The process of making a woodcut print

Last Easter I was lucky enough to chance on a curlew nest ( I found out later that its actually the nest of a Golden Plover) whilst walking over High Brown Knoll on the moors above Hebden Bridge. I've been meaning to make a woodcut about it ever since and finally got my act together this week. Here's a set of images documenting the process.

Working from memory and a snatched photo, I made a bold drawing on paper with a chunkyish felt pen. Because a relief print will always come out as a mirror image its important to remember to reverse the image on the block (so easy to forget to do this when you're itching to get started!) Old fashioned carbon paper is what I like to make the transfer.

I always slightly darken the wood block with dilute paint or ink before cutting so I can see what's going on. For the past year or so I've been using 'Japanese Plywood' supplied by Great Art because its easy to cut, although it has its problematic aspects which I'll come to later. 

I'm still very happy with the Pfeil palm tools I bought in 2010 although I wish they did an intermediate width u shaped gouge, the ones I have are either very narrow or quite wide.

Cutting the design is hard work but also compulsive - I have to force myself to stop for a rest, as you make mistakes if you get too tired. And being analogue, there's no Command Z to put back that vital little sliver of wood you've just accidentally removed...

Its easy to be fooled by the range of grey tones where you've drawn on the block, in reality the printed area will be just black and white, positive and negative, yes or no, binary. 

Its always a shock when the ink goes on, everything looks suddenly bold. The ink roller is very heavy, the ink is so very sticky and just longing to spread itself everywhere you don't want.

Unfortunately only now I notice the wood block is warped and in some places seems to be resisting accepting the ink. This is a common problem with the Great Art plywood blocks especially if using the larger pieces. 

Contrary to what most people expect, the block goes ink side up on the press and the paper is placed on top. Brooklyn Studios' relief printing press is actually an old converted mangle but its very effective.

It takes a few attempts before an evenly inked print is finally revealed. This is a called a proof and there will need to be some minor changes to the shading on the eggs before I print up an edition.

Postscript: Here is a completed print made with oil-based ink on Simili Japon paper with watercolour hand tinting.

And this is a Turkish map fold booklet made from a digital reproduction of the original woodcut. More images and option to purchase copies available from:


Janis Goodman said...

Do love this one too and wondered if you had seen the work Hester Cox did about curlews which was shown in Pateley Bridge ? - Do keep thinking how much you two would like each other's work - the link to her curlew page is
Thanks for the card - and so far not too bad !x


Janis, I had not seen Hester's work on this subject but followed your link and can see exactly what you mean. I'm amazed at the affinities between our approach. Mind you, it would be hard not to love Curlews.

I've designed this particular print to undergo a further process involving folding, as part of a series on the theme of 'Enfolding Landscape' and about hidden treasures being revealed. So its still a work in progress - watch this space for further updates! Glad things are not too bad. Angie

elaine randell said...

I love your plovers nest- well done. Can I buy a copy?
I am Elaine Randell a poet


Hello Elaine, I have sent you an email, Angie