Embed Size (px)
Transcript of Printmaking essay
How do traditional Printmaking methods affect contemporary Graphic Design?
Printmaking in its simplest form is a way of creating images and pictorial matter from one singular block, plate or stencil. It can be varied in its technique dependent on the subject matter and finish desired but all of the activities and artwork produced possess the same human quality and need to communicate. Current and contemporary designers and artists still adhere to their passion for communication. However these initial printmaking methods, which were once seen as revolutionary, are now historic. Although still celebrated by few, printmaking has been refined into digital printing and on screen design. Yet traditional techniques have not been forgotten they are considered where appropriate. I will investigate how printmaking co-exists with digital technology and why it has been gaining popularity.
Handmade prints are often seen as extraordinarily individual. As suggested by the VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM (2014); ‘For much of their history fine art prints have been a private art form, designed for connoisseurs and collectors, published in limited editions and hidden away in portfolios.’ (VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, 2014) Which therefore suggests that printmaking is celebrated and treasured as an art form for perhaps the wealthy. In the past this has always been true due to the cost of materials and labor printmaking and handmade items were only available to those who could afford it, therefore allowing a reinforced opinion that handmade items are only for the wealthy which creates an elite attitude among designers and artists.
In conjunction to the idea of printmaking being limited and individual, theorist Walter Benjamin proposed the idea of artwork created through printmaking methods to have a particular aura, which separates it from any other methods. Commercial print produces vast amounts of copies of one particular piece, which are all the same. BENJAMIN (1939) argues; ‘In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking: the here and now of the work of art- its unique existence in a particular place.’ (BENJAMIN, 1939). His argument suggests that printmaking provides a different experience for the viewer and perhaps and that individual pieces of artwork are not the exact same as any other. BENJAMIN (1939) further adds; ‘The here and now of the original underlies the concept of its authenticity’ (BENJAMIN, 1939). The here and now implies that the piece of individual artwork is a glimpse of the present that will become history. His argument suggests that printmaking can provide a feeling that commercial printing will never be able to achieve. Perhaps this indicates how printmaking is still popular even though technology has developed and surpassed its limited capabilities. The wear and tear over time of a piece of print is celebrated as part of its individuality and beauty.
BENJAMIN (1939) suggests; ‘The whole sphere of authenticity eludes technological- and of course, not only technological- reproducibility’ (BENJAMIN, 1939). This statement suggests that printmaking and commercial print are both useful they are not in competition with each other.
In addition VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM (2014) argue; ‘Just as the invention of lithography did not render woodcut and engraving redundant, and photography did not spell the end for traditional graphic media, so digital technologies have not replaced other methods but rather extended choice and capacity.’ (VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, 2014). This further adds to Walter Benjamin’s theory of aura as it argues printmaking provides a unique experience which digital technology cannot imitate.
Benjamin’s argument as a whole is that printmaking does not compete with digital technology, instead it adds to the creative possibilities for artwork to be made. Young designers who are intrigued by printmaking and letterpress take these possibilities forward. Jury (2006) states; ‘The fascination that letterpress holds is simple to explain: to a student, computers are common place, whereas letterpress is so old it’s new’ (Jury, 2006, p130). This further adds to Benjamin’s argument and could also be seen as a reason why printmaking is becoming more commonplace within design schools and industry. It allows for common elements, which are seen on the computer to be handled physically such as moveable type. This experimentation allows for students especially within graphic design to develop their understanding of the fundamental elements because they can see the results instantly. Jury (2006) also states; ‘The students are making decisions concerning font, type size, line length, character spacing, and leading. The student is able to produce, both economically and quickly, not an approximate visual but the finished product’ (Jury, 2006, p130). By being able to handle and experiment with these elements, as an exercise printmaking not only produces artwork but it also develops artists to consider their decisions based on restrictions which then, in turn help when they design digitally.
