Past Archives Features: December 2013

December 2013: Christmas Card Printmaking with Nik Semenoff

Former University of Saskatchewan Faculty member Nik Semenoff is known as a researcher, artist, teacher and inventor.During his long and varied career he has made jewelry, designed graphics, developed audio visual equipment, drawn illustrations and constructed architectural models--and revolutionized the art of printmaking. Before joining the U of S, Semenoff worked at the Western Producer, CFQC broadcasting and ran a business out of his home as a free lance artist, designer and photographer. Semenoff started working at the University of Saskatchewan in the Extension Division as an artist and media specialist in 1967 moving to the faculty of the Department of Art and Art History in 1987.  He retired in 1992 and was named Artist-in-Residence.

Nik Semenoff is best known for his  cutting-edge, original research into safer, cheaper, and more efficient printmaking processes. His work has placed the University of Saskatchewan in the forefront of non-toxic printmaking research and education, and earned him high acclaim among printmakers worldwide. Semenoff  invented and fine-tuned a number of printmaking processes. He has made particular contributions to his discipline with the invention of the "waterless lithographic process", his work in high resolution screen printing and the development of specialized inks. Printmaking is both safer and less expensive using the techniques and materials developed by Professor Semenoff. Considered revolutionary, his work has generated considerable interest in the international printmaking community, and he has been regularly invited to present the results of his research at academic conferences and workshops. Although retired, Semenoff's love of printmaking and art has persisted, as he now explores safe methods of producing quality prints using affordable, commonly available materials.


The following are some festive examples from Nik Semenoff's collection--held at the University of Saskatchewan Archives--showcasing his design process for the creation of printed Christmas cards. These sketches of potential Christmas cards for print are done in oil pastel, paint, crayon, pencil, ink and pencil crayon.

 Star                                Tree


The collection contains materials from throughout Semenoff's career, including lecture and workshop materials, correspondence, awards, publications, pictures of Semenoff's architectural models, illustrations, sketches, prints, and scrapbooks. These Christmas cards present a brief peek into Semenoff's boundless creativity. Below, we see a collection of both simple and complex designs produced with the University of Saskatchewan in mind:




The following completed card shows the end result of Semenoff's early printmaking, as published for the CFQC, presumably during his tenure there (1954-1963).


Although the practice of giving cards at Christmas is not as widespread as it once was, it has in the past decade seen something of a revival, as "retro influences" become more "popular with today's consumers" (Schlossberg). Highly popular websites like Pinterest and Craftgawker provide inspiration for card-makers, and there is a recent and increasing proliferation of specialty paper shops where one can buy the materials needed to fashion such cards. The revival of the hand-crafted card can, perhaps, be attributed to the fact that "handcrafted items restore some of the "personal" touch that modern communication forms have largely obliterated" (Schlossberg). Semenoff's Christmas cards show that for the creative and the innovative, it is possible to create quality cards using anything and everything from the common pencil to advanced printmaking techniques. You can find out more about printmaking in general, Semenoff's processes, and his most recent techniques for affordable, safe printmaking on Nik Semenoff's website.


Schlossberg, Caroline Kennedy. "Paper artistry: scrapbooking, handmade cards, and sculptural paperwares are driving stationery sales." Gifts & Decorative Accessories Apr. 2005: 26+. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.

Semenoff, Nik. "New directions in printmaking"