Praise for the first edition:
"An indispensable guide for those who make art out of the contrast between light and dark. And, it's a sheer pleasure for everyone else, thanks to its many wonderful illustrations."
"Walker's instruction is so clear and well organized that this handbook is perfect for the beginner."
-- American Artist
The history of woodcuts goes back more than a thousand years. Working carefully and with great precision, the woodcut artist carves a mirror image of a design on wood or other suitable material. The design is then inked and pressed against paper. The technique allows the artist to create an almost unlimited number of impressions of the same work. The precision of the work and the ability of the artist to create multiple impressions allow many fine woodcut artists to create pieces at a reasonable price, which an average collector can afford.
The Woodcut Artist's Handbook provides the basics of this craft with a detailed analysis of its tools and media. This improved second edition features two new chapters that teach artists step by step how to make an engraving and linocut. Artists can improve and develop considerable skill in this art by following these instructions and the author's professional tips. Beginners and advanced woodcutters and collectors will gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for this craft and art.
This profusely illustrated book is ideal for artists, printmakers, designers and collectors.
George A. Walker is an award-winning wood engraver, book artist and illustrator who teaches book arts and printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Ontario. He regularly exhibits his wood engravings and limited-edition books internationally.
IntroductionPrintmaking is all about making an impression on paper, both figuratively and literally. Successful woodcut artists use their drawing, carving and printing skills to create images that have an enduring meaning and make a lasting mark. Making prints is both an art and a craft; it combines the art of creating original images and the craft of making them into prints.
If an image is carved on the flat side of a board, with the grain running the length of the plank, it is called a woodcut. If the image is cut into the end grain of a piece of wood, it is called a wood engraving. This distinction is important. Woodcut and wood engraving are two separate techniques, each with its own materials and tools. Both, however, are relief printing processes.
Although there are four traditional printing methods -- relief, lithography, serigraphy and intaglio -- this book is concerned only with relief printmaking, and in particular the making of a woodcut or wood engraving. Other materials, such as linoleum and plastics, are discussed as alternatives to wood, but the tools and techniques used on their surfaces are the same as those used on wood. The term "block" refers to the piece of material into which the image is cut. A plank block used for woodcut is called a "wood block"; an end-grain block used for wood engraving is called a "wood engraving block"; and a block made of linoleum is called a "lino block."
To make a relief print, you must cut away the wood in the areas of the block that you do not want to see printed on the page. The raised surface that remains after the cutting process holds the ink and prints, while the lowered surface stays ink-free and does not print. To make a line that will print on paper, two parallel cuts are made in the block. When the wood is removed from these cuts, a raised line remains behind. In a drawing on paper, the black ink lines define the image, but in a woodcut or wood engraving, the excised "white" lines define the image. That is why all relief printmaking is referred to as "the art of the white line."
Printing the block can be done by hand or with a printing press. Hand printing is the easiest way to make a print because it requires very little equipment. The block is carved, ink is rolled over the raised surface, the paper is laid down over the block, and the back of the paper is then burnished (rubbed) with a spoon or a special tool called a "baren" to transfer the image from the block to the paper.
In the Japanese woodcut tradition, the novice copied the work of the master until he had achieved a level of mastery in the craft that enabled him to express his own creative ideas. How should you begin? I recommend learning woodcut first and then moving on to the more challenging wood engraving techniques. Start by carving simple shapes and patterns into linoleum or basswood, which are both easy-to-cut surfaces. Learning to cut lines and to make patterns without attempting to create an image will help you gain confidence with the tools. Then gradually challenge yourself with more complex imagery.
Novice engravers should not only start with simple designs but with inexpensive materials. Faced with an expensive boxwood or cherry end-grain block, you may find yourself hesitant to make that first cut. It's a bit like practising basic carpentry skills on pieces of black walnut. A better choice is an inexpensive maple block or one made of Resingrave, a synthetic substitute for end-grain wood. Learn to engrave straight and curved lines before you take the plunge and start to engrave more complex patterns and shapes.
Keep it simple at first. Relief printing is not a complex, intimidating art. If you've ever made a potato print or used a rubber stamp and stamp pad to make a print, you've had experience making relief prints. In fact, making impressions from raised surfaces is the oldest and most basic form of printing. Although no one knows who made the first relief print, the evolution of this simple technology changed the way we communicate. Being able to create exact copies of images or words made ideas accessible to a large audience.
Table of Contents
Foreword Preface Introduction
1 Selecting Material for the Block
2 A Good Set of Tools
3 Creating Woodcuts and Engravings
4 Papers and Ink
6 The Edition
7 A Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Wood Engraving
8 A Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Linocut
Glossary Bibliography Artist Biographies Resources and Organizations Index