For the next part of Poets & Prophets, I am working with printmaking. I am almost completely unfamiliar with this particular area and the way it integrates within the creative process. So, from this point of view, it will be a compete revelation – and one, I hope, I will fine genuinely useful for my work.

Printmaking is the process of making artwork by printing, generally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting.

Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, each of which is called a ‘print’. Each piece produced is not a copy but is considered an original since it is not a reproduction of another work of art and is, technically (more correctly) known as an ‘impression’. Printmaking (other than monotyping) is chosen not only for its ability to produce multiple copies, but rather for the unique qualities that each of the printmaking processes lends itself to.

Monoprinting is a form of printmaking that uses a matrix such as a woodblock, litho stone, or copper plate, but produces impressions that are unique. Multiple unique impressions printed from a single matrix are sometimes known as a variable edition. There are many techniques used in monoprinting, including collagraph, collage, hand-painted additions, and a form of tracing by which thick ink is laid down on a table, paper is placed on the ink, and the back of the paper is drawn on, transferring the ink to the paper. Monoprints can also be made by altering the type, color, and viscosity of the ink used to create different prints. Traditional printmaking techniques, such as lithography, woodcut, and intaglio, can be used to make monoprints.

While I was researching mono printing, I came across the blog of one Kate McLeish, an illustrator and wannabe fashion writer from Manchester. Her work is very colorful and, while, at first glance it looks a little like child’s handprinting, there is actually a great deal of detail and varied style within the initially image.

Screenprinting (occasionally known as “silkscreen”, or “serigraphy”) creates prints by using a fabric stencil technique; ink is simply pushed through the stencil against the surface of the paper, most often with the aid of a squeegee. Generally, the technique uses a natural or synthetic ‘mesh’ fabric stretched tightly across a rectangular ‘frame,’ much like a stretched canvas. The fabric can be silk, nylon monofilament, multifilament polyester, or even stainless steel. While commercial screenprinting often requires high-tech, mechanical apparatuses and calibrated materials, printmakers value it for the “Do It Yourself” approach, and the low technical requirements, high quality results. The essential tools required are a squeegee, a mesh fabric, a frame, and a stencil. Unlike many other printmaking processes, a printing press is not required, as screenprinting is essentially stencil printing.

Screenprinting may be adapted to printing on a variety of materials, from paper, cloth, and canvas to rubber, glass, and metal. Artists have used the technique to print on bottles, on slabs of granite, directly onto walls, and to reproduce images on textiles which would distort under pressure from printing presses.

An interesting side note, on The Apprentice, the task this week was in running a print business – and screenprinting played a large part in this task. One of the competitors already runs her own print business, and her expertise in the business really became apparent in comparison to the other team who had very little idea as to what to do, and how to do it. Rather disappointingly, they were not the winning team despite their having this considerable advantage.

Rather unexpectedly, I found that digital printing falls under the printmaking banner. Digital print refers to images printed using a digital printer instead of a traditional printing press. These images can be printed to a variety of substrates including paper, cloth, or plastic canvas. Accurate color reproduction and the type of ink used are key to distinguishing high quality from low quality digital prints. This is very apparent when using my rather basic Canon printer, and then running off a copy using the up-market HP that the University has in Regent Street Campus. Metallics (silvers, golds) are particularly difficult to reproduce accurately because they reflect light back to digital scanners. High quality digital prints typically are reproduced with very high-resolution data files with very high-precision printers. The substrate used has an effect on the final colors and cannot be ignored when selecting a color palette.

I think I’m going to try using screen printing for my project. Of the various processes that John explained to us, I found this to be the most interesting. I’m not completely sure if this will be the most appropriate method for my work, so I intend to experiment with various methods. I’m intending to use the design of the ax that I came up with earlier in the year – this still needs to be finalized. I’m a little unsure how well stenciling would work for this design, especially as type is involved.

I also decided that I’d concentrate on Morrissey in general – rather than starting a whole new project on one of the other poets & prophets. This will give me a more complete end project – I think.

I found this video online that explains the process really well – covers the points that I missed during the tutorial.