Portrait Woodcut – Take Three

art, Prints, work in progress

Alright, after a busy weekend I’m finally ready to sit down and tell you about my woodcut portrait of my dad. Here are the final two layers–the darkest gray and black.

Photo May 03, 3 38 25 PM

And the final print:Photo May 03, 4 05 16 PM

Overall it turned out okayish. But there are a couple problems that I’m going to have to keep in mind for next time.

The first is the grayscale itself– there’s a huge jump between the second and third layer, from light gray to dark gray.

Photo May 03, 3 39 06 PM

And then there’s the ink application itself, which is funky to say the least on the final black layer. I spent a frustrating afternoon on Friday trying to figure out what was wrong–was there something on my brayer causing the ink to get watery? Was the ink itself bad? Was my pressure off?


Looking back, the problem is so obvious that I wish I could go and kick my Friday self for not realizing it. I was printing wet ink on wet ink–a strategy that’s never caused a problem for me in the past, but apparently did this time. Most of the reductions I’ve ever printed have actually been done this way (including my farmers market poster). I’ve gotten into a bad habit of not letting my layers dry before printing again.

I’ll be going back to the studio this week to re-print my final black layer–it turned out too watery looking on most of the edition, so I figure that a second black layer can’t hurt.

The other thing I learned from this project was that acetone transfers, while awesome, don’t work quite as well on layers as they do on a clean woodblock. The darker inks stain the block, so the transfers just don’t show up as cleanly on the last layers–and I think that the ink itself might prevent the transfer from working as well. I ended up using carbon paper instead near the end.

Anyway. Despite these technical issues, I’m still pretty pleased with the print itself. It’s as photorealistic as I hoped it would be, and the acetone transfer helped me get some pretty interesting skin textures.

I printed it on thin mulberry paper, and because the ink bled through, the back actually looks pretty cool–just the same as the front of the print but sort of softened and blurred. That was a side effect I didn’t really expect, and something I might play around with in the future.

Photo May 03, 4 05 25 PM

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