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


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

Form + Content Gallery


Wayne Roosa and Jeff Wetzig – Conventions of Disquiet – March 26-May 2

This past Saturday, I went to the Form + Content Gallery to see some work by two professors of mine in an intimate gallery space in downtown Minneapolis. Wayne Roosa (Art History Professor at Bethel) created icons from media culture (Some of these icons were angels, trap doors, an open hand from the sky, billy clubs, money bags, and parachutes to name a few) on small stamps. The stamps are very rubbery and hard to make small details with, but Roosa used a magnifying glass and a small exacto blade in order to create subtle tones and easily viewable expressions. He used these icons and mixed, matched, and repeated them to create different associations – some were images of brutality, protest, and money while others had an ambiguous but mystical feel. The prints were clean and loaded with content and style. I highly suggest taking a look (image left is an example).

disquiet3Jeff Wetzig (Printmaking Professor at Bethel) used prints as well, but created them using the Japanese printing method. One of his installations was several prints of ziplock bags that looked like they had been filled with air. And inside each one of them was an air pump. These prints were clustered near the top of the wall space further adding to the illusion of lightness air. He was able to create this effect because the Japanese printing method mimics watercolors and provides more value tones helping give 3D form to the ziplocks. Air was a recurring theme with windmills and air pumps as well as the male/female (using red and blue). One work of a blue windmill and a red windmill also displayed the wood he used in his reduction cut and the registration methods linked the two works suggesting dependence and a relationship. Although Jeff creates work seems whimsical, he can also create work of a more serious tone. His first artwork contained a fenced in area with two more fences inside of it (one red and one blue) developing feelings of insiders and outsiders, privacy, protection, personal space and community.

Go and see it! The work is affordable. Own one yourself!

See the exhibit? Have a review? Or suggest another!

-Shalanah Backus