Thursday, September 12, 2019

Carving adventures in bas relief

What to do with all those woodblocks

Printmakers are the luckiest bunch in art. Tradition dictates we are the ones who reach the audiences with our multiple editions and relatively affordable artworks. Although some see the "limited edition" as an obstacle, I have learned through the years that any one image has a long life even at editions of 100 or less. And they sell better if they are limited in scope as people still see unlimited editions as "production work" or "reproductions" gasp! Right or not, that is the reality among the masses.

In the shallows, framed along side the last print

Yet another advantage of being a printmaker is that we can have a foot into the "one of a kind" world with our carved woodblocks. Long ago I learned that the same masses also love the unique and are willing to pay large sums to be the only one to own a piece of art.
So long ago I started selling my cancelled blocks to satisfy that craving. With over 600 images completed, that's a lot of woodblocks I don't have to store!

How I cancel and beautify woodblocks

Floating World II

Detail of Floating World II
Cancelling the blocks is a problem because invariably some wanna be artist comments: "oh so I can make prints from that if I buy it!?" Ummmm... not really, no...definitely not! I had to find a way that the blocks were unprintable. Tried many approaches, signing and dating in the front of the block, heavy polyurethane coating, stain and poly to fill the lines, leave the last inking to dry on the block to fill in the lines. All were good approaches and made the blocks look awesome, but this year I decided to transform my blocks even more and turn them into bas relief pieces. And oh how I love carving!

Here in pictures are some of my latest creations.
This was a tedious undertaking, the block is just
9x9 inches. All I did is recede the background and
"round" the bodies to give!
Finished the block with two coats of linseed oil,
second coat lightly tinted with cherry stain to give
the lines more depth

This block needed 3 "layers" in bas relief speak.
Sky to be receded the most, moon rounded and in a middle
layer, and the lady-shadow to be the front layer.
Carving plank cherry is very involved, especially between
all those "cloud trails." 

Detail of the edge of the moon against
the sky layer. Trickery: the edges of one
layer against another get deeper carving
which gives the illusion of more depth contrast
between layers

After staining, sky got darker with an ebony stain and linseed oil.
Moon got lighter with iridescent pearl pigment mixed with oil, and
my lady received a very light coating of ebony, bronze pigment and
linseed oil. After the oil dried, I lightly buffed the whole block with
a soft cloth and gave it a polyurethane (satin finish) bath to seal
in the pigments.

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