BIG INK is an organized network of creative thinkers focused on carving, printing, and promoting large scale woodcuts. We invite artists, via a call-for-entry application process, to submit a proposal to create a woodcut, at least 24” x 36” in dimension, through bigink.org. Approximately thirteen artists are accepted per event and given two months to carve an image. At the end of the two months, BIG INK meets with the artists at a predetermined space, such as an art center, festival, or community print shop, and helps them print his or her woodcut onto paper. These events culminate in exhibition opportunities and potential sales for the artists who participate.
In addition to our call-for-entry program, BIG INK also works with organizations for a flat fee. This is common with universities who’d like us to work with students or museums who’d like us to work with their patrons. BIG INK provides students with an excellent example of how arts management is multifaceted and constantly evolving. Hosting an event or lecture helps them contextualize what skills are needed to succeed in the arts. For museums, BIG INK is an engaging educational component to print related exhibitions.
Each year over a dozen arts organizations throughout the country open their doors for BIG INK events. The woodcuts are printed using either the host organization’s existing facilities, but more often they are printed on BIG INK’s giant mobile etching press dubbed “The Big Tuna”. “The Big Tuna” is unique in that it can travel practically anywhere, can be setup indoors or outdoors, and prints woodcuts up to 48″ x 96″ in size. No other such machine exists that can travel readily and provide artists easily affordable access to specialized printing equipment.
Initially BIG INK began as a way for Lyell Castonguay and his partner to share their acquired knowledge of the medium with others. Since 2012, a national community of over a hundred past participants has formed! We believe it’s important that the prints produced at BIG INK events are seen and appreciated as a whole. Therefore, we request ownership of one print from each participant to archive in the BIG INK portfolio. Their work is professionally photographed, added to the bigink.org online gallery, and used for curatorial projects. Most recently, prints from past BIG INK events has been exhibited at the Seoul Museum of Art and Florida State College.
BIG INK provides an opportunity to network with a broad demographic of artists, from emerging to established. Events have been organized to coincide with exhibits, open studios, and fundraising efforts just to name a few. In addition, each host venue’s name is displayed next to the artist’s work both online and in exhibitions. BIG INK provides all the consumable materials and handles every aspect of the call-for-entry. This allows host venues to participate with a minimal investment of time.
We’re passionate about printmaking and BIG INK focuses that enthusiasm. By uniting under a common cause, we help to ensure a bright future for the medium. Wanna join our network of die hard relief printmakers? Apply on this page and carve wood for the good of humanity! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr and check out the gallery of prints created by past participants. Your work could be featured next. Would you like a BIG INK event at your place? Start a conversation by filling out this contact form. Peace out and happy printing!
I wanted to expand my network of woodblock printers and also challenge myself and learn from the experience of printing a 44″ x 64″ inch woodblock. BIG INK, Pilar Nadal, and Lisa Pixley shared their knowledge of the medium and process, generously providing ink, brayers, paper, and a massive press (hand built by Lisa). They encouraged all the participants to work together to execute their prints. The event inspired me to continue exploring scale and surface in my practice and opened up a new channel of communication with a great group of artists.
In the past, BIG INK has partnered with organizations including:
- Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, Hyattsville, MD
- 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH
- [Artspace] at Untitled, Oklahoma City, OK
- The Center for Contemporary Printmaking, Norwalk, CT
- Manhattan Graphics Center, New York, NY
- Pickwick Independent Press, Portland, ME
- AS220 Printshop, Providence, RI
- Zea Mays Printmaking, Florence, MA
- Whiteaker Printmakers, Eugene, OR
- XOS Open Studios, Pawtucket, RI
- Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA
- Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI
Prints from the BIG INK portfolio have been exhibited at places such as:
- Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea
- Florida State College at Jacksonville, FL
- 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH
- Plus many more!
Past Press Releases:
Stephanie Stigliano interviews BIG INK director Lyell Castonguay for the summer 2016 Boston Printmakers newsletter.
SS: What is BIG INK?
LC: BIG INK brings together artists, community organizations, and the public to produce large scale black and white woodcuts for exhibition and educational purposes. Artists from the US and abroad submit a proposal to create a big print through bigink.org. Print studios offer their facilities so artists may collaboratively print the work while museums and galleries mount exhibitions of the finished pieces. The project was initiated in 2012 by Lyell Castonguay and his partner Carand to share their acquired knowledge of working large.
Above, Printing woodcut by Debra Olin at XOS Open Studios, Lyell Castonguay on right.
SS: What do you define as “big”?
LC: We want participants to feel challenged but not overwhelmed. That is why we allow the artist to choose his or her preferred block dimensions over the minimum requirement of 24” x 36”. We’ve found 24” x 36” to be a reasonable starting point because, for many, this may be their first time printing larger than a standard sheet of paper. However, artists are welcome to work larger.
