Techniques

Woodcut

Woodcut

Woodcut, a type of relief print, is the earliest printmaking technique, and the only one traditionally used in the Far East. It was probably first developed as a means of printing patterns on cloth, and by the 5th century was used in China for printing text and images on paper. Woodcuts of images on paper developed around 1400 in Europe, and slightly later in Japan. These are the two areas where woodcut has been most extensively used purely as a process for making images without text.

The artist draws a design on a plank of wood, or on paper which is transferred to the wood. Traditionally the artist then handed the work to a specialist cutter, who then uses sharp tools to carve away the parts of the block that will not receive ink. The surface of the block is then inked with the use of a brayer, and then a sheet of paper, perhaps slightly damp, is placed over the block. The block is then rubbed with a baren or spoon, or is run through a printing press. If in color, separate blocks can be used for each color,or a technique called reduction printing can be used.

Reduction printing is a name used to describe the process of using one block to print several layers of color on one print. This usually involves cutting a small amount of the block away, and then printing the block many times over on different sheets before washing the block, cutting more away and printing the next color on top. This allows the previous color to show through. This process can be repeated many times over. The advantages of this process is that only one block is needed, and that different components of an intricate design will line up perfectly. The disadvantage is that once the artist moves on to the next layer, no more prints can be made.

Another variation of woodcut printmaking is the cukil technique, made famous by the Taring Padi underground community in Java, Indonesia. Taring Padi Posters usually resemble intricately printed cartoon posters embedded with political messages. Images—usually resembling a visually complex scenario—are carved unto a wooden surface called cukilan, then smothered with printer's ink before pressing it unto media such as paper or canvas.

Artists using this technique include
Albrecht Dürer
Werner Drewes
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Hiroshige
Hokusai
Gustave Baumann
Hussein El Gebaly Carlos Alvarado Lang

Paweł Steller
Władysław Skoczylas


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