good books on the subject?
The Instant Printmaker by Melvyn Petterson, Printmaking & Mixed Media by Dorit Elisha, Learning Linocut by Susan Yeates, Making Collagraphs by Susie Mackenzie – these are some of my favourites.
Q to Karen - As my own work is quite expressive I would be interested in knowing which printing techniques lend themselves to this way of working
For painterly expressive work monoprints are a great technique....you can be really free with them and layer up to create the desired effect.
Q to Karen - Which printmakers have most influenced you and why?
As far as influences - so many fantastic printmakers out there but probably Mark Hearld is my absolute favourite (the hanging bird is shamelessly influenced by him! He produces amazing prints and mixed media work, quirky and full of life and character. But there are dozens more whose work I admire. To narrow it down I’d say my favourite printmakers are Colin Moore for his stylised coastal linocuts; Anita Reynolds who walked the south-west coastal path and documented it in a series of prints, painting and drawings.
Q to Karen - Do you have to be good at drawing to do this?
No not really. There are lots of printmaking methods which don't require drawing skills, and you can always trace a picture too! It's not cheating, as you are making art
Q to Karen - I would like to print on a prepared surface. Is watercolour or acrylic the best medium?
I'd say acrylic is probably the best base to work on - it's waterproof so won't move if you need to damp the paper and you can print on it with both oil and water based inks.
Q to Karen - What type of work are you doing during the lockdown?
The potential to work is there but a lot of my time has been spent in the garden!! The weather has been too good to miss☺️😀. I’ve also spent a lot of time getting to grips with technology in a big way – webcams, FB, emojis, Zoom – you name it I’ve been learning it!
And we know how well Karen has now done with technology - she is now running some wonderful courses for ardingtonacademy.com on printmaking! We hope you can join us on one of these and then you will know all about how to have a go at home!