Artist Mike Sonnichsen first started making these relief prints twenty years ago while he was in architecture school. He used an etching process called aquatint to create the metal printing plates. 

First he drew a geometric pattern into each plate with a needle-like tool. Then he sprinkled the designs with acid-resistant dust and slipped the plates into an acid bath. The acid bit into the metal, etching the designs into the surface. He pulled the plates out periodically to stop the acid bite in certain areas, which helped vary the texture (and the printed values and tones) throughout the designs. 

When Sonnichsen rolls ink onto the plates and runs them through the press, he can create an array of color combinations, both vivid and subtle. 

Sure, you could use a computer to create images like these, he says. “But the difference is like staring at a screen saver versus looking through a kaleidoscope.”

See more of Sonnichsen’s work here and on his website.

Mike Sonnichsen is a lecturer and manager of the Printmaking Lab and photography lab in the Department of Art.