After all the planning and preparation for CAS at Kings I was excited to begin with the first session, using a workshop I had participated in myself and lead a couple of times before. I find when working with new groups like this, I prefer to work with a tried and tested workshop in this way. That means I can focus more on getting to know the people I am working with, and less on ensuring the workshop functions properly. Usually there are one or two teething problems with workshops the first time you run them, and by running things this way I can ensure those issues have already been ironed out, and I can put my full attention on the young people.
With this in mind I ran a Process Based Printing workshop.
This is an amazing workshop for newcomers to printmaking, as a lot of the decision making is removed and outcomes are simply determined by the roll of a dice (in this case a very glamorous and glittery one)!
During my initial planning meeting we established that a lot of the young people in the school were experiencing high level anxiety with regards to making the perfect work.
As a result pieces are becoming smaller and smaller, and lots of things are being thrown away. Oftentimes it takes a fair bit of trial and error in order to get a perfect print, registration specificity down to fractions of a millimetre; blocking up letters in order to get clean lines; mixing ink to the perfect consistency. To put it simply, this isn’t going to happen with brand new printmakers in hour long sessions. So why not go a little off-piste and take away all need for that? This seemed like a good idea to me.
Firstly, upon arriving into the classroom the lesson before, I set up a whole table filled with magazines, books, and examples. These included lino cuts and letterpress works of my own, woodcuts by CAS associate Peter Driver, and zines by a variety of artists. This gave the young people some visual accompaniment to my initial chat explaining printmaking as a whole. I then spent some time snapping up laser cutter offcuts to use as our plates, in a rather Berenice Sydney fashion. This serves two purposes one, cool and unusual shapes for the girls to experiment with, and two reusing something that would otherwise be binned. We then moved on to our game, the rules of which I had printed onto worksheets and are as follows:
- Roll the dice to select which group of printing plates you will pick from.
- Roll the dice to select which plate you will pick from this group.
- Roll the dice to select which colour you are going to use.
- Roll the dice to work out where you will position your plate
1 = top 2 = left
3 = middle 4 = middle
5 = bottom 6 = right
- Print your plate!
Now part of our introduction introduced a couple of bits of printmaking terminology, hopefully some of which they’ll remember! This included things like establishing that the roller is in fact a brayer, what on earth a barren is, and that what you’re printing from is called a plate. I thought I’d leave relief and intaglio for another day.
The girls seemed to pretty quickly grasp the basics, and once split into two groups got on to printing, each adding their own plate to the paper. We repeated this so each group member had one of these random print sheets, before they took some autonomy and began to work independently with their own designs. It became obvious once they had gotten to grips with the way the ink should feel, and how it all worked that they wanted to get on with it themselves.
The room was soon filled with the sound of ‘gently frying bacon’, aka how the ink should sound when rolled out to the correct consistency. There are lot of food based analogies in printmaking, maybe we’re all just thinking about food, although Zoe is keeping me well fed with biscuits so I think I’ll be okay!
When we really got going there were some beautiful independent and collaborative experiments going on. Black, brown parcel, and tracing paper seemed to be the most popular for the ladies. These gave beautiful vibrant results regardless of the ink colour, my favourite being tracing paper because of the different looks achieved on each side. I also brought in some metallic gold oil based ink, and although this took a little longer to clean up, was an absolute hit with the young ladies and the teachers and technicians that popped by to join in on the fun!
Overall I believe this was a highly successful first session, with the girls getting to grips with the basics, and having a little fun with it. I really ought to get them some higher quality inks, as I think they’ll benefit from being able to work with something slightly more professional.
Next week we will be tackling monotypes, the next step up from our process based prints. This employs similar techniques, but adds an illustrative element to explore!
Follow this project
On Instagram @deburiart