What is a woodcut and how is it made?
Woodcut printmaking is a relief printmaking process made on the plank side of the wood with the grain running lengthwise. After an image or matrix is prepared on the wood, the excess or unwanted areas are cut away by hand with carving gouges. Ink is applied to the wood that remains with a rubber roller called a brayer. A sheet of paper is then placed on top of the inked wood, and the back is rubbed by hand or run through a press to make the impression, or print. This resulting print will be oriented in reverse form the original block. One way of achieving multiple colors is by carving a separate block for each color. Each pass through the press to print another color or colors is called a run. Another method of achieving multiple colors is reduction printmaking, in which a single block is carved, printed a color, and then re-carved and printed another color, reducing the block as it is continually worked. If the carved areas are far enough apart, several colors can also be inked on one block and printed together in one run. In my woodcut prints, I often use a combination of multiple blocks and reduction printmaking.
This gallery illustrates the 11 steps involved in the printing of the woodblock print “Cultivation”. This print combines three blocks of wood that are cut reductively. The blocks are cut, printed, and then re-cut and printed again. The block is destroyed as it is printed, thus no more prints can be made of this image.