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Computer Graphic vs. Printmaking

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This question may be obvious to you illustrators, but I'm a writer, so I don't know. My son is a talented artist finishing up studies at university soon. The printmaking department is trying to get him to switch his major from drawing/painting to printmaking. He says many book illustrations are done this way.


Is that true? I assumed most picture book illustrations, in particular, would be done digitally. Would a printmaking degree be any more helpful toward a masters in illustration than his current department?


Thanks for any advice.
#1 - April 16, 2014, 10:26 AM

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I don't think it's true that most are done digitally, but it could be as much as half. There are a lot of us still using traditional media. My books are watercolor and ink. I honestly don't know how common printmaking is these days among illustrators, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. But if the illustrations are good and reproduce well I don't think it really matters what the chosen media is. I still box up and ship my paintings to my publisher to be professionally scanned.

Personally, I feel drawing and painting is a very transferable skill, a necessary foundation for any media, be it digital or traditional. Not sure how transferable printmaking is. I'm not very familiar with it. Is it something he can try as an elective?
#2 - April 16, 2014, 01:12 PM
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I don't think it matters how an image is produced - whether traditionally or digitally. Printmaking isn't a large commercial choice for most illustrators I know. Drawing and painting - especially the foundation rules are transferable to any media. And, in my opinion, a solid base in these skills far outweighs the choice of media to execute the final piece.
#3 - April 16, 2014, 04:10 PM
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What Arty and Wendy said.

I was a painter in college (abstract figural painter). I took printmaking classes as well. Picture books can be illustrated in those and a variety of other media, including digital art. It's up to the artist. If the illustrations are good enough for the book, then it doesn't matter how they are produced (there may be exceptions to this with some publishers - just a guess - you can never rely on absolutes).

The one thing that I will say, is that all the art I've done informs my current illustration style (which happens to be digital, but starts off in pencil, and I still paint and use other media for fun). Printmaking, in particular, taught me to think through the puzzle of drawing an image facing one way, but having it print the opposite, or mirror image. This skill has been useful for learning how to work through visual puzzles, and to think about what the best media/method would be for a piece, whether it's personal or for my portfolio.

The biggest thing, IMO, is whether or not your son wants to switch to printmaking as a major, or just take a few courses. Maybe he's already taken printmaking, if the instructors are urging him to switch. The second thing to know (echoing comments above) is that drawing, printmaking, painting, pen and ink, all teach you art skills like line and composition. Those are transferable.

For each of those mediums, and for digital art, you do need to learn a new way of working with the skills you have, in order to achieve results you're happy with (the pictures don't always turn out as expected, but that's even true in mediums that you've used for years). Digital art can be taught to you, or you can learn it yourself, just like any other medium.

It's always good in art to challenge yourself to see things a new way, or to learn how to use a new medium. It sounds like your son might be ready for a challenge of a new kind of art.

Good luck to your son! Hope he finds an art major he enjoys.
#4 - April 16, 2014, 08:03 PM
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 :lol4 , my hubby's an art professor. Sounds to me like your son has real talent and the printmaking area is wooing him. How many majors you have in an area is important, and if it's a student with big potential, all the better.  :grin3
#5 - April 17, 2014, 06:01 AM

I second Wendy's response about the process not mattering, just the result. However, since i've been debating personally if I want to explore printmaking, I have been keeping an eye out for artists who work this way.


Caldecott Medal winner Erin Stead uses printmaking with drawing. On her bio page you can see photos of her process: http://erinstead.com/about/


In the colophon of Taeeun Yoo's So Many Days artwork, it says the art was created with "linocuts manipulated digitally" so this process has both techniques you're asking about. http://www.taeeunyoo.com/


Hope that helps!
#6 - May 31, 2014, 11:20 PM

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I'm a printmaker who wants to become a children's book illustrator. I've been paying CLOSE attention for about 5 years. There are actually very few artists working with original prints. There are talented and award-winning artists who do fantastic work with relief prints. I haven't noticed anyone who does intaglio or litho. Compared to the artists who use watercolor or digital though, there aren't many printmakers at all.

I think it's strange that they are trying to sway him to printmaking that way. He should do whatever he loves best. And as other people have said, books can be illustrated using any media!

Here are some of my favorite printmaker/illustrators:
Eric Rohmann, Ashley Wolff, Mark Hearld, Holly Meade, Erin Stead, John Lawrence, Mary Azarian, Taeeun Yoo, and Beth Krommes does wood engraving but uses scratchboard for her beautiful books.
#7 - June 18, 2014, 10:01 PM

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I think he should do both. Most images are tweaked down to the pixel. Even if he went into printmaking, it would be important for him to learn computer graphics not only to aid him in his printmaking, but to be a double threat in the art world.
#8 - July 02, 2014, 07:38 PM

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You have already gotten lots of good advice here. I just wanted to add another wonderful printmaker, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, to your list.
#9 - July 03, 2014, 07:00 PM
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