Friday, January 1, 2016

emmett merrill - kcai printmaker

After viewing the ink and paper exhibit at KCAI, sophomore printmaker Emmett Merrill gave me an interview. The first of many kcai print interviews to come.  He was working on a triptych piece for his final project. The board roughly measured 18 by 36 inches, and about 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

Merrill worked on a MDF board, which is basically compressed sawdust. and can be found at Home Depot in large sheets. It was really easy to carve into. Unfortunately like most things in printmaking, over time it might give you cancer. He also recommended Cherry wood as MDF has a pretty salty texture when being printed (unless you shellac it first)

Four minute interview at the East Building on the KCAI campus.
Karl Marxhausen (KM) and Emmett Merrill (EM) dialogue follows below.
KM: I have not seen one of those before.
EM: This is a V-gouge and it is real good steel. It is from China I want to say. And so you can order them online. They are more expensive then Speedball tools. But when you get them you can just send them back to China and they will sharpen them for you and bring them back.
KM: And what is your name?
EM: Emmett Merrill.
KM: Are you a student here?
EM: Yes.
KM: What year are you?
EM: I am going to be a Junior I guess in a week.
KM: So what is some of the process that goes into this piece here, that you had to do before you actually got to cutting it?
EM: It goes back a long ways. I used to do photography, especially portraits. A lot of my work is based on the portraits I took when I was doing that. So, I redraw them on to the block. I stain (the block) pink.
KM: Why do you stain it?
EM: Because otherwise you cannot see much difference in color (between the cut marks and the surface of the board).
KM: Oh.,,
EM: So you can see where you are carving and you can get texture if you know where you are going. And once it is all carved I will ink it up and print it and have an edition. 

KM: That is sort of a large block, isn't it? 
EM: Yeh, I got a few bigger ones. 
KM: Bigger??? What is this "bigger" stuff? I am used to little, dinky woodcuts. All my art is small. These are HUGE. I walked in, there was one over there, and I commented and (they said to me) "Oh, that is a SMALL one." (chuckles)
EM: I have been working pretty big lately. That is because the graphic style looks pretty nice. This is my "Patron Saint of Fast Stop."
KM: Whoa. Awesome. Look at that!
EM: The background is based on work by Richard Mock and Tom Huck and a lot of the Outlaws. I'm going to go to his workshop in a few weeks. 
KM: Where is that?
EM: It's in St. Louis.
KM: You are going to go down to St. Louis just for his workshop?
EM: Yeah. I'm going to go up there and carve a block up there for a week..
KM: Do you have to bring your own supplies?
EM: I think so, and that is how I prefer it. My favourite thing about the tools for carving a relief is that they definitely form to your hand.

KM: Now, I have seen someone else do it, but don't you have to sharpen that?
EM: Yeh, you want to see that?
KM: Yeh, I'm curious.
EM: I can never sharpen on a stone. It just didn't make much sense it me. I got this handy little tool (yellow bar and flat wood block-- strop block).  
KM: You put rosin on or something like that? 
EM: Yeh, it's just rosin. And then, you have to find the edge (under side of V-gouge) 
KM: You just pull it toward yourself.
EM: Right. I notice that a lot of people do back and forth. That just dulls it (the blade).
KM: Pull it one direction.
EM: And bring it back.
KM: Is that a sharpening stone right there?
EM: Yeh, I'm not sure. I think it's just wood. The ideal way to sharpen is, when you first get your tool, have a sheet of MDF and carve a straight line, and then you can meld some of this rosin or sharpening whatever (aluminium/titanium oxide), and put it in there. When you want to sharpen, you run it back thru. And it will take the shape it was when you first got it.
KM: Well, I've got the Speedball linocut. I done it on wood( chuckles), but I just keep on changing out new tips and IT WORKS. But I have seen that (V-gouge), I just haven't sprung for it yet.
EM: Yeh, I'd say it is worth it. I mean, the Speedball works well though. It's nice and cheap.
KM: Yeh, cheap helps. 
EM: ..when you get a new one..
KM: When you are starting, cheap helps.
EM: But I definitely took longer to was hard.

KM: So, what kind of ink are you going to use on that when you finally roll that up? Is it oil-base or acrylic?
EM: It's going to be oil-base. I think, it is just the shop ink we have right now. It is pretty basic we think and we use it on the Vanderhook for letterpress. 
KM: So, with this kind of material do you have to put down lots of ink before you get it to the place where you want it to be?  Can you print it pretty instant?   
EM: It's kind of a process, because what you want to do is, when I first started, I was thinking all you had to do was (roll it back and forth over plate).  
KM: Right, right.
EM: But then you fill in the cracks with INK. So, what you really want to do is roll over it GENTLY and then re-ink your...
KM: ..thing
EM: ..roller (arm motions rolling across the plate)
KM: (laughter)
EM: And like, SLOWLY BUILD UP a few layers of ink and then print it and do test prints until you can figure out. Because every print seems to be individual.
KM: Thank you Emmett.

