How Ulukhaktok Prints are Made
Printmaking is a collaborative process. Artist, printmaker and arts advisor work together to create, select and produce prints. At the Ulukhaktok Arts Centre, original drawings are purchased by the print shop through the year. Once a year, drawings are chosen to appear in the annual print collection. The original drawings often become valuable collector’s items.
Genuine Holman prints are created by hand, from preparing materials, to applying colour, to individually signing each print. On the signature line, the first name is the name of the artist, followed by the printmaker’s name. If — the artist and printmaker are the same person, only one name appears.
Finished prints are numbered to indicate the size of the edition, which is never more than 50. After the edition is “pulled” from the plate, stone or stencils, the printing surface is defaced to prevent more prints from being made, thus “limiting” the edition.
Smooth limestone, quarried near Minto Inlet, is used for stonecut prints. A reverse image of the selected drawing is traced onto the stone. All the stone surrounding the image is removed, leaving a series of raised areas, representing the image, on the face of the stone. These raised surfaces are inked and a thin sheet of paper placed over the inked surface. The paper is pressed gently and firmly against the stone by hand with a small padded disc. The paper is then “pulled” from the surface and hung to dry. For each new print, the surface of the stone is inked anew. For a woodcut, the process is the same as the stonecut, but the image is carved from a block of wood.
Lithographs are created using a flat plate, oil and water. The artist creates the image directly on a smooth limestone or zinc metal surface using an oil based crayon. A separate plate is created for each colour. A film of water is applied to the plate, and then a layer of greasy ink. The water is repelled by the crayon image, but the ink adheres to the oil-based crayon. Paper is laid on the stone or metal plate and a press transfers the colours to create the finished image. It is important that each plate match precisely with the previous one, to create the multi coloured image.
Prints from other areas
Printmaking is not a widely practiced artform elsewhere in the Northwest Territories. Dene artists create paintings, which are sometimes turned into limited edition lithographs. Some Métis artists in the Yellowknife area are creating original prints on card. These fine-art quality prints and cards are easy to transport and ideal for framing.