I am a retired printmaker who spent most of my life in art, first as a commercial artist for a printing plant, then art director of a television station and finally as media specialist and teacher at a university. Over the years I have painted, produced gold and silver jewelry, dabbled in electronics and all the time held a deep appreciation for printmaking, especially lithography. I have a high regard for science, loved chemistry and physics at school, but the thought of doing serious mathematical calculation put me into a serious sweat. I chose the easier path of drawing ideas instead of calculating.
While working for the Extension Division designing books, TV programs and other educational items, I ran into the instructor of printmaking in the art department. He invited me to do a large stone lithograph as I only had small stones and press at home. This venture turned into my life’s work as I became more involved with the art department and the students in printmaking.
As I encountered the toxic solvents and materials used by a large number of careless students working in one space, it became obvious this was not a safe place to be. I started to introduce less toxic materials and somehow at the same time come up with easier methods of making prints. When I started to teach in the printmaking department, I became even more involved with students problems as they struggled with the complicated techniques used for editioning, especially with the “diabolical craft” called lithography.
While on sabbatical in 1984-85, I discovered how I could replace grease tusche washes using common dry copier toner. I had an article published in Leonardo, the refereed technical journal in the arts. In 1990 I demonstrated it to a large number of lithographers at the Tamarind Symposium to an enthusiastic crowd. It has become part of today’s printmakers’ vocabulary.
In 1990, while on sabbatical to see how toner can be used in screen printing, I also discovered how to make waterless lithographic plates, using common caulking silicone from the local hardware. This has become an exciting process that allows the artist to do things too difficult in traditional lithography, while being less toxic and easier to work with. It is slowly becoming popular with some progressive printers, but still rejected by older printers at this time. It is only after one tries the process and sees how simple it is to keep tonal relations as first conceived, does a printmaker make the switch.
In 1992, I found that copper sulfate will etch both zinc and aluminium without the need for dangerous acids. This is another process that has become popular after it was accepted by Leonardo in 1994, but not published until 1998. Now it is being promoted as Bordeaux etch and Saline Etch, but is basically the same as what was published and put on my university website earlier.
I have been to a number of international printmaking conferences in which I demonstrated and presented papers on my processes. I have been invited to many university print departments as guest artist to show my methods. I have been to Hong Kong and to Japan twice to show my processes. In 2008, I was invited to give workshops and lectures in Ireland and the UK.
Since retiring from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992, I hold the position of Artist-in-residence with the department of art and art history. In 2006, I was given an Honorary Doctor of Letter Degree for my work in innovative printmaking. Along the way I was picked for the University of Toronto’s, Canadian Who’s Who; and given the Saskatchewan’s Arts Board Lifetime Award for Excellence in the Arts of 1999.
I try to print everyday, but this is hard with other interests like keeping up websites, producing CD’s and doing research.
As you go through this website, you will find more about my interests. Also go to my university site for more basic information on my innovations.
Interesting data on Nik Semenoff
- Worked as graphic designer and illustrator, Western Producer/Modern Press 1951-54
- Art Director CFQC-TV 1954-63
- Freelance designer 1963-65
- Artist/media specialist, Extension Division, University of Saskatchewan, 1965-retirement
- Associate faculty member, Dept. of Art and Art History, U of S, 1987-retirement
- Retired from faculty, U of S, June 30, 1992
- Artist-in-Residence, Dept. of Art and Art History, U of S, 1992-present
Most important shows (selected from 30 shows between 1954 and 2004)
- Canadian Pavilion, Expo 67, jewelry design, 1967
- Canadian Craft Council, Montreal show during Expo 67
- Ontario Design Council, Sheridan College, Toronto, jewelry design, 1969
- Canadian Craft Council, Kitchener, jewelry design, 1977
- Group show of innovative printmaking, Webster University, St. Louis, MO, 2002
- Group show of new printmaking methods, Sidney, Australia, 2003
- Infinite proof collaboration, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, 2003
- Show at Jun Gallery, Nagoya, Japan, 2004
- Show at Ginza Galeri Vivant, Tokyo, Japan, 2004
- Show at Sokai Academy of Fine Art, Tokyo, Japan, 2004
- Curated group show; International Contemporary Lithography, touring UK 2007 & 8
Major collections (selected from 15)
- Ernst and Young Print Collection (3 prints)
- Air Canada (3 paintings)
- Saskatchewan Arts Board (9 prints)
- Fathers of Confederation Gallery (jewelry)
- National Galley of Canada (jewelry)
- Sheridan College, Toronto (jewelry)
University of Wales, Aberystwyth (3 prints)
Discoveries and innovations (selected)
- Granted patents #904430, 1972, and #926498, 1973, for multi-channel digital slide control for distance education
- Using dry copier toner for better imaging of lithographic washes on stone or plate, 1985; technique now used worldwide
- Using electro-etching for etching intaglio plates instead of nitric or other dangerous acids, 1987
- Waterless lithography using common caulking silicone instead of gum etch to reject ink from plates, 1990
- Mordant for intaglio plates using copper sulfate and salt instead of dangerous acids to etch zinc and aluminium, 1992. For etching copper in 2008.
