2D UNIT IV: Figure/Ground

Project B1 Protest and Persuasion: Making Art That Matters* (Printmaking)

To explore various methods for creating strong figure/ground relationships on a two-dimensional surface.

To create visual images and symbols that could be used to protest or persuade.

Project Overview Your challenge is to plan and execute a relief print that attempts to protest or persuade. Your focus should be on effective definition of shape, use of symbols, figure/ground relationships, and impact on your intended viewers.

Project References


1. Gallery of Chicano and Chicana artworks

2. Marcuse, Herbert, "The New Sensibility," An Essay on Liberation (Boston: 1969), pp. 23 - 48.




technique: linoleum block, brayer, relief print,

concepts: figure/ground relationships, intersection, integration, interprenetration,



linoleum block, linoleum cutting tools, small sheet of glass or plastic for palette, black printer's ink, brayer (ink roller), rice paper, burnishing tool (spoon)

1. Before coming to class, review the theme of Protest and Persuasion as found on the website. Plan out your image, remembering to focus on shape and figure/ground relationships (see vocabulary above). Remember that letters and words (as well as images) will print in reverse.

HINT: You might choose to use a linear repeat pattern as a border to frame another image or text, as Luis Guerra did in his painting for a poster, as Ana Laura de la Garza did with roses around her monoprint, as José Guadalupe Posada did with his broadside, or as the santero painter did to frame the New Mexico retablo of the Virgin of Guadalupe. (See "Gallery")

2. Transfer a preliminary sketch onto a linoleum block by tracing the shapes of the sketch onto tracing paper, turning the tracing paper over, placing a sheet of carbon paper between the block and the tracing paper, and finally tracing over the outlines.

3. Prepare the block by removing areas not to be printed (or with cardboard, by gluing raised areas to a flat base. Coat the entire cardboard "block " with watered down white glue to seal the surface.).

4. Place a small amount of ink on a palette and spread ink evenly over the brayer (roller) by rolling it on the palette.

5. Ink the block by rolling the inked brayer over its surface.

6. Place a sheet of paper over the inked block.

7. Apply pressure (with a press, using a wooden spoon, or by applying weight, such as a stack of books) to transfer ink to the paper.

8. Carefully pull off the print. Expect some texture
in printed areas.


Critique Ideas


When you have completed your composition, divide into small groups and exchange artworks with another group from the class. Within your group, work together to respond to each print in turn. Consider the following:

1. Describe the various figure/ground relationships your fellow artists used.

2. Point out any personal and/or cultural symbols the artist used to indicate a particular meaning.

3. Discuss ideas the artwork seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the message of the composition in one sentence. (This artwork is about. . .)

4. Explain how the shapes, symbols, or other elements of the composition support its message.

5. Divide each group into two subgroups: viewers who role play that they agree with the artist and other viewers who role play that they are skeptical.

6. Describe how each set of viewers would respond to the artwork. Each student should volunteer to present an interpretation of one of the artworks basing that interpretation on the small group's discussion.

Assessment Examine the prints to determine whether they communicate an idea, whether they use shapes (and perhaps symbols) effectively, and whether negative and positive shapes (figure/ground) contribute to the image.

As students offer interpretations of their classmates' prints, note whether they can identify a message and point to aspects of the print that support that message.

Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:
--an edition of prints
--written interpretation of a classmate's print
--photographs of prints inserted in the public domain

*Thanks to Arizona State University Professors Mary Erickson and Gary Keller Cárdenas for the ideas behind this assignment.

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