A student’s experience : Liz Macdonald

A student’s experience at Cicada Press

By Liz Macdonald, Student in the M.Art program at COFA UNSW



Custom Printing students work on their group project - artist book

Custom Printing students work on their group project – artist book

Custom Printmaking was recommended by every student I spoke to who had done it, as you have the opportunity to work with highly respected practicing artists making editions at Cicada Press – in the COFA printmaking rooms.

The experience has provided insights that will permanently affect my work – Elizabeth Cummings, whose work I greatly admire, and who is an eminent and expressive artist, came in to share the studio.  Her use of separate plates for different parts within the overall image is fascinating. The seemingly disparate elements become united in the prints – adventurous and assured work the is result.

The student, the artist and the master printer

The student, the artist and the master printer


Euan Macleod was also working there this semester. His paintings have a sense of mystery that I have found compelling. To be able to watch him work at Cicada Press with no references – drawing from memory – was energising. His technique allowed great fluidity and expressiveness and is completely consistent with his painting.

Both these artists – confident and expert in their practice –  were willing for us the students, to learn from them directly.

The print studios were a big attraction for me enrolling at COFA –  the facilities as well as the tangible energy and quality of work on the walls.  I have not been disappointed. The tutors have been outstanding in both their knowledge of the medium and the application of it – they encourage diligence in pursuing better technical results and the realisation of your intention.

I am gaining tremendous insight under Michael Kempson’s direction.  His feedback at each stage of my work and of work we have helped process as a group has given me a much deeper understanding both of professional printing techniques –  and of how to teach.

It can be hard work taking the Custom Printing class - full days of printing

It can be hard work taking the Custom Printing class – full days of printing

The atmosphere in the print rooms is very welcoming and inclusive.  Bound by a shared experience and difficulties as well as triumphs – students exchange ideas, ask questions and support each other. The whole experience is enlivened by shared information and empathy both between the students and between the staff and students.

Further to this the relationships with aboriginal artists both from remote communities and distant townships and the relationships with institutions and artists from overseas that Michael Kempson has initiated, radiate inclusiveness and build broader experience.


Euan Macleod – Antarctica

We’ve recently finished printing a set of three multi-color prints that Euan Macleod did after a trip to Antarctica.  Every one of these prints consisted of three plates, each with multiple colors – a technique known as À la poupée . 

Printing these works took several long days of printing with 4 people involved in each one of the prints – three for inking up the plates, and one for managing the paper and press.

This video demonstrates the process of printing a single print from three plates – all plates get inked up and run through the press in a certain order.

To demonstrate how the ‘A La Poupee’ method works, the following video shows one of the plates being inked up in 2 colors.

Macleod is a regular at Cicada Press and has over the years produced some fantastic etchings – both black and white as well as multi-color representations of the figure in the landscape.

Euan Macleod
‘Smoking Man’
etching, aquatint and open-bite, printed in black ink, from one plate
plate-mark 78.5 h x 50.0 w cm
sheet 94.2 h x 63.0 w cm

Euan MacLeod ‘Trek’ , Etching, open-bite, aquatint. 300mm x 250mm