My first exposure to printmaking happened while attending classes at Tulsa Community College (TCC). I was taking an art appreciation class taught by Dewayne Pass, whose teaching philosophy was that the best way to learn how to appreciate art is to experience the creative process. The focus of the class was to study different mediums, then give the students a hands on project to better understand what the process really entailed. During this class I made my first linocut, unfortunately I do not remember what happened to the prints I pulled. Although I doubt I would post them here, since it was a crudely cut image and due to this experience I still refuse to touch Speedball’s soft-cut linoleum (maybe for kids?… No, use Styrofoam instead). After leaving TCC I continued studying printmaking at Northeastern State University (NSU) under Bobby Martin, bobbycmartin.com.
While studying at NSU I learned more about relief, monotypes, and intaglio methods. While I did not take to relief printing immediately, I instantly enjoyed creating monotypes and quickly started experimenting with different plate materials. The paths and discoveries that I found during this time also lead me to start exploring collagraphs and embossing. During this period I was more focused on just the creative process and pulling prints, rather than focusing on making finished images. I learned a great deal about these methods, along with discovering how using a press can completely alter a design. It was nearly a year before I created another relief print, and since then I have found that this process is by far my most favorite.
Since most of the time I have to work in the studio comes in chunks I find it easier to work on several prints at once, trying to keep them all at similar stages in the process. I will spend time creating images from my ideas, determining what size, shape, and material the plate should be. After making those decisions (sometimes they are made by what scrapes I have ready) I will start transferring my designs to the plate.
I have two basic methods for drawing the image onto the wood block or lino. For the first method I like to have a base idea, and actually sketch my thoughts directly onto the plate, erasing and reworking as I go. I have done several prints like this, and find it enjoyable to let the plate size help determine my final image. For an example of this look at Stage Fright, Moving On, and Cityscape #4 in my printmaking gallery. All three prints started with an idea that was pretty well formulated on how I was going to print the image. The only thing I did not have figured out was the exact final image. While Cityscape #4 the latest of the three to be printed, I actually started the drawing and initial carving shortly after I started working on Stage Fright.
My second method involves a more technical approach. I have a list of ideas that I keep, some with images already in development, others just passing thoughts or images in my mind. Working from this list I start to gather photographs, during this step I often drive through Tulsa, taking countless snapshots of all sort of objects and people. Sometimes I ask friends or family to pose for reference shots (see Be the Change). From this collection of images I select the ones I will meld to make a new image, a sort of collage that I use for a reference. While I normally use Photoshop in the collage process, I do occasionally make a physical collage depending on whether I start with digital or print images. From this point I transfer the image onto the block, altering the final image as I go.