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Stamp it Out: Printmaking Techniques in Art Therapy

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

When most people think of art therapy, they think of painting, sculpture and drawing. But in recent years, printmaking has become an increasingly popular medium in art therapy. Stamp cutting and printmaking techniques can be used in art therapy to create individualized and unique artwork, evoke emotions, and communicate internal messages.

Printmaking is a multi-step art process that is also one of the oldest and most versatile forms of art. It involves creating an image on a surface, usually paper, by pressing a design onto it with ink or another type of pigment. The technique has been used by artists for centuries to create unique and one-of-a-kind works of art, which is reflective of the art technique’s unpredictability throughout the printmaking process.

Monotype printing, for example, is a type of stamping technique in which a single image is stamped onto a surface. Stamp cutting is a type of relief printmaking that is done by carving a design into a solid material, such as a piece of rubber or linoleum, and then using it to make a print on another surface.

In an art therapy session, it is possible to create one’s own stamp using a rubber block or a piece of wood and a gouging tool. The stamp can be made from a variety of materials such as wood, rubber, linoleum, metal or plastic. The easiest way to cut a stamp is with a V-shaped gouge. This type of gouge has two beveled edges that meet at a point, allowing you to cut curved lines easily. Unlike other printmaking methods, stamp cutting can be used to create both line and tone prints, making it a great option for beginners.

When engaging in this artmaking process, the individual creator is building on skills of concentration, order and sequencing, mental flexibility and emotion regulation. Often with the printmaking process, there is an unpredictable nature to the way in which paint or ink is applied to a surface- certain areas of a design may be altered or varied in their appearance when compared to the original stamp. This process encourages clients to embrace variability and to shift the focus away from individual imperfections and focus on a cohesive and transformative whole creation.

The advantage of stamp cutting is that you can create multiple copies of the same design very easily. You can also use different colors for each copy of the design. The transfer technique also serves as a therapeutic metaphor that one can relate to the transformation of one’s self and the imprints that we make on the world around us as well as how we are impacted by various entities in our internal and external worlds.

Through this art form, it is possible to create images that reflect various layers of one’s emotional experience. These emotions may be displayed through overlapping textures and colors in the printmaking process. It is also a process of discovery and experimentation that may evoke emotion and responsiveness to what is revealed.

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