Relief printmaking is a method of printmaking in which the raised forms are the inked elements not the recessed or etched parts as in intaglio printmaking. Recently, Kathleen has been designing wood blocks to create a number of playful prints using a variety of symbols from her drawings as well as creating some line drawings for this purpose. Her first set of wood block prints are shown in the first two images below titled, Soul Mates Series - Heads in the Clouds & Heads Over Heels. Clouds, moons, cats, dogs and squares come together to communicate a sense what it is like to have a soul mate.
To make her relief prints, she starts by selecting shapes or creating line drawings that are meaningful to her and that will translate well in this medium. Then she cuts these shapes out of wood either with a scroll saw or with the aid of a laser cutter if complicated shapes or line drawings are to be used. Then she begins to fit these shapes together into a meaningful composition. In her first two prints, it took playing with the shapes to finalize the design while in her latest print the design was finalized in the drawing stage. Once the composition is composed, she figures out the colors she wants to use that will go along with the overall meaning of the piece. The number of colors she decides to use will determine how many backing boards she will need to cut. These are cut to the exact same size to help with registration and so the design elements can be located in the correct position in relation to one another even when they are separated. Different elements are separated because each color of ink is applied and run through the press before the next color of ink is applied. Thus if you want to have a four-colored print, four boards are set up each containing only the shapes that are to be printed a certain color. For example, in the top print all the clouds were glued to one board inked red, printed and dried before the dogs and top two squares were inked black, printed and dried, etc. When applying the ink, it is rolled on and must be stiff enough so it remains only on the top of the shapes and will not fill in the lines or cause fuzzy edges. Once inked, the board and the paper is carefully positioned and run through the press. Since Kathleen uses water based intaglio ink, she let each colored ink set before she printed the next color. Taking time to let each color dry was important so that the previous layer of ink will not smudge when the paper in run through the press again. Each layer of ink was let dry a day or two before the next ink was added. The overall drying time for these prints was about a week and a half to make sure all the inks were completely dry. Once dry, each print was edited, cut to the final dimensions and signed. Kathleen limited the editions for all of her wood block prints at 16 (sweet sixteen, haha) with 2 artist's proofs.
Her latest print is shown above titled, Zoo Series - Farm. The line drawing Kathleen created for this print is shown below. In the finalized print, the line drawing is featured in the raised white of the paper that intertwines over the recessed blue circle of ink. A double layered black mat was cut to compliment the circular shape and to go along with the print's meaning. Sometimes using just one color can say all that needs to be said. In this print it helps keep the focus on the beauty of the lines and goes along with the subject matter representing the swirling clouds that float around our planet. This print is meant to communicate a sense of the connectedness of life on earth. Kathleen's love of form and thoughtful use of line work well will this method of printmaking.
A couple nice things about wood block printing are the relief aspect and the primitive/modern feel them emit. The relief aspect is the embossing that happens when she runs a piece of paper through the press over raised shapes. While special attention has to be given to the pressure of the press so it does not crease the paper, when done correctly it is a delight to see the three-dimensionality take form. This does not show on the screen but in real life viewing it is a visual delight. All the colors are set below the clean white paper. Relief printmaking is the oldest form of printmaking and there are many examples of primitive works of art. Two notable modern artists who also used wood block printmaking are the masters, Picasso and Matisse.