Onto the third block now. This one will take the longest to carve as the lightest grey is in most areas of the print and underlies the other two colors. I start in the upper left slowly working my way down the block taking care not to loosen any of the more delicate pieces of carved wood.
More carving this time on the right side. I'm mostly using an Exacto knife with a fine sharp blade to do the shaping of each area, then a thin v-gouge to remove the wood around the carved areas. Larger areas are taken out with a wider c-gouge and a flat chisel.
Here the block is mostly completed - it has taken quite some time to get to this point. Mainly because I am new to woodblock carving and also because I am taking care not to break off any of the small carved shapes of the somewhat delicate wood.
Knowing that I could lose some of the carved areas when printing, I decide to carefully add thin superglue to most of the smaller shapes on the block reinforcing the glue of the plywood. I pour out a blob of glue then using a thin piece of wire, add glue around the base of each carved shape. This of course takes ages but I am at last satisfied that the wood won't come off of the block later on when I start the print run.
And here is the block with the image washed off and the wood dried. As you can see, there is a lot of detail on this one - trust me to choose such an intricate image for my first woodblock print!
And here is the 4th block in the series. This one was the simplest as it will only be used for printing the blue of the eyes.
Finally I'm finished with all the carving! It really has taken some time but here are the four blocks shown together. So far I'm happy with how things have gone. Next onto to some test printing!
Onto the second block now. Here I am working on removing the wood around the areas that will remain the darker of the two greys. Since I will be using transparent color for the printing, I can safely overprint these areas without creating any problems which would be much more difficult if I was to use opaque oil-based ink. I carefully note which area has to remain on the block then as before, cut around then remove the excess wood with various gouges etc. It's slow work but hopefully I will be able to make many prints from the finished blocks.
This pic shows the completed dark grey block with the registration marks in the lower right and left. Next I'll take the block to the sink and carefully wash off the remaining paper image that was glued on before I started.
And finally the block ready for printing. Since there are more areas in the print that will be dark grey, this block took a bit longer to do compared to the first one. Still, things seems to be going along okay, the real test of course will come during the printing process. Then I'll be better able to compare sample prints to each other and see if I need to do any modifications with the registration etc.
After deciding to attempt a woodblock print from scratch, I took a look in my garage through the wood pile and found the remnants of a sheet of plywood that I had used to make a cabinet. The surface looked quite smooth so I cut the sheet into four 7" x 9" pieces on my table saw. These were given a little sanding around the edges to clean up any rough spots then the top surface was lightly sanded with fine sandpaper and dusted off.
I scanned my original image of the tiger into my computer then resized it to about 5" x 7". This was printed out onto 4 sheets of white tissue paper that I had taped to regular printing paper sheets. I should have used Japanese Gampi tissue paper to print onto as it is much stronger but didn't have any so the domestic tissue had to do. This was then pasted face down onto one of the plywood blocks. I tried to get is as square as I could but wasn't too worried as I would cut the registration marks according to the print and not to the edge of the block. I didn't have the proper tools so had to make do with a x-acto knife and a few linocut carving tools that M gave me.
Not really knowing what I was doing, I proceeded with cutting the two registration (kento) marks on the lower right and bottom left, then began cutting away all of the wood around the areas that I wanted to print black. This took quite a long time as although the image looks quite simple, there was a lot of detail that I wanted to capture in the print.
Slowly getting there! The plywood was quite soft so it came off quite easily, the problem was making clean cuts so as not to flake off any of the wood that had to remain on the block. I used a gouge to remove the wood in some of the larger areas but had to be very careful not to slip and make any mistakes.
Finally all the carving was finished for this block. I left a ridge of wood that extended up somewhat between the eyes as this would support the sheet of paper when it came time to print. This would stop the sheet bowing down and picking up any stray ink from the block and ruining the print.
Next I took the finished block to the sink and gently washed off the tissue paper using a toothbrush. I was careful not to scrub too hard as the glue used on plywood sheets is very thin and doesn't hold the layers together that well. I didn't want any of my carved areas to come off.
I inked up the block then made a few test prints on ordinary copy paper - not bad so far. The wood held the water-based ink well and with enough rubbing, it transferred to the paper quite well. I know that the printing process will get better as I practice and using better paper when printing will also help. Most of what I have learnt about woodblock carving has been from the incredible David Bull. See much more on his multi-faceted website - www.woodblock.com. Next onto carving one of the color blocks.
I am an artist living and working near Washington DC in the USA. I was born in the UK but have lived abroad most of my life. I paint mostly landscapes and birds but have many interests so you never know what will turn up. Most of the paintings shown here are for sale so please contact me at jeremypearse (at) gmail.com if interested. Thanks for visiting!