Degrees of improvement

So, I have decided to teach myself to do woodcuts.  I love carving on rubber, but there are some size and cost limitations involved.  There is also that thing where I think about something until I have to prove to myself that I can do it.

I have already been playing with block printing ink and prints using rubber.  It wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out how to do.  The perfectionist in me does get frustrated that every print is different than the last though.  Each one has a place where the ink is a little thin or a spot had too much and a detail fills in.  I guess I am supposed to embrace those as the nature of a hand pulled print.  If I wanted perfection, I suppose I should skip the carving and just print off the image I prepared for the print.  There is a reason that carved images look so much nicer.  It’s that little piece of humanity that the carver leaves behind.

Anyway, I wasn’t too particular about picking my first image to carve since I didn’t know if it was going to work at all.  I chose a sunflower and transferred it onto a block of generic craft wood from the craft store with pencil.

I started hacking away.  It truly was hacking, but it wasn’t terribly difficult.  I was getting annoyed because the edges weren’t as crisp as I wanted and once in awhile I pulled out a splinter of wood where I didn’t want to.  Then, it dawned on me that I could try sharpening the tools.  It wasn’t hard carving so I didn’t think they were dull.  After a bit of sharpening of my wood gouges, I had a eureka moment.  Crisp edges!  Easy carving!  My tools were dull afterall.  To tell you the truth it took me less time to carve on the wood than OZ or speedball block.  It was nice that I wasn’t working with the tiny details that I usually do.  It took far less time.

Here are my results:

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Now, I realize that this isn’t a spectacular image or carve, but it isn’t too shabby for my first attempt!  We can only go upward from here.

I wanted to carve some more woodcuts, but I figured that I should see if I could pull some prints from my first carve first.  I used my brayer and some speedball ink and applied it to the wood.  I placed some paper on and started rubbing.  I applied the ink very thin, like I have to with rubber.  It was a crushing disappointment.  So, in my frustration,  I slathered it on thicker and tried again.  I wasn’t expecting much.  Holy cow!  It worked!  Since it was a half-hearted attempt, it wasn’t perfect, but it worked.  I added some stray ink in the edges like you see in a lot of traditional woodcuts (like in the top right corner).  I am not sure how I feel about that yet.

Now, I have to carve something else.  I know the next one will be better because I will chose the image with more care and start with a nice sharp gouge.  The ink will be applied nice and thick and I will rub and rub to make sure that there is good contact with the paper.  I can’t wait.

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