Open Print Exchange

A few years ago, I started taking printmaking classes with a local artist at our community art center to give me something to do and dig back into a creative groove.  Printmaking was something I’d always wanted to try and this class gave us a great overview of the basics of a few different printmaking methods.  I later took more classes with the same teacher and really found a love for all the possibilities in printmaking.  There’s also something neat about the history of the craft.  Anyway, making prints without a press can be a bit limiting since some of the methods involve consistent pressure that can’t really be achieved by hand, so when I saw the Open Press Project on Kickstarter, I jumped on it.  My little blue press arrived and I went to town playing with drypoint etching on plastic plates.  It’s a very small format since the bed is only about 3×5.5 inches in size, but that also makes it portable and takes up less space which isn’t a bad thing.

At the end of 2021, the team that created the little press put out a call for artists to join a global art swap using the press to create a small series of 10 prints.  For mine, I used a subject that’s gone around a few times in various printmaking iterations from a screen print to a stencil, solar print, and probably eventually a linocut.  It’s my grandpa’s old Polaroid SX-70, and my love of photography bleeding into my newfound love of printmaking is something that should shock absolutely no one!

Here’s my whole series of ten – one will stay with the Open Press Project folks and be part of a catalog and future show, and in return, I’ll receive 9 different prints from artists around the world.  Can’t wait to see the catalog and online archive with all the prints as well, and I’ll add a new post once I’ve received my 9 prints in the mail, hopefully this summer.

Print Details:
Backer #53
Drypoint Etching on plastic plate
Speedball Akua Ink in Mars Black
Printed on Legion Stonehenge paper in Steel Grey

Holiday Card 2021

Now that they’ve all arrived at their destinations, I can finally show off the holiday art card I made for 2021!  I’m not too big on the winter holiday season – I’m not religious, I don’t really celebrate any sort of traditional Christmas or religious holiday, and have found it hard to find happiness during this time of year – I’m pretty deeply introverted, so large parties are not my thing, and feeling guilty for not being happy during that time of year is difficult to deal with when everyone has these high expectations and standards of how/when/where/why you should be happy and celebratory.  For the past I think 4 years now, I’ve gotten into the habit of making a not-holiday-specific art card instead of buying pre-made cards as a way of giving myself a creative challenge and finding my own way to something happy without following a cookie-cutter mold of how things should be.  It also fits in with my idea that the winter holiday season should be more about the people and the gathering rather than the stuff and the things, so creating something with my own two hands feels more meaningful and less wasteful than buying stuff that might end up being returned, sold, traded, re-gifted, etc.  Being together in person with the pandemic and all has been difficult, so this sort of fills in that gap a little too by having something handmade to send to family and friends.

On to the card!  After last year’s complicated 3 layer screen print, I went a little simpler this year with a two piece linocut of the canal houses in Amsterdam.  I sort of took ideas from houses I’d photographed while traveling and various photos around the internet and mashed them together into this.  Then, once I saw the empty space above just the houses, I took the scrap cut from the houses and made a little windy sky to fill that space.  I used a batch of cards I picked up in bulk when AC Moore closed (I’ll be using those for years to come) and printed with black Speedball Fabric Ink in black as well as a standard Speedball Block Printing Ink (water based) in a light blue color.  The block itself isn’t even real linoleum, it’s a rubber “Soft-Kut” printmakers block that I get in 12×12″ pieces and then cut down to fit each project.  The rubber is like sneaker sole material and is easier to carve and definitely a lot less hard on the carving tools, though it can be a bit less exact, especially on corners and edges since it smooshes and squishes with the tools.  Proper lino is a nice, hard surface and definitely gives me better lines, but it’s more difficult to cut and work with and can sometimes crumble.  As for the ink, I like working with the oil-based fabric ink much better, but didn’t happen to have the blue color on hand in the same ink, so I used the classic water-soluble ink for the sky bits.  The water-soluble ink tends to leave a texture behind, but dries immediately while the oil-based ink prints cleaner and flatter, but takes a few days to dry completely.

Overall, I really liked this year’s card!  I did put together a screen for the inside message, “From our home to yours,” and the back of the card for the date and credit lines, so it’s all hand printed between the linocut and the screen print, no printer printing.  Now I’ve got to start thinking about next year’s card at some point!