Woodblock Prints Are Always v1.0

A woodblock print, when done right, requires planning.

When I carve a chunk of wood from a woodblock, it is gone. No ink prints there. There is no ctrl+z. No undo. I can’t paint over it. There is no eraser.

Cutting wood is final, and a woodblock print requires planning.

When I print the woodblocks, it is an event, like a party I have been planning for weeks. A party is just the result of all the planning that goes into it.

When my subject matter is an array of leaves, I do not have to be exacting with my x-acto knife, I can let my hand influence the result as I carve. I don’t have to plan quite so thoroughly. In fact, I can sorta “wing it”. The art process is done as I carve the block (more on this “art process” soon).

This is the party where you run to the store, get 2 cases of beer, a handle of smirnov, O.J., cran, and some chips and salsa to throw on the table. Invite your friends and let whatever happens happen.

When making a woodblock print of a person, however, each line, each shape, and each cut is planned. Aftar all, a leaf that is a little off still looks like a leaf. A hand that is a little off looks funny, and amatuer.

I am thoroughly planning this party. I’m assembling the right guest list, arranging the seating, picking the music, and choosing the menu.

After all, this print has to be right. “Good enough” is good enough for some things, but not this print.

This planning is the artistic process. The creative and emotional decisions happen now, before I touch a block of wood. By the time I carve the blocks, the only decisions left will be aesthetics and design.

So, I’ve been drawing. The 4th version of this image is sitting next to me on my desk. The first was a small sketch, an outline of my concept (those that watch my flickr feed have seen this one). The next was a quick sketch on a larger size paper. I broke out the ruler for the third drawing to work out the space of the image (perspective, vanishing points, that sort of thing).

The current drawing puts it all together — I’m working on the breakdown of colors and on perfecting the details of the image, mostly the hands and face.

I’ve got another 2 revisions ahead of me before I put knife to wood. Since this next print will include an image of a person, I have to work and re-work the figure to get the drama and the pathos into it. Without that, the art is little more than decorative illustration.

If I were selling an ebook, or a video series, I could release version 0.5, then update everyone with versions 0.6 through 1.0 as I complete them (a good idea, with digital products).

…but I sell art. There can be only one version of every woodblock print, version 1.0. No updates are possible, no revisions are allowed once I sell you the print.

This means I have to work the image, and continue to work it, until it is ready for final release.

It’s keeping me busy.

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