5 things you might not know about printmaking

(View the work of Kathleen Piercefield now through September 30 in the Curt Bessette Art Gallery at the Main Library, 1786 Burlington Pike, Burlington, KY)

I am a printmaker.  If that statement leaves you puzzled, you’re not alone; over the years I’ve discovered that even fellow artists have only the vaguest notion of what I do.  Nothing makes me happier than getting to talk about this art form I passionately enjoy — so come on in and welcome to my world!

  1. What is printmaking?
    Printmaking arose early in the 7th century, when Chinese artisans carved texts
    and images on wooden blocks and used them to print on fabric and paper.  Soon thereafter the invention of movable type made Bibles and books accessible to ordinary people for the first time.  Print processes were also used to reproduce paintings and drawings, creating multiple — and affordable — copies of artists’ works for collectors.   Digital technology largely fills that need today, leaving printmakers free to explore printmaking as an exciting art form in its own right.
  1. A print is an original work of art!
    Have you ever walked into a store like Home Goods or Target and picked up a poster or a framed copy of a famous painting?    Although most people would call this wall décor “a print”  it’s really a reproduction.  Reproductions are mass-produced by commercial printers; in contrast, original prints  are created by individual artists, using one or more of the traditional printmaking processes.  The print may be a single unique image, or a series of multiple, identical images called an edition; either way, each print bears the mark of the artist’s hand, and is an original work of art.
  1. There are four basic types of printmaking
    …and all have this in common — instead of working directly on canvas or paper, a printmaker works on a matrix of some sort and then transfers the image from the matrix to another surface.

That may sound complicated, but in fact, if you’ve ever taken an art class in school, you’ve probably tried this:  you carved a simple image into a piece of gray linoleum — your matrix — rolled ink on it, laid down a piece of paper, and rubbed with a wooden spoon until the image transferred to the paper.  You made a print!

This process is called RELIEF printing, and is usually done with a block of wood or linoleum.  The artist carves away material from the block, and when ink is rolled on the remaining surface the carved areas don’t print.  One color requires one block; multiple colors require a different block for each color — and that same principlpic threee holds true for most printmaking methods.

For INTAGLIO printing — including etching and engraving — lines are cut into
a metal plate by engraving with a tool or using acid to etch the metal.  Ink is rubbed onto the plate and wiped off, until it remains only in the incised lines.  Damp paper is placed on the plate, and under the pressure of a press, the ink in the lines transfers to the paper.


LITHOGRAPHY  — from the Greek “lithos” (stone) and “graph” (drawing) — is a form of printmaking that uses a smooth stone as the matrix. The artist draws on the stone with a greasy crayon, then wets the stone with water, and rolls on oil-based ink.  The ink is repelled by the water and sticks to the drawing only, and a print can be taken from the stone’s surface.


pic five

SILKSCREEN is familiar as a method of printing
designs on T-shirts.  It’s also used to make fine art prints called serigraphs (literally, “drawn through silk”.)   A tightly stretched piece of fabric is the matrix.  A design is superimposed on the fabric, making a kind of stencil, then ink is pushed across it with a squeegee leaving an image on the printing surface below.

  1. Why make prints?
    If you stuck with me through the above, you may have noticed that printmaking is quite labor-intensive.  So why choose this way of making art?   For me, it’s enjoyment of the process itself.  The work engages all the senses — there are gorgeous depths of tone in the overlapping layers of ink, lush weight and texture in the paper, even pleasure in the smell of the ink.   And with endless variations and combinations of the basic four processes, there is unlimited territory to explore in this exciting medium.
  1. Where can you learn more? BCPL has books on printmaking that you can check out. Museums and many local galleries have original prints in their collections. If you’d like some hands-on experience, Tiger Lily Press in Cincinnati offers classes and workshops in printmaking.  More information can be found at their website: http://tigerlilypress.org/. For an interactive demonstration of how printmaking works, visit this page at the Metropolitan Museum of Art website:  http://www.moma.org/interactives/projects/2001/whatisaprint/flash.html


Kathleen Piercefield  received a BFA in Printmaking from Northern Kentucky University, and makes prints in her home studio in Dry Ridge.  She also works part-time at the Walton branch of BCPL.

