Thinking Big, at BW Fawick Gallery

Jeanne DeBonis, Eerie, Woodcut relief print made during the Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

Print makers of all kinds know the joy and drama of revealing a new impression—the moment when the paper is pulled from the plate, and a fresh new image is born, seemingly all at once, in the time it takes to pass through a press. Of course there were hours, maybe days – depending on the type of print and how elaborate it is—that led to that moment. But that final operation, when the ink is transferred and the result comes alive, must be one of the most rewarding tasks an artist can perform.

Arfil Pajarillaga, Gwen Putz, Layla Harris Hyman, Lilly Ross, and Maggie Denk-Leigh. Greetings from the Future, woodcut print made during Big Ink workships for A Big Relief

A Big Relief, on view at Baldwin Wallace University’s Fawick Art Gallery November 11 – December 2, is the result of workshops held early in November, organized by BW professor Paul Jacklitch and supported by the Print Club of Cleveland. Jacklitch teaches digital art and design, including digital photography, Photoshop and 3-D imaging and animation. But during a sabbatical this year, he is exploring the ancient technique of wood block printing, and doing so on a large scale. Jacklitch recruited Big Ink—the New Hampshire-based artist duo of Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet—who travel with an oversized but portable press to teach large scale print techniques.  They designed the press themselves, both for size—they call it The Big Tuna, and it can print from blocks up to 40 by 96 inches—and for portability, so they could use it to present workshops around the country.

Amirah Cunningham, Brittany Gorelick, Michelle Eisen, Alex Anthes, Print God, woodcut relief print made during Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

The workshop engaged a broad range of students, within the Baldwin Wallace community and beyond. There were faculty and staff from BW, including Jacklitch himself, plus Deb Pinter and Lisa Schonberg, and Fawick gallery manager Rich Cihlar. Also participating was Cleveland Institute of Art professor Maggie Denk, and artist J. Leigh Garcia, among others. And there were student collaborations, too, including from Baldwin Wallace, the Cleveland Institute of Art, Berea High School, Cuyahoga Heights High School, and Kent State University graduate program.

The prints on view show that diversity in experience, to be sure, but also different applications of the traditional technology—from landscape scenes to poster-style prints, to allegory to abstraction.

Lisa Schonberg, Shadows and Intrusions, woodcut print made during Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

The technique of individual artists also shone through, even as some worked in different media. Lisa Schonberg teaches printmaking at BW and maintains her own studio practice at Zygote Press, making monoprints in rich color by layering and unlayering inky elements from cut paper to plastic mesh. In A Big Relief, she printed the same kind of forms, but carved into a block and all in black ink.  While her luxuriously colored work is more familiar, her sensibility in her piece Shadows & Intrusions was immediately recognizable in the different print medium.

Erica Lull, R!ch Cihlar, Culture, woodcut print made during Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

Similarly, Rich Cihlar is well known around Cleveland for stenciled art, including collaborations with Bob Peck. His sensibility of pop culture, and elements within the work adding tension by their juxtaposition was readily apparent in Culture Vulture, a collaboration by Cihlar and Erica Lull.

Michaelle Marschall, Thrive, woodcut print made during Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

At the Morgan Conservatory, where she is chief paper maker, Michaelle Marschall’s multi-layered reduction prints, especially of landscapes, are easy to spot. In multi-colored relief prints, the registration of different colors—especially in fine details—is a key concern. In her landscape Thrive, printed in one color and one black impression, that’s not an issue. Her knife seems almost liberated to make un-countable, fine lines without worrying about whether the colors would blend or blur, defining veins on leaves, blades of grass, and other fine details that contrast against the bold profile of a mountain peak seen from across the water.

Ashley Jones, Nicole Ballachino, Claire Bond, Chloe Burton, Rachel McElwain, Jaden Rohfeld, Max Carrier, and Sarah Castrigano. Block Party, woodcut print made during Big Ink workshops for A Big Relief

Perhaps the most interesting work from a workshop perspective is the humorously titled Block Party, a collaboration by Ashley Jones, Nicole Ballachino, Claire Bond, Chloe Burton, Rachel McElwain, Jaden Rohfeld, Max Carrier, and Sarah Castrigano. The subject is not a block party: it’s a forest scene with roots and foliage creeping across the land. The title refers to the fact that each of the collaborators carved one of the blocks, and they come together to make the whole, like a party. The intriguing thing is to see within the same image the different carving techniques, the different knives chosen, different ways of addressing the challenge of defining space. In one frame, a fox wanders through, stepping over a root that is carved mostly white. In the adjacent block, the tree from which the root grows is handled with similar finesse, but resulting in a different density and effect. The other blocks are marked by great variety in the boldness of the shapes that make the details of the forest floor.

A Big Relief took great advantage of the moment that was having a large capacity press available, bringing together a great cross section of students and professionals. On opening night Jacklitch told me he’s organizing another large scale relief printing event for next term. This time, though, the printing press will be a steam roller. We can’t wait.

A Big Relief

November 11 – December 2, 2022

Fawick Gallery, Kleist Center for Art and Drama

Baldwin Wallace University

95 East Bagley Road

Berea, Ohio 44017

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.