Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prints 101: Relief Printing

like my feeeyawnsay said. different strokes for different folks (rest in peace Gary) when it comes to printmaking.  like most guys my age, most of my early exposure to artistic endeavors came in the form of animated films or saturday morning cartoons.  my brother and i used to watch this tv show called McGee and Me. this kid named Nick has this baller pencil sharpener that was set up like a Rube Goldberg project. he would draw this character named McGee in a red notebook, and McGee would come to life and teach him life lessons: like don't make fun of native americans or talk trash to dudes with a knife hanging out the tip of their cowboy boot. 
my mom bought me a notebook just like his, and i filled it full of superman stories and all kinds of crazy stuff. drawing and storytelling go back to my most basic artistic experiences. while any printmaking form can showcase your drawing skill, there's something special about relief printing that shows the hand drawn aspect of the work so well.  
relief printing started in china in the 3rd century AD. its older than the Great Wall. word.  woodblock printing is mostly recognized for the work of Hokusai, especially this little ditty:
the Great Wave Off of Kanagawa.  if i could ever summon the courage to get a tattoo, you're looking at it.  its absolutely beautiful.  after the Japanese rocked the woodblock out, the Germans took a swing at religious imagery, and then the Renaissance greats, like Durer, leaned with it and rocked with it. and then there's me. 
here's a look at the set of tools i use for relief work:
each tool leaves a very specific mark. like a fingerprint. its fascinating.
after inking the block and placing paper onto the block, i print by hand using a series of tools.  i'll use anything from a box of cat litter to a handmade wooden spoon.  like so:
after my arms get too tired to keep going, i check the print, if it looks like a masterpiece, i remove the paper from the block.
boom.  knowledge is power.

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