Monday, September 22, 2014

Original woodblocks with a makeover

The Wood Speaks

Detail from Baile del Sol woodblock
I have been selling my original woodblocks at art festivals for years and, in getting them ready for "market", I have found that each demands its own particular makeover.
Some are ready to sell, they stay clean during printing and all that is required is a few cleanups here and there. Usually cherry and maple blocks are very well behaved. Lines stay clear, ink goes only where it is rolled and the backgrounds remain beautifully carved, clean and showing all the scars of the cutting process. Few...and far between!

I usually simply let the last layer of ink dry after printing the last print of the edition. Then I carve my signature or chop and often add a symbol with a metaphor to the image. Lastly I cover with a protective coating, sometimes polyurethane, sometimes a polycrylic, sprayed or brushed but just enough so that the carving scars show. The intent with the signature and the coating is to cancel the block so that fine lines fill in and no more prints could possibly be made from the block, resulting in a one-of-a-kind work.

Maze and Light Seekers

Wouldn't you know it, these two baltic birch blocks were definitely NOT well behaved. By the time the edition was finished the lines were soft, the backgrounds were soiled and some of the plywood had actually started to fall apart.
When blocks misbehave I still have to make them presentable enough to exhibit or sell. The last resort is to stain or paint the entire block with an opaque coating, let dry and then roll up with ink as for printing. These have the "cleaner" look but the downside is that the natural wood is completely covered with something opaque, usually acrylic paint or water-based ink. I try to match the original color of the wood but something about painting wood seems almost sacrilegious.

In any case, the blocks with a detail or two for Maze and Light Seekers. The Maze block was cut originally with a scroll saw to make printing easier so I wouldn't have to worry about inking the background between the delicate areas. 
More to come next post!
Maze, original woodblock

Detail of Maze block
Light Seekers detail, the "sun" is a knot in the wood
that started the image twirling in my head

Light Seekers, original woodblock