is the driving force behind my practice - it guides my image making, provides parameters, and generates ideas. Printmaking often acts as an intermediary or intervention - work germinates from a collected archive of drawings, photographs, memories and experiences, and evolves through printmaking processes such as etching, lithography and woodcut. 

I have 15+ years of experience working in printmaking - it’s what I’m trained in and it’s what I love doing. I specialise in etching, lithography and woodblock printing.

I teach workshops in many of these processes - head over to the workshops page for more info.

Lithography is a planographic printmaking process which uses a limestone block or a metal plate as a matrix to print from, and relies on the antipathy of grease and water. Lithographic drawing materials which contain grease, such as crayon, tusche and rubbing block, are used to draw the image on the stone. The image is then processed using gum arabic, which helps to establish the greasy drawn marks within the stone’s surface. To take a print, the stone is kept damp while oil-based printing ink is rolled on. The ink sticks to the greasy drawn areas and is repelled by the water in the other areas. The stone is then sent through a specialist lithography press with paper laid on top.

(The video playing above/to the side was made by filmmaker Bill Newsinger while I was print fellow in stone lithography at Leicester Print Workshop in 2013). 

Wood Lithography (sometimes called Mokulito) takes the basic principles of lithography and applies them to a prepared plywood surface. Traditional lithographic drawing materials are used to draw and paint onto the plywood surface. The drawing is then processed using gum arabic, and the block is inked up and printed using an etching press. Blocks can also be cut into using woodcutting tools, to create a print with the characteristics of a lithograph in combination with a woodcut. Because of the coarser nature of wood in comparison to stone or metal plates, fine detail cannot always be retained, so this process suits a more experimental approach to image-making, embracing and working with the natural properties of the wood. The grain of the wood will often show up in the background of prints, and becomes stronger with each subsequent print – ‘filling in’ until the block is no longer useable. Small editions of anything from 3 – 15 can be produced from one block, and offer differ from one to the next, creating varied editions. 

Etching is an intaglio printmaking technique, where lines and texture are bitten into the surface of a metal plate with acid. When ink is applied to the plate, the bitten areas hold ink, which is then transferred to the paper surface when run through a printing press. I work with hard-ground etching, aquatint, sugarlift and spit-bite techniques - ways of getting different kinds of marks on a plate. I learned etching at university and immediately fell in love with its rich tones and ‘foul bite’ (unintended etched areas). I spent a year honing my skills during a year-long artist residency at Intaglio Printmaker, London, and have continued learning through doing ever since.

Mokuhanga (or Japanese woodblock printing - ‘Moku’ meaning wood, and ‘hanga’ meaning print) is a printmaking process made famous by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, who worked in the ‘ukiyo-e’ style. Mokuhanga is a relief printing process - sharp gouges are used to carve into the surface of a wood block, and the print is taken from the raised, uncarved areas - Water-based ink is applied to the block surface, specialist washi paper (made of ‘Kozo’ or mulberry) is laid down on top and pressure is applied by hand with a baren to create the print. I spent time learning and developing my work with this technique on a 5-week artist residency in Japan in 2018. 

  ©2022 Kathryn Desforges