Relief Printing

In the second half of my Visual Arts course we did some printmaking. I want to talk about two of the projects I did during this time, and these were both relief prints. In relief printing you cut away from a board of some description and the sections you remove will be unprinted and the sections you leave behind will take the coloured ink. (Think ‘rubber stamp’ and you’ll get the general idea.)

A Pair of Pears (Lino Relief Print)

The first project was with a piece of lino – yes, the same as you find in many kitchens. I used cutting tools to remove sections of the lino and printed what was left with black ink. I regret that I don’t have a better photograph/scan of this to show you. I ended up giving away most of these prints as Christmas presents and what is pictured here is only a pretty lousy scan of what we call ‘an artist’s proof’ – an early print which didn’t really work as well as I wanted.

A Pair of Pears (Lino Relief Print) by John Lacey
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I was mostly interested here in experimenting with the quality of lines I could produce with the lino.

Chinatown Lion Statue (Reductive Woodblock Print)

The second project was a little bit more elaborate. This time we used a woodblock and used a ‘reductive’ printing process. This meant in effect that we would cut some of the woodblock away, print the first colour, cut more of the woodblock away, print the second colour, and then cut more of the woodblock and print the final colour. Once something had been cut away from the wooden block there was no way of printing that area again so you had to really think about what you were doing. Additionally the inks we used were slightly transparent so it helped to think of the colours as a tonal range instead of individual huges. That is the lightest colour – white, the reserved paper cut away at the very beginning, then yellow, then red over yellow, then blue over red over yellow.

Chinatown Lion Statue (Reductive Woodblock Print) by John Lacey
[Click to enlarge in new window/tab]

This was a very time consuming process. Cutting the second time (before printing the red layer) for example took about eight hours. Because I was interested in seeing what textures I could produce with the board I did lots of smaller cuts rather than just gouging out large areas. Registration – that is, lining up the print so the coloured layers matched up – was incredibly difficult and stressful. I attempted a number of these prints but at the end of the process only really had three I was happy with.

Despite all the frustration I experienced with printing, I did end up buying some materials to experiment with at home so I guess my adventures with printmaking aren’t completely over just yet.

2 comments… add one
  • I love that you give your art as gifts! I have never seen this type of artwork before. It’s lovely!

  • Christine

    As a recipient of one of John’s Christmas gifts, I can attest to how wonderful they really do look.

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