Summer Learning

It is funny because as a teacher or a student, we all look forward those last couple weeks of school to summer vacation. We think days at the beach and hours of reading or computer games, but to me the best summers are where I get to take a couple classes myself! Currently, I am taking one class via and two MCAD Continuing Education classes.

I just stumbled upon Learnable when I was searching for coding classes in web development. Most of the classes run upwards of $600 which is a bit spendy. But through Learnable, I can take classes for $15 a month. I’m taking PHP & MySQL Web Development for Beginners currently but will definitely take HTML5 before the summer is out too.

At MCAD, I’m taking Intro to Screen Printing, which I’ve actually taken before but would like some more studio time and Intro to Illustration. I have enjoyed every class I’ve taken through MCAD. I will definitely post some of my work by the end of the summer 🙂 .

-Shalanah Dawson

Easy Mac 5 Color Screen and Lounging People 2 Color

Here are some recent screen prints from this summer in Open Edition at MCAD. I think I would like to do a series of the Easy Macs in the near future. It was, however, a long road to completion. I completed 1 whole run of 3 color failures before redoing it to the final below. The Lounging People however was a pretty quick edition especially because registration didn’t need to be perfect. Hope you enjoy!

Easy Mac Print and Two Details
Lounging People


– Shalanah Dawson

Cameo Inspired 5-Color Silk Screen

I am taking a class this summer at MCAD called “Open Edition”. It is ten weeks long where printmakers may use the MCAD facilities, learn new print techniques and even create an edition for a themed book/body of work. This session’s theme was “Facades”. I drew inspiration from the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota Florida. There were several large marble cameos by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that I quite enjoyed, so I decided to try and create one as a print. The image itself comes from a portrait from my wedding.  It was really challenging getting the right colors on the paper because silk screen ink looks very different when dry (usually much darker). I was constantly checking the ink and waiting for my washed screens to dry to start a new color test. The dimensions of the paper are 8″ x 10″. See the process below!

– Shalanah Dawson

MCAD Continuing Studies Silk Screen Class

As a birthday present, Grant treated me to any class I wanted to sign up for (art or sports related). I immediately started checking out classes on printmaking. I found an awesome class offered by Continuing Studies at MCAD. For four Saturday mornings, from 9:30am-12:30pm, I got to learn how to be a better silk screener! I loved it. Below are some examples.

Lips : 2 Color Freezer Paper Stencil
Animal Cookie Cutters : Rubylith and Opaque Markers on Acetate (Photo Emulsion)
Spiral Me (1 Screen) : Photo Emulsion Blend Pull (Orange to Blue)
Spiral Me (2 Screens) : Photo Emulsion Blend Pull (Blue to Green) and Black Key Pull
Venison : 3 Color Photo Emulsion (I’m a vegetarian, but Grant wants to hang this piece at his hunting camp. Go figure. 🙂 )

Shalanah Backus Continuing Studies Silk Screens

– Shalanah Backus



MLK Day Shalanah Backus High School Art Project

For MLK Day, I had my classes design a printed mural to commemorate MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Students were responsible for creating single letters or blocks with designs on them. We then assembled those blocks into excerpts from Dr. King’s famous speech.

Despite some minor hiccups, I love the way it turned out. Each letter in the image above was made from a 3.5″ x 3.5″ MDF block. Students then carved letters into blocks (remember to have them reverse them!). We then inked and printed them. If you’d like to give it a go sometime, I am supplying my letter sign-up sheet, actual text and a brainstorming sheet in a Word document.

I Have a Dream Woodcut WKSTs (.docx)

Give this a try next year, or use the idea to create a mural of your own!

-Shalanah Backus

Reduction Cuts


Above is an image created by a student at Waconia High School 4″ x 6″ on soft-cut. Click on it to see other students’ work from the same assignment!

First, we used a rubbery stamp-like plate, soft-cut, which can be purchased at most art stores. Some TC local stores would be Wet Paint and Dick Blick. Soft-cut or sometimes called “easy-cut” is lots easier to cut than wood or linoleum, but you do sacrifice some detail as compared to wood or lino cut.

We used the reduction cut method. Reduction cuts destroy the “plate”, surface you print off of, in the process. Instead of each color being a different plate, you print your lightest color first then carve the next color and print that. For instance, above, the student cut away everything that was white on the plate and then printed a green layer. Next the student cut away everything that was suppose to be green and inked it with blue ink and print that. And lastly, she cut away everything that was suppose to be blue and printed it brown. In this process you are left with only the brown layer left. This also means you need to print many of your first color so that you have enough good prints in the end because you cannot do it again – the plate is destroyed in the process.

One of the advantages of using reduction cut over multi-plate prints is that you do not need to cut several plates to the exact same size. However, you still need to make sure you have a good registration system in place to make sure your prints line up well with every pass through the press and for each color. This could be as simple as a piece of paper or plastic with marks for the block and the paper or as complex as making a wooden “L” to place the block in one corner and paper on the top edges of the wooden “L”. Just make sure it is consistent!

Examples of reduction cuts:
Linoleum Prints – Some great examples of reduction cuts
Cricket Press – Shows process and different states of their work
Prunella – Shows process, linocuts, and different states of work

Links that explain the process and define reduction cuts:
1000 Woodcuts
– Has a step-by-step example of each state of the plate in a reduction cut process
How to do a Lino Reduction Cut – Movie is a great step-by-step demo and quite thorough. I would only recommend showing small parts for a classroom or just demonstrating yourself. But excellent for adults viewing reduction cut for the first time.

Links about woodcuts and printmaking:
MOMA Printmaking – awesome interactive site about 3 different types of printmaking

-Shalanah Backus