Print-Making a Difference

Jana Choe speaks to Chris Robinson about her Remis Lobby show


Jana Choe, Editor

From September 6th to October 7th, the Remis Lobby Gallery at the Wilkie Performing Arts Center featured the artwork of Ms. Chris Robinson (lovingly referred to as Chris by all Govs students). Her exhibit, Ink + Print = Press, displayed a series of wonderful prints of various methods, such as silkscreen, etching, and woodcuts. 

INK – There is nothing more stunning than a luscious black ink mixed with a little plate oil. 

It is the process of printmaking that first drew Chris into this form of art — the idea that the original image always changes along the way, whether in a good or a bad way. “The thrill is, when the [print] goes through the press, you never know until the very end which one it is,” remarked Chris. “Not until you pull back the paper.”

She believes that reworking on the plate often enhances the beauty of the work. “Look at Rembrandt,” Chris commented, “you can see all the ways he redid his etchings. The print can get so much richer when you wrestle with the changes.”

PRESSURE – The physical force exerted by hand or with the press to join paper and ink together.

Each technique involves different mastery and skills. Silkscreen, for instance, requires every color to be on a different screen which is later lined up (or registered). “It’s the only print medium where I don’t have to think backward,” Chris observed. 

One of the oldest forms of printmaking, woodcuts can take a little more time, as it requires hand carving. She enjoys doing it, though, for “it becomes a very meditative thing to do.”

The last form of printmaking represented in the exhibit was etching, a printmaking process in which the lines are incised into a metal plate using acid. After preparing copper as a base plate, Chris puts the ground on it, a waxy material that is meant to protect the unmarked parts of the metal from acid. She then starts drawing on the plate, which then goes into ferric chloride acid for at least 45 minutes. After cleaning it up, she looks over the plate to see what it might look like once printed. “Then I’ll make changes — and go through the whole process again until I get something I like.” Once the plate is ready to be printed, she spends time experimenting with different colors, changing the paper or the ink color, for instance.  

“I think most printmakers would say black is their favorite color,” Chris answered. But that doesn’t mean that she only uses black in her works — while black is indeed a significant element of the majority of her works, the vibrance of blue, red, orange, and yellow also captivates the visitors’ eyes from the walls of the Remis Gallery. 

PRINTS — No matter how much you plan, you just never know what the result will be.

Chris has been a member of Chase’s Studio in Maine for the past five years. There, everything she needs for printmaking — whether it be etching or silkscreening — is set up and ready to be used, according to Chris. She also collaborates with her fellow artists working there, creating some beautiful pieces. She also reaches out to these artists to ask for help in solving a technical problem or to receive feedback on a specific print. It is a place of learning and laughter, commented Chris, “It’s all about making work and not taking yourself too seriously.”

Anything can be the subject of her work. “When my dog and I go for walks,” Chris remarked, “I look at my surroundings.” While she always gravitates toward animals —whether it be cats, dogs, or otters— nature and other sceneries also charm her, “like a single light on in a house or the way the sunlight hits a tree.” In those simple, everyday things, Chris sees the spark that will continue to reside in her beautifully engraved prints.