Davis Thompson concentrated intently on carving out his intricate design with its many 90-degree turns. He was doing the Transformers autobot logo because he had just been to see the movie “Bumblebee” a few days earlier.
Davis, 18, was one of 11 youths who took part in a relief printing workshop at the Goldsboro Library recently.
It wasn’t his first time. He did another relief printing workshop last year, starting with something simple — his initials.
“When I did this last time, I did my initials and sometimes the ‘T’ didn’t really show up because I didn’t get deep enough,” David said. “I put a copy of the print on the fridge and the stamp on my shelf. This one, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.”
Karen Garris, teen/young adult librarian, said relief printing is where you take a picture or freehand drawing, trace it on a block on linoleum, roll ink over it and make prints.
“You use lino cutters to carve out the design on the linoleum,” she explained. “Where the linoleum is gouged out, when you put ink on it, the design stands out.”
But you have to draw the design backwards from how you want it to appear on paper.
To ink the design, you put some ink into a pan and use a roller to roll it onto the block of linoleum. Then you place a piece of paper on the inked linoleum and press — and you have your print.
“When it dries, they take it home and do whatever they want to with it, even frame it,” Karen said.
Printmaking originated in China after paper was invented about AD 105, and it appeared in Europe in the 15th century when the process of papermaking was imported from the East.
Relief printing can be done in a block of wood or linoleum, like in the library workshop.
Merle Elam, a retired Wayne County art teacher, was the instructor. She did her first relief print as a student in 9th grade, and taught the art for 27 years in the school system.
“I think the youths are doing very well today,” she said of the workshop. “And the ones who have done it before clearly know how to improve today. They have taken their mistakes from the last time and reworked those.”
One of those was 13-year-old Harlee Aliff. His first try at relief printing was the band Nirvana’s logo.
“In a way, it turned out good, and in a way, it didn’t,” he said. “I did a little bit too deep on the engraving. This time I’m doing a triforce from the Legend of Zelda. It’s power, knowledge and wisdom.”
Harlee framed his Nirvana print and also put a copy in his scrapbook. He said that’s what he’ll probably do this this one, too.
Katie Newcomb did a print of a symbol from her favorite show, Voltron.
“I’m trying to get a deeper groove around the edges so I can go back and paint around the edges,” the 13-year-old said. “I have never done relief printing before. I like it. It’s rather fun.”
Katie said she’ll give a print of it to her friend because she didn’t get her a Christmas present.
Michael Thompson, 14, was doing his favorite Pokemon, Eevee.
“Eevee can evolve into eight different Pokemon,” he said. “It’s versatile.
“Last time, I did another one of my favorite Pokemon, Furret. Relief printing is pretty fun.”
He put his first relief print in a book of art he’s done, and already has a place for this one.
“The hardest part, in my opinion, is drawing the sketch,” Michael said. “I used a picture to draw this one, but it didn’t transfer fully. The hair was the problem.”
The relief printing workshop is one of the many activities the Wayne County Public Library has for youths.
“A lot of times, people tend to think the library is all computers or all books,” Karen said. “But we want to make sure the kids are aware that there is a place that they can come and find things that they are interested in, not just books, computers, magazines.
“The only way we’re going to do that is to actually get them through the doors. And we want the community to enjoy coming to the library for books and events like this.”