What is Relief Printmaking?

Relief is a technique and process that involves cutting or carving into a surface by removing either the negative space in order to leave an impression of an image or design. The surface is then inked and pressed on paper either by hand or a press.

The surfaces used may range from sheets of linoleum, to wood, rubber, plastic, and virtually any flat surface.

When/Where did it originate?

Printmaking itself may have been around since the Paleolithic age with cave art and using hands as a stencil. But relief printmaking dates back to thousands of years, as early as the 8th Century from China. It wasn’t until the Renaissance (1300-1600) in early Europe where the woodcut grew into fruition. During the 15th Century, the woodcut (along with the engravings, etching, and drypoint) was used often to print secular and religious imagery. Then came the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1440, and the rest is history in terms of its accessibility and methods of reproduction as a prominent medium.

Most of the popular works, from my observations, that people often recognize and enjoy are from this Medieval/Renaissance age. Albrecht Durer, the Godfather of printmaking, made his work during this period, along with Hans Baldung, and Albrecht Altdorfer to name a few. A few other of my favorite printmakers include Gustave Dore and Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada.