Denvers MoPrint — or Month of Printmaking 2022 — is a great way to buy affordable art in Denver

Because I write about art, people often ask for advice on how they can start, or elevate, their art collections. If they ask about specific objects, I tell them to follow their hearts and consider their budgets, and to never think of purchases as investments.

But if they ask about increasing volume, or elevating the quality of a collection started at retail stores and outdoor art fairs, I tell them to look at original prints and, when possible, to acquire them directly from the printmaker.

Prints — screen prints, lithographs, woodcuts, engravings and more — have it all. They are original works, hand-made by artists using timeless techniques. So many iconic artists, from Rembrandt to Picasso to Warhol, made prints at some point in their career.

But because artists can often reuse the template they print from — called a matrix — they can make multiple, or slightly altered, versions of an image and sell them for less. Fledgling art consumers should know more about them.

The biennial March happening called Mo’Print, which is short for Month of Printmaking, is a smart place to start. The educator-driven event is massive; it actually lasts more than a month and spreads out over 52 spaces along the Front Range, from high-end galleries to artist-friendly coffee shops. It is full of variety, as well, covering multiple types of prints at various prices. A print can be had for thousands of dollars or just a few bucks. In fact, prints are only $10 at Mo’Print’s Black Ink fundraiser set for March 4 at TRVE Brewing Company in LoDo.

Of course, you can enjoy Mo’Print without buying anything; there will be plenty to see and most things are free. Some of it will be wildly entertaining, including the Steamroller Printing event on April 16 at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where an actual steamroller will be used as a live press rolling over large, plywood matrixes created by local artists.

But there are also demos and workshops where folks can watch, learn, participate and talk to artists. On the whole, printmakers can be an interesting group; they are hard workers who engage in a delicate process, and they like to talk about it.

As honed a practice as printmaking can be, it is still always trial-and-error with each attempt, as makers work to balance placement, pressure and the application of ink. It can take a dozen tries before a print works out right.

“There’s the making of the matrix and then there’s the fine art of printing,” said Jennifer Ghormley, who is organizing this year’s event along with fellow printmaker Emily Moyer.  “It’s two different skill sets that merge and combine into one.”

They cut, carve, etch and sometimes burn images with chemicals, but the No. 1 skill required for printmakers might just be perseverance. It’s not for every artist.

“For too many people, it doesn’t work out on their first try and they are over it,” said Ghormley.

Printmakers engage in dialogue about the technical aspects of their work in ways that other artists avoid. That is, I think, because the work is demanding, and people do not always appreciate it. They have something to prove.

In a world of mass-produced images, it can be difficult to distinguish graphic reproductions from works of art. For that reason, printmaking “tends to get scooted a little lower” in the hierarchy of art-making, as Ghormley puts it, where painters are at the top, followed by artists who make drawings, then photos, then prints. It’s not fair, of course, but art is a tough business and the status, and prices, of various forms follow public perception.

The printmaker’s counter to all that: education and exposure to the work.

“There’ something very physical about looking a print, something you don’t get from a digital reproduction,” said Ghormley. “There’s a connection that people respond to when they see prints.”

There will be plenty to see at Mo’Print. Several of the region’s most-visible galleries are showing prints, including Space, Sync, Niza Knoll, Firehouse, DAVA and Edge. But it’s also a matter of simply looking around at well-traveled spaces, like Tenn Street Coffee & Books, the Boulder Main Library, Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Art Gym.

A few specific shows that look promising to me: “Boston Printmakers” traveling exhibition at the Curtis Center for the Arts; “Simbolos Vulgares” at Aurora’s The People’s Building; Betsy Margolius at William Havu Gallery; Peter Miles Bergman at Dateline Gallery; and Raymundo Muñoz at Alto Gallery.

The double-header of Taiko Chandler and Tya Alisa Anthony at the Denver Botanic Gardens is a sure bet. So is the related Denver Small Press Fest, on March 12 at the Center for Visual Art.

To get hands-on, head to the March 5 Print Fair at the Art Students League of Denver, where there will be demos of techniques that are taught at the center, including monotype, screen printing, woodcut, intaglio, solar plate and collagraph.

Then there’s the March 19 Print Jam at the newly opened Creative Hub at the Denver Art Museum, a multi-artist showcase where visitors can watch the ink go down live and learn a bit about “why bad prints are bad and good prints are good,” as Ghormley puts it.

I say learn first, shop after, and give your art collection a confident boost.

There’s a complete list of exhibitions, demos and interactive events on the Mo’Pront website, mo’print.org.

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