Part I – The Journey Through Printmaking: about Resilience
As someone who is profoundly engaged with the healing power of printmaking, I’ve seen how these diverse printmaking forms, including linocut, rubber block stamping, and drypoint etching, to name a few, offer a path to resilience, personal growth, and adaptability in the face of life’s shifting landscapes. I warmly invite you to join me on this particularly cathartic and transformative journey, leveraging the relevant science and art of self-expression to stabilise and perhaps thrive amidst uncertainty.
The world of printmaking, in all its multivariate forms, has been my haven, offering a space for introspection and a conduit to channel my deepest thoughts and feelings. During life’s storms, I find solace in the meditative process of intricately carving a linoleum block – or of blockprint for stamping and, the current expressive scratchy favourite: drypoint etching. Each calculated stroke brings tranquility and focus, enabling me to potentiate a mimicry of skilfully navigating change …perhaps not too dissimilar to how Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (i) describes the state of ‘flow,’ a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment.
In our shared workshop space, I urge fellow artists to plunge into their personal narratives, unearth their emotions, and reach into their dreamscapes. Through the diverse techniques in printmaking, we uncover our unique voices, embracing our imperfections and revealing beauty in unexpected places. As in the esoteric practice of creating mandalas, a form of meditation, printmaking offers a state of sanctuary – a place to express joys, sorrows, and the infinite spectrum of human experience – all on a surface which we make readily available.
In the wake of the global pandemic, I turned to the art of relief printmaking, finding in each unique technique a mindful process that became my refuge, allowing me to connect with the present moment, providing balance and tranquility amidst turbulence. As my linoprint workshops grow, I plunged deeper into the historical and cultural richness of printmaking, discovering how each technique, from linocut to etching, has its roots in different cultures and epochs, broadening my artistic horizons.
Today, we find ourselves in an evolving world, demanding continual adaptability and resilience. Printmaking, in all its forms, provides a retreat, a shelter, teaching us to transform uncertainty into art, echoing Bessel van der Kolk’s (ii) 2014 The Body Keeps the Score, which underscores the transformative and healing power of artistic expression, to express and extract the trauma held within the physical body.
Guided by a sense of Service, I collaborate with organisations like VOS (Veterans Outreach Support) and local communities, aiming to utilise printmaking’s restorative power. A 2016 study by Kaimal & Muniz published in the “Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association” (iii) reinforced this, highlighting that 45 minutes of creative activity can significantly reduce stress, regardless of artistic experience or talent. This is also echoed in Walker, M., et al’s Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey (iv).
Through printmaking, I chose to view that change is not a barrier, but an invitation to grow, evolve, and create something extraordinary. I use my hand-wroughting skills to carve lino blocks through challenges, in the hope to re-discovering my voice through a printed form. You might say that I utilise the power of printmaking, and letting my creativity be a form of strength in life’s ever-changing eddies.
To summarise, the art and craft activities we engage in – whether within the privacy of our homes or the camaraderie of workshops – provide spaces for self-expression and recovery, empowering us to build resilience and adaptability. This is the overarching transformative power of art – it extends beyond its aesthetic appeal. It serves as an invaluable tool in our quest for mental wellbeing, and if we’re lucky: providing the lamp to light our path towards self-discovery and healing.
Your hermit printmaker,
References: (i) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – HarperCollins, 13 Oct 2009 – Psychology – (ii) Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Penguin Publishing Group, 25 Sept 2014 – Psychology (iii) Kaimal, Ray, & Muniz (2016): Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making, by ; Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association (iv) Walker, M. S., Kaimal, G., Koffman, R., & DeGraba, T. J. (2016) Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-30081-004 – . Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 49, 10–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2016.05.015; also: Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey