For the second year running, I have entered a mini print edition into the International Print Exchange. The exchange is held annually at the Green Door print studios Derby. Originally I had intended to do one of my multi-layer screen-prints, but due to time constraints I opted to make a small white-line style woodcut.
White-line style woodcuts are a slightly different way of producing a woodcut in comparison to traditional methods. Popularised by the Provincetown printmakers, white-line style is a simpler way of producing coloured woodcuts without the need to produce a separate ‘block’ for each individual colour. Instead, the woodcut is hand painted with colour before printing using the groove that has been cut away as a barrier between different plains on the block, once printed the cut away areas do not print leaving the distinct white-lines, which give this woodcut process its name.
I have done a few white line style woodcut prints in the past. Most of these prints have been an abstract style. I have an ongoing side project, which I call ‘my eyes think differently’. My approach to these pieces is very different to that of my screen prints. My screen-prints are all very deliberate and I am very calculated in what I do when it comes to designing them and printing them. The ‘my eyes think differently’ work is all very spontaneous. The designs are created almost impulsively to create an abstract construction of random shapes and marks.
For the exchange I used a little piece of plywood to do my print, and very quickly drew a design and refined it to my final drawing. Using very fine v shaped groove gouges I carved a very clean and shallow groove along my drawn lines. Once I have carved the wood cut I then apply shellac which is a type of varnish to seal the wood. I can then start to print the woodcut once the shellac is dry.
Like the providence town printers I do not use a normal printing ink, I in fact use watercolour paint. Once I settled on a selection of colours, I will begin to print the woodcut by printing each little piece of the image at a time. By applying the watercolour and quickly folding a hinged piece of paper over the ink and burnishing (rubbing) the back of the paper to transfer the colour to the paper I can build my image and colours up slowly. Getting the consistency of the watercolour right is important, if it is too watery and the ink the colour will bleed, to thick and it will dry out to quickly. Speed is the essence when doing a print like this because the watercolour will dry very quickly on the woodcut.
Unlike a normal woodcut the printing part is usually always done in one go, but a white line style cut is done over a period. For my small image, it was taking about 30mins of inking and burnishing to complete one image. The photos show the progression of adding each colour and building the image up to completion.
The IPE 2014 exchange is running from the 14th October to the 10th November @ the green door printmaking studio, the bank mill studios Derby UK. More info can be found here at the official page