Relief Printmaking

Yes, I am a printmaker!

If you would have told me a couple years ago that I would identify myself first and foremost as a printmaker I would have thought you were crazy. And yes indeed you may be crazy, but you would have been absolutely correct! I have become obsessed with printmaking, most specifically relief printmaking. I am a printmaker!

I stumbled into printmaking completely unaware. One day I was inspired by a post on Pinterest on how to make your own DIY rubber stamps. I purchased a Speedball carving tool and piece of pink SpeedyCarve rubber block. I was so proud of my giraffe, bear and bunny. I went on to make a series I called “My Heroes.” The first of the series was Martin Luther King Jr. and a favorite MLK quote. The letters were barely legible. Next was Octavia Butler and Princess Leia. Well it was at that point that I knew that I had caught the bug and I just kept carving and carving and stamping.

I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic, hold up with my family I just kept carving. I had to make an emergency purchase of a basic black rubber stamp pad from a local stationary store (thanks Toluka Paperie). Unbeknownst to me I was making relief prints. Who knew! It wasn’t until one day someone commented on a social media post of one of my images. “That’s a great relief print.” I had to find out more about this thing called relief printing. I made a purchase of water soluble relief ink and a cheap hard rubber brayer. I tried my hand at spreading the ink and transferring that ink onto my rubber block. The results were blotchy at best and uneven but I was entering the wonderful world of printmaking.

I soon found out about different linoleum materials — soft cut, easy cut, battleship grey, mounted and unmounted. I still mainly returned to my trusty 4 x 6 blocks of pink rubber. I had found an inexpensive no name supplier and I would buy them by the 18 count box, ferocious carving and carving and carving some more. I still approached the “printing” process with hesitation, using my worn wooden spoon tentatively rubbing to make the image appear.

Then I decided to take the plunge and buy a big tin of the Speedball “Professional” relief ink in Supergraphic Black designed by the amazing artist Bill Fick. I felt like a fraud—could I really use the “professional” ink? Wow! What a difference! And I haven’t looked back!

In the last two years I have shown my art work in five local art shows. I have printed on mulberry paper, tea bags, wood, tissue paper and desk drawers. And I have even sold some of my pieces, which means my artwork is on actual walls in actual houses!

I can seriously say that printmaking has changed my life. The process (daydreaming, sketching, carving) is therapeutic and I’m proud of the results. And I’m most inspired by how much I don’t know. What is the best paper to hand print on? Does it work on handmade paper? Can I make an inexpensive press using a cold press laminator? Can I make a reduction print with more than 2 colors? I have also been trying wood cutting (excited to say my holiday card is made from a woodcut…more about that soon!) I now know that there is a difference between wood engraving and wood cutting. Yet, do I sand the wood before I carve? Do I use a sealer on the wood? What wood is best?

I’m so happy to know that I am a printmaker and that I have ALOT to learn!