Her website is  www.kpiercefield.com


Image credits:

St.George and the dragon, woodcut, Albrecht Durer

Fox Pause, linoleum block, K. Piercefield

Self Portrait, etching, Rembrandt van Rijn

Night Traveler, lithograph, K. Piercefield

Marilyn, silkscreen, Andy Warhol

The smell of chocolate can lead to a good day…or a good childhood!

Sisters on steps (also an option for our album cover, should we ever make one)

I hail from a long line of hard-working, creative, smart, loving, story-telling, bull-headed determined people. We are of a sturdy stock with mushy insides; not particularly interested in nonsense, but always up for a good time or a good cry.

I grew up with three sisters in a town surrounded by farmland in Lancaster County, PA, not far from Three Mile Island and Hersheypark. Everyone used to joke that you could tell how your day was going to go based on whether you smelled chocolate or manure when you woke up in the morning. There were jokes about radiation, too, but they were never quite as funny.

Childhood brings memories of music, art supplies, books, asking questions, and playing- lots of playing. My sisters and I mostly walked to school, and we spent summers chasing grasshoppers and fireflies, playing flashlight tag, and creating rich imaginary worlds. We shared a single pair of roller skates, which actually meant that two of us got to skate at a time, but if you drew the short straw and got stuck with the left skate, you had to decide if you wanted to risk it all by wearing it on the wrong foot or hope for the best while gliding around on your left foot. We rode our bikes

How to have your picture taken without really having your picture taken.

to the candy factory downtown to spend spare change on root beer barrels and butterscotch discs, and then rode back home to read books on a blanket under a pin oak tree or get into general shenanigans. One time we were creek stomping in the storm drain and my youngest sister stood up with fish in her bare hands, which we promptly relocated to the fish tank in the corner of the dining room. He lived there for more than a year. In short, we never failed to occupy ourselves. We were told from very early on that whether we believed it or not, we would be each other’s best friends some day, and truer words were never spoken.

I’ve been a crossing guard, babysitter, raspberry picker, salad bar attendant, concert box office worker, retail cashier, home health care provider, infant room lead, nanny/auntie extraordinaire, and for the past ten years, a youth services associate in outreach. Growing up, I thought I might be an artist or a veterinarian or a surgeon. Some of my aspirations might be attributed to the fact that multiple booster seats at the dining room table would have been a bit extravagant for our budget, so we used mom’s beloved medical encyclopedias to help us sit at a good height for eating. There are rumors that she hoped we would absorb the information via osmosis and thus develop a passion for the healing professions. For a while, it seemed as though her machinations were going to pay off. Then it was time for me to sign up for a chemistry course in college. I opted for a semester packed with religious studies, theater arts, and sociology, and never looked back. (Actually, I occasionally look back, but what would life be without a few question marks?) I received an excellent education at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. My liberal arts degree was a good choice because my courses of study provided opportunities to learn about myriad topics from multiple perspectives and disciplines.

Two out of two superheroes
approve of library community stops!

These days, I continue to cultivate a curiosity about the world, as I find there is so much to discover, explore, and experience. Aside from spending time pondering, I like to do things with my hands: gardening, sewing, baking, assembling, creating. While I love listening to music, watching television, movies, and theater productions, outside remains one of my favorite places to be, and there is something special about a great book. I am a “cat person” deep in my heart, but I’ve recently discovered a deep and abiding love for my own crazy, sweet, treeing walker coonhound.

I had the privilege of being surrounded by incredibly intelligent, talented, witty, and compassionate people in my formative years. They continue to be some of my favorite humans and I love spending time with them. I wish we weren’t all spread to what feels like the four corners of the world, but technology helps ease the longing. While I value time by myself and with my family, I also appreciate and enjoy meeting, spending time with, and getting to know my neighbors, coworkers, and customers. Community is about making connections and recognizing commonalities, all while celebrating the unique things we all bring to a conversation. My job at BCPL affords me the opportunity to be creative and contribute to the community, and my favorite part of the job is interacting with our customers.