Roland Petersen was born in Endelave, Denmark in 1926. He studied at University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco Art Institute, California College of Arts and Crafts, Atelier 17 (with Stanley Hayter), Islington Studio and the Print Workshop in London, and the Hans Hofmann School. He taught painting at Washington State University, printmaking at UC Berkeley, and painting and printmaking at UC Davis. He won a Guggenheim fellow and a Fulbright fellow.
Petersen has a very distinctive and recognizable style of printmaking. He works in color intaglio, which is a category of printmaking techniques including etching, drypoint, and engraving. Intaglio means that the image is incised into the plate. Petersen uses this technique to achieve a variety of textures within each image, as well as multiple colors. The colors are bright and garish, and the effect of many of his prints is that of a photo negative, or an infrared photo. He makes use of patterns to throw the untextured areas into higher relief, for patterning reduces the intensity of color, much like newspaper photographs employ different densities of black dots to form a grayscale image. Petersen also uses complementary colors to set off forms. He tends to abstract the forms, and reduce them to geometric shapes, however they are usually still recognizable. There is a slight hint of influence from Oriental woodcuts, especially in Shasta Dam--A Reflective Image. This influence can be seen in the off-center focus on the mountain, and the open, clear sky background. Petersen often used heavy, hard outlines around the objects in his prints, which makes the prints feel more like woodcuts than intaglio. The outlines also give the print a sense of collage or patchwork.