"Liberal arts students can learn to think more about what they are looking at by taking art classes. They often realize there is a lot they are not noticing."

Professor of Art Rosalyn Richards delights in the mystique of printmaking. "Printmaking involves a real stretch of the imagination," she says. "You are working on a matrix -- a piece of wood, metal, or maybe a stencil -- and the print that you make from that matrix presents the image in reverse."

Working in color can be more complex, she says, because each color requires an additional matrix, applied separately to the print.

"It's always a surprise - sometimes a big surprise - when you pull the first print off the matrix," she says. "For me, the unexpected occurrences that happen in printmaking create mystery. My enjoyment of the unexpected has continued throughout my career."

As a teacher of drawing, mixed media and printmaking, Richards enjoys sharing that mystery with beginning artists as she helps them develop their visual thinking skills. "Our world is very visual," she says. "Liberal arts students can learn to think more about what they are looking at by taking art classes. They often realize there is a lot they are not noticing." By developing a new way of seeing and a visual vocabulary, students learn to observe more critically and to interpret what they see in the world around them, says Richards.

In Richards' new foundation seminar, Printmaking As Social Commentary, offered in the Arts Residential College, students develop their visual thinking skills as they study how historical and contemporary printmakers have used art to comment on social issues, such as the environment, technology, war, etc. The first-year students also explore hand-made artists' books in the Special Collections area of the library, research artists in Bucknell's print collection and create works of their own in the form of woodblock print narratives.

Just as Richards teaches her students to examine their visual world, she herself finds new ideas by studying imagery from fields such as biology, geology and physics. For instance, a microscopic cross section of a leaf or a diagram of black holes may lead to new visual improvisations and experiments with materials.

Says Richards, "I like to combine different symbols and forms, and strive to create an abstract vocabulary that transforms rational elements and gives rise to a more poetic, lyrical and introspective quality."

Posted Aug. 8, 2012

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