Dorothy England

Equinox Staff


“This is fun; I’m starting to feel like one of these chefs on TV,” a charcoal-handed, tousle-haired John Rasimus said.

On Dec. 5, Keene State College welcomed Rasimus to display his skills of woodblock printmaking.

Over 20 participants showed up to the studio. As a ritual of Art Collective, which co-hosted the event, candy was passed out.

Rasimus was introduced to the “Art Collective, students, and strangers, young and old.”

He then came to the podium, a wooden drawing table cluttered with art supplies, including the ones Rasimus brought from Sweden, his homeland.

He then displayed the artifacts of his native soil. First Rasimus picked up dried paint that he had plastered onto plastic so that it could easily be removed and, thus, tangible.

He then demonstrated how the paint could be used as a creative background. Next, Rasimus held up various woodblocks he had designed.

He explained how, “My wife came into the studio one time, saw the objects, and said, ‘These objects are nicer than your prints,’” to which his onlookers laughed, and one person said, “That’s what wives are for.”

Rasimus then began the process of a brief overview of the work that occupies his time. He started by taking charcoal to a mdf (medium-density fibreboard).

He was about to make a stencil of a log. Drawing soft, yet definite lines down the board, he spoke as he went. “Even if you have prints you don’t like, keep them, you can always reprint them, paint them, use them.”

Later, when interviewed, he explained that he rarely ever throws anything out. “Unless it’s too messy,” he said with a laugh. Luckily, his hands were outside that equation as they became more and more darkened through the process of swift lines waltzing here, dipping there, and dancing around in sporadic movements.

After finishing with the stencil’s outline, Rasimus used a jigsaw to cut the main sketch out. Playing with the audience, he turned the jigsaw upside down and continued to whittle the edges. “If you want, you can use it this way. It’s more dangerous (laughter), but it works.”  By the end of it, he was holding an entirely different shape. He then carved the inside lines out, explaining, “I go into my studio, find a piece of wood for me; the shape of it gives me an idea.”

Eventually satisfaction hit its mark. Rasimus held up the completed stencil.

“It’s so easy to have a cup of coffee and create a woodblock; it makes me think the day over, it’s like my mediation. I’ve been doing this so many times.”

He then went to coat ink over the design, frosting it with a deep, yet definitive black. He came back to the table.

He glued a random design on the background of a piece of paper, and then, using a spoon to channel his strength through, Rasimus pushed the stencil onto the paper, leaving its signature mark.

When asked whether he uses a press for his stencils, he replied that he does it all by hand, even the huge 40 by 10 foot prints he creates.

As with any art medium, a lot of time is devoted to establishing a finished project.

When asked what his favorite aspect of woodblock printing was, Rasimus replied, “I like that I can always create something new, nothing is ever wasted because you can rearrange prints and use different colors in the background.”

It seems to work for him. Rasimus’ work was displayed in the Thorne Gallery this past week. Emory “The Cannon” Cooper, a current junior who works at the gallery, had seen his work and was intrigued by his art.

She figured it would help her prepare for the printmaking class she’s taking next semester. She personally identifies as an abstract painter and sculptor.

Her friend, Mike Manfred, another junior, is a design major. He referred to the advertisements showcasing Rasimus, stating, “Since the first day, they caught my eye.”

He is interested in making stencils for graffiti as well as using Photoshop to design logos, letterheads, and business cards.  Sean Bowds, another student from KSC said he hoped to learn the woodblocking process in general.

When asked what he thought of Rasimus coming, he said, “It’s neat to have a contemporary artist such as Rasimus to come in and show the classic printmaking process in a different way.”

Another spectator, Jean Balamuth mentioned that she loved “how much fun John has making art.” She will be taking her three printmaking class next semester.  She is a BFA, so she engages in all sorts of mediums.

“BFAs do it all,” she said laughing. Beyond the art, it appears like the presentation was a great way to gather together different opinions and experiences with a general appreciation of art. As Balamuth attributed to, it’s all about the “‘world-class teaching staff art professors’ who make these events possible for the public.”

The synergy of artists is quite a powerful groove.


Dorothy England can be contacted at

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