The Practice of Contemporary Printmaking

Over the weekend while I was researching the woodcuts of Antonio Frasconi, I stumbled across this film (54mins) by Reelife Productions discussing contemporary approaches to printmaking at University Museum of Contemporary Art, MA. I love what each of these artists are doing independently and wanted to share their thoughts on the practice of contemporary printmaking.

Many artists use a variety of techniques to make their mark - from the hand printed woodblock to the mechanical mark of the digital printer. As part of my own process I use a digital printer to scan and transfer my sketches to the woodblock. I then carve and print the woodblock by hand. It's the physicality of the hand-made process that I really love but I also really appreciate the wonders of digital technology for it too has its purpose in the process.

Lyell Castonguay

Lyell Castonguay is a large scale printer and director of the print collective BIG INK. BIG INK make large scale woodcuts for exhibitions. They also work with artists and community organisations for educational purposes, providing materials in a supportive environment.

You can print something off on an inkjet printer, then expose it to that plate, you’re taking a digital process but then you’re kind of shaping it to that traditional media, that traditional method and making it work within those boundaries.
— Lyell Castonguay

Liz Chalfin

Liz Chalfin is director and resident artist at Zea Mays Printmaking Studio. Liz explores non-toxic, greener alternatives to the traditional toxic printing processes encouraging a healthier safer working environment for printmakers. From soya sauce as a de-greaser, powdered sugar into aqua tint option and instant coffee as a painterly etching technique.

When it becomes another tool in the artist’s toolbox I think then it’s really interesting. When it’s just a re-productive process to produce someone’s painting - that’s when I find it really frustrating because its muddying people’s understanding of what an original print is and what an edition print is, and I think that’s really a disservice to the art world and to printmakers especially. But when the whole digital aspect becomes another tool, then it’s really exciting.
— Liz Chalfin

Liz worked with Scott Prior, a Realist painter who wanted to find a way to make prints that kept the light and colour and realism that are in his paintings. They explored multiple etchings and photo polymer plates. Nothing worked until they combined the digital layer with a handprinted layer which really captured that light in his paintings.

Mikael Petraccia

Mikael Petraccia teaches digital intaglio, digital print processes and media, silkscreen and master printer as part of a multi-disciplinary print class at the art department UMass Amherst.

Falling in Love with Printing

It’s a new mark - and it has its place depending on the work. It’s very mechanical - you have to work with the machine and work with the mark that it makes. I think that’s where it’s successful. With lithography the ink sits on the surface and there is a presence that you do not find in digital printing - and that physicality is different. The emotion that you have with this is very different - and that’s still present - when you introduce people to it they fall in love with it.
— Lyell Castonguay

I appreciate the digital world has a wonderful part to play in contemporary art and it is through this digital space that I stumble upon amazing artists such as Lyell Castonguay. With his wild winged larger than life prints, I know I am absolutely in love with the physicality of the hand carved woodblock print.