Process talk: Textured relief

Thinking back to art classes in middle school, you may have carved a linoleum block with a little, U-shaped knife. You were creating a relief plate, but you may not have called it that. This is one of the most common forms of printmaking, and linoleum and wood are likely the most widely used materials.

I carve my relief plates in a thin PVC foamcore board used for signage, called “Sintra”. This substance is easily carved and cut with an exacto knife, and I find it very versatile.

Typically, an image is carved into the plate using sharp implements (my fingers always suffer after a carving session), and ink is then rolled over the plate, placed face down on paper and passed through an etching press. That creates a crisp, graphic image. Additional layers can be printed over this image.

I use a process I call “textured relief” to create multi-layered prints. I ink one plate, then press a different plate face-to-face onto the first plate, rub the back to create some suction, and peel the two apart. This makes mottled gaps in the inked plane, creating lighter and darker areas which translate as light through the translucent palmetto fronds when the plate is printed to paper. 

You can see the printed results on the palmetto leaves at the bottom and top of the print at right. By pressing plate against plate, the ink roll is somewhat corrupted, producing a soft, textural line. I think it creates a result that looks more organic and irregular than direct ink-to-paper printing.

Below, you can see the difference between the two methods — on the left, I’ve made a straight, ink-to-plate relief print, and on the right you can see what happens to the ink when another plate is pressed onto an inked plate before printing to paper. The effect adds a bit of value and dimension.

Print Day in May 2020

I participated in Print Day in May, a global internet event for the first time this year. The pressure was on! Printmakers from around the world made prints. I spent most of the day working on my evolving pelican project.

First, I ran a few tests to make sure of the color combination and the effects. Once I was satisfied that it wouldn’t look like a dog’s breakfast, I pulled out the large plates and inked up my carborundum collagraph plate depicting mangrove islands. I also used inks of different viscosities to get the surface texture and ran them through the press. I embellished the final result with a couple hand carved stamps and a sigh of relief.

Pelicans in flight – relief monoprint, 2020; Akua intaglio on Rives BFK; 14″x20″

Here’s a second version of the print, called “Fuga pelecanes”. This is the one I’ll enter into Morean Art Center’s Pelican Pride show.

Fuga Pelicanes – Relief monoprint, 2020; Akua intaglio on Arnhem 1618; 14″x20″

Glide of Pelicans

I have been working on my entry to the Morean Arts Center “Pelican Proud” exhibition. Morean is located in St. Petersburg, FL, which this year dubbed the pelican the official city bird.

It’s due in April, but as the Morean and everything else is now closed for COVID-19, I have no idea if this exhibition will happen. But art stops for no one — and no virus. Even though the exhibition may never happen, pelicans deserve attention. Especially brown pelicans, which have had such a rough go of it in the Gulf.

For inspiration, I made a drawing from a photo I’d taken of two injured pelicans at Homosassa Wildlife Park.

Pelican Pair, drawing

I love the look in the eye of the one on the left. She (?) seems to be supporting the one on the right, who is blind. They both look like they’d like to take wing and glide away together. I thought to try linocut and monotype to express what they may be thinking.

Glide of Pelicans – VE linocut monoprint w. stencils, 2020; Akua intaglio on Hannemuhle Copperplate; 11″x15.5″

I will likely develop this idea further, maybe incorporating scenes of St. Petersburg FL. I’m also noodling an abstract interpretation. Stay tuned.