Lesson Five:
Making Art That Matters
(Printmaking Option)


Students plan and execute a relief print that attempts to protest or persuade. They focus on effective definition of shape, use of symbols, and impact on their intended viewers.


  1. Students learn that relief prints reverse the image from the block to the print. (Students must take care in reversing any letters or words as they plan their block.)

  2. Students learn how to plan a print that protests a situation or attempts to persuade its viewers to the students' beliefs.

  3. Students learn how to execute the steps in a relief printmaking technique (linoleum block, cardboard relief, or woodcut).

  4. Students learn how to use symbols to communicate ideas to their viewers.

  5. Students learn how to define shapes within a print.

  6. Students learn how to use negative, as well as positive shapes, effectively in their prints.

  7. Students learn how to formulate and share responses to classmates' artwork.


In preparation for class, make your own sample. It is advisable to plan the image in advance, remembering to focus on shape and remembering that letters and words will print in reverse. You can 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.

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.). Place a small amount of ink on a palette and spread ink evenly over the brayer (roller) by rolling it on the palette. Next ink the block by rolling the inked brayer over its surface. Place a sheet of paper over the inked block. 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. Carefully pull off the print. Expect some texture in printed areas.

Click here to see linocuts made by high school students


Art for Protest and Persuasion

Printmaking Lesson

Sensory Lesson Index

Explain that students will be producing a linoleum block print related to an issue or situation that concerns them. Their prints should use shapes symbolically. Students should pay attention to negative as well as positive shapes. as they plan their prints. An alternative process is cardboard relief printing or, for advanced students, woodcuts.

Review the theme of Protest or Persuasion. Ask students to use the issue or concern they've identified and symbolic shapes they've developed in previous lessons, as starting points in designing their icons. You may want to show students examples of political, corporate, government, and other simple logos, as examples of how shapes can be defined and how positive and negative shapes can complement each other. Remind students to consider how the viewers they hope will see their printed icon may understand it.

Show your sample print and demonstrate the steps of the process for your students. You may want to ask your students to experiment with different paint and paper combinations and submit an "edition" of perhaps five prints that they believe are most successful.

Viewer Lesson Index

Remind students that a most effective protest of persuasion print communicates its ideas to others who view it. When students have completed their prints. Divide your class into small groups and ask each group to exchange prints with another group. Ask each group to work together to respond to each print in turn. In preparing their responses the group should:

  • Describe the shapes their classmate used and explain how the shapes were defined.
  • Point out any symbols the classmate used.
  • Discuss ideas the print seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the message of the print in one sentence. (This print is about. . .) and explain how the shapes, symbols, or other elements of the print support its message.
  • 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. Describe how each set of viewers would respond to the print.
  • Each student should volunteer to present an interpretation of one of the prints basing that interpretation on the small group's discussion.
  • Conclude the lesson by asking each student to display another student's print and to share her or his interpretation with the artist and the rest of the class. You may choose to ask for written interpretations, or, if time is short, ask students to find the artist who made the print and to share the small group's conclusions directly with the artist.


    Select a simpler printmaking process. Students can make blocks carving simple shapes in erasers, indenting marks into an otherwise smooth styrofoam tray, or even by cutting a potato in half and carving into the cut surface.

    Students 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.


    Examine the prints to determine whether they communicate an idea, whether they use shapes (and perhaps symbols) effectively, and whether negative as well as positive shapes 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


    linoleum blocks
    linoleum cutters
    water based printer's ink
    drawing or construction paper
    press or wooden spoons to apply pressure for printing


    heavy tag board
    white glue
    water based printer's ink
    drawing or construction paper
    press or wooden spoons to apply pressure for printing


    soft wood boards
    wood chisels
    oil-based printer's ink and solvent
    drawing, construction, or other paper
    press or wooden spoons to apply pressure for printing


    potato cut in half
    paring knives (used with care)
    tempera paint
    styrofoam trays or other smooth surfaces
    newsprint, drawing paper, or construction paper

    ALTERNATIVES include soap, erasers, or styrofoam blocks.

    © 2001 Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University. All Rights Reserved.