Thursday, May 22, 2008

Printing press choices - an interview with Belinda del Pesco

I recently commented on Belinda del Pesco's blog and asked for some advice about whether it's possible to get involved in printing without owning a great big expensive press. She provided a very informative answer which I'm repeating below.

Learning to Love Books
7" x 8", monotype with watercolor and coloured pencils
copyright Belinda del Pesco

The images included in this post are all monotype prints made by Belinda - with colour provided through watercolour and coloured pencils.

How do you press your prints?
I travel to my presses each week, but I'm happy to do that, for the access to such fine machines, the camaraderie with other printmakers, and better ventilation than I can provide in my little studio. I pull prints in a local print lab at the community college in my area, and I travel to a colleague's studio about 25 minutes from here to use his press. Barring that, I make relief prints in my studio by rubbing the paper with a baren or the back of a wooden spoon.

My favorite press - of the one's I've had the pleasure to use so far - is the Tackach etching press.
Monotype for Learning to Love Books (see top)
copyright Belinda del Pesco

What's the alternative to a 'proper' press?


If one doesn't have access to a proper heavy duty press what's the next best thing - bearing in mind that it needs to be accommodated? I've seen some smaller presses in Cornelissen's in London and have "wondered" about them - mainly because the cheapest seems to be about £130 (and even then only suitable for montypes and intaglio)! Would they be suitable?
I know very well that all printmakers and potential printmakers long for a press. I've read the woes of desperate press-less printmakers who threatened to drive over their plates with their cars, but no one has shared the results of that experiment with me yet. :o) It's been done before - and there are Katie Clemson (who sadly passed away from cancer in November last year) using a steam roller on a big wooden relief print in her book The Complete Manual of Relief Printmaking which I recommend.

For most artists who'd like to try printmaking, a press is an expensive investment, and it takes up a bit of floor space if you want one with a decent size press bed. There are many varieties of presses, and it's hard to make a purchase decision before getting familiar with which flavor of printmaking you'd like, and which press suits your needs. There's lots of information on the net, and there are great books, but like preferences in paint brushes and pencils, testing has to be hands-on, and it's easier to make decisions after trying few methods and presses in print shops and schools via a workshop or class.

I will own a press some day, when I stake a claim to the footprint it will occupy in my house. It's a lot of space, unless you want a tiny table-top press, but my experience with them so far is that most are not gear-driven, so the press bed slips if you're using a bit of pressure on something thin like a monotype. I also want the option of working big.
(You can see Katie's wonderful work at her website which is still up and running and is an inspiration to look at)

What do you use as a press for a monotype?

I saw your illustrated process of making a monotype in this post Monotype: Dreaming but I was less clear what sort of press you used for the monotype.
Dreaming
3x3 Monotype with Watercolor & Colored Pencil
copyright Belinda del Pesco

What do use when making a monotype?
You can make a monotype by rubbing with a baren or the back of a wooden spoon, the same way I print woodcuts and linocuts in my studio, but for solid, rich ink-coverage, nothing in my studio will give 1800 lbs of pressure to push the pigment into the paper the way a press does.
I was also fascinated by the impact of coloured pencils on tops of monotypes - as shown in the post referenced above and others on Belinda's blog. Coloured pencil artists who are interested in trying this out for themselves might want to keep an eye on Belinda's work. You can see quite a few of the previous posts on materials and methods by searching her blog for "monotype".

How does one learn more about printmaking and presses? What are the different printmaking methods?

Turning the Page
4 x 4 Monotype,
Watercolor & Colored Pencil
copyright Belinda del Pesco

I've recommended weekend printmaking workshops to interested artists as a fun and speedy way to survey the environment and the supplies needed to get started. There are also a lot of great books out there now too.

On the subject of methods - the Whelan company has posted images of different printmaking methods on their website. These include:
I found the step by step images to be really helpful in understanding the different print-making methods. Plus recommendations as to different blankets, inks and paper look really useful.

How do printmakers sell their work online?
Printmaking has also experienced a rebirth of sorts, and many young artists are pursuing a variety of methods to make prints for sale. A good number of them use Etsy to sell. Recently a group of printmakers selling work on Etsy started a collective called Printsy: Printmakers who sell on Etsy. We're posting images on Flickr and will be posting interviews with our members on a blog, and methods will be a big part of our discussions. You can find out more in these links:
I'd like to thank Belinda for her very informative answers to my questions. You can find out more about Belinda del Pesco and her artwork on

2 comments:

vivien said...

great information from Belinda - and here is someone (me) who desperately wants a press of her own!

I'd have to settle for a table top one and a Dutch firm Polymetaal has been highly recommended to me by a printmaker I know.

I love intaglio processes and they aren't possible without a press :(

I am able to do monoprints, monotypes and lino without one - but lino is my least favourite - too graphic for my style of working.

Coloured pencils work beautifully over monoprints on Rosapina paper - it has a slightly fuzzy velvety finish that I really like. I also use pastel over monoprints

I have access to a print workshop - but it gets rather expensive as printmaking is a very time consuming process.

I'm trying to persuade one of the colleges I teach at to invest in one ..... those lunchtimes could be happily spent playing on it :>)

dinahmow said...

Wow! Lots of useful information here, via links, for printmakers.
I'll copy the links to other members of my group.
Thankyou,Katherine and Belinda.

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