R E L I E F  P R I N T I N G

This is one of the earliest techniques for making a
print, and is based on a raised surface being coated
in some fashion with ink and stamped onto paper or
fabric. It is a very direct approach of printing and
requires no press in many cases. The raised surface
with ink becomes the image and is always reversed
when printed. Hence, the relief block is the negative
and the printed image becomes the positive. An artist
takes this fact into account during the planning of
their composition. Relief images tend to be more
carved or incised and graphic in appearance when
printed. This is because the process rises out of
woodcarving and marks made on engraved surfaces.

The history can be traced back to Asia when the
Chinese, shortly after the invention of paper, began
making woodcut blocks that could be hand printed on
paper as well as used in fabric decoration. By the
time paper arrives in Japan, things really get going.
Sophisticated woodcut blocks, designed to be printed
sequentially in layers of color by hand, soon make for
elaborate works of art printed on rice paper. Even
today, Japan has a proud tradition and approach to
relief printing - one which remains a signature of their
proud culture and Asian design aesthetics.
In Europe, printmaking and printing were to become
the catalyst for change in societies, especially in
Germany circa 1436, when Johannes Gutenberg
combined carved movable letters of type with his new
invention, the printing press. The ability to reach
broad audiences through the printed word and image,
revolutionized Europe and the world beyond and the
Age of Enlightenment was born.
Woodcut is the foundation for relief printmaking and
was used to create everything from playing cards to
ornate medieval manuscript illustrations. Later, entire
art movements found the primitive expression of the
woodcut process so appealing - such as German
Expressionism, Kandinsky, M.C. Escher and other
artists notably, Edvard Munch, Paul Gauguin and
Picasso. Throughout the centuries, additional
materials suitable for carving with woodcut tools,
gained popularity and are widely used by artists
today, such as linoleum, plastics, etc.
2012 ragapress.com. All rights reserved.
(Click below to see
Ron Garrett's prints
in each technique)
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