Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I've always been interested in printmaking, and in making prints as a supplement to my other artwork. I find woodblock prints to have a pleasing aesthetic, especially when done with detail. Detailed woodblock prints used to be common, but are rare in this day and age. I set out to create several detailed prints with some insight into old techniques.

These prints were created from thick solid cherry boards that were carefully surfaced and prepared with a coating of thin linseed oil. This tip taken from the JJ Lankes Woodcut manual, would serve to seal and stabilize the wood, and make it hold a tighter more detailed edge. All carving was done with fine Japanese carving tools.

Once the print was complete it was handed it off to some skilled printmakers in order to create proofs. I didn't have easy access to a press, and detailed woodcuts are not as well suited to hand printing techniques.

To my dismay, the prints I received lacked much of the detail I had spent weeks carving into the block. The printers explained that the block was no longer flat, it had warped just enough that it presented an uneven surface in the press. I had not noticed this at all as it was very subtle.

The printers had tried to compensate by experimenting with as many variables as they could. They tried different kinds of paper, tried wetting the paper, and changed the amount of ink applied. The results were either an inadequate coverage of ink, or too much, resulting in the lack of detail.

The woodblock printer must constantly battle the unstable nature of the material. The situation is even more difficult toady given that the types of high-quality wood stock necessary for detailed woodblocks are no longer in good supply. Given this experience, I will most likely not continue creating woodblock prints.