Saturday, September 27, 2008

Original Handpulled Woodcut Prints - What is it? A brief history.

I get so many questions about what, exactly, is an original print? Where did I get the idea to cut out a piece of wood, roll some ink on it, press some paper to it and create art that has never, ever existed in the world until now?

Here is Albrecht Durer's Rhinoceros, carved in wood in 1515. Although woodcut printing had been present in ancient China and Egypt, Durer(1471 - 1528) is the father of the art of woodcut printing in the west. Although many prints were made from the piece of wood he cut, each one will be slightly different, and touched by human hands, making each and every print a unique, original piece of art. I use oil based paint, and my work so far in printmaking has been in the German tradition...although, of course, not in the same ballpark! Here's a painted self portrait of Durer.

In the East, Japanese artists are best known for their beautiful woodcut prints. The best of these, and the most famous, is Hokusai, who worked in the 1800s. Here is an 1839 self portrait woodcut print of Hokusai.

He's best known for his series of woodcut prints of Mt. Fiji. You can see why. Here's his most famous one. For each color, he had to cut out the wood in the shape of that color. This series was done in the 1820s. Woodcut printmaking since the times of Durer and Hokusai have taken many forms, and many subject matters, some dead serious, some whimiscal, some utilitarian, some political, some simply art to be enjoyed, which is where I come in!
I love the art form, the magic of pulling, by hand, each print off of the block. I'm not totally sure what I'm going to find...each one has a tiny variation. Which makes each one an original, to be signed AS an original. NOT to be confused with photographs of artwork printed out with injet printers. Those are NOT originals but are copies, mischaracterized by some as "prints". They are copies, and someday I'll tell you why I think they hurt hurt emerging artists.
But for now, I hope I helped to give you just a taste of the art form I find so fascinating!


Anonymous said...

I can not imagine the patience needed for this medium - especially those woodcuts necessary for the multi-color images. I would make myself nuts!

Your "Sleepless in Savannah" puppies are wonderful. It's amazing the soft puppy feeling you've brought out of a solid piece of wood.

Robin said...

Joyce, the patience is all in the front end. When I pull that paper off the block, it's like magic! So exciting!

I appreciate your compliments, especially from someone as talented as you!