All press, no stress: printmaking students get creative

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Nia Huff, Staff Writer

“I enjoy the very regimented process of printmaking: you have to set up your station, wet your paper, and mix your ink,” Mekhala Mantravadi (12) said. “It’s such a versatile and accessible art form — you can use crayons or the pressure of your hands or even leaves from outside.”

Printmaking provides a space for students to unleash their creativity without the stress or pressure from other subjects, Aamri Sareen (10) said.

“Printmaking is not a direct medium where you are marking directly on a surface to create your image,” visual arts teacher Mirrie Choi said. “You are putting something through the press or pushing ink through the screen orr using a plate to create a print form.”

Ava Westreich (10) enjoys printmaking because even if she is not the best artist, in this class, she is able to outline and trace and still produce beautiful art.

“The great thing about printmaking is that it’s a class where you can mess up, and then all you have to do is wipe off the ink and start again,” Chase Forbes (10) said.

At the start of a new printmaking unit and project, students learn about the artists who have created the certain technique, Catherine Mignone (12) said. Then, they determine how they will execute this technique in their own work. “Accomplished artists have unique takes on printmaking, and these styles and topics enrich our experience with the medium,” she said.

Choi also demonstrates the technique and lets the class practice the approach, Oliver Konopko (9) said. When the class carved prints into rubber plates, Choi demonstrated to the class the proper technique to follow on the material, Konopko said.

“Right now, Printmaking I is making collagraphs where you make a matrix by adding textures on a plate, and then we are going to combine them to make a contemporary landscape,” Choi said. This contemporary landscape will incorporate students’ unique vision of what 2022 looks like to them and hang in Fisher Gallery, she said.

Meanwhile, the Printmaking II classes are working on a collaborative project inspired by Kevork Mourad, Mignone said. This project entails making monotype prints in Mourad’s style, she said.

Once Printmaking II’s project is done, the installation will hang in the corner of Fisher Gallery, Charles Seo (11) said. He enjoyed seeing how everyone’s prints will fit together and how his classmates’ styles intersect.

Over the year, the projects become increasingly challenging, Choi said. Classes start with simpler methods such as painting something on a place and printing it with a press. Towards the end, the class combines multiple techniques, she said.

“The environment in the printmaking studio is so welcoming and warm,” Mantravadi said. 

Konopko shares a similar feeling as he enjoys how peaceful and creative the class is and the amount of flexibility and creativity Choi offers to her students, he said. 

Seo attributes his positive experience in the class to Choi, he said. “Ms. Choi is a great teacher who equally helps all her students at different paces and creates a very welcoming classroom environment.”

Through the various projects the class has done, Mignone enjoyed learning about modern artists, practicing new methods, and seeing everyone’s unique creations.

Forbes particularly enjoyed the monoprint where they painted ink onto glass and used it to print images that are highly realistic and accurate, he said.

The collaborative aspect of the class has been impactful to Sareen, who has enjoyed getting to know people from different grades and collaborating on the collagraph project. She liked seeing how all her classmates thought through the project, and how they came together in the end. 

Despite all her success in the class, one difficulty Westreich has encountered is the time limit as she always finds more to do during the projects.“During printmaking, being very methodical lengthens the day-day process of producing a final print,” she said.

The process of starting new projects is the most challenging part for Seo since it takes time for him to think through ideas, but Choi helps him brainstorm and figure it out, he said.

Choi’s favorite part of her printmaking classes is when the students pull their print from the presses and see what they have created, she said. “The ink has a life of its own,” she said. “There is a special moment where you pull the plate or print from the press and you see it appear — sometimes it flips, the colors mesh together. Every year they have a gasp where they are so amazed.”