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Betsy Best

Relief printmaking has been my primary medium for the past two decades. In that time I have traveled from Seattle to Italy and Japan learning both western and eastern printmaking techniques and traditions. While in Italy I studied under the American printmaker, Karen Kunc, and learned a reduction method using two woodblocks. It’s a lively and spontaneous method in which the printmaker moves back and forth between blocks, carving and printing, again and again until the composition is complete. 

In Japan I attended the Nagasawa Art Park Japanese Woodblock Printmaking Program. During this two month residency I learned the Japanese water based printmaking technique called moku hanga. Moku hanga is best known as the technique used in the ukiyo-e genre of Japanese prints. This approach employs precise carving and registration techniques and uses water-based pigments—as opposed to western woodcut, which often uses oil-based inks. My two months of instruction pales in comparison to the lifelong study of my teachers; one a master carver and the other a master printer

For me, printmaking is a captivating process. The tactility of using tools to carve a piece of wood and then, the immediacy with which I can see the printed result, offers me a gratifying combination of anticipation and satisfaction; I liken the process to magic. I try to incorporate aspects of both the western and eastern approaches into my printmaking practice. As I work, I reflect upon my personal experiences and use the human form to explore gesture, pattern and color. 

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