Block Print “Process”

Recently, I have been talking about “process” in creating art.  It occurred to me that I had documented many of the stages of cutting this particular block, Sap Buckets, Tampico Road (2010) and thought that it might demonstrate an interesting example of “process”. We are used to seeing finished works of art but rarely have a chance to view various stages leading to the final image.

For an explanation of the block printing process in general, please click here.

What I show below are, in chronological order, a few of the many steps needed to complete the final block to be printed. You can look at the individual stages and compare them or view the slideshow to see the gradual changes in sequence.

There is a kind of “translation” that occurs in the process of cutting a block for printing. It’s very direct to do a pencil drawing and transfer it to a block. But to make a final block print image I need to cut away all of the areas that will not be printed. All of the white (unprinted) areas must be cut away leaving the surface that will be inked and printed (black areas). If I want to print a line, for example, I have to cut everything around that line. Look at stage 2 and 3. You can see that the drawn branches of the trees on left and center are created by cutting all of the area around them at the same time negatively creating the sky. To realize a drawn image in a block print, it has to be “translated” or realized by the process of cutting and letting it emerge from the cut area around it.

I usually start with a complete drawing of an image but leave some areas not fully realized. Look at stage 4 and stage 5. The large area of roadway at the bottom was left blank in the original pencil drawing. I was’t sure how I wanted to represent the path at the bottom of the image. It made more sense to use the cutting tools (gouges in this case) to “draw” the textures rather than “translate” from a pencil drawing.

For me, one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of making block prints is being aware of and controlling these two (at times opposite) techniques of drawing; with the pencil and with the cutting tools.

I hope you find this of value in understanding a bit about the “process” involved in making block prints.

Pencil drawing transferred to block
Beginning cuts in upper left
Stage 2 – further cutting; the sky begins to emerge
Stage 3 – forming the trees
Stage 4 – defining the trees, buckets and middle ground
Stage 4 – adding details
Stage 5 – Finished block
sap-buckets-tampico-14 final-print
Sap Buckets, Tampico Road –  Printed image (reversed)




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