Merrill plans to attend the Tom Huck's Boot Camp Workshop in St. Louis, from June 16th to the 23rd. According to the website, participants will learn the traditional techniques of drawing and carving used by masters such as Albrecht Durer, Lucas Cranach, and Hans Baldung Grien.  Each will carve and edition on LARGE scale woodcut, using the company facilities and equipment. For an inside look to their downtown location, read post by Josh Dannin for Printeresting. Click HERE.

This interview took place Saturday afternoon, May 11th, 2013.

Fast Stop display in print room
(MDF link courtesy of Inside Woodworking,, Home Depot panels,, Richard Mock link courtesy of Wikipedia, Tom Huck, Wikipedia,, Outlaws, Wikipedia,, Strop block, Flexcut,, titanium oxide, MF Crafters,,
Vanderhook timeline, Vanderhook Press,,
Boot Camp Workshop link, Evil Prints,, Albrecht Durer, Bing Images,, Lucas Cranach, Bing Images,, Hans Baldung Grien, Bing Images,, accessed May 25, 2013. Josh Dannin post courtesy of Printeresting,, accessed June 2, 2013)

The KCAI printmaking department is located in East Building,
345 E. 44th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Saturday, November 28, 2015

bill goldson - daum museum at sedalia

This time the road trip was to Sedalia, Missouri, about a one hour drive east of Kansas City. The group started at the Sedalia Country Club for lunch.

At the luncheon, Barbara Cooney (on left) met and listened to members of the Nelson Atkins Print Society. Catherine Vesce (on right) was her cousin. Cooney talked about Dr. Harold Daum. He was a doctor of Radiology, who had his life changed after buying a piece of art. Daum went on trips with his friend and artist Doug Freed, and soon bought other art pieces. When he needed a place to house his acquisitions, he worked with the State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri. His collection worth several million dollars helped the Daum Museum to become a reality. Building began in 1995 and the gallery opened in 2003. This was the gallery whose print collection we were going to see today. Cooney was an artist herself. She made collage and found art assemblages. She was a member of the Kansas City Artist Coalition in 2000.

Members in attendance: Barbara Cooney, Catherine Vesce, Paul and Debbie Sokoloff, Kathy Ashenbrenner, Karl and Jan Marxhausen, Robin Gross, Suzanne Geringer, and Beth Lurey. Daum Museum, below.

Director for the Daum Museum, Thomas Piche Jr. introduced today's speaker, the importance of the ULAE, and the New York artist names whose printmaking was featured in the Daum's current show, Fit To Print: Contemporary American Graphics. Three minutes

Detail of line etching by James Siena, above,
Untitled (Blue-Black)(from suite of 5), 2000 

Detail of Ukiyo-e style woodcut in 23 colors
by Helen Frankenthaler, above,
Geisha, 2003

Bill Goldston gave a one-hour talk on the history of ULAE and explained the printmaking techniques.

As a master print Goldston discusses the collaboration between himself and the artists he works with in New York. Responding to questions at Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri. Three minutes.

Bill and his crew at ULAE in Bay Shore, New York.

Detail of photoengravure image by Tom Friedman,  
Vanishing Point, 2006, above

To do photengravure one must have the understanding of a chemist. It is a science. Goldston shares some of that process. Four minutes
More about ULAE at

Detail of relief print from rubber band matrix by Tara Donovan, above,
Untitled, 2006

Detail of color woodcut by Karen Kunc, above,
New Elemental Dawn, 1991

Detail of woodcut by Tom Huck, above,
The Transformation of Brandy Baghead, 2008
More on exhibit at and
and (accessed Oct 26, 2013)

Curator of Education Victoria Weaver described the layout of the Contemporary American Graphics exhibit to the Nelson Atkins Print Society. Seventy-five works at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, include those by James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Phillip Pearlstein, Terry Winters, Eric Fischl, David Salle, Chuck Close, Alex Katz, Tara Donovan and others. Eight minutes.

(All links accessed Oct 24, 2013)
Submitted by Karl Marxhausen
Comments by David and Roxie Mc Gee

Saturday, November 14, 2015

mike lyon - kc printmaker

    Mike Lyon has a three story custom built playhouse and the energy, imagination and enthusiasm of a child let loose to explore endless possibilities. He is a dedicated artist first, a superb craftsman, whose furniture creations are much in evidence, an inventor and computer wizard. Moving through his building one is struck by the multitude of ingenious equipment that he designed and built. He skillfully re-purposed building materials from a dismantled school building for floors, walls, shelves and cabinets.

