Printmaking crosses artistic genres creating duplicative pieces for the people

Samuel Diaz with a blue apron on demonstrates wood block printing in three images. In the first image, he is applying black ink a woodblock with a roller, in the second image he is rolling the inked artwork through a relief press. The final image shows the white, gray and black self-portrait piece.

In the spring of 2022, Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, the president of Fresno State, gave a group of printing students the assignment to produce original works of art that would serve as memorials for his presidential investiture in the fall. Several final designs were chosen, and everyone who attended the event was encouraged to take home their favorite piece. The keepsake underscored the value of duplicative art and highlighted the often overlooked art of printmaking in the Department of Art, Design, and Art History.

In a story about President Jiménez-Sandoval’s Investiture, student artist Bobby Brown, M.A. student in Art, spoke about his original piece to mark the occasion.

“I got stuck on ‘come together,’ and I thought about the children at my school and how it was for me growing up and how things just work together when you’re doing artwork,” he said. “It was showing kids drawing their dreams, and they’re drawing with magic chalk. And I did the tree upside down, so their dreams are filling [it in], and the tree is growing.”

Now in class, Brown is working on a new screen printing project, making cards for gifts. He explains the process of screen printing involves creating a stencil on a mesh screen. Then ink is pushed through the mesh to form and imprint the pattern on the bottom surface. Paper and cloth are the most typical surfaces for screen printing. However, other materials, including metal, wood and plastic, can also be utilized. 

“The thing I really like about [art] is you get to create a world, a world of your own.” He finds that creating art supports him through happy, tough and sad times in life.

But the printmaking area is much more than just screenprinting. It also focuses on photography and various printing techniques within a backdrop of Illustration, graphic design, photography, and book printing. The curriculum educates students technically, artistically, and professionally for a future in the visual arts by bridging art history and current art practices. Along with conventional printing and darkroom methods, students pick up various skills using the most recent innovations in digital photography. Students work in a print studio with equipment for screen printing, intaglio printing, woodblock printing, lithography, darkrooms and digital labs. 

Various posters and art work done by students with displayed all over the wall.
Posters and artwork from past students hang on the walls of the printmaking area.

Matthew Hopson-Walker, assistant professor in the Department of Art, Design, and Art History, said printmaking is a diverse type of art with a broad heritage. It is a hub for commercial art, photography, and drawing/painting. 

“Printmaking can ride the art world hierarchy elevator,” he said. “Printmaking is the only medium where the artwork exists in multiples (which are referred to as editions), making it more accessible, affordable, democratic.”

Tarynn Tvo, a BA student in Studio Arts working on a lithography project.
Tarynn Tvo, a BA student in studio arts working on a lithography project.

Tarynn Abrahamson-Tvo, a BA student in Studio Arts, described the procedure as fun while working on lithography. Although she prefers woodblock printing over lithography, she says, “it’s pretty interesting as it’s the chemical-like process.” 

To create the texture for lithography or printing on a plate, the artist must etch the plate first. For her current piece, she uses crayons to draw on the plate to get a unique texture. Once the art is on the plate, a dip in acid leaves an impression and ink is rubbed into it to keep the pattern. 

Abrahamson-Tvo plans to get her teaching credential after she graduates and wants to continue to make art as a freelancer.  

Samuel Diaz, an Art, Design and Art History major, is working on a self-portrait on a woodblock
Samuel Diaz, an Art, Design and Art History major, works on a self-portrait woodblock.

Samuel Diaz, Art, Design and Art History major, is working on a self-portrait on a woodblock while reducing the woodblock between each color. This process is called reduction art. The woodblock printing procedure operates on the idea that areas that won’t be printed are carved out. Colors are pressed onto the raised areas, and then this is put through the pressing machine.

The process uses the Takach Floor Model Etching/Relief Press to get the imprint on the paper. This new piece of equipment was funded in part by the Dean’s Council discretionary funds and replaced an older model which had been used for decades.

The press is a Takach Floor Model Etching/Relief Press, the 3460 model.
Takach Floor Model Etching/Relief Press

Diaz says he loves “the free-ness, the creativity of [art], possibility.” He plans to return to his high school in Bakersfield and teach art there after graduating from Fresno State.

A degree in printmaking can directly lead to employment as a master printer (producing editions for other artists), as a professional artist, in the commercial printing industry, as a graphic designer in prepress, or as an archivist for works on paper at a gallery or museum.

2 thoughts on “Printmaking crosses artistic genres creating duplicative pieces for the people

  1. In the lithographic process the correct term is “etch” not “edge” as stated in the article. The “etch” occurs when the acid is applied as it “etches” the non-image area (that area not protected by the crayon drawing mentioned) of the plate.

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