Nontoxic Printmaking, Safe Painting & Printed Art

A European Perspective                               
Henrik Boegh 

Henrik Boegh is an author and artist known in the printmaking world. Since he established Grafisk Eksperimentarium in Copenhagen in 1997 he has been working to spread the techniques of nontoxic intaglio across Europe.

When I received an email from my friend Friedhard Kiekeben telling me he had settled in America, my first thought was "what a pity for the European printmaking world". I read that he had set up a new website for the dissemination of research into non-toxic printmaking and I thought, in our global world where we are all communicating on the web, what does it matter where in the world you are living? If you have important things to communicate, they will get through. I felt very honoured when Friedhard asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for his website - and, well here it is:                                               Henrik Boegh, summer workshop, Spain

Henrik Boegh's Website       Henrik Boegh's Non-Toxic Newsletter           

My Approach to Non-Toxic Printmaking
Since meeting Eli Poinsaing, Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, at the beginning of the 1990s, I have devoted a bigger part of my life to non-toxic intaglio printmaking. I have been working as a professional artist since 1977 especially with black and white photography, but also with traditional printmaking. However, I stopped intaglio printmaking because of the very toxic environment of printmaking studios.

When Poinsaing introduced me to his new and completely non-toxic discoveries using photopolymer plates (solarplates) for photogravures as well as vegetable oil for cleaning the plates, I certainly saw a new world opening which I could use in the production of my own fine art pieces. Eli Poinsaing had already introduced the new methods in Scandinavia and published a Danish/English book on what he called Photopolymergravure. A few years later I wrote a more hands-on manual on Photogravure which I published for fellow photographers in Denmark. At the same time I started conducting workshops
for individual photographers using this new medium in my own studio in Denmark.

   Henrik Boegh, Angkhor Temple Cambodia, photogravure from copper plate, 2003

My visit to the Canadian School of Non-Toxic Printmaking in Alberta

During the mid 90s I heard about the experiments Keith Howard had begun with photopolymer film and acrylic etching grounds at the Canadian School of Non-Toxic Printmaking in Alberta; and also about a large printmaking studio in Edinburgh where they had completely changed all classic printmaking methods to the new non-toxic methods. Of course, I had to find out what was going on. With support from the Danish Ministry of Cultural Affairs I got the financial backing to make a trip to Canada, where I had the pleasure of participating in one of Keith Howard's summer workshops. What was going on there and what he had developed was nothing but a revolution to me. Of course everything at that time was at its very beginning, but I was not in doubt about the perspectives - it was simply a gift to the printmaking world, art schools, health and environment - yes everybody involved in printmaking as fine art. To me Keith was not only a sympathetic person with a lot of vision - he knew what he was dealing with and he was not afraid of communicating his ideas. My visit in Canada became not only a shot in the arm, but also the beginning of a close friendship with the man to whom the whole printmaking world can only be thankful.

My visit to the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop in Scotland
Later the same year I had the pleasure to participate in a workshop at the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop. Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop was as far as I know the first large-scale open access studio to take the message of Non-Toxic Printmaking seriously. Under the leadership of Robert Adam and with Friedhard Kiekeben as chief researcher in non-toxic materials and methods they had simply changed the workshop from a traditional printmaking studio to a completely non-toxic studio. The atmosphere as well as the level of fine art prints I saw there convinced me immediately - and I knew I had to introduce these techniques to the very closed world of Scandinavia printmakers, where people tended to keep their "secrets" to themselves and were also very sceptical of new ideas. I knew it would be difficult but, if it was introduced strategically "correctly" and with economic support, I knew it would be realistic.

The Foundation of Grafisk Eksperimentarium,
After six months of practicing with the new techniques in order to be completely sure about the strong and the weak points of the new system, I established Grafisk Eksperimentarium (The Printmakers Experimentarium) in Copenhagen and arranged a three-day conference in the historical Danish town of Elsinore with support from the Danish Ministry of Environmental Affairs. Here I invited Keith Howard and Friedhard Kiekeben to be the key speakers for an audience of about fifty important printmaking individuals (artists, teachers at art schools and fine arts academies from Sweden and Denmark) as well as The Danish Printmakers Society. At the conference everybody had the opportunity to see demonstrations by Keith and Friedhard of all the techniques involved in Non-Toxic Intaglio. The Danish Ministry of Environmental Affairs not only financed the conference but they also made it possible for me to get an assistant for further research in my studio, to send newsletters to artists and art schools in the whole of Scandinavia (before emails were common) and run a series of workshops.

The aims of Grafisk Experimentarium were and still are:
  • Testing and evaluating new printmaking techniques and materials based on acrylics and polymers
  • Imparting experience with such techniques and materials to art schools and creative artists
  • Arranging workshops, conferences and demonstrations of non-toxic printmaking
  • Advising schools and graphics workshops on establishing and equipping non-toxic studios


Shortly after the start of Grafisk Eksperimentarium I wrote a Danish version of my Handbook of Non-Toxic Intaglio and produced the DVD Non-Toxic Intaglio Step by Step.
The book is available in English; Dutch/Flemish; Spanish and French translations.


The Situation in Europe today
Throughout the period 1997-2004 I arranged workshops and conferences not only in Denmark but also in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Germany. In 2005 I moved my studio to Spain where I had already had a small art school for the last 20 years, together with my wife, teaching fine art photography and painting. At this time most of Scandinavia and northern Europe has already changed to the new non-toxic techniques and other people have taken over the spreading of the message. I realised that France, Spain and Italy were left behind because all information about non-toxic printmaking until then has been communicated in English.

In 2005
, Eva Figueres, professor in printmaking at the University in Barcelona, arranged a conference on non-toxic intaglio where I had the pleasure of delivering lectures and demonstrations together with Friedhard Kiekeben. Most of the Spanish universities and many Spanish master printers were invited to the three-day event. Shortly after, Eva Figueres published a Spanish book outlining the findings of the conference. In addition, the University of Granada decided to translate (and publish) my book into Spanish with help from the well-known professor of printmaking, Juan Carlos Ramon Guadix, from the Facultad de Bellas Artes in Granada. The message was spread and well received, and since then we have seen huge interest in the new techniques among the universities and important studios in Spain. As I speak Spanish, I have taken an active part in this development by arranging workshops at universities, art foundations and art schools across Spain. In addition, I am kept busy running international workshops for professional artists in my own studio in Andalusia.

For further information; free newsletters (non-toxic updates) about the latest developments regarding Non-Toxic Intaglio; and workshop dates
you are welcome to visit my homepage

Henrik Boegh, October 2007


CONTRIBUTIONS. we may be able to include details of your practice, materials, or research on - just CONTACT us. the copyright of individual entries, essays and writings (dedicated or reprinted), brand names, images, and other contributions remains with the original authors and sources. submissions may be edited at our discretion. we welcome appropriate links to our resource. LISTINGS. corporate entries on our pages are listings for reference, research and illustration purposes - not commercial advertisements. RESEARCH. we are particularly keen on contributions highlighting new research and developments regarding safety of processes and methods, paints, inks, solvents, and coatings, and safety related to their application.