My prints are multiple originals conceived, drawn and cut by me. Woodcut, Moku hanga, linocut and wood engraving (all relief printmaking techniques) make distinct printed images with crisp, clear linework often accompanied by deboss – a physical impression left in the paper. What is relief printmaking? By cutting away areas of a block, the artist produces areas that will not print. The flat, uncut relief areas are inked and pressure is applied to transfer ink to paper, creating a mirror image impression of the block. By this description you know that the prints I create do not come from a computer printer, nor are they reproductions of paintings or drawings. Relief can be both bold & delicate and sometimes, the wood grain becomes an element in the printed image. Relief printmaking traditions separated labor between the artisans who did the drawing, those that cut the wood blocks and the printers. I do all my own drawing, cutting and printing.
The engraving process involves the use of burins – tools such as those used in copper engraving. The end-section of the engraving tool is the cutting edge of the blade. The width and shape of the tool’s end-section determines the width and character of the desired line. The tools displayed include an elliptical tint tool (spit sticker), creating the finest lines, a multi-line tool, and a round graver (scorper).
Wood engravings utilize the endgrain of trees to attain minute details and maintain them during printing. Endgrain is best illustrated by imagining a cut tree trunk, where the tree’s growth rings are visible. Boxwood is the traditional endgrain used for wood engraving, although maple is most commonly used in North America because of its abundance and price. Other hardwoods used for wood engraving include lemonwood, cherry, pear, maracaibo, castello and hornbeam.
Wood’s gradually rising price and rigorous processing requirements has led artists to seek out alternative materials to engrave. Terminology is gradually changing from “wood” engraving to a more generic “relief” engraving. Artists are using several brand name materials such as Corian® and Mystera® (counter top materials,) Resingrave® (a resin composite material,) and some plastics like HIPS (high impact polystyrene), plexiglass and Sintra.
Excellent sources for learning more about wood engraving include: