Field Report! Frans Masereel Centrum

Annamarie Leon, “Frans Masereel Centrum,” Relief Print on Paper.

Greeti­­ngs from the Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee Belgium.   The space-age looking center is nestled among farms and packed with printmaking knowledge and equipment.

Named for the activist and graphic novel pioneer, the Frans Masereel Centrum (FMC) has been running residencies and programs since 1972, the year of Masereel’s death.

While the FMC’s shop contains traditional printmaking equipment, the relationship of artists to print at FMC is not traditional.  Resident artists, even those who are working in print for the first time, engage directly with print media, rather than allowing a master printer to produce their work.   It’s exciting and daunting.  Print-tech-wizard Ivan Durt is a fountain of information and ideas about how to best execute different projects, but its up to each individual artist to make those ideas work on paper.

Its pretty great to see how current residents Kathy Aoki (USA), Steven Baelen (Belgium), Conny Kuilboer (Netherlands), Paula Roush (UK/Portugal), and Rob Swainston (USA) all tweak print media to fit their practice or project.   Writers and historians of print can also undertake an “essay” residency.

What is here?  Litho, Silkscreen, Etching and Type.  

Though the artist Frans Masereel is best known for his woodblock based graphic novels, the FMC is a shining star of stone lithography.  There are lots of beautiful stones (maximum size is 70x110cm = 27.6”x 43.5”), a great graining station, four litho presses of various sizes including a hydraulic press, as well as the (“oh mai”) mailander offset litho press.

The etching room, where I am spending most of my time, is inhabited by three etching presses produced by the Gent based press outfit, Artley.  These are bottom-driven etching presses, a bit different from the Brand presses I usually work on, but produce great impressions.  Right outside the window of the etching studio, baby ponies are frolicking.  For real.

FMC’s Artley Presses, Book Press, Type, and the Ponies.

Obviously, woodblock folks can also work on the Artleys.  Type enthusiasts can work on one of the three letterpresses, adjacent to the litho area.  There is also a sweet book press.

While there are hinge tables near the etching and litho presses, most of the screenprint action takes place in the silkscreen “igloo” a few steps from the main building.

The silkscreen studio is round. Super-cosy.

Living the residency:

The shop opens at 8am and closes at 8pm.  Every Tuesday there is an artist meeting where everyone gets together and discusses their progress and projects.  The shop is open to the public.  It’s likely that during the day someone will walk through the shop to observe you at work.    The basic printshop supplies you’ll need are here, but you should bring anything you need special or in large quantity.

Government issued bicycles. FMC living quarters. Main printshop building. Artist Conny Kuilboer at the weekly artists’ meeting. “Password: Printmaking,” Exhibition Event. Resident artist Kathy Aoki and Annamarie Leon descend the stairs of a windmill near the center. Even. More. Ponies.

What are we working on? 

The residency is just half way finished.  Look for more posts on individual projects as they come to fruition.

Printeresting readers have already heard about the recent work of California-based printmaker Kathy Aoki

At FMC, Kathy is using stone lithography to make prints related to her recent Beauty in Landscape series.  A forest populated by mascara wand trees initially seems Alpine, but turns sinister as the trees’ shadows resolve as mascara ooze.  The series is evolving as a multilayer stone litho, printed with both transfer and offset presses.  LA-based artist Annamarie Leon is assisting Kathy in this endeavor.  Anna arrived last week, already having produced the relief printed “Frans Masereel” image, above.   Aoki’s Mascara Forest is the first of several works-in-progress, look for more in the coming days.

Kathy Aoki’s “Mascara Forest.” Stone Lithograph

Steven Baelen has come to the FMC to render his detailed drawings and paintings of interior spaces into print.  New to printmedia, and initially drawn to silkscreen, Steven is making gorgeous stone lithographs. These are created by re-rendering his paintings and drawings by hand onto stone, then adding and subtracting with each subsequent etch.

Steven Baelen Lithograph

Steven Baelen’s stone lithographs render interior spaces figurative.


Multimedia artist Conny Kuilboer ­­­ is stationed in the silkscreen igloo, making works in preparation for a September show “The world needs a narrative,” a collaboration with her husband Ben Kruisdijk.  Reacting against conceptual art as a barrier to free and joyful creativity, the pair have a “strong desire to create an exhibition in which creativity is the main subject. Being creative by making art, playing in a band, having a good discussion etc.”  The playful multicolored images and placards Conny has generated really do invite participation.  Her love of typography comes through in this layered image.

Conny Kuilboer, “Narrative,” from the Series “The World Needs a Narrative.” Silkscreen on paper.


Paula Roush is also new to printmaking, though her collage based projects often draw on the vintage aesthetic of the litho-printed image.  Here she has begun a new book project  “The memory of stones,” loosely inspired by work of Max Ernst. Images and maquettes of this work in progress can be seen here.

Paula Roush, stone-in-progress from “The Memory of Stones” project.


I am here with “research resident” Rob Swainston.  Rob’s project centers on trying to get traditional intaglio mark (velvety aquatint black to fine lined hard-ground) through alternative, digitally compatible, inexpensive and less toxic processes. Also the process has to work at “big print” large scale.  We’ve come up with some interesting results, and can get fine-line etching and fuzzy aquatint marks – so – yay research.

Rob Swainston and yours truly research “fake etching/faux-intaglio” Left top image, layered plate and offset “fetching.” Left bottom image “its okay for bitmaps,” four color “fakequetint.” Right column, details of range of “faux-intaglio marks, “fauxpenbite.” etc.

It feels a bit weird to write about one’s own or one’s partner’s projects, but if you are curious about the process, its pretty straightforward, and FMC is making a how-to video to post to its “expertise cluster,” site, so check it out in the coming weeks.

Why am I taking time from the shop to tell you all of this?  The ponies, presses, bicycles and beer?  The application deadline for the next round of residencies is August First!  Get yourselves together people, this place is lovely.  Apply!

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Categories: Artists, Interesting Printmaking, Print-related, Printeresting, Printshop Tour, Resources

3 Responses to “Field Report! Frans Masereel Centrum”

  1. Ignatz says:

    You mention the Artley etching presses. I should politely like to point out that Artley is based in Gent, Belgium. In addition, to my knowledge, Artley presses are driven by means of the roller below the platten (at least on all of their current models as well as earlier ones I have seen), so you might want to check that bit of information once again. With the exception of their entry level models this drive is through a very smooth 11/1 helical-cut gear reduction unit. Of course, I admit that the way this reduction unit is mounted on the side of the press sometimes gives the impression that the wheel might be connected to the top roller.

  2. Alison Dell says:

    Thank you, Ignatz. So much to write about. Artley presses are bottom driven, and yes, are from Gent. The sentence got confused in the edit. I have corrected the post. Cheers.

  3. Hi Alison, thanks for the field report! So much flattery 😉
    I would love to put the igloopanorama on our Facebook page – would that be ok? And could you send it to me by mail? Thanks!!
    Hope you made it back to the states safely!