Studio Notes: The Making of a 4'x8' Woodcut
How Daryl DePry and I decided
to make a monster woodcut print is beyond me and, frankly, a bit blurry
at this point. I'm blaming him because it's my web site. The important
thing is: we are making a 4'x8' woodcut print (those ' marks mean feet);
for those of foreign countries that is roughly 1.24 meters x 2.48 meters.
I think I know how the whole thing started...
Sometime in late September, 1999
Daryl and I both belong to Baren, the online forum of the Encyclopedia
for Woodblock Printmaking. I knew him from school, University of Nevada
in Las Vegas, a couple of years back. We both shared a love for printmaking
and got into woodcut printmaking at about the same time; him, formally,
while in school; me, informally while working full-time at a job I care
I recognized Daryl's name when he posted something in Baren and eventually
we got together and caught up on the lost years. The Baren discussion at
the time was a silly exchange about printing with vehicles. That is, placing
the woodblock on a flat surface, paper on top, some sort of protective
tympan on top of that, and cranking up the Buick to carefully run over
the whole print. It was quite a discussion, check it out in the Baren Archives.
I mentioned that I had seen a 4'x8' woodcut print while in Seattle;
it was gorgeous.
So when I got to visit Daryl at his graduate studio, one of the first
things he said was: "let's do a car-print!"
Of course I said yes. My husband said: "HUH? A WHAT-PRINT?"
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The rest is history, recorded
Day 2 and perhaps 3 and 4
Sometime in early October, 1999
Many things to work out before we got going, many more came up as
we got along the trail.
First we were feeling each other out, I think, seeing if we were
serious about this thing. We were. First we e-mailed each other a few good
plans. I saw his studio, he saw mine, we exchanged a little piece of cherry
wood for plastic wood, we showed our knives...then we decided on a theme
and an approach.
These first few meetings were interesting because we had a lot of
things to work out that we did not know would come up. We also had different
styles of working, I'm pretty much a hothead that dives in head first,
eyes wide-open no matter how deep and turbulent the waters. Daryl likes
to plan things out in advanced and test the processes. It is a good partnership.
We also had to work around his school schedule and my now full-time
artist with brand new routine schedule. Not to forget that we are both
married and have spouses to go home to once in a while.
We also had to decide on:
What matrix to use? We first discussed that PVC stuff, then found out
that it sells for $150 a sheet. Too bad because it carves like a dream
come true. After some additional discussion and running over the PVC with
Daryl's Jeep, we decided on wood. We both liked and had worked with birch
plywood. If we had decided on cherry, all the trees remaining in Japan
would be shaking in their boots. So birch plywood it was, a full sheet,
Where would we work? After checking out both our studios, we decided
to work in mine which prompted me to rearrange a fews things to accommodate
the "monster." I have a big front porch and we could carve outside in the
beautiful fall weather. And we could "print" right on our driveway, just
outside the studio.
What would we use to print on? Paper? Where would we get such monstruous
paper? Here we solicited the help of the Internet again. We found The Paper
Web, they would make paper that big. But later discussions included cotton
sheets, canvas, even silk and painter's drop cloths... more on that later.
Theme and Preparatory Sketches
How would we decide on a theme? We would both sketch something out,
then we would get together and figure out how to put our styles together.
How could a graduate student in the midst of the academic world and a sort-of-self-trained
artist come together and make something decent?
A few e-mails flew around and we decided that both of us liked to do
figurative work. So! Figures it would be.
Next came the preparatory sketches. Daryl started bottom left, I started
top right, we drew separately on newsprint and gave ourselves a week.
Growing Pains and the Wood
About 3rd Week in October, 1999
Coming together on process and theme was interesting. Daryl came up
with a well drawn out, well thought and completed...drawing! I offered
my loose scratches on newsprint. Two completely different styles, but we
both liked each other's efforts. The theme came out: "two different worlds,
coming together." Just like that.
Frankly I was a wee bit tired of talking and preparatory stuff and wanted
to get my hands on the wood. So we decided I would buy the monster, a 4"x8"
piece of deliciously finished 3/4" birch plywood.
LEFT PHOTO: Somewhere along the line, we experimented. We made
some marks on a piece of wood with a dremmel and a stone grinding attachment
that made some nice fluffy cloud-like marks.
RIGHT PHOTO: We also had to, at some point, run over a piece of
carved wood, inked, and with paper on top. We did that, came up with a
print in just a back and forth drive-over. The blurred print resulted from
the tire slipping off the edge of the block, so we decided we would somehow
have to prevent that in THE BIG ONE.
A Drawing Comes to Life
End of October, 1999
Next time we met, it would be in my studio, vine charcoal in hand.
I had to rearrange some things in my studio to accommodate the monster
wood block. It was about time to make some wall space anyway. We propped
the wood against the wall on two plastic crates full of books that had
been looking for a good use.
With sketches nearby. We drew. A picture here is worth a thousand words.
Left picture shows Maria working away, right picture shows
a preliminary sketch and the initial drawing on a beautiful piece of wood.
Notice (go ahead, click to enlarge the views) the drawing somewhat follows
the intricate grain patterns of the birch.
In the left photo Daryl is just a drawing away! The right photo
is the unadjusted drawing (click to see full page). I say unadjusted because
we later changed some things about the light and dark, brought the drawing
together a bit more.
NEXT PAGE ON MONSTER WOODCUT
Drawing along with another artist was also interesting. There are things,
I'm sure, that we both would do differently had the drawing been exclusively
"ours." Working with someone else requires respect for their art and respect
for the person; accommodating ideas and ways of working all the time; listening;
most of all, taking the egos out of the picture. I like space and letting
the knives and chisels do some talking after the cutting begins. Daryl
seemed to prefer to fill the entire picture plane and to plan out every
line. In the end, we came up with a decent drawing.
We then fixed it with two cans of fixative, oiled the whole thing with
linseed oil. I was not satisfied with the finished texture, so we proceeded
to sand the whole thing with 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper to make it babybottom
smooth. A note of interest, the fixative residue and the linseed oil reacted
together in the rags and made them hot. The wood, as it dried, acquired
a beautiful golden "tan."
BACK TO STUDIO NOTES TOPICS PAGE