Printmaking at Home: A Student's Perspective

Marianne in class

Instructor NicoCE Programming Specialist, Marianne Legg, shares her experience as a student in Printmaking at Home this past spring. 

Eleven of us were arranged in a grid across my laptop screen, peering at Nico, our instructor. We had all signed up for Printmaking at Home, a Zoom block print class that would teach us how to make surprisingly gorgeous art prints, even working on our kitchen countertops, bedroom desks, or dining room tables.

You've seen the beautiful Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Same thing, only done with linoleum instead of wood. Linoleum, thank goodness, is much easier to carve than wood. Easier still is something called a Soft-Kut Printing Block, which is like carving very stiff jello. No problem. On this first day of class, Nico was showing us how to work with the beginner's material, the Soft-Kut.

We had all been sent a list of supplies for the class, which we purchased independently, and now we had arrayed before us our cutting tools (you probably used them in the fourth grade and they're still just as fun), our Soft-Kut blocks, our printing ink (water-based, it comes in a tube like watercolors, only thicker), and our drawing, which Nico had kindly provided for all of us to start with, so we didn't have to dive immediately into the deep end of this pool.

We watched as he showed us how to hold the Soft-Kut, how to use our tools, gave us insider tips on how to avoid problems with cutting our blocks, and then showed us some examples of his own work. I had wondered how well all this would work on Zoom, and the answer is--very well! Nico has an excellent camera system set up on his work space and it's lit quite well. You can see every detail clearly. We saw exactly what we needed to know, and Nico's prints were very inspiring. We all got to work.

By the end of this first two-hour class, we had all cut our blocks, inked and printed them. I was amazed at how well everyone's first prints turned out! They were really good, and it was fascinating to see how differently each of us had handled the same process. As Nico suggested to us, in addition to frame-worthy art, we could use our blocks to print cards, gift wrap, collage papers, you name it.

Block print of catBy the end of the second week, we had carved our first linoleum block using our own designs, and most of us had printed them as well. Full disclosure: I didn't finish mine in time to print it that night, so I printed it later in the week, in time to show it off during the next class. The great thing about this water-based ink is that you don't need to be afraid of clean-up, so pulling out your block and doing some printing one evening is no problem. A little soap and water, and clean-up is done. 

The third and fourth weeks we added another color or two to our prints. You'd be surprised how easy that is to do. Nico's directions were very clear and plain to follow. He was always interested in seeing what we created, and class members were so enthusiastic about everyone's productions! This was a very fun class and I have the prints to prove how much I learned. I feel completely confident now about proceeding on my own to make more prints. Thank you, Nico and fellow class members!

Learn more about Printmaking at Home and Nico Inzerella.