Member Highlight

Liz Marraffino


After a moderately successful career as a poet, I came late to the visual arts: first painting and drawing, a long sojourn as a ceramic artist, and then when the ceramic studio I worked in closed, with a little help from the late Joseph Osina one of the original members of Manhattan Graphics Center, I found Vijay Kumar. After two or three monotype workshops with Joseph, he encouraged me to take Vijay’s etching class. That was many years ago and I have been in love with printmaking ever since. Though I am first and foremost a painter, lack of studio space has led me to work more with various print making processes here among the wonderful teaching artists at MCG. Besides etching, I have studied paper lithography with David Thomas, collagraph with Robin Dintiman, chine colle and gluing with Nandini Chirimar and silk aquatint with Kathy Caraccio. I often combine several techniques in a single print: a line etching can be xeroxed and made into a paper litho and then I can layer a monotype over it. Or I start with a collagraph then incorporate monotype and finally glue etched images on Asian paper over the whole print.

Some of the subjects that I explore in painting—landscapes and animal and bird imagery—have continued to inspire my printmaking. But even when drawing on a copper plate or painting plexi for monotype, the subject transforms into something to “hang my paint on” as I have always liked to call it. My approach in general is more expressionistic and gestural rather than refined and literal. I love the possibility of stretching, pushing even abusing whatever medium I am working in, whether the physicality of paint on a canvas or as I grow in more confident in etching techniques, testing how much I can play with the various grounds. I sometimes draw more spontaneously and directly into soft ground, for example. I have learned from Vijay that mistakes can—with patience and time and a lot of fearlessness—turn into wonderful prints; techniques used along the way may never be duplicated, but the magic of seeing what looked like a disaster bloom into one of my favorite pieces is worth all the effort… in spite of curses or tears. Working with hard ground—a process I resisted for several years, preferring the painterly quality of sugar lift—has translated to my drawing with new approaches to mark-making. Etching rekindled my love of drawing, which, when painting time was limited to only 20 hours a week fell by the wayside.

I am so grateful to MGC for providing such a nurturing, creative and welcoming environment for all artists of various backgrounds and worldviews. Since the loss of my own studio 5 years ago, it has become my “home” studio. One of the most wonderful advantages of working here at Manhattan Graphics is the community of serious-minded artists. I am deeply grateful to have received so much help and inspiration from so many printmakers here.