Introducing VMA: Printmaking

At Grand Valley State University, the Printmaking emphasis is one of the nine fine arts programs that are offered within the Visual Media Arts Department. The program is structured by an extensive curriculum that provides students with a series of courses, beginning at an introductory level and expanding further into more advanced classes and concepts. These courses are available as credit for students who are enrolled as majors and minors. They may also be taken as an elective for any individual studying outside of the program. Students are taught by Dellas Henke, Brett Colley, and Bill Hosterman.

The initial introduction courses of Printmaking prepare students with a diverse variety of techniques. The beginning level introduces students to copper etching, relief, digital, screen printing, and familiarizes them with the overall printmaking process. Intermediate level courses provide students with additional methods to expand their skill sets: such as, autographic, photo-based methods, and color layering processes. Once a student has reached courses of the advanced level, they are then able to choose their preferred approach to the medium and focus more on elaborating their personal voice as an artist.

The printmaking facility equips students with the tools that are necessary for the diverse range of approaches. The program offers students a spacious work environment and provides majors with their own workspace, located in a separate room near the studio.

When asked about printmaking, Dellas Henke, the Printmaking Area Coordinator, says that he could go on for hours. Printmaking, as an art, is both unique in its practice and its history, reaching around twelve hundred years of age. Professor Henke expressed its uniqueness as “like nothing else” and states that “the strangest thing is that everyone knows what painting is, but almost no one knows what printmaking is.” Historically, the printmaking process hasn’t changed all that much and is still used today to mass produce pieces of art and day-to-day documents.

In class, Dellas Henke encourages his students to trade prints with their peers, as it is something that other fine art students cannot do. He has documented that “at first, most students are nervous and get ink all over everything”, but says that “once people do it, they get it”. He concluded that acquiring these skills can provide an artist with so much potential. Knowing how to make prints means knowing “how to get dirty, use new muscles, think in new ways, and learn to work with surprises and mistakes.”

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