Printmaking - A Doorway into Art & Play
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
There are many ways people get into art, but often it begins with pencils, pens and paint. Newbie artists are pointed toward these materials as the building blocks of their creative adventure, because with them they can begin forming shapes, movement and marks quickly. But, in my opinion, there is another door which can be opened as a beginner.
The Printmaking Door.
Often, Printmaking is seen as a future step - something to take on only once you have mastered the earlier benchmarks of art. The perception can be that it is too involved and too faffy - or, worse, too expensive - for new artists to explore.
I absolutely fell into this mindset as a beginner too. I thought printmaking sounded interesting, but felt it was at a remove from myself - I didn’t have anywhere nearby to learn about it, and I didn’t know what to search for online. I thought that in order to printmake you had to own (or have access to) a printing press - something very pricey that intimidated me more than a bit.
The first time I tried printmaking, therefore, was when I had returned to college as an adult to complete an Art course. Before the Printmaking term rolled around, I would walk past the door of the Print Studio, and peer through the window at the large printing presses, the paper hanging from the ceiling racks, the rollers notched in front of the desks, and feel excited and rather in awe. I wanted to be in there! On the day we were allowed inside, I felt the buzz of newness - the sparking you get in your brain when you know you’re about to soak up fresh knowledge.
Throughout my time at college, I loved printmaking - there was a bunch of processes, it suited my liking of slow working, and I was thrilled by the things I managed to create. It was a sad feeling then, to think that, on leaving, I wouldn’t be able to continue exploring print - I still thought, at that point, that you could only get good results using a printing press. Nobody had taught us how it could be achieved at home…
But it can be achieved at home. And, more than that, it should be!
Printmaking is playmaking - and the best place to start playing is in the comfort of your own surroundings. In your own space you are more likely to feel at ease and to let yourself make mistakes. I am not suggesting professional printing spaces are not needed - of course they are! The results you can get, with tuition and with presses to support you, are beautiful. But, what I am saying, is that printing exploration shouldn’t be limited to those professional spaces - it should be set loose, to inspire people in the same way as pencils, pens and paint do.
Why do I think Printmaking is a door worth opening early on in your art adventure?
🟨 It’s a judgement free zone. The fact that printmaking is a repeating process means you have never-ending chances to try for new outcomes, that improve or pivot your art in general. So, if your first print (or first fifty!) turn out not to your liking, you can simply load up your ink and try again. You can also use all of those early prints in different arty ways - drawing on top of them, cutting them up to use the textures in collage…so no efforts, or materials, need to be wasted.
🟨 It’s surprising. With home printmaking in particular, the element of surprise is ever-present. You never know exactly what your results are going to be. Because of this, everyone is on a level-footing - we all start at the same point, creating a design and hoping for the best, learning as we go. In that sense, every new project creates beginners of us all.
🟨 It’s a playground. Due to the ways in which print can surprise us, and the many chances we have to enjoy each project, the Printmaking process becomes one long playtime. It doesn’t matter if something goes “wrong” - often, the things you expect to go “right" are the things you end up pivoting away from, when you accidentally create a better result which blows your mind and changes the game.
🟨 It’s a process. It’s lots of processes. Some might see Overwhelm in that sentence, but I am asking you to re-frame your thoughts towards Possibility. Learning a process - and giving yourself permission to take the time to play with it - only opens more doors… and I’m mainly talking about the ones in your head. In focussing on a new way of working, our brains get a boost - and in playing with that process, repeating the actions and practising the practicals, our brains gets to relax. While we let our hands make beautiful things, our brains are ticking away in the background, making connections and finding new solutions for future conundrums. Meditative and satisfying!
🟨 It’s inspiring. You can create textures and lines through printmaking which are tricky to achieve in other methods - and they are easy to do. When you see what you can create, it only spurs you on towards realising what else lies ahead.
Don’t let the language of Printmaking intimidate you - because, you’re not wrong, there are a bunch of terms which can feel like a barrier to just jumping in and having a go. Check out my Printmaking Glossary for the basics - it’s got you covered!
Pencils, pens and paints have the perceived advantage of being “pick up and go” types of mediums. You can simply grab a pencil and start drawing. Starting to Printmake does require more intention, but that doesn’t make it a harder process - if you make the decision to try it out, then you will discover just how open the road is.
Let me know if you give Printmaking a try!
Thanks for reading!
Keep making to make happy 💛
Love Gem x