Tuesday, 3 March 2009

What’s the purpose of this blog?
Partly for me to record my progress learning a new technique and partly as a place for me to reflect on my art practice. I would say that 80% of the creative process for me goes on in my head. I tend to mull over ideas for weeks before actually putting anything on paper, card, zinc or wood; presumably this can be said for most artists to some extent. I do make a few notes in my sketchbook but they’re minimal.

The first thing I discovered about wood engraving was that it’s by no means as easy as it looks! Much more difficult than linocutting, not just because the matrix is harder, but because one is working on a much smaller scale. I very much admire the work of engravers such as Hilary Paynter and Jim Westergard and I suppose in my ignorance, I was aiming for that kind of neatness and detail straight away. Think again Jo. Obviously, to produce that kind of work takes years of practice and an innate talent that no amount of hard work can produce. So, here on this blog, you can see my humble, clumsy but well-intentioned beginnings.

I started off with a box of practice blocks; hence the odd shapes of some of my initial prints. I quite like that actually – gives another dimension to the work. Certainly I think it worked with Comedy and Tragedy (below in previous post).

Wood engraving (as any method of relief printmaking) produces very different results to etching. I’ve had to reorder my way of thinking about an image; instead of working from light to dark as one does with etching, drawing the darks onto the plate, I now have to work from dark to light, cutting out the lights from the dark of the block – if that makes sense. Also, the whole process of creating tone and texture is very different. The possibilities are endless with etching – with wood engraving, there seem to be many more constraints. And yet, look at Hilary Paynter’s Goblin Market or Jim Westergard’s The Artist as a Viking and you see that it can be done. First task then is to experiment with different mark-making techniques.


  1. > I’ve had to reorder my way of thinking about an image

    I'm not sure I really understand this. I understand that in wood engraving one is removing the sections that won't be printed. How does it make you see images differently? Does it change the way you see things in general?

  2. You‘re having to work on your images differently I think. With intaglio techniques (all except mezzotint), you draw in the darks, so you’re thinking in terms of shadow etc; the plate does the lights by itself. With wood engraving, it’s the other way round – the block is making the shadow and you’re removing the light. I don’t think I’m explaining this very well.

    I suppose what I mean is that when one is drawing on an etching plate, one focuses on the shadows and the light is an absence of one’s marks (although with etching you can burnish the plate to produce light areas if you’ve over etched). With relief printing, one focuses on the light, leaving the block to do its own thing with the dark. Does that make any sense at all…?

    I think inevitably, this will make you think about the image differently as there’s a different focus.

    Also of course, the tools are very different. Drawing on an etching plate is much like drawing on paper, whereas engraving a wood block is much harder work. And I keep stabbing myself with my spitsticker.