Most would consider industrial art as working with metals or wood, but some of Denver’s printmaking artists take it to another level every year for a steamroller printmaking workshop. You read that right — a steamroller presses engraved images onto paper. This event closes out Denver’s third annual Month of Printmaking (Mo’Print) — which is really more like two months — at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) campus on Saturday, April 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Traditionally, printmaking involves a variety of methods that basically share one trait — a transferred image from one kind of material to another. Most printmakers are solitary artists, using printing presses and other devices that are manageable alone. Some have differentiated themselves from their peers with floor-to-ceiling prints, but often these require a team of people to create. Steamroller printing not only takes a team, it takes a community. And for the last two years, this event happened because members of the community facilitated each step of the process. This year is no different, and Mo’Print just sent out a call for volunteers for the day.
To be clear, volunteers will not drive the steamroller. Expect to ink three-by-eight feet carved boards, set up the wood and fabric to print and possibly pull the print off or help clean up. If you’ve never experienced the technique of printmaking, this process magnifies each step, giving a more thorough understanding of how it all works. Professional printmakers — like the chair of Mo’Print and director of printmaking at Art Gym Gregory Santos — administer assistance, guidance and a contagious passion throughout the day. As an experienced printmaker, this serves as a rare opportunity to work much larger than normal or to see how others do it before trying it yourself.
Any venturing around Denver’s art scene in the last few months has probably shown you an array of printmaking styles and practices. Local, national and international artists enjoyed the spotlight around the city, capturing the public’s attention with the somewhat complicated concept of printmaking. One of the exhibitions hosted by Art Gym, Giant Woodcuts, provided a perfect glimpse into the breathtaking detail and skill of artists working on large scales. Seeing the tapestries on display during Giant Woodcuts might just tip the scales, if you haven’t made up your mind about visiting, participating in or volunteering for this workshop.
To participate in the steamroller printmaking as an artist, there are a few requirements but no prior experience necessary. According to the Mo’Print website, “you can carve a block on your own or work with a friend. MDF or wood boards must be three-quarter inches thick with a minimum size of three-by-three feet and up to three-by-eight feet. Your block may be cut to a shape or stay with the tried-and-true rectangle (shapes actually print better). Please seal boards with either shellac or polyurethane at least 24 hours in advance.” Participation costs $25 — including the use of ink and one print to take home. Registration is required, and that closes on April 20.
Mo’Print only comes around once every other year, and a certified driver for a steamroller doesn’t show up every day. So roll on over to RMCAD next weekend for an artistic experience unlike any other.