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Printing Gone Wild

Katie Maier

“I’m trying to use different colors to explore the different types of wildlife,” she says.

“I like to use colors to show contrast,” says senior printmaking student Jenny Chen. “Right now, I’m printing a bird whose picture was taken in Ecuador.”

Jenny likes to bring the natural world into her printmaking. She has taken visual arts at Lovett throughout high school, and her latest pieces demonstrate what she has learned in this time and what she hopes to share with others. I spoke with Jenny in one of the art rooms during lunch. Her teacher Ms. Schick suggested I interview her about her work. 

“I’m trying to use different colors to explore the different types of wildlife,” she says. Printmaking is effective for this exploration because it allows for a few, distinct colors to accentuate the shapes of the subjects of her pieces. 

Jenny finds the process of using tools to carve out the design that you want to be really interesting.  “You really have to think about the textures and lines to create your image,” she says.

There are various types of printmaking, each with its own advantages and flairs. Lovett’s printmaking class has given Jenny the opportunity to try a few of them. 

One method that Jenny has been practicing is called intaglio. As Jenny explains it, “We use a stylus to carve out the outline and textures. The more you carve out, the darker and rougher the image is.”

In order to create this image, the artist etches a design into a thin piece of plastic with the stylus pen. The artist covers the plastic in ink that fills all the crevices. Rubbing away the ink on the surface level, the artist then rolls the plastic through a printing press which transfers the remaining ink onto a piece of paper. 

Jenny’s first work of the semester was an intaglio print depicting a piece of coral. On one side, which she calls the “before side,” the coral is healthy and beautiful. The other side, which she calls the “after side,” shows the coral after it is exposed to unhealthy conditions and becomes bleached. She made this piece in order to shine light upon coral bleaching, a tragic consequence of climate change. 

The unique nature of printmaking has allowed her to portray different aspects of wildlife, like the Ecuadorian bird and coral bleaching, in such a way that she wouldn’t be able to do in any other medium. 

Jenny values the control that printmaking gives her compared to other mediums. “As opposed to something like photography, [printmaking] is really just about what you choose to add to your print or what you choose to leave out,” she says.

Given the attention she is paying to the world around her in her art, it’s clear Jenny hasn’t been leaving much out. 
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