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Do you have to know how to draw to learn printmaking?

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

My answers to one of your most frequently asked questions…

Printmaking - drawing on lino before cutting - workshop - learning

One of your most frequently expressed regrets when you discover printmaking is "not knowing how to draw": you jump to the conclusion that you cannot therefore learn how to to carve and print...

Get your confidence back, you can enjoy yourself and make beautiful prints without having an impeccable drawing technique!

This blog post is entirely illustrated with prints made during a workshop by first-time printmakers!

What is printmaking?

Printmaking - inked plate made during a beginners workshop - green

Printmaking consists in carving a plate (or block) with cutting tools (if the plate is made of linoleum, it is a 'linocut').

Once the plate is inked, a paper is pressed onto it to reveal the print.

The areas left in relief take the ink and leave a trace on the paper while the engraved areas let the color of the paper show through (when the paper is white, they are the whites of the pattern).*

* There are other techniques of engraving, on copper for example, intaglio, where the engraved and inked zones which will be printed directly.

Is drawing a necessary step in printmaking?

In artistic matters, having a design is probably enough!

It is possible to plan an engraving by drawing or painting on paper... The following step is to transfer the subject in reverse on the block, using tracing paper for example.

One can also draw directly on the plate but rare are the people who manage to draw backwards directly on the block! I met some of them during printmaking workshops though... Wonderful isn't it?

Linocut print made in a beginners workshop - horse - blue

Linocut print - reduction print 3 colours - bookmark made during a beginners workshop

Depending on your personality, you can also improvise and carve the plate directly without drawing on the plate! This requires a certain amount of confidence, risk taking and letting go, so it's not always the easiest way...

Is it easier to work from a photograph?

It is sometimes tempting to transfer a design from a photograph but this can be difficult: what to keep and what to deliberately eliminate? There are so many details on a picture… turning the picture in black and white and increasing the contrast can help the eye to make this selection..

Inking of a lino block during a beginners workshop - From a study by Ingres - Nude - red

From a photo of one of Ingres’ colour studies...

Working from an print?

Just as an apprentice painter can learn from the Masters, learning by observing the work of other printmakers is a wise choice. There are a great variety of styles to be inspired from...

In the very beautiful recent exhibition in Chantilly ‘Albrecht Dürer print and renaissance’, we learnt that engravers were frequently inspired by other artists' works. We had the great opportunity to see prints and their successive interpretations by several different hands...

Here are two examples made during printmaking workshops after Master printmakers; one is quite close to the original, the other is inspired by an enlarged and reworked detail of a figurative engraving...Wonderful isn't it? Do not hesitate du drop me a line if you would like to know their sources...

Do you have any questions about the workshops? Feel free to contact me to talk about it!


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