The concept of craft and quality became apparent within the Victorian Arts & Crafts movement, which was led by William Morris. The movement was a revolt of values due to the Industrial revolution and rise of machine made goods. RISATTI (2007) states; ‘Before the Industrial Revolution the activities of making were always carried out by the skilled hand. The words “craft” and “craftsmanship” not only referred to the quality of making, but they also assumed the skilled hand was the source of this quality’. (RISATTI, 2007, p14). This states how socialists such as William Morris wanted to recreate those beliefs after the Industrial revolution. The idea of craft and craftsmanship is still relevant today within printmaking as the artists and designers are appreciated for their skill. RISATTI (2007) argues; ‘human values are part and parcel of what I consider the social life of craft objects’ (RISATTI, 2007, p151). Craft as a theory is connected to printmaking because it is the craft that is cherished and due to labor is viewed as being human and real rather than machine and computer generated.
Morris’ beliefs during the Arts and Crafts movement are also relevant for printmaking today. Morris (1884) argues; ‘Nothing should be made by a man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers’ (Morris, 1884) This is relevant to printmakers of today because they also believe in quality of their own artwork. Morris was passionate about
the quality of artwork and the importance of the maker and these ideologies are still present in artists who use printmaking methods.
Design and printmaking can often be seen as two separate disciplines, however the designer creates artwork and RISATTI (2007) states; ‘workmanship can be defined as simply labor produced by a non creative hand’ (RISATTI, 2007, p163). Therefore workmanship would be that of the printer, whether it is commercial print or a screen printer paid to produce the prints. A craftsman is someone who can design and also make, they are skilled in both areas. RISATTI (2007) argues; ‘it would be inaccurate to conclude that the activities of the craftsman and the designer are absolutely foreign to each other; parallels do exist’ (RISATTI, 2007, p171). This could also suggest that design and printmaking are not completely opposed to each other as one could involve the other, printmaking isn’t just fine art or for galleries. This also works alongside Jury’s viewpoint as his statements based on education and students mean that printmaking can benefit creative people of all disciplines.
As printmaking is connected to craftsmanship the ideal of the artwork being authentic and original from Walter Benjamin’s theory means that the work can also be viewed as a gift. Dormer (1997) states; ‘it is special or rare because it is handmade and perhaps customised; sophisticated because the making of the object required skill; it is precious due to materials or time invested in labor; it is expressive- in terms of subject matter, function, traditional or historical reference; and is enduring’ (Dormer, 1997, p85) This therefore enhances the idea of printmaking and crafted artwork providing a different experience which cannot be created with commercial printing methods. Craft objects such as these are given as gifts as a form of self-expression as the giver is appreciative of the time spent on the object. Those who understand the labor intensity appreciate printmaking as a skill. This can be fellow artists or those who know of the production methods and the beauty of finding worn marks, which also indicate the artwork’s process such as the ink from letterpress not being completely solid.
In Pelzer-Montada’s essay Benjamin’s theory is discussed based on the idea of authenticity within printmaking. Pelzer-Montada suggests; “Each print is authentic in the sense that it derives from the same 'original', and each print is inauthentic in the sense that there are multiple copies - however much they may vary. Hence none is a unique original.” (Pelzer-Montada, 2001) This suggests that more currently people question Benjamin’s theory but in some cases it is accepted that printmaking is adored for its authenticity. Original prints are still valued due to their historical nature and techniques, which ensures even though there are multiple copies; each individual copy is slightly different and therefore perhaps not completely unique but most certainly different.
Refer to Figure 1
This piece is an example of a screen-printed version of an original CMYK cover. Nobrow only produced 50 copies of the artwork and therefore it is deemed to be a limited edition print. Dormer (1997) states; ‘A craft object often reveals much about the skill and the technology used to make it’ (Dormer, 1997, p122). The
image itself includes the registration marks for the print in the corners and also shows where the ink has bled over the edges without it being cropped to actual size. The artist as the original creator of the artwork also signs the piece on the reverse side.