SS: What have you learned by working large?
LC: There is more surface area to create gestural marks and the sheer scale of the work commands the viewer’s attention – subjects take on a “larger than life” physical presence. Also, it’s rewarding to work on a single project for extended periods of time. Creating a large woodcut requires patience and perseverance. Anyone can develop these skills they just need to carve, carve, carve!
SS: Can you describe a typical BIG INK printing session?
LC: BIG INK events are a frenzy of activity. The participants carve their blocks for two months leading up to their assigned printing day. Events typically involve twelve to fourteen people over a two day period. Artists are given various responsibilities during his or her printing day including tearing paper and mixing inks. Others keep clean hands to lay paper. It’s low key and a great opportunity for networking. The public is also invited to attend. Participants appreciate the camaraderie and friendships that are created.
Left: Enrique Figueredo; Right: William Evertson at Zea Mays Printmaking
SS: Tell us about the BIG INK portfolio and the recent Seoul exhibit?
LC: BIG INK isn’t just an event, it’s also a collaborative body of work that’s meant to be seen and appreciated. We request ownership of one print from each participant to archive in the BIG INK portfolio, which travels to exhibitions across the US and internationally. Most recently, we were approached by the Print Art Research Center based in Seoul to be part of The Korean Contemporary Printmakers Association Annual Exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art in September 2015. Twenty BIG INK artists were featured alongside artists from both India and Korea.
SS: Can you tell us a little about your movable press?
LC: The press is a 48” x 96” mono-type press. This model is relatively lightweight and easy to transport. The center portion of the press, which holds the rollers, is being mounted to a specially fabricated table. With this new mobile press, we’re able to host events at a wide range of venues including: museums, schools, art centers, and festivals.
SS: What’s on the horizon?
LC: We have upcoming events at Whiteaker Printmakers in Eugene, OR, The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT and the Noho Print & Book Fair in Northampton, MA. Venues are added to bigink.org on a rolling basis, so check back often. We have a few more events in the works for this year being posted shortly. Our next exhibit will be at the Wilson Center for the Arts at Florida State College Jacksonville’s south campus from late October through mid-November 2016.
SS: Is there anything else you would like to share with members of the Boston Printmakers?
LC: If any BP members would like to exhibit the portfolio and/or host a printing event we’d love to hear from you! Our email is contact at bigink.org. Also, we’d like to thank the individuals and organizations that help further BIG INK’s mission.
Below is an interview conducted between University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate student Erica Marksteiner and Lyell Castonguay.
Erica: What do you see as the benefits of having a group show for the artists and/or viewers? What are the benefits of having everyone use the same medium in this group show?
Lyell: I like the cohesiveness of an all black and white large woodcut exhibit. Large scale prints, unless visiting a museum, is something an audience rarely encounters. This feature is one of BIG INK’s major appeals. Each artist translates his or her idea on a monumental scale which provides the audience with a unique viewing opportunity.
E: Have you seen any radical shifts or changes in the work from when you started this project? Are there any patterns you see from one year to the next? I’m curious as to how all the work fits together each year and if you’ve seen any interesting similarities or differences.
LC: The prints began as primarily figurative but are now moving into abstract imagery. When selecting artists, I like to balance different subject matters. Selected artists are not necessarily practicing printmakers. The question often becomes is how well the proposed idea would translate as a woodcut. Some images would not visually communicate well in black and white. Using previous experience, I attempt to select the submissions I feel will work best given the possibilities of the medium.
E: What are the specific benefits of bringing artists together to produce the work?
LC: Artists from different artistic disciplines are given a common goal. The participant may be sculptor, painter, printmaker, or photographer. We all approach art making differently and this generates new concepts. Logistically, this newly made community must help one another during the printing session since the process requires a frenzy of physical work compacted into only a few days. Printing sessions produce over thirty prints! It’s similar to being in a sports team who just won the big championship. The artists work for two months carving and the printing session is their reward.
E: What do you strive to exhibit in this collection of work? Are there certain concepts that you want the viewer to leave with?
LC: Each viewer is going to take away something completely different from BIG INK. I try to communicate how awesome woodcut prints are and what excellent work artists can produce with this medium.
E: What do you enjoy about woodcut printmaking over other types of printmaking and art mediums?
LC: In my opinion, woodcut is accessible, easily understood, and the most democratic of all printmaking mediums. For example, I love lithography, but the process requires very specific equipment and can be difficult to explain to someone unfamiliar with the process. BIG INK thrives in the pubic domain and provides an opportunity for the audience to better understand the woodcut process.