- 3-part lithographic roller for use in waterless and traditional lithography, invented in 1992-3
- Perfected simple “palm press,” allowing high school students and artists to print small editions of waterless lithographs without expensive press, 1999
Workshop presentations (selected from more than 40)
- Art Student League of New York, New York, NY, 1986
- Tyler Graphics, New Bedford, NY, 1986
- Tyler Graphics, Mount Kisco, NY, 1990
- Petersburg Press, Solo Press, Derrière L'Étoile Studio, New York, NY, 1990
- Smith College, Northampton, MA, 1990
- Cirrus Editions, Angeles Press, Ed Hamilton Press, Los Angles, CA, 1991
- Pierce College, Lutheran Community College, Tacoma University, Washington State University, Seattle, WA, 1991
- Concordia University, Montreal, 1992
- Guelph University, Guelph, Open Studio, Toronto, Sheridan College, Oakville, 1993
- Banff Centre, Banff, 1995
- Imago Inc., University of Moncton, Moncton, NB, 1995
- Plein Aire, two-week international paper artists meeting, Moorhead, MN, 1998
- Seika University, Kyoto, Japan, 1998
- Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA, 2003
- Visual Art Center, Hong Kong, waterless lithograph workshop, Dec. 7, 2003
- Visual Art Center, Hong Kong, copper sulfate mordant, Dec. 14, 2003
- Series of workshops and talks, Japan, Nov.18-Dec. 6, 2004, Yokohama Museum of Art, Machida International Print Museum, Nagya Zokei University, Keishin Private School, Tama University of Fine Art, Sokei Academy of Fine Art (first time Japanese government gave a grant to support an international artist)
- Series of workshops in Ireland: Seacourt printwork shop, Bangor, North Ireland; Black Church Studio, Dublin; Graphic Studio, Dublin; Edinburgh Printshop, Edinburgh, 2008.
Conference papers and publications in refereed journals (selected from 30)
- Photographic Images and Optical Effects Using Birefringent Materials. LEONARDO, Vol. 17, #3, 1984
- Superior Tusche Washes Using Dry Copier Toner. LEONARDO, Vol. 20, #1, 1987
- Paper on Toner Technique. Tamarind Lithographic Symposium, Albuquerque, NM, 1990
- Wash Effects in Intaglio Toner Images and Electro-Etching the Plates. LEONARDO, Vol. 24, #4, 1991
- Toner in Traditional Lithography. New Directions in Printmaking: the Technical Side, International Conference, University of Saskatchewan,1992
- Waterless Lithography. New Directions in Printmaking: the Technical Side, International Conference, University of Saskatchewan,1992
- Waterless Lithography Using Standard Aluminium and Commercial Positive Plates. LEONARDO, Vol. 26, #4, 1993
- Waterless Lithography Process. Presentation to Southern Graphic Council Conference, Tampa University, Tampa, FL, 1997
- Using Salt and Copper Sulfate to Etch Common Aluminium and Commercial Zinc Intaglio Plates. LEONARDO, Vol. 31, #2, 1998
- Waterless Lithographic Process. Presentation to Mid America Print Council, Cincinnati, OH, 1998
- Waterless Lithography Process. Presentation to Mid American College Artist Association Conference, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1998
- Copper Sulfate and Salt Mordant. Presentation at Southern Graphic Council Conference, University of Miami, Miami, FL, 2000
Other publications (selected)
- A Lithographers Notebook. 100pp, self-published collection of useful techniques for artist printer, 1989
- Use of Toners in Printmaking, British journal PRINTMAKING TODAY, Vol. 3, #4, 1994
- Waterless Lithography, a series of four articles in PRINTMAKING TODAY, Vol. 4, #1 to Volume 4, #4, 1995
- THE COMMITTTEE OF UNIVERSITY OF ART OF PRINT STUDIES IN JAPAN, No. 27. Translation into Japanese of my waterless process by Michiko Hoshino
- CULTURA VISUAL, Vol. 2, #1, 2000. Translation into Spanish of my toner papers
- Etching copper plates using my modified copper sulfate mordant. PRINTMAKING TODAY, Vol. 18, #2, summer 2009
Honours and Awards (selected)
- Major Award (De Beers Consolidated) at Canadian Craft Council Show, Kitchener, 1977, jewelry design
- Nominated for “Saidy Bronfman Award for Excellence of Craft Design,” 1983
- Listed in “We’re No. 1,” StarPhoenix, September 26, 1995
- Lifetime Award for Excellence in the Arts, Saskatchewan Arts Board presentation, 1999
- Canadian Who’s Who, included in University of Toronto publication, 2003-present
- Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from University of Saskatchewan. Gave commencement address at convocation, May 24, 2006