Printmakers: Part 1

" I really love printmaking. It’s like a mystery and you’re
trying to figure out how to rein it in."

Kiki Smith

What is Printmaking?
The term covers several different processes which involve transferring ink from a block or plate, or through a screen, onto another surface, usually paper. Each process has its own unique techniques and aesthetic but specifically, these are processes whereby the artist has a direct hand in the production of the work. Many of the processes can be repeated to create several similar but individual copies of the work - an edition. Each individual print within the edition is considered an original piece of artwork in its own right and is numbered, titled and signed by the artist.

Our printmakers all practise more than one form of printmaking but for the scope of these introductory emails, we have chosen one technique for each artist. In this first email we will cover linocut with Alexandra Buckle, screen printing with Deborah Hopson-Wolpe and monotype with our newest printmaker member, Sarah Russell. Next week we will focus on collagraph with Lindsey Graham, drypoint with Jeannelise Edelsten and photopolymer etching with Holly Warnes. 

Introducing our Printmakers

Alexandra Buckle – linocut
Linocut printmaking is one form of the wider spectrum of relief printing techniques which consist of carving an image into a block using gouges and chisels, inking up the remaining surface and taking an impression from it. Although single colour prints are typical, it is also common practise to create work with layers of different colours, either printed from several carved blocks (multi-block) or using just the one block (reduction). 

Alexandra cutting the block on her reduction linocut, Grasmere Birches and printing the last layer.

Alexandra specialises in the reduction linocut technique, a complex and unforgiving process which involves repeated cutting and printing from the same block of lino to build up an image. As the block gets cut away at each stage (reduced), there is no way to adjust the colour or cut of the previous layers of the print. Once all the layers are complete, only the information to print the last colour remains on the block, so in essence it is destroyed, but hopefully something beautiful has emerged on the paper, a record of the blocks demise. 

“Reduction linocut is a perfect medium for me as it requires logical thinking, accuracy and patience. I enjoy distilling the essence of a scene into a few layers of colour and tone; for me it simplifies the process of painting.”

Alexandra Buckle finds her inspiration whilst walking in the countryside, noting changes in weather and season on the landscape. Themes for her work include woodlands, water and reflections, flowers and fields and more recently a trip to Japan. Her work has a strong focus on colour, light, depth and detail and is impressionistic in style.
Featured artworks:

Click here to view all of Alexandra’s artworks 

Deborah Hopsen-Wolpe – screenprinting 
Screenprinting involves pulling ink through a fine mesh which contacts with the paper (or other surface) usually with the help of a squeegee. The mesh is stretched tightly onto a frame for stability. Stencils are used to block the ink from going through the screen in the areas where no ink is required. There are several stencil methods ranging from low tech paper cuts, or painted stop outs to higher tech methods which involve using UV sensitive emulsions which can be fixed with lightboxes. With all the differing stencil methods, separate layers of colour can be printed on top of each other to build up a picture. 

A paper stencil drawn and cut and Deborah working in her sketchbook.
“I was always fascinated by letters and lettering from when I was young as there was a lot of work with lettering going on around us at home, as my father, Berthold Wolpe - typographer, was Faber & Faber’s chief designer for almost 40 years and my mother Margaret Wolpe - sculptor and silversmith, also cut letters and designed book jackets too, and taught me to draw and how to look at things.”

Deborah’s approach to screenprinting is charmingly low tech. She favours the use of paper stencils to create her designs and uses a window cleaning squeegee to pull the ink through the screen which she finds cheaper and lighter to use than the ones specifically made for the job. Deborah cuts her paper stencils with sharp knives and swift, decisive hand strokes which affords her work a delightful immediacy and impact. Her work often features text and lettering, it is illustrative in style and often humorous. 
Featured artworks:

Click here to view all of Deborah’s artworks 

Sarah Russell – monotype 

A monotype is one of a kind, a unique piece of art whereby ink is applied on to a metal, glass or plastic surface, then manipulated, using a brush, finger or anything which doesn’t affect the surface of the plate and then printed, either by hand or on a press. The image can either be created all in one go on the plate, then transferred, or built up with repeated ink applications and printings. Essentially monotypes are hand printed paintings. You may wonder, ‘then why not paint straight onto the paper?’ The reality is that the effect of the printmaking ink transferred onto the paper is quite different to the look you can achieve with paint.

Sarah working at her press and a recent sketchbook page.

Sarah is most inspired when out in the countryside with her sketch book, drawing en plein air. She fills her head with shapes and feelings that she can unpack when back in her studio. Sarah uses a variety of reductive methods in her monotypes including stencils and found objects to create texture and rhythm before using her press to make the image. For her, the immediacy and spontaneity of monotype is particularly rewarding, creating one-off prints that lend themselves to painterly and intuitive mark-making. She enjoys experimenting with different surfaces and liquids, never knowing exactly what the outcome will be. Sometimes Sarah will work on the prints afterwards with acrylic pen to add an alternative texture and quality of mark.

“For me, monotype is the most exciting medium. I love the constant tension between the solid and the translucent - the fixed and the fluid - the intellectual and the emotional.”
The resulting works are abstract, sensitive and personal expressions of the landscape or the feeling it invokes.

Featured artworks:

Click here to view all of Sarah’s artworks