Woods (2008) states; ‘as well as being a fine art process, screen-printing has a direct association with commercial and industrial printing processes, being used extensively in graphic, ceramic and textile design. It is a colourful, versatile medium which you can adapt to the context of your work’ (Woods, 2008, p130).This is relevant when discussing this piece of print as Nobrow have used four colours in the screen print to replicate the CMYK plates. Although instead of black they have used a darker blue, this makes the print different in colour as it is a muted or pastel colour palette and therefore recognisably unique as screen-printing due to its full colours and lack of opacity.
This piece was for sale at fifty pounds or eighty-five dollars, which is quite expensive; therefore this artwork is seen as a collection piece. In conjunction with this Dormer (1997) argues; ‘In the luxury market outside the mainstream, craft objects are sold on the basis of their symbolic value’ (Dormer, 1997, p128). Therefore this screen-printed copy of Nobrow 3 was sold through the idea of it being special, unique and limited. It was sold because of its authenticity as a piece of artwork and therefore conforms to Benjamin’s theory that printmaking provides something which commercial print cannot.
In addition there are others who also believe that printmaking is valued because of its historical qualities and this further adds to Dormer’s argument about how prints are sold. Candence Wu suggests; “the real value of printmaking today is its vintage appeal and the activity involved in the process of creating prints.” (Candence Wu, 2012) The idea that prints are therefore valued because of their historical impact is further acknowledged as a reason for designers to become involved and buy prints as it allows a glimpse of the past and it is romanticised as different. In the past the restrictions of printmaking were due to lack of development, yet now it is used because of its limitations and character as it provides something different to on screen design.
Refer to Figure 2
This exhibition catalog represents how printmaking and commercial printing techniques can be used together. Dormer (1997) suggests; ‘Design and craft used to be explicable by the dichotomy of values, which separated them: machine made vs. handmade’ (Dormer, 1997, p134). This indicates that in the past design and craft were seen as completely different. However now they can both be used together to create artwork. Within this example the inner pages of the book are in fact printed by using commercial print which involves CMYK coloured inks and two spot colours.
However the cover is entirely different and incorporates a vast amount of hand crafted skill. The black cover is heavily embossed using plates and also contains a gold foil stamp. Dormer (1997) continues; ‘The boundary between design and
craft (and also between craft and art) is porous.’ (Dormer, 1997, p135). This therefore suggests that printmaking and design should have different uses in current artwork. It is essential for printmaking to develop and have alternative uses to its past if it is to survive among modern printmaking techniques.
Woods (2008) states; ‘Although some of the print processes have a long tradition and are carried out in much the same way as they always were, there can be no doubt that modern technology has made it easier to extend potential of individual printmaking methods and to combine their effects in multimedia images’ (Woods, 2008, p7). This is true within this piece as the exhibition book is meant to capture historical elements of typography and to recreate the past. Therefore the use of gold foil stamping is incredibly accurate as it allows the viewer to believe the piece is expensive and worthy of effort. The front also opens due to a die cut, which allows the book the break and opens the first page when bent, this is a reflection of human craft and time spent experimenting with different cuts.
The audience for this piece will be other designers who appreciate not only the content but also the effort within the making. RISATTI (2007) states; ‘craft objects capture the efforts of their makers and make these efforts visible and palpable for us to see and comprehend, and in doing so, they reflect back to us our own efforts they become mirrors of our own aspirations and possibilities’ (RISATTI, 2007, p196) The audience are therefore drawn towards this artwork and would enjoy viewing because it caters to their needs, they want to see new ways of using production methods as it is reflective of the content which includes historic type used in a new environment. The cover especially is reflective of the content as it is traditional printmaking methods, which encase vibrant and new designs using commercial print techniques.
Refer to Figure 3
This piece created by The Print Project was for the Glastonbury press and was incredibly popular at the time of its making in 2013. However still now copies are for sale from around £40, which definitely shows that printmaking, is valued for its artistic processes.
