My Art History

My Art History: Art School Printmaking

I’m sharing some artwork from my school and college years. See all the posts here.

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Finally some printmaking! I think we spent most of my second year studying all the different types of printmaking and etching was the main one – we had to do a series of about 12 plates all done in a different type of etching. With etching, you basically have a steel plate and you have some parts covered and some left open and when you stick it in an acid bath, the uncovered parts get eaten away. You then clean off the plate, roll on some ink, spend a lot of effort and muslin rubbing the ink off so it’s only in the etched parts and squeeze it through a massive printing press onto some damp paper. For one print. It was cool to find this etching plate self-portrait in my portfolio and I left it up on the bookshelf.

Art School Printmaking Art School Printmaking

My theme for these etchings was stuff in my room + text. I imagine I am the only person to have ever made an etching of a box of Tesco value tea bags! The scissors image has some kind of fabric pressed into whatever was covering the plate, which is a nice effect.

Art School Printmaking Art School Printmaking

My favourite tutor (Beth Fisher, also initiator of the 30 second life drawings) was gleefully delighted when that teddy bear plate over-etched and I had to spend hours trying to burnish some of the metal back to being printable. She always wanted me to loosen up and stop planning everything. I suspect she’d be slightly disappointed with what I’m doing now. I shall have to go and make a mess in her honour soon.

Art School Printmaking

I enjoyed etching so much I even made an extra one for fun. Me and my sister ran a hilarious fanzine about Gene (yeah, shut up) and making an etching of Martin Rossiter in the style of a Charles Dickens novel illustration was barely notable alongside the rest of our nonsense.

Art School Printmaking

This is a print off a very different kind of plate – stone! It’s a lithograph, which was done on a proper old litho printer where your plate is actually a huge bit of limestone. We weren’t even actually allowed to do the printing ourselves, just watch. There’s a pretty cool video here. Ours was way simpler but it’s the same process.

Art School Printmaking

This is a collagraph, which was the process I used most often once we were let loose. The plate is just thick cardboard and then you build up the surface with texture that will hold ink in different ways. You can see my hands are made with string, which must have taken me forever. It’s kind of like making a collage that you then use to print from.

Incidentally, in my day the print studio was a health and safety horrorshow. All the inks were oil-based and we happily washed our hands with turps and fished out our plates from the acid bath with bare hands and used all kinds of horrible chemicals. I also knocked my kneecap out of place on a massive old printer and it’s never been right since. It’s all so much more pleasant nowadays.

Next time: My third and final year

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