Why Printmaking?

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I didn’t know printmaking existed as an artistic discipline until my sophomore year at George Fox; I was hooked from day one. My first print was a small wooden block print that portrayed the aura of a migraine, and it was all of 2″ x 3″ big–hand-pressed. Although I’m keen on skillfully made woodcuts, my own printing preferences tend towards some form of collograph, screen printing, and relief work.

Printmaking is steeped in processes, and it’s all about transferring images from a stencil (matrix) to a support (like paper or fabric). Never do I walk out of the studio after one printing session with a final piece. This is maddening yet addicting. Printmaking demands we “think in layers” and consider that one layer might look disjointed and unappealing until subsequent layers overlap it. I love having this constant puzzle that I have to solve, and as I acquire more tools to solve it, my designs get bigger and better.

Apart from process, paper choice is another emphasized aspect of printmaking. Fox’s printmaking professor Jillian Sokso introduced me last year to Gampi silk tissue paper (a highly translucent paper from Japan) that has ruined me forever. Not only can I layer inks on the Gampi paper, but the paper’s sheerness allows me to layer it with other papers as well. The puzzle becomes that much more complex.

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A final distinction between printmaking and other art forms is the equipment used to reproduce an image; I am fond of the combination of hand-made images with low-tech mechanisms like presses. Presses add technical elements to printing that continue the ever-unfolding printing puzzle and bring about new levels of proficiency to achieve.

I lose track of time in the studio because I’m solving, working, and reworking puzzles on paper. Between ink quality, paper type, and pressing method, I have plenty to explore and not enough time to explore it. My time at Fox and connections with professors has been key to unlocking this door for me, and I know my printing journey is only in its infancy.

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-Chandler Brutscher