Thursday, September 25, 2014

Woodblock gets stained


Struck was carved "white line" style, a technique in which the carving is the positive image and the background is inked in black. This is widely used for night scenes where the carved area is "lit". Sort of a reverse reverse woodcut print?

In any case, the lines on this block were carved very fine to show the delicacy of the lightning, and I even used rough sandpaper on the block to make the black sky a bit less black. All the different carving techniques made for a block that was not so exhibit-ready.

Background gets walnut stain to darken detail lines

Figure gets highlighted with sandpaper

First step was to strip the old layers of ink with a citrus-based paint stripper. Works quite well and leaves the wood only slightly stained. The stripper is applied, left on for about 30 minutes or longer and then scrapped off with a plastic putty knife so as not to damage the wood. Some old fashioned soap and water follows and the result is a fairly clean block. Most importantly, the carved lines on the figure came up clean.

Still, I was not satisfied with the appearance of the block so I decided to experiment with stains. First I stained the whole block lightly with a walnut stain, resulting in some of the lines accepting stain partially. This gave the lines more depth and still the deeper areas remained clean. I rubbed off some areas more than others until I was happy with the result. I stain with sponge brushes and use old socks for rubbing the stain off.

Struck, original woodblock selectively stained
With the background solved, the figure didn't stand out enough so I took some rough sandpaper to it and brought the white birch back to life. Now with the figure and background contrasting nicely, I thought the tree element needed to be separated from the background so I stained it with a bit of red mahogany, wiping away until the tinge was just different from the background. The front "broken" tree needed to be brought toward the viewer so I gave it the same stain as the background but left it a bit darker.
Lastly, a nice coat of satin polyurethane over the entire block to eliminate the shine and protect the stain and the bare birch.

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