When it comes to environmentally-sound printmaking, France-based experimental artist Cedric Green knows what it’s all about. Green’s research into alternative printmaking techniques began in the late Eighties at the birth of the non-toxic printmaking movement. Since then, Cedric has pioneered the rediscovered technique of electro-etching, first developed in the 19th century by Thomas Spencer. Vibrant, colourful and energetic, Green’s artworks fuse environmentally sound printmaking with themes of space, nature and the mythical lost city of Atlantis. We couldn’t wait to hear more about Green’s work and advice for the next generation of artists working with alternative, sustainable and safer methods.
Sophie: When did your interest in the environmental ethics of printmaking begin?
Cedric: When I was studying etching in Sheffield in 1986-7. I was then a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Sheffield University, and had spent 15 years doing research into solar and sustainable architecture. I had a practice designing ecological housing called Ecotech Design.
Sophie: Can you talk about how the green printmaking movement has changed over time? Would you still consider it to be niche?
Cedric: In 1990, there was a little interest in finding less toxic methods of photogravure, promoted by Keith Howard, and in waterless lithography by Nik Semenoff. Sheffield was a centre for the cutlery industry, and my printmaking research led me towards widely used industrial methods for marking steel and plating copper using electrolytic methods. I researched the history of electrolytic methods, and unearthed patents going back to 1840, and evidence of artists using many methods which we now call non-toxic!
When I moved to France in 1990, I began to use electrolytic and electro-chemical methods for my own printmaking. I created a website called Green Prints, based on my book which is available free as a PDF download. I am aware that many printmakers have abandoned traditional methods in favour of digital methods for reproduction or creation of images. That trend may leave traditional printmaking as a niche activity for a very few practitioners, but hopefully they will all eventually use greener methods !
Sophie: What are some of the main challenges in order for environmentally minded practices to become the norm in printmaking?
Cedric: I think that many schools of printmaking are still staffed by teachers who are too old to change.
Sophie: Can you talk about some of the key innovations in this field?
Cedric: Naturally I would say electrolytic and electrochemical methods of etching or plating metal matrices, as that is my main field. But also the use of non-toxic solvents, water-based inks, new resists and masking materials, waterless lithography, and photopolymer films for photogravure. The latter, which was very popular 10 years ago, has recently been overtaken by digital methods.
Sophie: What are some of your favourite (environmentally sound) processes & materials to work with or that you have developed?
Cedric: Electrolytic etching and plating (Galv-etch), the galv-on semi-dry etching method, the use of oil-based non-skinning lithographic ink as an etching ground, and sugar lift based aquatint used with oil-based etching resist.
Sophie: What advice would you like to give to an artist or studio who is looking to explore safer & environmentally sound alternatives to traditional printmaking?
Cedric: Look at my website, and follow links in my Greenart Guide. (www.greenart.info/guide)
Sophie: Who are some of your favourite eco-minded printmaker artists?
Cedric: Nik Semenoff, Francesca Genna, Eva Figueras, Fabiola Mercandetti, Caroline Bouguereau, Don Braisby, Andrew Baldwin, Alfonso Crujero, Mark Graver.
Read Environmental Ethics in the Printmaking Studio – introductory article to this interview series.
To learn more about how to create a non-toxic and environmentally friendly printmaking studio you might wish to read these books:
Screenprinting – The Complete Water-based System by Robert Adam and Carol Robertson
Intaglio: the complete safety-first system for creative printmaking by Robert Adam and Carol Robertson
Image at the top:
‘Zeus’ by Cedric Green for the book ‘A Modern Atlantis. 1 galv-etched plate, proofed in in 3 colours, 1 intaglio and then 2 colours in relief from the same plate by selective roller application and wiping of each colour, Saunders Waterford 180 gsm paper, 25 x 16 cm