Printmaking with Martha Kelly

I'm Martha Kelly, and I'm teaching a block print workshop for Dixon on July 11-12. I used to carve one small block a year for a Christmas card, but I really fell in love with the process a few years ago and do much of my work in prints these days. It's the main kind of printing you can do without owning a press, so it's a great place to start experimenting with prints. And it's great fun. My workshop will spend two afternoons carving and printing a small print for each student. If time allows, everyone will got home with a small edition (numbered set of prints).   

For a print, you start first with a drawing. I'm asking everyone in the workshop to bring in a small black and white drawing already done, preferably 4x6", so we have a starting place. Once you have your drawing ready, you trace it with tracing paper and transfer it to a block with carbon paper, so that the drawing is on the block backwards. You're essentially making a really large rubber stamp, so it has to be backwards to print the way you originally saw it.   

Here's my project this week. I'm making a poster print for my exhibition at Dixon this fall. The original drawing is on the left, the carved block is in the middle, and the tracing paper is on the right.

Once the drawing is on the block, you carve it with small U-gouges and V-gouges. Everything you leave, the ink will stick to, and everything you cut away will be white space. That is counter-intuitive to those of us who have been drawing black onto white paper for years, but it gets easy with practice. Here's a close up of the block partway carved.   

Here's the block mostly carved with just a bit around the trees and figure left.   


Once you've got it roughed out, you can roll it with ink with a brayer and print the first proof.   

I spent three years printing by rubbing on the back with a wooden spoon before I got my press. In the workshop, everyone will try that and get a feel for it, so people can go home and continue to make prints, but we'll also try out my proof press to see how a printing press works.   Here's the first proof of my exhibition print.   

You can see that I need to do more refining in the letters and a bit around the figure, but it will be ready to try in color soon. We'll stick to black and white in the workshop to keep things simple. I really love the graphic nature of it as well. I still do a lot of black and white prints in spite of branching out in to color as well a couple of years ago.   

Come join me in July if you'd like to try your hand at block prints. It will be a fun weekend.     

 -- see my paintings and prints at

Posted by Chantal Drake at 3:56 PM
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