The term “print” is often confused with modern day reproductions or photocopies. Some artists create an original drawing or painting and then have mechanical reproductions made to sell at a more affordable price.
For example, the term “giclée print” indicates that the image has been
reproduced by means of an ink jet printer. They are sometimes signed by
the artist but each one is exactly like another.
The difference between an original print and a copy is that each original print is hand pulled from a plate or block which the artist has created and individually inked.
When you look at various original
prints in an edition you will see slight variations in colour and
pressure. This is part of the magic and charm of creating original
If you have ever carved and printed an image from a potato stamp, then you have done a relief print at its most basic. Relief printmaking is the earliest type of printmaking and it has been around a lot longer than the printing press.
Many printmakers do use a press for woodcut and linocut prints but they can be printed by hand.
Personally, I hand print large blocks and use an ancient bookbinding press for my smaller blocks.
In the photo to the left, I am working on Many Masks, a 16″ x 20″ woodblock print – too large to go into my press!
A relief block is made by carving away part of the surface of a piece of wood or linoleum and leaving part of it intact or raised so it can receive the ink rolled onto it, which is then transferred to the paper as an image.
Wherever the surface of the block is scratched or carved away the paper colour will show through. Once you have carved it away you cannot put it back.
Relief printmaking is a very low-tech and traditional process. Like all printmaking, there is an element of surprise involved.
The print is a reversal of the carved image and each step along the way, drawing, carving, inking with various colours, and finally pulling the print, all of these steps in the process act as a sort of translation of idea to image.
There are often changes and sometimes happy accidents along the way.
What I love about monotype
printmaking is that it is a more experimental and explorative process
than carving a block. There is always an element of surprise to
printmaking but with monotype prints it is even more so. It is
definitely a lost and found process, sometimes a bit of hit or miss.
Monotype prints can be done in a painterly way, applying ink to Plexiglas or metal, and sometimes removing ink by various methods.
Sometimes stencils and other objects and textured materials are used as well.
In some cases I combine woodblock prints with monotype backgrounds, but in all cases each monotype print is unique and only one exists rather than an edition.
When you look at a woodblock print or a linocut print it can be one colour only or many colours. For many years I limited my images to single colour such as black ink on white paper. Simple can be beautiful.
When you see many colours in a print then it is usually done either by using a different block for each colour or by means of colour reduction.
Colour reduction prints are carved from a single block which is carved and inked for each colour.
We usually begin with carving the white areas away and then print (the entire edition) with a light colour.
Next we carve away where that colour will show and print a darker shade.
This process is repeated until you wind up with a dark colour or black.
There can be any number of layers involved. Once the printing is done you cannot go back and change any of the original colours. It is done.
Different stages in printing of “Masked Dancer” 15″ x 16″ colour reduction print