Jury (2006) states; ‘The function of wood type has always been to attract, through its size and its flamboyant design. Today, it is the physical characteristics that are unique and therefore attactive’ (Jury, 2006, p17). The use of large letters allows the piece to make a bold statement and as Jury suggests the letters themselves create the characteristics of the piece. Some of the letters are worn and therefore don’t complete a perfectly formed letter, the ink is missing in parts. The gradient produced will also be slightly different in each piece as more ink is applied with a roller.
The poster also contains the furniture, which holds the letterforms in place therefore making the viewer aware of how the piece was created. The audience purchased this poster because of its origin; it was created through letterpress and the quote further enhances the idea of a love of print. As Benjamin
suggested, printmaking contains an aura, which cannot be created with any other format. This piece provides the audience with a printed piece, which embodies the idea that it is a piece of history. The moveable type is and could be perhaps incredibly old and therefore is cherished by those who used to use it and also students who have found and enjoy the qualities and character of letterpress.
To conclude I have found that artwork that is created through the process of printmaking allows the audience to enjoy not only a beautiful piece of artwork in terms of decoration but also one, which has some element of labor. Printmaking in some cases is still in favor of the wealthy and situated in art galleries due to its past and the costs of materials. However I have also found that in conjunction to historic writers such as William Morris that currently there seems to be a need or a want for well-designed products. Therefore due to the increase in digital technology it has allowed for only well made products to be produced through printmaking and a rejection of those that are simply for decoration.
RISATTI (2007) suggests; ‘In this way they can offer a genuine alternative to the view of life that machine-made design objects offer; after all, both are conceived around the same functional needs’. (RISATTI, 2007, p187). This enhances the opinions I have previously discussed which suggest that printmaking is still used but it does not compete with commercial print methods. Printmaking offers products, which are valued for their artistic skill and therefore mean products are often bought or kept for collections instead of being seen as disposable.
CATANESE, P and GEARY, A. (2012) Post-Digital Printmaking CNC Traditional and Hybrid Techniques. London: A&C Black Publishers.
WOODS, L. (2008) THE PRINTMAKING HANDBOOK Simple techniques and step-by-step projects. Kent: Search Press Ltd.
RISATTI, H. (2007) a theory of craft function and aesthetic expression. North Carolina: The University Of North Carolina Press.
Dormer, P. (1997) The Culture Of Craft. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Jury, D. (2006) LETTERPRESS New applications for traditional skills. Hove: RotaVision SA.
WENDY THOMPSON. (2000) The Printed Image in the West: History and Techniques. [Online] Available from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/prnt/hd_prnt.htm [Accessed: 20th December 2014]
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM. (2014) Printmaking in the 21st century. [Online] Available from: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/prints-21st-century/ [Accessed: 20th December 2014]
BENJAMIN, W. (1939) The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility [Online] Available from: http://www.colorado.edu/humanities/THEORY/Benjamin%20-%20Work%20of%20Art%20Essay3%20-%20trans.pdf [Accessed: 31st December 2014]
Candence Wu. (2012) Fine Art Printmaking: Why We Think Printmaking is Far from Dying. [Online] Available from: http://www.youthedesigner.com/graphic-design-tips/fine-art-printmaking-why-we-think-printmaking-is-far-from-dying/ [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]
Ruth Pelzer-Montada. (2001) Authenticity in Printmaking- A Red Herring? [Online] Available from: http://www2.uiah.fi/conferences/impact/pelzer/Pelzer-Montada.pdf [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]
WILLIAM MORRIS. (1884) Art and Socialism. [Online] Available from: http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1884/as/as.htm [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]
Figure 1: NOBROW Nobrow 3: Topsy Turvy Screenprint. [Online] Available from: http://www.nobrow.net/1513 [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]
Figure 2: For Print Only. Typeforce 3 The Annual Show of Emerging Typographic Allstars. [Online] Available from: http://www.underconsideration.com/fpo/archives/2014/04/typeforce-3.php [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]
Figure 3: The Print Project (2015) I Love the Smell of Ink & Paper. [Online] Available from: http://www.theprintproject.co.uk/i-love-the-smell-of-ink-paper/ [Accessed: 3rd February 2015]