What is a Printmaker?

‘I’m not a printmaker’ was the opening statement from Maleny artist Noela Mills speaking about her work in the Regional Marks printmaking exhibition at the artist talks last Saturday. It made me wonder what she meant, and I would have liked to follow it up with her later, but the opportunity passed.

Not a printmaker? She was standing beside her lovely monoprints that are featured below the signature title of the exhibition.

Noela Mills’ monoprints in Regional Marks

What do we mean when we say ‘printmaker’. Clearly it means different things to different people, but surely anyone who makes prints as part of their art practice is a ‘printmaker’. How many prints do you have to make to be classed as a ‘printmaker’? Do prints have to be a certain proportion of the works that you produce? Or do you need to have skills across the range of printmaking techinques? Or is a printmaker defined by the equipment they own or use?

Noela’s comments made me remember works I had seen recently in a print exhibition in Pau in France, by artists best known as painters. But they were printmakers too, trying their hand at engraving, etching, mezzotint and relief printing. What struck me in looking at a whole gallery of prints by many of the French Impressionists best known for their paintings, was how their own individual style was as evident in this ‘other’ medium as in their paintings.

Manet, Cezanne, manet
Manet, Cezanne, Manet
Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir
Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir

Like those artists, and like Noela, most of us belong to that same tradition of artists working across mediums. Our work is not confined to one technique. We are willing to try new or different things and the total body of what we produce becomes a rich tapestry of experiments and techniques. If we are lucky one of those techniques grabs our hearts and our hands and becomes the focus of what we do, but it is rarely at the exclusion of everything else.

I’m happy to call myself a printmaker, amongst other things, but not at the exclusion of other things, and I think Noela is definitely a printmaker too.

(Judy Barrass)



2 thoughts on “What is a Printmaker?

  1. Thanks to Judy Barrass for these interesting words re ‘what makes a printmaker’. I am guilty of trying to put my Arts practice into a box, thus when asked ‘what sort of Art do you do’, I struggle to find the right words….usually it’s ‘oh, all sorts of things’ and I rattle off the list. The questioner’s eyes glaze over and I’m left feeling a bit inadequate because maybe I’m a ‘Jack of all Trades and a Master of None’.
    I will now make an effort to redefine myself and my way of working in a variety of arts genre. I don’t have the right feelings or words yet, but thanks to Judy, I have a slight shift [for the better] in how I see myself and my value as an artist.


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