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Kari McDonald’s Print Work Focuses on Bringing the Outside In Highlighting Nature's Peacefulness

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Rockford, IL printmaker, Kari McDonald, stands behind one of her presses where she produces outstanding, one-of-a-kind, nature-themed work. Scroll down to see her artwork.

There’s a lot of moving pieces, literally, to being a printmaker, and Kari seemingly has them down pat. Working consistently in printmaking since taking a college class in it more than a decade ago, she has made this art form her full-time focus as a self-employed artist.

Kari explains that printmaking is like extreme stamping, and is one of the oldest of art forms dating back some 3,000 years.

“There’s a rhythm to the work – carving and printing – it feels very therapeutic,” she explains. “You’re creating something from scratch. When you lift the paper and discover the results – it’s always a surprise waiting for you.”

For her wood carving, she chooses shina (a member of the Linden tree family). It is a fine-grained plywood from the northern-most island of Japan and sustainably harvested. It is also free of knots and blemishes. She opts for Caligo Safe Wash inks by Cranfield because they clean up easily with soap and water. And for paper, she prefers a cotton rag blend with texture that absorbs ink well and often has a deckled edge for a little extra pizzazz.

“I draw and carve all my woodblocks in the studio and print on three presses: a Provisional Press, a Kelsey 6x10" Excelsior letterpress, and a Jack Richeson relief press,” she says.

Favorite subjects are native prairie plants and tiny critters like snails or grasshoppers. She finds inspiration right in her own neighborhood when walking her dog. She also visits the parks in her local park district, a conservatory, and a nearby arboretum. Sometimes she makes up a plant using a real one as her inspiration.

Biggest challenges: all the variables! Cleanliness – keeping the white’s white and fingers clean. Respecting the timing projects require. Ink drying times can vary widely taking as long as six days and are influenced by weather. Also, printing greeting cards can be tricky – centering the imagery properly – it can shift.

Kari places finished work into these large drying racks. Ink drying times can vary from four to six days.

For drying smaller projects, Kari uses a clever system of "SLINKY"s.

One look at Kari’s work, and the casual observer would never guess the ongoing printmaking hurdles she surmounted for a stunning finished product.

“Bringing the outside in is an important part of my work, especially as people have been stuck inside and at home during COVID,” she says. “When people look at my work, I want them to just breathe, relax, and feel peaceful.”

Kari sums up this way. “To be successful takes a lot of trial and error, troubleshooting why things aren’t working, and testing out the new. Printmaking is never boring!”

Learn more about Kari and purchase her creations at:

"Grain of the Sky" multi-woodblock print $30, 9" x 12"; picture show print with tools and woodblocks used to make the print.

"SLOW" snail woodblock print $10, 5" x 7"; picture shows ink, brayer, and inked-up carved block.

"Three Crickets" reduction woodblock print, 6.5" x 12", $30

Magenta Flower single card, $4 ($18 for 6-pack)

White Wheat Handbound Sketchbook Journal, 6" x 9", $18


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