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Relief process

Relief printmaking, a hands-on art form, uses tools like a baren to transfer ink from a block to paper. Artists often use wood or linoleum blocks, each offering unique effects. The choice between white line and black line techniques can create depth and dimensionality. This affordable, accessible method allows artists to easily replicate their designs. Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

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Video transcript

Relief print making origins started in hand-printing meaning no press was required. You are able as an artist or a commercial printer printing text able to transfer the image by hand by use of a baren. A baren is a small object that allows you to apply even pressure larger than that of your hand. In this case the block has been inked, and a thin sheet of paper is laid over top of the block. With gentle pressure, apply to the block. You can transfer the ink to the sheet of paper. A baren is typically used on thin sheets of paper. The heavier weight papers that most artist use today are too thick for hand to be able to apply pressure all the way through that sheet for an even transfer of the image. You can check the impression to ensure you got a cool even pull. Wood cuts use a flat piece of wood in a case that we'll demonstrate today. There will be a cabinet grade plywood which is extremely dimensionally stable, but still has a beautiful grain. The grain of the wood and wood cut is one reason that artists utilize the material. The grain provides a different effect, in the black areas of the print. Contrast to something like linoleum cuts, where the black ares are totally flat. A wood cut, the grain will affect just how heavily black the black areas of the print can be printed. The grain has a visual effect that can often be used to an artist advantage. When cutting on a wood block, you use a different set of tools much similar to that of a wood carver or a a cabinet maker. These tools provide the artist and the opportunity to have a variety of marks, widths, and depths from which to work with. In relief print making a wood cut block is prepared first by toning the block with an Indian ink wash or a wash of a jet black film ink. This provides a black ground on the surface from which to easily see to removed areas of wood, to reveal the drawing in a way that allows the artist to understand what is happening, and where their drawing is going. Once the block has been stained or toned, the drawing can be transferred through with the aid of an iron oxide or carbon paper transfer. Once that paper transfer has been made, the artist now has the choice of deciding which form of white line or black line composition to utilize. White line is revealing the image through thin white lines in a black field. That would be cutting away those white lines to leave the upper area or black field to take ink. The opposite way of approaching the image area is what we call black line. Which is removing the majority of the information or wood to reveal thin raised black lines to accept the ink for transfer to paper. It is the balance of white line and black line that creates a sense of depth or three-dimensionality. Often an artist will have a shift of white line to black line to be able to reveal a more representational or dimensional space. Once the image has been cut into the block, the block is prepared for printing. Ink is rolled over the surface of the block, placed on the press, and past through transferring ink to paper. Linoleum block printing or a liner cut is a form of relief print making. It relies on linoleum very much similar to what would be in someones home. A linoleum tile, as being a very flat consistent surface, that you can gouge away the non-image area. Linoleum block prints provide a very specific look, which would be something that has a flat black area. The type of linoleum block print making that we do today is very affordable and accessible. The materials are easy to use and easy for people to begin understanding the basic concept of print making. Because of it's affordability and ease of use, it can be used by a variety of different people all across the world. To have a very quick transfer of an idea to a block that can then be replicated to print making. Approaching a linoleum block print has very similar to that in approaching of a wood cut. The material in itself can be toned just like a wood block is toned, to provide a black ground. It makes it easier to see what it is your cutting. Linoleum in of itself, in a material,does not necessarily need that, because it's fairly easy to see what it is that your doing. You can lay out your drawing ahead of time with a marker, or also a carving, or iron-oxide transfer. In this case I will approach the block with the material blank and develop the image as I go. Also like a wood cut, if I remove material, I can not be replace. Whatever I cut away will be white. Whatever remains will be black. The tools we use for linoleum cuts are very similar to those of a wood cut. The difference is the type of metal that's used. Linoleum is a much softer material and does not dull the tools nearly as quickly as wood dulls the tools. A high carving steel is not necessarily required for doing linoleum cut. You can see the different shapes here. A V gouge and U tip. Very similar to that of a wood cut. These are the tools that we use for linoleum cuts, and the tools that we have for wood cut are very specific. Anything that can remove material is a tool that can be used. An artist may use a crowbar, screwdriver, a nail, and all of these things that mark or [mar 05:53] the surface will provide image area. Once you drawn a basic image on the linoleum block you can begin cutting. In this case I've used some simple text but remembering that this will be printed in reverse. Everything on the block must be backwards. So for printing a relief block, that's a linoleum cut, it's the same approach as to printing a wood cut. We want an even application and anchor across the entire block. In this case, because the surface of the linoleum will print a flat black. We're insuring that we make a very even application with no texture.