Studio Skills: Printmaking

The second of our two-part Studio Skills twilight sessions saw us back at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, this time with artist Sarah Bridgland for a skills led course on printmaking techniques and how these techniques can support the explore, respond, create framework in the Expressive Arts statements of what matters. We were also keen to demonstrate how applied arts techniques such as printmaking can be used to create multiples which in turn can support the setting up of small social enterprises in school, the proceeds of which could help with the purchase of art equipment.

Studio Skills: Printmaking
Studio Skills: Printmaking

Sarah really understood how her own practice and ideas could support the explore, respond, create framework, and in preparation for the workshop visited Gwent Archives and collected images of Cwmbran when newly built, as well as images showing architectural models of the town in the planning phase. Cwmbran is a new town that was designated in 1949, and as such contains some fine examples of post war brutalist architecture that characterises new towns and causes extreme reactions in people both positive and negative. Sarah was particularly taken with a series of concrete relief sculptures installed around the town by artists Henry and Joyce Collins depicting scenes from the history of the area. In the second session Sarah revisited the subject of new town architecture by showing the BBC short film The underappreciated beauty of Brutalism.

Studio Skills: Printmaking
Studio Skills: Printmaking

Participants were asked to use the images of Cwmbran as the inspiration for work created during the sessions, and while the course was technique led, the focus was always on the surroundings. Many of the teachers and artists attending found this both inspiring and fruitful, commenting that they had never thought of looking at Cwmbran in that was or never thought of its architecture as beautiful. However, by the end of the second session everyone was impressed with the work they had created using such a theme.

Studio Skills: Printmaking

The sessions introduced four basic printmaking techniques. For the first Sarah had brought in a large collection of found and everyday objects to experiment with, these included screws, nuts and bolts, lolly sticks, sponges, hooks, big paperclips, springs, vegetables and a fir cone. Some of the more industrial objects worked really well in depicting the formalist shapes found in Cwmbran’s built environment. The second method introduced a simplified and classroom friendly version of linocutting, using safeprint foam sheets. The foam can act like lino by drawing into it with a pencil or other pointed object, which can create quite neat images, we also found that the softness of the foam also allowed the creation of shapes and textures by pushing objects into it.

Studio Skills: Printmaking

Returning for the second session we tried collagraph printing, this again involves using found objects, but this time glued to a board to create an image that can be printed repeatedly. Sarah explained that this is a particularly textural technique and that different objects will create different textures. We also found that the method of applying the ink to the collagraph plate makes a difference to the quality of the print, with some people experimenting with applying ink with fabric rather than a roller. The final technique is monotype printing, a technique made famous by Tracy Emin, that can yield a rough, sort of spooky quality. Monotype prints are made by rolling ink on to a glass plate then lightly laying a sheet of paper onto the ink and marking an image on to the paper with a pencil or other pointed object. When the paper is lifted an impression is left by the ink on the other side.

Studio Skills: Printmaking
Studio Skills: Printmaking

An important element of Sarah’s own practice is 3D collage, which she makes by cutting out small and often tiny sections of printed material and building them up into small, colourful and highly sculptural artworks. Sarah was keen to end the session with an insight into how she makes this work, so we ended the workshop by cutting out the prints that we had made, reorganising them and building them up into 3D artworks. Some people commented that this was a really good way to recycle parts of prints that we weren’t happy with, perhaps a small section had worked well and could be removed and reconstituted.

Studio Skills: Printmaking
Studio Skills: Printmaking

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