Bob Hainstock adhering rust print to plywood panel in printmaking process

Medium 101: Rust Prints

What is a Rust Print? 

When I first think of rust, I picture the iron-like spots that creep along the underside of my old Jetta (it's seen one-too-many winters). The orange-brown tones reveal the rugged elements that compose our surroundings.

North Mountain Studio

For artist Bob Hainstock, the earthy bronze substance is both a creative inspiration and a challenging medium. His prints match the deep orange foliage that surrounds his studio, pictured on the left.

Creating these prints is an intense, yet rewarding process. Harnessing raw elements with an eye for fine art, Hainstock's prints draw from nature's palette, evoking forest scenes with warm hues. 

Hainstock outlined his 9-step practice for me; read on for a summary, and be sure to check out Hainstock's artist page for examples.

Turning Iron to Rust Print

The process starts with 4' by 8'  sheets of untreated iron. Hainstock cuts the sheets into 4' by 4' squares to fit onto a hydraulic press. 

Hydraulic press constructed by Bob Hainstock for rust printmaking

Hainstock uses a homemade press - a testament to the work's originality - to channel six hydraulic bottle jacks. The result is enormous, consistent pressure for up to four weeks at a time.  

These iron squares are further refined into shapes that form the thematic basis of Hainstock's work.

Valley Roads # 5, a finished rust print by Bob Hainstock at Teichert Gallery

Often, his work is rooted in landscape or abstraction. The image to the left shows a completed rust print "Valley Roads #5." Click the image to see the work at Teichert Gallery.

The amount of iron per work varies; some panels boast over 120 individual cut pieces, while others use as few as two.

Once cut, Hainstock gathers the pieces to spray with a light vinegar solution; this cleans and opens the metal. On either side of the metal shape, he'll spray a  second round of oxidation accelerators.

Rust Printmaking Process

With the iron beginning to rust, it's time to focus on the printmaking aspect. He starts by laying a wet, 50" by 50" sheet of paper onto plywood.

Rust print sandwich for rust printmaking

The iron shapes are spread over the paper, with another piece of paper laid over the metal surface.

The cycle repeats with a new piece of plywood. The result looks like a sandwich from Hephaestus Forge - plywood, paper, rust, paper, plywood. Hainstock repeats this 6 - 8 times before sending them to the hydraulic press. 

Bob Hainstock removing rust print off hydraulic press for art in Nova Scotia

Then, the waiting begins: in the summer months, the press lasts just 4 or 5 days, while cooler seasons call for up to 4 weeks of pressure.

Once finished, Hainstock peels paper off the metals to reveal a set of mirrored rust prints. He flattens and dries them before hanging the prints in his studio, waiting for inspiration to populate the panel. 

The rusted shapes are delicate: as you can see, Hainstock handles them with care. Like its organic counterpart, Hainstock's "shaped" rust is an earthen bronze; the shapes embody a type of rawness only found in nature.

Completing the Rust Print with Mixed Media 

The wood panels, made from birch plywood and pine, are given 2-3 coats of gesso or latex depending on the desired effect.

Bob Hainstock adding pastel to rust print mixed media art

Hainstock lathers a generous coat of glue to the back of the print and panel before adhering the two, leaving them under heavy weights for 24 hours. After the paper and panel are attached, it's time to introduce new media.

The final image is a blend of acrylic paints and washes, pastels, inks, and/or torn collages of former rust prints. Each piece is finished with 4 - 5 coats of either mat or gloss varnish. 

Hainstock's work often learns into the earthy tone of his materials, featuring deep greens and burnt oranges that construct dramatic landscapes. Wired and ready to hang, the work is complete!

 - Cormac Newman


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.