My Attempt at Expressionism in Printmaking

My Attempt at Expressionism in Printmaking

I've never been an expressionist. I worry too much about what comes out on the page. But that doesn't mean I don't put emotion in my art or make art that is the result of feeling. I have a LOT to express but the only place it seems to come across is in my abstract drawings. But even the drawings usually proceed slowly and carefully after an initial outburst of line or form (that's the expressive part).

I've been haunted by a lot of things lately, and I am feeling the need to express them in my work somehow.. to use them to produce something.. anything.

And this is what I came up with.

About a month ago, I asked a friend for one of his cigarettes so I could use it in my art somehow. I hate smoking and I am usually disgusted and turned off around people who smoke. However, that said, I've had some really great friends who smoke. I just don't want them to! I care about their health, and I usually make a nuisance of myself asking them to stop (they know this only too well). I thought that maybe I could create some kind of horrifying anti-smoking message by making a collagraph with this cigarette.

But the cigarette just sat there and sat there and stared at me for weeks. Nothing came to mind. I thought about ripping it apart and scattering it on a plate. I though about mashing it and gluing it down. I thought about making it part of a larger collage. But none of these ideas really meant anything to me. They wouldn't get the message across.

I gave up trying.

Then, one day, overwhelmed by hurt and frustration caused by someone who just happened to be a smoker, I decided to direct it all at a print plate.. so grabbed a plastic plate, printed out an image of the person causing me pain, and put it under the plate. I pulled out the cigarette, lit it, and smoked it (yep, that was a first) - and while I was smoking, I tapped and scattered the ashes on the plate in the areas of light and dark in the image. I also used the lit end to burn the plate in some areas - like the eyes.

Here is a photo of the plate and a close-up of one of the burnt areas:


And here are the two prints I made from it - one was intaglio and the other relief:


I guess it doesn't have to mean anything to anybody, but the process was cathartic for me. I was actually thrilled to get a comment on Instagram saying that the image was frightening.

Maybe I can - and do - connect with people. I guess I just need to find those people. And don't worry, I didn't pick up smoking as a habit after this little experiment. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I felt sick shortly thereafter and for most of the rest of the day. And I couldn't get the smell and the taste out of my mouth. Oh well - all for art.