Notes from a Printmaker: Essays, Images, and Interviews
by Bob Tomolillo
Park Press Printers

"The renewed interest in printmaking has caused an eruption of alternative viewpoints to enter the discussion, including the validity of the printed image and its ability to inform and dictate new trends in society."

To the uninitiated, printmaking is frequently viewed as a profession peopled by trained craftsmen rather than a realm where the artist can also make his mark. But as the author so vividly makes clear through examples from both the past and his own background in the field, the skill and thinking behind the successful design and implementation of a print is a valid, if at times misunderstood, art form in its own right. The print studio can be a place where the expert craftsman and the accomplished artist can successfully collaborate to produce masterpieces. And, like all serious art, the print can also be a force in societal change.

Tomolillo drives this last point home in the book's debut essay "The Print as a Righteous Image." In addition to his insightful analysis of his subject he includes the image of an absolutely riveting lithographic drawing by K├Ąthe Kollwitz, a German born artist working in the early part of the last century who hauntingly captured the hunger of German children in the years following World War I. While this illustration alone proves his entire thesis, his detailed examination of the topic adds weight to his argument. Other essays, articles, and interviews in the book, many of which were published previously in art journals, literary magazines or online, tackle different topics and demonstrate his ability to successfully tailor his work to a variety of audiences. For example, while the former piece is scholarly in tone, other selections such as "Prints and Politics: Drawing Inspiration on Stone" which focuses on his artistic process as a lithographer are written in a more down-to-earth manner. In this article the excellent sensory descriptions make one practically feel the texture and weight of the heavy limestone "canvas" he works with. Others, such as "Prints and Politics: Gum Arabic," are geared toward those who are more fascinated with history and how things are used than with erudite articles or feature stories.

Perhaps Tomolillo's most engaging writing comes in the form of personal narrative like in "Karen's Print, which is a poignant tale from his past that almost reads like fiction as it tells the story of a rather strange, free-spirited young woman in Holland who enters into a contract with him to produce a print of a partially used matchbook with one of the matches standing apart from the others. When Tomolillo returns a year later to the site of his former apprenticeship, under the Dutch master printer Piet Clement, he learns that the girl has hung herself.

There is much more to this book than the author's writing, however. Tomolillo also includes a small gallery of his own lithographs, sculptures, etc. that showcase his artistic talent. While most are either political in nature or address social issues, a few, such as "Toothbrush Harvest," seem to be purely whimsical. The imagery he employs, while uniquely his own, is reminiscent of some of the early work of artist Patrick Woodroffe, minus the science fiction elements. Informative and insightful, Tomolillo's book reveals much about both the artist and the art form he has embraced over several decades. It brings new life and color to the subject of printmaking.

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