Thursday, October 1, 2015

ap151010 STEAM Printmaking  

Illustration: WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press “steampunked” by Ron Myhre for the 2015 Port Townsend steampunk event. Ric Miller used CNC routing for manufacturing the press; Miller and Myhre collaborated with Bill Ritchie, who adapted the design after a 17th Century etching press typical of Rembrandt's time.  


“S” is for science—how science and printmaking are related. Think of the big picture—how it was the science of pigment and templates that constitute the invention of printing. The hand is a template, and science is described in terms of exactly repeatable signs, symbols and the makeup of atoms, molecules and the forces that bind and split them.


“T” is for technology, the result of the joining of science and templates. Making an exactly repeatable image was decisive in communication over wide spaces and time. We have the prints on the walls of caves—a broadcast of hundreds of centuries. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? Try to describe a hand print with words only. Sure, letter forms are great and words are great, but had it not been for their being exactly repeatable as templates, you’d have no written or printed language. Printing is the ancestor of all technologies.


“E” is for engineering. We started with the science of paint and template, came up with technology, and now we mechanize the procedure and that takes the wile and way of engineering. Engineering is practically an art in itself but requires following the laws of science to make technology workable. Making a printing press—whether old world style or with laser light—requires engineering.


“A” is for art, and this has been left out of the STEM programs about organizing school and training institutions. If you leave out the A-word, art, then you have training. You can train a robot by science, technology, and engineering, but you can’t “train” art into the robot. Don’t be fooled into thinking a machine that makes designs that stimulate the five senses to pleasing effect is an artist. Humans own the art field. The five senses as a robot sees them are not the same as being human. A robot can design weapons of mass destruction and put an end to Earth’s human life sustainability, but an STEAM-educated human can change the course of the trend.


“M” is for math; we come to the interesting part because mathematics figure into all matters in education, whether it’s finding the area of physical space needed to have an art studio, or rent it, or for how much finished artworks must sell for to meet expenses. The more amazing mathematics express theories of relativity, black holes and the exact course for putting a rover on Mars. Math is essential to economics, the vice-regent to social and political science, which brings us full circle back to humanities.


The case for making printmaking THE art, craft and design to stand up for art in the STEAM proposition is that printmaking engages all its four neighbors in the STEM proposition - always has, always will. The same is not true of hand-painting, drawing, and sculpture; connections with STEM are somewhat true of the craft  and industry-oriented arts such as ceramics, weaving, paper making for example.

Proponents of STEAM should study this deeply with me, as I have studied and applied the principles of STEAM; and balanced the printmaking world that I made. For example, apply math to the economics of making presses in order that more people can have a printmaking experience.