     The first level space of the studio building is dominated by a 4 by 8 foot stationary press and its accompanying self-designed sliding humidor drawer. This is a paper delivery system for his large-scale wood block prints. Nearby is the giant router bed where the blocks, 13 to 30 per print, are cut according to Mike's computer programmed instructions. A large multi-machine equipped wood shop is next door and then upstairs to a broad window walled gallery and studio space. The sound of churning and whirring, like a giant washing machine, comes from the ingenious device he created to produce little squirts of ink onto enormous heavy, absorbent paper, which is vacuum-adhered to a table. As the suspended pen moves about over the paper it charts out the instructions that Mike codes into the computer that directs each tiny movement. The result, after several weeks, is an immense drawing that reveals itself upon close inspection to be visually fascinating and quite unique. Though the process is reproducible, Mike chooses to make only one of each drawing.

     Mike has developed and applies industrial techniques that have no actual commercial application, just to create what he imagines. In a candid moment he said, "Sometimes I wonder who would do something like this!" Apparently, no one but him. His approach to woodblock printmaking, though inspired by the Japanese tradition, is otherwise revolutionary and charts a new path. One similarity: the famous Japanese woodcut artists painted their images, which were then glued onto and cut into the blocks by craftsmen. A router executes Mike's woodcuts, but the images he captures with photos must be translated by him into code before the machines can do anything. To Mike, the actual printing is the least engaging part of the process. It is the weeks of devising algorithms and programming that challenge him. And the unique marks that result are the eye candy that feeds his habit and are the viewer's reward for getting up close. Due to the large scale of the images, that experience is much like looking at an old master etching through a magnifying glass.


