21 May 2012

Developing an image for a woodcut print

Off and on since February I've been struggling with this print of 3 vertebrae from a poor old sheep that didn't survive the harsh winter up on the moor.  Its a companion piece to the curlew's nest.

I started off with a blurry photo taken in a hurry (I wish I'd brought the bones home with me but had nothing to carry them in and didn't fancy 'contaminating' my pocket).

Here's the original drawing I showed in an earlier post.

My usual process is to make drawings in pencil or pen to understand the subject. The problem I find with these initial drawings though is that they're the wrong way round in terms of positive and negative.

So the next stage is developing the image on black paper with white paint. To me this makes far more sense as the white marks replicate the cuts and gouges made in the wood with my tools.  The white on black is great for exploring mark making and getting a feel of how the final print might look.

I always darken my printing blocks before cutting and use Royal white graphite paper to transfer the reversed image. The white transfer paper isn't that common but I know you can get it mail order from the Heaton Cooper Studio here

Originally the image was just the bones and the crowberry plant but this ended up looking too starkly emblematic so I needed to add the grass. But then the bones lost their impact and I had to rework them to increase contrast.

This is the final black and white proof of the print.

Ultimately the plan has always been that both the bones and the eggs are to be part of the Enfolding Landscape series and will become folded 3D objects (Turkish Map Folds).  I'm still working on the covers and other details but should be able to show you soon.


under the hill said...

This post has me intrigued. I have only recently tried print making for fun. I've had to resort to drawing freehand directly onto the block (yellow rubber or linolium)as any attempt to transfer the image with carbon paper has been a disaster. The block ends up covered in carbon with the image barely recognisable, and my original drawing ruined because the pen or pencil has gone right through it.

Am I using the wrong weight of paper for my original sketch? Whaat kind of transfer paper should I be using? Your idea of white over black is very intriguing


Hello under the hill, not sure why its going wrong for you, suggest you try darkening your lino with brushed on black or dark watercolour paint, letting it dry and then using the white transfer paper which you can get from Amazon:


There is also something called 'Saral Transfer Paper' but I've never tried that.

Why not use a photocopy of your original drawing, then it won't get ruined. If its a big drawing, use multiple copies taped together. Thin paper is best. If your original drawing is on thick paper then it won't work over the transfer paper. On the other hand, it is great if you can just draw freehand on the block and this works out. Good Luck, let me know how you get on.