family portrait print making

Starting point

I have had several ideas connected to this subject. At first I had to decide how I want to explore what the theme means to me. I was thinking about showing my ideas about reincarnation, or about how we protect our personality, but the idea to make a family portrait was more personal to me.

Ideas and concepts

I think we are proofs of the former generations and recalls to next ones. Everybody has a personal heritage and every single life has a message to the next generation. The ‘present’ is a very strange thing. This is the ‘past of the future’. We can’t change the past, but we can change the past of the future right here, right now. It should be the reason, that everybody has strong feelings about the old photographs. We feel that the actual present hasn’t been determined when the photograph was taken. We see on the faces the trust in the future, meanwhile we already know the ‘end of the story’. The old photographs make me aware to the power I have, that I’m able to change the future by my decisions. With my work I want to show to my audience that everybody gets this power.

I think the most important heritage we get, is something that we can’t touch. We inherit visible and invisible features, habits and dreams. We study in our childhood from our parents, how to solve the problems. They studied it probably from their parents. When we want to determine our aims, it’s very important to know not only where we want to go, but where are we come from and what we want to give to the next generation.


I started the working process with a research. My mum told me stories about my family, about my great grandparents who worked in a circus, from another great grandfather who was a goldminer in Alaska, from my grandparents and she had a lot of stories about Yemen, where I born and where she lived for 8 years. I have only a few old photographs about my great grandparents, so I made a general research at first about the circus in the 1930s, and about the life of goldminers. I didn’t know how will I explore my heritage. As a first aim, I decided that I will create their faces to feel them near to me, to get chance to look into their eyes. I made sketches about my great grandparents who worked in the circus, but I struggled with the look of my goldminer great grandfather, because I haven’t got enough photographs of him to create his face. I solved this problem by drawing him as a kind of cartoon. This drawing gave me later the idea to explore my theme by printmaking.

The second part of the research was a collection of symbols, that explored efficiently my own heritage. I made drawings and paintings on a big paper. I didn’t still select the ideas; I just draw everything connected to my memories. To remember to the stories, I looked for old letters and documents at home as well. I found the diary of my grandmother. It was shocking to read it, because she wrote it with my step grandfather who died after 25 years of marriage and my grandmother kept writing to him in the diary after his death. They used to write poems to each other. The last few poems aren’t written to my step grandfather; these are written about death. I decided to use the last page of the diary on my work. It’s about how people remember to the ancestors. The translation of the poem is to follow:

And then… When your ragged life is finished The descendants tidy up after you They wash your sweated dreams They sew the torn whispers They put the candle end of your joy in a box And they bind it with sorrow They polish the shoes of your journeys And they unleash the roads from it accurately They brush your carelessly thrown away sunsets They can your rude ideas in sugar They air out your swearing And then there will remain just order and silences After you, and the descendants

During looking for symbols and memories I found interest in other artists works as well. Being confused how I want to explore my message, the works of Laura Knight helped me to understand how many ways there are to present the same theme. She joined to a circus, so her works explored the whole life in the circus and not only the shows. She presented her message through several different techniques and mediums, such as oil paintings, drawings and sketches with charcoal and graphite pencil, that has made me remember how many different ways there are to work out my own project.

In addition to my circus heritage I have Hungarian and Yemenis ancestors. I found very useful the works of Anton Molnar, who influenced me a lot. He explores different cultures in his works. Having Hungarian origins, of course he has had several works especially about Hungarian themes. He tends to collect symbols, and he makes a collage from them. I was especially fascinated by the cast iron fence on one of his works, on Szia Fredi. I realised just by these work, how much this fence makes me remember to Hungary. This is the reason I presented a piece of cast iron fence on my own work as well. Throughout the working process I planned to display my work in frame with text on it, like Anton Molnar does it on his works, but finally I didn’t do it.

Development and materials

At this point I had to decide, how I wanted to explore my concept. I drew my goldminer great grandfather in a style of cartoon, and I decided to work out in this style other figures as well. I collected a lot of symbols to present my heritage, so I had to reduce this amount of symbols to the few most eligible ones. The ropedancer and the strongman represent the circus. They symbolise my own extraordinary lifestyle. The goldminer represents the adventures. They risked a lot to find gold. Because of this, I never afraid to risk everything when I think, I will gain from that in a long term. The chess figure represents my grandfather. He was logical, and well organised, I absolutely feel his way of thinking in my own personality. Loving the horses is a Hungarian heritage for me. The golden city of Sanaa is the capital city of Yemen. This symbol represents all my oriental heritage. In the background I placed Hungarian and Yemenis motifs, to connect the figures. At this point I had to find out how to symbolise my parents. I found an old envelope at home that my father sent to my Hungarian grandmother. It was posted in Sanaa on 10 of December 1987. I was very fascinated by this stamp because the text is written both in Arabic and in English. My mum is the only one person in my family with who I have a very strong relationship. The technique of printmaking makes me remember the old posters. I felt, the printmaking is a good way to present something that we respect or admire. Although I respect and admire my mum as well, but she is a real person to me. I prefer to present her in a realistic way. I knew, that I shouldn’t ‘cancel’ the only one person from my family, who I really love. I made approximate 40-50 prints, so I decided to present her with my best knowledge, but in only one work. I enjoyed to paint these symbols on the print and I’m content to invest my time to do it, because I practiced again the acrylic painting. I experienced that now it was easier than first time. On my works there is a photograph as well. This is my favourite photograph from my grandmother. I have two reasons to be enthusiastic about this part of my work. As I wrote it previously, the photographs make me remember the value of the ‘present’. The photograph explores the message and it will give meaning and connection to the other parts of the prints. The other reason of my enthusiasm is the very big difference between the photo and the cartoon. I was curious how it would look on the two visually different prints.

Health and safety

It was the first time I tried the printmaking. I used tools and equipment I never used before. When I started printing I checked everything I have to know about printmaking. The printing beds are heavy, and it was very important to use them safely.

Research and experimenting

I looked for works of printmakers, and I found very interesting how many opportunities are in printmaking. I found especially interesting the works of Andy Warhol, because of the vibrant colours he used, and his marketing background that I feel clearly on his works. Although I had clear ideas about my final works, but I studied from my first project that sometimes experimenting is more important than the final work. I was sure, this time I will be open minded to trying new things. This is the reason that I didn’t follow only the original ideas, and I made several trials with mixing the colours.

Final pieces

The most important challenge in my work was the placement of the layers. I used a transparent sheet piece by piece to find the perfect place of every print. I experienced during the trials that the original rate of the mixture is only a suggestion, when I mix the colour on the screen, it’s better to use a mixture that contain more ink. I found interesting the result when I used only a little ink with a lot of medium, it seems to be a kind of shadow. I made prints with it under and over the other layers as well. I experienced that it’s almost perfectly transparent on the former layers. Although I spent nearly two weeks in the printing room, I feel, it was enough only to understand the basic things, and I still have a lot of ideas to new trials.

I planned to paint a frame around the work with text on it. I should write on it the translation of the original poem from the diary in the background.

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