I Carve Wood

 The various states of one 10"x10" block of wood.

The various states of one 10"x10" block of wood.

I am a relief printmaker and my material of choice to carve is wood. I've carved linoleum, potatoes in grade school, rubber and tiny erasers for stamps. But I always come back to carving blocks of wood. There is so much to love about the material. It is strong and durable and easy to take care of so I can buy in bulk and store them flat in a drawer if they are smaller or their sides in a corner if they are larger. I can print from a carved block for many years. Wood is a fun surface to carve and I like seeing how the personality of the block shows up when printed. That lovely wood-grain pattern is oh so nice.

From a blank surface of wood with endless possibilities to a carved and ready to print woodblock that can be printed from for years. A good design can last for years carved on a block of wood so it is worth it for me to take the time to get the design right and carve it with plenty of care and attention. I pour over reference books and my own sketchbook brainstorming for a woodblock design. Once I have one picked out and ready to go the first thing I do is stain the woodblock with some sort of light watercolor. Just enough to change the color of the surface then when I start carving I will be able to see my marks. Then I draw or transfer an image onto the block and seal it was varnish. Once that dries I am ready to carve. Mostly I use Japanese and Western carving tools designed for wood but I also use nails, scratch art tools, wire brushes and power tools to make marks in the surface of the wood. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to sixty hours depending on the size of the block and the amount of detail in the carving. This one was a moderately sized block with a good amount of detail that kept me engaged for about a week working an hour or two a day. Then I give it a final varnish before it is ready to print.