Self Portrait, 3 Color Reduction Woodcut

Posted on Sunday, March 25, 2012 · 3 Comments 

Last year, I shared my adventures in my beginning painting class, so I thought I would share with you a project I recently completed in my beginning printmaking class.

This project was a 3 color reduction woodcut. This means that we took a block of wood and carved out of the wood what we wanted to stay a certain color when we printed. Then we printed that for the first color, then carved more out, printed again, and carved out our final color then printed once more. Once you carve something out of the wood, there is no putting it back in, so it is a delicate process. Hence the name “reduction” and that fact that you are removing wood from the block and printing each time, you also have to remember that you have to do your white highlights and lighter colors first and then add your darker colors on top. Is any of this making sense? It is one of those “you have to see it to understand projects” so let’s look at some pictures.

These photos were taken with my phone while I was in the printing studio, so sorry for the not-so-great quality and shifts in colors. But you can still see that I did three different color schemes of three colors each for each of my prints. For the first layer, I carved out everything I wanted to remain white, and then I printed my first color on. Then I carved out everything I wanted to stay the first color and then printed on my second color. Then I carved out everything I wanted to remain my second color and then printed my last color.

Since there is no going back once you take part of the wood away and to allow for printing errors, I made a lot of prints to make sure I had enough for an edition of 3 in the end. I ended up with 10 or 12 of each in the end. Better safe than sorry though! That is a lot of pictures of my face!

I did all the printing by hand (no running through the press) by inking up my block, making sure my registration on my paper and my wood matched up and putting pressure on the paper for the ink to kiss off.

After all were printed and dry, I trimmed off the edges and was left with these beauties:

It is kind-of hard to see the true colors in these photos, but my color combinations were chartreuse – teal – navy, coral pink – orange – plum, and grey – hot pink – black. I think they really turned out neat!

I definitely enjoyed the woodcut process, although it definitely was a lot of work carving out the wood and printing all those copies by hand. I would definitely like to try it again though!

I know this might be an ambitious project for any readers out there without a lot of art experience, but you could easily do a similar project to make your own wood stamps for crafting projects. Just take a piece of wood, draw out your lines for your design, then pick up some wood cutting tools at your local art supply store and carve out your design. If you have good tools, it isn’t actually as hard to carve out the wood as you would think. Then you have a homemade stamp that you can use unlimited times without wearing out. This would be great if you needed a certain design for some kind of wedding or event project that you wouldn’t be able to find a pre-made stamp for somewhere else!

Comments:
  1. Jamey says:

    Well Done! Graphically clean, and a very elegant image. Nice color combos, too.

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  1. […] are thrifted, Drew’s desk is from Craigslist, black lamp was given to us by Drew’s mom, Self-Portrait woodcut is by me, other art are framed engagement photos taken ourselves, and theĀ glass jar candles on the […]



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