Modern Makers Blog - Part 1: Introduction to Printmaking


Written by Modern Makers participant Katy Billington.

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Blog / Week One

This year’s Modern Makers programme focuses on the wonderful world of printmaking. Led by three local printmakers – Pamela Grace, Colin Blanchard and Hugh Bryden – we will be tutored in the different techniques and processes of printmaking over the next few months. With six of us participating this year and a variety of experiences between us, the programme promises to be exciting and formative.

Our first day started with introductions to both the artists and the craft itself. Specialising in different types of printmaking, the artists gave us some fascinating insights into their chosen formats and we got to see some of their final pieces in flesh. Being able to handle and view some of their creations – from linocuts to drypoints to artist’s books – was a real privilege and enhanced only by the stories that came with them.

With introductions completed, we knuckled down to what we were all here for; creating. This week was all about the monoprint – a type of printmaking that, as the name suggests, produces a one-off image.

We started by each inking up a plate of glass with black ink, using a roller to spread it until the desired smooth consistency was achieved. We then placed a hand-cut frame over this (a piece of paper with the middle cut out) and our printing paper on top of this secured with masking tape, lightly touching the frame and surface of the ink. We then drew directly onto this paper. Wherever pressure was exerted through the pencil, the paper underneath would pick up the ink and create an impression of the drawing. Magically – in a matter of seconds – patterns and shapes began to emerge on our papers.

Pamela, Colin and Hugh encouraged us to experiment with whatever was to hand. Bubble wrap, the edge of a barren and leaves from the garden were all used to create different textures and patterns. For each monotype, we also took a ghost print using the patterns now lightly imprinted within the ink to create a kind of mirror image of the first print. Black became white and white became a soft black.

After we’d all tested these methods, we moved on to a different style of monoprint – this one far more painterly. Using a more fluid ink, in a variety of colours, we each painted images directly onto a thin plastic sheet. The trick here was to use minimal paint – only a very light, fairly dry, coating was required as these were destined for the printing press. Once we were happy with our painting, we placed the plastic face up on the press, put a piece of paper on top of this, added some blankets to increase the pressure, and rolled it through the large etching press in the studio, before carefully lifting back the blankets and paper underneath to reveal our prints – always the best bit of the process!

Some of us experimented with building up the layers on our prints, others with different designs and colours. With three professionals on hand to encourage and guide us, there was a really supportive atmosphere and it was great to be able to test out monoprinting freely and without inhibitions. All in all – an inspiring first week.

Written by Modern Makers participant Katy Billington.