Making cartoon reliefs

This technique started really as woodcuts. I was a student at Asker Art School and was introduced to woodcut prints and became instantly hooked. It fitted my way of seeing images perfectly. The first print I made was with five colors. I woodcut you have to make separate plates for each color, and then print one color at a time on paper, and build the print from the back to the front in terms of which color you print first. And each time it is essential that you print in the same position. If you’re off by a little on one of the colors, the print is ruined.

This amount of precision and physical work was ideal for me. The only thing was, I thought the wooden plate looked better than the print. I went on to do other things during my time at Asker Art School, but without really thinking about it I started to work with cutting out wood in different ways. It was a gradual evolution to the technique I use here. I still remember each step and how exited I was when everything I had imagined worked better and better.

I do every part of the process by hand. I want control, and in my experience the more you can do yourself the better it is. This means the whole process is not that expensive in terms of actual costs in material, although there are enough, but it also means it takes a very long time since I do every part myself.

One of the reasons of making reliefs, I have come to realize, is that in my experience going to exhibitions is a rather boring affair. And many times there would be no difference between seeing a painting in real life and printed on paper, like in a catalogue, or even online. I want the experience of seeing these reliefs in real life to be worth it, rather than just seeing them reproduced flat. It can be difficult to imagine how these look in real life just from seeing pictures from the front, but hopefully you will get an idea from these pictures.

“Car Crash” is one of the biggest reliefs I have ever made. I had to divide it up in six large parts to make it able to be transported. As you can see in the pictures, I had to make use of the floor, and there was barely enough room. It was really pushing the limits of my studio, but when I want something done, I can make it work.

“Helicopter Attack” is also one of the biggest and most complex reliefs I have ever made. Unlike “Car Crash” it is all made in one large piece measuring 183×173 cm. It barely made it out the door of my studio. It is amongst the reliefs that have the most pieces on it.

Here are some more examples of different reliefs made in my not so big studio. Because of the size I have to make one relief at a time, at least at the assembly stage. When I do have more than one to make, I cut everything at once, making it a huge puzzle of pieces.

I think I have done five or six reliefs at once a couple of times, and then the studio looks like a battlefield. But after that, I work on them one by one. And once I am done, I have to make way to work on the next one, and for that I use some robust trolleys I made to wheel them out of the studio into another room where they stand until it’s time for the next exhibition.