What a Relief – Bringing Printmaking into Foundations

October Highlight: Relief printmaking exploded into my Color & Design foundations course!

This semester I incorporated a new, two-part relief linocut project as a bridge between a project involving cut paper silhouettes (shape, sourcing, abstraction) and what was previously the first color assignment.

We worked small: 6″ x 8″ lino blocks.  To keep things simple, we printed on Hosho paper which came in 9″ x 12″ pads – the perfect size (thanks to Casey Sorrow of the Kresge Art Store!).  Students used their skills at composing designs from magazine source shapes to create new designs for their lino blocks (I also encouraged them to adapt designs from the previous project).  Each student printed an edition of four prints (using black ink) to practice inking, printing, and registering.

After students learned that basic process, we had a class session devoted to creating color monoprints by layering at least three different blocks and printing in a variety of colors.  My students decided to make a list of the colors they wanted, and then we assigned one color to each person to mix.  Printing ensued!  Each student was required to produce four monoprints and to use every lino block at least once.  (And they immediately grasped why registration is important!)

Next time I teach this project, I will allocate two days for printing monoprints, which should encourage stronger craft – folks were in a hurry, and we got messy! – and allow time for clean up!  Spending two days on printing will also allow time for first and/or second layers to dry before printing the final layers – which may be both a pro and a con.

In addition to color layers mixing during printing, another good result of the hurry to make many impressions in a fast-paced, communal space was that blocks retained residue from previous colors, creating variation and more interesting colors.  This turned out to be excellent for our first foray into color, as we arrived at several interesting neutral/low-intensity (“muddy”) colors which my students would not have considered mixing at the outset.  We discussed this in the critique the following week, and this result segued nicely into an existing exercise on mixing chromatic grays (neutrals mixed from complementary colors).

All told, it was a success!  And, because I supplied the tools and ink, Rhizome Studio now has everything needed for me to teach linocut workshops for twelve students!


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