Wilber Stilwell, professor of art at USD from 1941-1973, and his wife Gladys experimented with different materials to create simplified printing processes that could be used in elementary and secondary classrooms. Their desire was to produce printing processes that were cost effective (utilizing readily available classroom materials), easy to employ, and preserved the feel of a professional artist. One of their creations, the blottergraph process, reflects the printmaking method of lithography. Lithography, as well as the blottergraph process, relies on the principle of oil and water and their natural inclination to repel one another. “Plates” of blotter paper are prepared using a wax crayon to draw on the paper followed by the application of watercolor. While the watercolor is still wet, contact is made with another piece of paper to make the final print.
The USD Photograph Collection holds a series of photographs taken by John Wicks and Bill Slattery for use in various publications such as Art News (S.D. Art Education Association), School Arts magazine, and the S.D.E.A. Journal illustrating their blottergraph process.
Preparing the printing plate (drawing with wax crayon on blotter paper)
Printing plates showing wax crayon drawings on blotter paper
Plates saturated with watercolor
Blotter paper applied to printing plate
Blotter forms cemented to wax cardboard for an alternative printing process
One variation of this printing process is the tearing or cutting of a number of small and varied shapes from a blotter. These are arranged in an interesting design with open areas of varying sizes surrounding the small blotter shapes. These small blotter shapes are then rubber cemented to wax paper or preferably to the flat factory-waxed side of a butter, oleo or milk carton. After the rubber cement dries, watercolor is applied to the blotter shapes and a clean white blotter is pressed against this printing plate to obtain a print. — Gladys and Wilber Stilwell, SDEA Journal
In a letter dated March 8, 1957, Wilber writes to Dr. Warren M. Lee, dean of the College of Fine Arts,
I believe I mentioned that we have now invented simplified versions of both the intaglio printing process and the relief printing process for use in teaching artistic printing in the elementary and high schools. These processes are currently being tested on a preliminary basis with various age groups. We hope to be able to report on them in a national magazine this next school year.
— Stilwell, Gladys Feree and Wilber Moore. Blottergraph Printing. SDEA Journal, May 1956.