Printmaking: Intaglio + Relief
I've talked before about my two main printmaking disciplines (Intaglio & Relief) in college and how they informed my growth as an artist. But I wanted to share a process I only used a few times in practice that combined the two techniques for Itaglio (printing from ink underneath the surface of the 'plate') and relief (printing from on top of the surface of the 'plate'.
My Printmaking professor at Mott Community College, Sam Morello, showed us a piece of his work when it was on display for an exhibition in Flint. Normally he wouldn't have shared his work with us since he wanted us to be uninfluenced by his work and only influenced by his teaching. The piece pictured here wasn't the piece he showed us, but similar. He was also vague about how the image was made. With a bit of pressing he gave enough details for those of us inspired to figure it out.
At Eastern Michigan University, I decided to try the technique in one of my last semesters as a printmaking student. The process goes something like this, in a woodblock, you carve lines like a contour line drawing (I chose to do drawings of hands in odd positions and cropped awkwardly). The block is then inked and wiped like an etching, meaning the ink settles down into the cuts below the surface of the uncarved wood block. All of the wood grain also act as tiny etched lines and the ink gets wiped down into them as well. As a last step before printing, you can add areas of flat color with a brayer (ink roller) like you would with a woodblock print. The colored ink sits up on top of the block. Making this technique a mix of Intaglio & Relief printing.
Unknown to me at the time, some past students at Eastern had broken the press by running wood through it when they didn't also adjust the press for the correct pressure/tolerance settings. So I had no hesitation to adjust the press for my test runs of the prints, but when I put the proofs up for critique the professor was very upset I had run wood through the press. I explained I knew how to correctly adjust the press and he didn't sway, I asked him to adjust the press for me and we could run them together under his supervision, he didn't sway. I explained that these pieces were the majority of my work for the semester, and I had little else to turn in as a final, he didn't sway but re-iterated that by no means was I to run wood through that ever press again.
I called Sam. He had retired from teaching by then, but had a basement studio and a press he was willing to supervise me using. He and I printed the images I've shared above and when I turned the work in at Eastern for a final grade I was able to do so with out having broken any rules. I was questioned by the EMU professor at the final portfolio review as to how I printed them. I promised that it wasn't done on school grounds. He seemed uncertain and not pleased I still turned this work in...until the head of the art department walked in by chance, saw the work, and was very excited about my images & wanted to know more about the process. The head of department's enthusiasm forced my professor to put on a smile and grade the work based on merit rather than the backstory of how & where it was made. To add insult to injury for the professor, the head of department asked if I wouldn't mind loaning the artwork to them for their summer showcase.
The Hands Triptych now lives in our spare bedroom.
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