      Mike had a great deal to say about his work, which he appreciates being understood on the artist's terms. It is radically different from digital print production (inkjet on high-quality paper). He merited a chapter in the new book, Post-Digital Printmaking that explains this contemporary practice, incorporating the strengths of both digital and traditional, resulting in hybrid printmaking techniques. This is now an important current in the printmaking of our time.

~~~~~ mike lyon studio review by Catherine Vesce ~~~~~~


           Mike on LINE MAKING. Watch 2 minute video.                       
          " can see time ripples kind of growing out from that.
           So I am pretty fascinated by my own stuff. Obviously I wouldn't
           do it if I weren't interested in doing it. It's a lot of time every
           day down here thinking up how to make images. These are all
           sort of experiments in cross hatching, which seem so simple.
           In fifth grade, my friend Joe Kramer taught me how to cross
           hatch, we were cross hatching those first space capsules
           they were shooting up. And so we drew those conical
           shapes, he showed me how that side of the pencil or pen 
           to make lots of lines (he makes sideways motions with his
           hand). You know, I drew like that through art school and
           after with lots of line (moving his hand in the air) to make
           tone. And never thought too much about it. But when you
           are instructing a machine where to move one-thousandth 
           of an inch at a time, then it becomes more, you can not just,
           there is no command, at least not on my machine, that says
           "go like this" (his hand doing the vigorous sideways motion 
           in the air). (laughter) Most of these drawings are made
           following a kind of plan that takes the contours kind like a
           woodblock print, and grow out of the wood block printmaking,
           take the contour and step in this set distance and trace the
           contours. So that in a real weird way the direction of the line
           follows the direction of the contrasty parts of the drawing.
           So the lines of the eyebrows follow the hairs of the eyebrow.
           The lines for the glasses (his hand points to the glass
           frames on the large print) and then, in a wacky kind
           of way, the lines of her skin also follow the lines of the
           glasses for a while, and then they start echoing the lines
           of other features of the face."

(Photo by Catherine Vesce)

     Mike stood by the large bed of the ink drawing machine that he built. The arm was moving and depositing white ink on specific portions of the orange image below it. Next is a segment  about the pen on the arm and after that a segment about the solenoids he used in its creation.
"The pen (on the suspended arm) is not held down by anything when it's drawing, it is just the weight of two nuts. There is no downward pressure other than gravity. By trial and error I decided how much load to put on the pen. I have TORN UP lots of drawings in the process of finding out what works best. Initially I held the pen in the machine, because the machine has an axis that moves up and down. This bed is supposedly flat. I would lower the pen down until it just touched the paper, and then draw. The table is never quite flat, so the drawings would be dark in some areas and pale in others. So then, I loaded the pen up and put a little bit of sponge against the top, so when I pushed down on it I never really hit on it--- I never really finish a sentence, do I ?--- So that didn't work very well either, the foam that was supposed to put pressure on never did get it right. "
(Photo by John Mallery) 
"I finally bit the bullet, because it requires, so these wires (he points to the arm that holds the ink) are three lines. I can control three solenoids. Only because that is all the wire pairs I had and the wire I had, otherwise I could have controlled more. So, I built a circuit to hook up to the machine, which is in the box. There is a control box under here, that the computer talks to. And there is the circuit board I built in there, just simple relays that in a de-bouncing circuit that takes the 24 volts that the control box runs on. I spent a week to ten days learning about solenoids. Reading the catalogs, deciphering these charts, and learning, after I almost burned the studio down, with a solenoid that was designed for door opening (back and forth motion with his fingers). You know, you say into the door panel, "Madeline, it's me," and that loud buzzing sound and click that releases the locked door, so you can enter the building. It was THAT kind of solenoid. They are not continuous duty solenoids. They are ten to fifteen percent duty. They are not made to be on all the time, but I did not know that. So the first one of these I made was a 110 volt solenoid that lifted the pen up and down and worked great. I went home at night. When I came in the morning the whole studio was filled with black snowflakes, and my solenoid had MELTED down onto the drawing. So that was when I started studying solenoids, and learned there is a continuous duty and a partial cycle, 24 volts, six volts, five volts. The manufacturers give you graphs, that tell you all the you need to know. Like, how much weight it will lift, how far, how fast, how the contact points meet. This solenoid (pointing to the inking arm in motion) is rated for half a million cycles. This drawing has more than that. It will probably have one hundred thousand cycles alone. I don't know how many million actuations. You hear the CLICK? That lifts the pen, moves the arm to the next location, drops it down, and it draws whatever it is supposed to be drawing."

ShopBot (CNC) computerized numerical control
More on solenoids here  A solenoid is a device which converts energy into linear motion.


Mike talked about nineteen different line thicknesses for a printed drawing that took four or five weeks to produce a particular image. Watch one and a half minute video.
"A valve, sort of like an airbrush, where the needle comes down, I can pull the needle up, and lift the whole thing, so that when I lift it it stops the paint and when I drop it, the needle stays up and the paint can flow. Just running it. So here I invented "Chuck Close like.. (My hero is Chuck Close. I love his work.) 
"....So here I invented some gestures, diamonds and squares, in different sizes and calculated the amount of the surface of the square, each of those little shapes would cover, and then combined them to make, in this I think there were nineteen different darknesses of line. And then I painted blue and red and yellow and black in sequence over and over. So it painted four times. Just  like you imagine, it even makes its own noise: "deeyoo,deeyoo, cheechee, deeyoo, deeyoo, cheechee, deeyoo, deeyoo, cheechee, deeyoo, deeyoo, cheechee!!!" over and over and over and over. So that is very printerly in a way, if we like printing processes where, in this case, four or five weeks, it took to produce one example of prints, ridiculous."
Photos and videos by Robin Gross
Layout by Karl Marxhausen

Credits:(POST DIGITAL PRINTMAKING CNC, Traditional and Hybrid Techniques, A&C Black Publishers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc (pages 119-128),; Chuck Close courtesy of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,;  de-bounce circuit  link courtesy of Electroix Express,; actuation link courtesy of Wikipedia,;  solenoid links courtesy of WiseGeek,; and Mechtronics; CNC link courtesy of ShopBot,,  December 3, 2012
http://mlyon. com/

Sunday, October 18, 2015

kcai student panel

    "It was a good run & discussion. Especially from the questioning past art dealer that seemed to know the answer to all of his questions. Rather more giving good advice to all the students & artists on how to be more corporate & business like with their work. We know we don't ever work for the money, but better to be fed at dinnertime than an ascetic. If it were me, I'd starve for making art any day than eat a good meal." Eric Lehnert

 Professor Laura Berman, panel moderator,
introduces the six KCAI students
who will speak on their print making.
Eight minutes.
Double click on images 
to enlarge.


Sara Elizabeth Haug
(current KCAI Sophomore) 
from Leawood, Kansas. 
Five minutes.

Daiana Oneto
(current KCAI Junior)
 from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Seven minutes.

Emmett Merrill
 (current KCAI Junior)
from Kansas City
 Seven minutes.
Interview with Emmett. 

Kelsey Alexsandra Van Horn
(current KCAI Senior)
 from Oklahoma.
Eleven minutes.
Closing comments on Merrill, then on to Van Horn.


Adri Luna
 (Bachelor of Fine Arts, KCAI 2011)
 from Los Angeles
followed by
Robert Howser
 (Bachelor of Fine Arts, KCAI 2009, 
Master of Fine Art, Ohio University)
 from Pennsyvania.  Seventeen minutes.

Student Discussion. Eleven minutes

Value of Critiques. Four minutes.

Students on building community within Print Department.
Seven minutes.