The Month of Printmaking draws near, and with it comes an inky flood of original prints from all across Colorado. Coordinating the promotion of this mass celebration is the entirely volunteer-supported non-profit Mo’Print. To aid in their efforts, Mo’Print is organizing a fundraiser art show at TRVE Brewing Co. that offers $10 black ink linocut prints from over 40 artists. I had the great pleasure recently of spending time with Mo’Print co-chairs Emily Moyer and Gregory Santos at Genghis Kern Letterpressing and Design as they printed works for the upcoming Black Ink show.
While most shows rely on artists to submit their work already printed, Black Ink works a little differently. Starting last fall, artists were given mounted linoleum blocks (donated by Speedball) to design and carve (and when organizers ran out of blocks, artists continued to submit their own). Finished blocks would later be printed by volunteers, yielding 20 prints per block, to be divvied up between the fundraiser, the artist, TRVE, Genghis Kern, and Mo’Print.
While many artists could be considered dedicated linocutters (e.g. Virginia Diaz, Frank Kwiatkowski, among others), some had limited or no experience with the medium. Rather said artists were tapped for their graphic illustrative abilities, which translate well to the flat fields and hard edges of linocut.
Illustration enthusiast Shawn Harris was one such newbie, having never carved/printed a block nor shown her work publicly. She was encouraged and instructed by Moyer, though, yielding two finely carved creations. While the printing process was somewhat nerve wracking for her, the delight was evident when she pulled her first print and held it in her hands. Having found tranquility in the overall process, Harris is now a fan.
For the volume of blocks and prints needed, organizers enlisted the aid of Genghis Kern, a shop in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood specializing in letterpress printing. For a week or so, the shop generously donated use of their facilities and small vintage letterpresses (a Vandercook-4 and an Asbern ADR-1, both hand-cranked with power ink distribution. For you print nerds, the shop also has three beautiful, monstrous Heidelbergs).
Consistent registration and speed — even with a hand-fed process that yields one print at a time — gave letterpress a clear advantage over other options. Once the block was locked in, typical print time per print averaged about a minute. With over a thousand prints to pull, heavy work was made lighter with several helpers on hand running the presses and organizing prints as they dried.
Chiefs among those helpers, of course, were Moyer and Santos. Both artists are veteran printmakers, educators, and Mo’Print masterminds. Moyer, specializing in lithography, is big on community-building and operates her own small, donation-based Little Drop Print Shop in Cap Hill. Santos, originally from NYC, is printmaking director at Art Gym and a Master Printer also specializing in lithography and screenprinting.
You’ll be seeing a lot of both artists and many others next month (and beyond) as printmakers of Colorado unite and take over. Show some support for this dedicated organization, check out the Black Ink show at TRVE First Friday, March 6, and buy a print or two (or three or four — they’re only 10 bucks!).
For a full listing of Mo’Print shows, workshops, studio tours, and other such events, please visit moprint.org.