Offset print, 2014
I was fortunate enough in 2014 to get acquainted with Portland, Maine-based print studio Pickwick Independent Press, and the result was some gorgeous prints.
The Student and the Teacher
I had no experience with printmaking whatsoever before my visits to Pickwick. Of course, having been working in indie, DIY comics and illustration for a while by that time, I was cautiously curious about the vast unknown that was printmaking. After talking with founder and then-director Lisa Pixley, visiting the studio, and then showing her some of my work, she convinced me (with very little arm-twisting) to schedule some guided use of their off-set printing press.
Like so many new projects and experiments I took on during that time, I didn’t know just what I was getting into when I started. But that’s often what always makes it so fun.
This part was generally familiar territory: pencil, ink, scan, clean. I had never done a poster-style design before, but my design experience in prepping my first three comics earlier this year lent itself to the task.
Next came the entrance into truly foreign land. After completing the drawing digitally, I sent it off to Boxcar Press in New York, recommended by Lisa, for making the “plate.” I naturally had no idea what she was talking about, but I followed her basic guidance for the type of plate and size limit for uploading my PDF to Boxcar.
After the wizards at Boxcar worked their alchemical photo-something-or-other-processes on my digitized drawing, I got this in the mail.
A big plastic-y thing. Great! This was in fact right-side-up, which I figured since the ink would go onto plate this and then transfer to paper to make the print.
With the plate made, it was time to head back to Pickwick and meet with Lisa. Thanks to a little of her printmaking expertise and assistance (read: a lot), I ran my first series of Lucky Fox prints.
The printing itself took maybe 20 minutes, but the time in the studio was a good four hours of getting to know the machine, readying the plate, testing and adjusting its placement for centered printing, trying different inks, and cleaning all those rolls (twice).
We used a proofing press, a machine originally meant for quick letterpress editing that has since found a wealth of function for visual and print artists. Lots of intimidating parts and pieces for someone used to handling a paintbrush and pen. But it was oh-so-satisfying to clunk-a-chunk those mechanical parts when rolling out each print.
You’ll notice that things got a little fancy with a color-blending trick called a “rainbow roll” in printmaking circles. The white-to-blue really captured that frosty snowscape feel.
While there was a lot of time spent prepping and experimenting, the process as a whole was quite satisfying.
And the results? I can’t complain.
What comes next? More printmaking, I hope. I’d love to print the cover for a future comic at Pickwick, or even an entire comic there. It’s safe to say that there are more projects on the way.