What Printmaking Means to Me!

In my early twenties, I discovered Printmaking in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, after moving there from Rhode Island.  Never before did I find anything else in life that excited me as much!  I started out by teaching myself through books.  I have been a Printmakers for 30 years now and I remember how my early discovery allowed me to have an understanding of why I think the way I do.  It was an elated arrival into a world of ink, paper, tools and presses.   I was fascinated to my core and I set off to learn from the best printmakers in the world because I was determined to become that sponge willing to soak it all up - it has been an amazing experience to learn about Printmaking through the eyes and hands of some of the great European, British and American Printmakers known to us today:  Robert Blackburn, Bartolomeu cid dos Santos, Stanley Jones, Hartmut Berlinicke and Dan Welden.  Of course, there have been inspirations by others too, like Ron Kitaj, Norman Ackroyd, Edwardo Paolozzi (who I met as a student and was given one of his works) Warrington Colescott, Bill Ritchie, Evan Summers and Curlee Holton.  Everything that seemed important up until age 20, started to drift and my purpose came to fruition when receiving a full scholarship to study and live in London - it was there that I developed my printmaking palette and I owe that supportive mentorship to my late, dear artist friend and professor, Bartolomeu cid dos Santos-our printmaking artistic friendship lasted for 17 years.  I started to practice my 'craft' everyday.  I was truly 'in love' with learning the print process.  I started with lithography, then I went to Silkscreen and Etching and onto Photographic Lithography, then Gum Bichromate printing or referred to as Non-Silver Methods and I enjoyed printing large scale onto surfaces like wood and canvas.   Later on,  down the road of life, while working in Tavira with Barto, he guided me in making a full circle back to Etching and I stayed there because it was the copper that drew me inward and forward bound.  Now, that I am a Momma, I embraced the Solarplate process with the direction of Dan Welden.  Thanks to Dan and his generous workshops he is holding here in Pennsylvania with me.  Printmaking is very similar to cooking for me, it is the process in which so many doors can open or close and then discovery or 'happy' accidents become your famous sauce.   The more I do, the better the art-language, especially when shared with the community of printmaking.  Printmaking means to me, to be privileged to pick up an amazing book and read it, starting at the back cover and moving forward back - it allows us to dig deep inside and come out with an idea and the best part is that Printmaking has nothing on painting and drawing; it is a very different art activity altogether, it's entertaining and physical too, I enjoy that!  The printmakers mark is of its very own; original with each pass of that press.  I love Printmaking for many more reasons than this too!  Printmaking means I can communicate to a broader community.   It is absolutely physically, educationally, romantically and graphically endless with possibilities.  That is artistically thrilling to me!  Printmakers are a breed of their own and making prints and holding workshops with a group dynamic and also with children is to enrich and educate our lives.  Experiencing a print workshop without any experience does something to you on a soul level, it is like eating warm homemade delicious soup.   Printmaking has and will always make a lasting impression on my ability to draw out my ideas, convey my purpose and celebrate life visually, appreciating humanity and the arts.

------Melissa Strawser, 2016  

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