Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Scary Drawing with Knife in Hand

I drew the bronze acupuncture clinic yesterday, and that was IT for the day.  Too much packed into one day, had to take a pass.  Today I taught a class in relief carving using rubber plates or blocks.  It was great fun to introduce the students to this process, and after class I was thinking about how after gazillion years of carving wood, rubber, plastic, linoleum, and even corks and foam ear plugs I still follow the same beginner's process:  make a drawing, trace it using graphite pencil, flip the paper and burnish the graphite lines onto the rubber or plastic block, carve, following the lines.

I was thinking about something I read about Shiko Munakata, one of my long-time favorite woodcut printmakers.  He is said to have never traced his designs on his blocks but, rather, simply drew directly on the wood with his tools.  One thing he said was "The mind goes and the tool walks alone."  I've never even attempted to work directly on a block, but then I thought this is the perfect time to try that out.  So today's drawings are all my first attempts at direct carving onto rubber eraser-like blocks and printing successive stages of each little block.

I went out to the pea patch after a few days of avoiding it because I simply could not face another pea pad, and found the overgrown pods with plump peas inside, the pods too tough to eat, but the peas nice and sweet still.  Drawing 5050 is my first attempt.  I think it looks like a skinny leaf, so on the next attempt I popped open a pod and drew it opened.  I started experimenting with lines to create an illusion of shading and transitional tones.  On drawing 5153 I pried the pod all the way open, and this one feels better to me.  I also realized I could do the shadow as a solid area.  The next one, 5155, is of a pod slightly split open with three peas barely showing and a good shadow.

I added some more contouring to the peas, still a bit heavy-handed, but next time I'll go easier and lighter on the initial sketch and avoid heavy outlines.  
I won't be carving ten thousand little blocks (although I am completely convinced that I could learn to carve really well if I did), but I may devote the next week or so to carving 50 of these and see what happens.


  1. Absolutely love these, especially the shadows.

  2. Thanks , Neena! How are your drawings coming along?

  3. like so much! i think i need to make some prints. i really do. can you see them ON contact prints?

  4. Not sure what you mean about on contact prints, Velma--