Pure Grain is an exploration of relief printmaking and the natural patterns present in wood. Drawn from the work of the late Bryan Nash Gill, students in the Fall 2013 Media Workshop: Relief class researched Gill’s work in woodcut and then developed their projects using similar techniques.
Typically, making a relief print entails carving an image out of a matrix, usually wood or linoleum, applying ink to the surface and then using pressure to transfer the inked image to paper. Working with wood presents printmaking artists with a variety of opportunities, as the wood grain provides a relief surface before any tool has left its mark.
The artists in this exhibition chose from a collection of different woods; oak logs, cedar planks, lauan, red oak, pine end grain cuts, and pine plywood. A key parameter in this research was that no wood was to be carved, only the relief pattern already present in the grain could be used for creating images. Some of the wood was inked and printed with a printing press, others pieces could only be printed by hand. Students explored a range of hand printing tools, including metal spoons, wooden spatulas, and printing barens to discover the best technique for the prints they wanted to produce.
In the end, each student took a unique approach to the project. Some layered transparent inks and papers, others modified their inks to create a watercolor effect, while other students used bold colors to emphasize grain as much as possible.
Amy J. Fleming, Adjunct Instructor, Printmaking