"BIG INK is a traveling educational program that teaches visual art and brings people together to celebrate woodblock printmaking. We empower artists with the tools and techniques needed to carve a large-scale woodblock and our public events highlight the spectacle of the printing process."
Artists interested in carving a woodblock of at least 24 by 36 inches are invited to apply to print with BIG INK. No prior experience is required and emerging, mid-career, and established visual artists are encouraged to apply. Upon acceptance, artists have two months to carve their design. Lyell Castonguay, owner/operator of BIG INK, then meets participants at a venue and we help each other print as a group.
Experience art-making on a monumental scale, explore creative places, and connect with program participants from coast to coast. Visit bigink.org to apply to an upcoming event and read on for more information about the benefits of applying.
The Big Tuna
BIG INK has the only oversized printing press designed for routine travel.
Gaining access to oversize equipment is an obstacle for any artist who wants to print big. We raised $13,000 through public support to commission The Big Tuna. It is the only oversized printing press designed for routine travel. Given its modular construction the press can be transported virtually anywhere! It has made a lasting impression when assembled at the entrance to a subway station, in the middle of a flea market, or at the heart of a city commons.
Make art part of your next adventure!
Our program invites participants to visit new and interesting places. From San Francisco to Nashville, the best galleries and art centers host BIG INK events. Participants create friendships and connect with visitors during a memorable day. Afterward, they are free to explore the local sights, feeling inspired by an art event like no other.
Create & Connect
Anyone with patience and an admiration for quality craftsmanship will thrive in our program.
BIG INK participants come from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels. An event can include college professors, art school graduates, designers, illustrators, sculptors, painters, photographers, and hobbyists. Some participants have never carved a woodblock, others have carved many. If your work features contrast, outlines, or patterning, then woodblock printmaking may be the perfect artistic medium for you!
Community members can watch The Big Tuna in-action as event participants captivate the crowd with their artistic skill. Once inspired, the public can make their own mini print. Volunteers assist audience members with inking pre-carved plates and printing on The Anchovy, BIG INK's mini press.
We strive to make the production of a large-scale woodblock accessible.
Castonguay's online master class guides participants through the woodblock carving process before the event, imparting knowledge of preferred materials and techniques.
Bring you art to a new audience outside the studio. We work with local media outlets to advertise the event. Our social media accounts highlight the work of participants to an international following.
Our work is professional grade, ready for exhibition and sale.
BIG INK creates three impressions from each participant's woodblock, one of which the artist places in BIG INK's collection. The woodblock and the other two prints remain property of the artist. Woodblocks are printed on archival paper using traditional oil-based ink. BIG INK directs the operation and maintains a high standard of quality throughout the process.
Participants are provided a high-res scan of their finished woodblock print and are encouraged to use this image for self promotion on their website, social media, etc.
Collection & Sales
Every print in our collection is a testament to the power of creative collaboration.
BIG INK's collection includes one print from each call-for-entry participant. These works are available for purchase after being scanned and added to our online shop. Proceeds from sales are split equally between BIG INK and the participant. We also utilize the collection for exhibitions, artist talks, and college presentations.
Castonguay, whose personal woodblocks are often monumental, wanted to encourage other printmakers to expand their sense of scale. Recognizing most artists don't have the technical expertise required for such work, Castonguay began to teach the woodblock carving process. By hosting informal "print parties," word spread and more artists wanted to learn the craft. Castonguay established BIG INK to accommodate the growing interest.
Castonguay's work includes reduction, multi-block, and large-scale woodblock printing. He is represented by Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts, Imprint Gallery, and his work is included in international collections. Castonguay has over a decade's worth of experience working with fellow artists, guiding them through the creative process, and printing their work.
A woodblock is essentially a hand-carved stamp. Woodblock prints, aka relief prints, are made through a process of elimination. First, an artist draws a design onto a piece of plywood and carves away the negative spaces in the design. The areas to show 'white' are cut away with chisels leaving the characters or image to show 'black' at the original surface level. This stamp is coated with ink and pressed onto paper.
"BIG INK is a testament to an ancient art form still popular today." Lyell Castonguay
Woodblock printing originated in ancient China. It was recorded as a means of printing patterns on textiles in Japan as early as the 8th century
The process appeared in Europe by the early 1400s to illustrate books. The German artist Albrecht Dürer developed relief into a fine art form in the early 1500s. Multicolored prints, call chiaroscuro woodcuts, were developed in Italy at the same time.
By the late 1600s Japanese artists were creating extraordinary colored woodblock prints using a technique called Moku Hanga. The resulting Ukiyo-e prints forged the European Le Japonisme movement and influenced countless Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters. In the 1960s monumental woodblocks printing was championed by artists including Leonard Baskin.
Artist still carve woodblocks by hand using the same techniques developed hundreds of years ago.
"Being a professional sculptor, carving a woodcut was something that appealed to my sensibilities but was also something I'd never done. BIG INK's step by step videos was helpful in guiding me through the process. BIG INK answered my technical questions quickly and gave me feedback on my image when I emailed photos. I'm now taking what I learned as a BIG INK participant and integrating it back into my 3-D work." Kerry O. Furlani
"BIG INK 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." Enrique Figueredo