Thursday, September 7, 2017

Block Cutting

I'm cutting my first block in quite some considerable time, and my hands and neck are cramping up something awful. This is the key block; I'm thinking the finished print will be in three or maybe four colours, so of course blocks will have to be carved for each of them as well.

I'm using MDF, which isn't the best material in the world for block making, but it has some advantages. It's cheap and easily available, and it has no grain, which makes carving it a lot more like linocut than woodcut — your knife or gouge isn't going to be deflected by an unexpectedly hard and twisty bit of grain. However, it's rather fibrous, and if your tools aren't scalpel-sharp it tends to tear. It's pretty hard on tool edges too, so you need to be sharpening fairly often.

The image is one that I drew a few years ago, in ball-point pen.

I did a solvent transfer of a laser print of it on to the MDF, and then over-drew it with brush and Indian ink — I find that a brush drawing works quite well as a cutting guide, as I can't get too finicky about detail that I'd never be able to cut. For an image like this, the brush line changes the character of the image somewhat, but I like that; there seems little point to me in trying to force one medium into replicating another.

The small print you see in the main image is just a quickie I took early on in the cutting to see how the cutting will reproduce. That ink should be red, but it's been sitting in its tube so long that it's separated out, and despite all the kneading and massaging of the tube I could do, it stubbornly persists in squirting out mainly its chrome yellow base. I did the test print in a colour other than black because I wanted to still be able to see my ink lines afterwards.