Intro: This past semester, I took an intro to printmaking class at university. Wanting to capitalize on expensive art resources like risograph printers and printing presses, I figured printmaking was a great way to learn an unconventional and entirely unfamiliar medium of art at relatively low cost (well I still pay tuition…)
The first class project was a woodcut print. We decided to center our sketches on the theme “balance,” decided through a very democratic, pain-staking voting process within our 11-person class. This project spanned about 6 weeks, and we were required to make an edition of ten (i.e. ten of the same print).
Interesting side note: to resize store-bought paper, it’s part of the woodcut tradition to tear the paper (as opposed slicing it with scissors or blades).
Process: Bought woodcutting blades and blocks of wood (surprisingly expensive). Finalized preliminary sketches. Made a sketch onto actual block of wood. Spent hours thinking of color separations and how to partition out my color layers. Weeks of carving out each color layer on the same block of wood. Used exacto knife for more detailed sections and clean lines. For each color layer, I inked up my board with relief ink. The process was pretty tedious, as I had to make sure the board was clean and contaminant-free. It’s close to impossible to be rid of all the little chips of wood left over from the carving stage. But these insidious little pieces create an uneven surface while asserting pressure from the press, so often times, the area around these tiny villains won’t print. Finally, the cleaning process at the end of class is a whole other gamut. I’ll just say that I had to leave at least an extra 30 minutes in order to make sure all the painting breyers and paints were cleaned up thoroughly (with vegetable and baby oil).
What does it look like to be sated, in the heart, in the mind, in the soul?
My subject matter is relationship between human and nature. Hasui Kawase, a prominent landscape artist in Japan during the 20th century, it is clear that nature is an irrevocable backdrop to the human experience.
In Buddhist teachings, the world is characterized by the ‘three marks of existence’: impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anatta). Recognizing anicca means seeing the ebb and flow of life, the wearing of mountains, the cycle of birth and death, the flux of highs and lows. It is a rare thing to find a feeling of clarity and inner peace. My purpose here as an artist is to archive these fleeting moments in an honest way.
Overall, I really enjoyed this project. The slow, meticulous process of physically carving into wood is surprisingly meditative and cathartic. Furthermore, this form of printmaking challenged my ways of thinking and my indecisive bent. Clearly, the physical removal of material is a very binary decision. Either the wood is there or it’s not. Once a decision is made, it’s final and completely irreversible. For decision-paralyzed human beings like me, this is an art process dreamt up from a nightmare. I had to heavily discipline my old mushy, draw-as-many-confusing-lines-as-possible-to-abstract-my-drawings ways (see preliminary sketch) and be a cool-headed + decisive bean.
Some of my favorite woodcut artists include Hasui Kawase.
I also love this woodcut of Grinnell Glacier by Todd Anderson (think of the crazy color separations!!)