I remember the class in college. Actually, it is vividly impressed into my memory.
Introduction to Printmaking.
After some history on the various forms (woodcuts, engraving, screenprinting, linocuts and more) we were SHOWN some steps of linocut printmaking.
I had never been introduced to the idea of printmaking before that and I definitely didn't know the process.
At that moment, I was like a child lighting up in wonder at the magnificence of a new-to-me art form. It was amazing.
Why was this so fascinating to me?
You may be unfamiliar with printmaking, so here is a basic definition. It is the artistic process of transferring an image onto another surface. Relief printmaking is my favorite, in which the artist creates the image to transfer by carving away negative space in some way, similar to how a rubber stamp is inked and pressed onto paper.
The process involved planning ahead by making decisions on WHAT to carve away, as with a linocut, and then experimenting and playing with the ink.
Then, we learned about the possibilities, such as using various papers, cutting away more and more between inkings and building a design up. Or even layering inks, mixing in fun ways, and mis-matching patterns in lots of ways.
It was PLAY. It was experimenting. It was problem-solving.
It was a new result each time it was inked, based upon color mixing choices, angles of the lino block, pressure from my hand as I rubbed, etc.
And, everyone in the room was able to create something different from the same materials (a cutter, lino block, ink and paper). Learning from one another's mistakes is a whole other topic. It was incredible to have constant teachable moments... from too much carved away to blobbed ink in the recesses of the linocut that blurred the final image.... Everyone learns from one another.
This is my favorite artform to teach. It isn't very practical in a school setting because of the tools. Therefore, I have chosen to really deep dive into printmaking in art camp settings.
You should see the children lighting up. They hear me discuss it and think they understand. But, then they see it.
They see me carve into the drawing, and then roll the brayer (rolling pin-type tool for spreading ink evenly across a design) and finally, they see the paper pressed.
Lifting the paper makes their eyes nearly burst out of their faces. It always brings smiles across the room.
I have even had groups cheer when I lifted off the paper. It is pretty exciting.
If you are like me, you are deeply concerned about this modern group of kids being chronically hooked on technology and being lazily entertained. They have an inability to focus for long and struggle to engage in simple things.
I feel like art, especially art forms such as printmaking, can engage kids in ways that other learning doesn't do. It is JOY in learning, experimenting, playful, as well as practical.
We still discuss clean-up, preparation, safety, wise use of materials, etc. Yes, washing the tools in a sink becomes fun when the colors mix a little more.
There is ton of interesting vocabulary: relief, transfer, function, block, brayer, ink, linocut, process, positive and negative shapes and more. These are some but there is also the learning of the history of printmaking and the various types. I simply love linocut printmaking but there are so many other types!
Can you imagine kids being excited about learning?
Excited about cleaning up afterwards?
Excited to load the drying rack?
This is JOY. This is playful learning. This is education.
This is why I love teaching art camps for kids! Does your area offer printmaking for kids or adults? Seek it out! You won't regret it! You don't have to go to college for it to feed your soul with creativity!
My local young kids get to experience a full day of printmaking at my next art camp!