Printmaking 101: White-line and Jigsaw Woodcuts

We’ve discussed the difference between a wood engraving and a woodcut and also a woodcut sub-media, color reduction woodcut.  With Hannah Phelps’ plein air to print exhibition coming up next month, we want you to know a little bit more about what you’re looking at.

“Path of the Water” by Hannah Phelps, White-line woodcut, 2009.

Hannah has two woodcut sub-media in her exhibition.  The first is a white-line woodcut.  White-line woodcuts are characterized by exactly what it sounds like: a white outline surrounding each shape of color.  These lines are carved into the wood using woodcut tools.  Then, the individual shapes are inked one by one using different colors (Hannah actually paints hers with watercolors) and run through a press or rubbed with a spoon onto the paper, like a regular woodcut.  The “streaky” quality of the image above is actually the natural wood grain of the block.

“Private Wave” by Hannah Phelps, jigsaw reduction woodcut, 2012.

Jigsaw woodcuts are made from completely separate blocks of wood.   Each shape corresponding to a color is cut out, usually using a jigsaw, and put together like a puzzle after each piece is inked, usually into a mold to hold all the pieces together.  Depending upon the artists’ intention and how tight the pieces fit together, jigsaw woodcuts can also have a bit of a white outline between color shapes, but it won’t be as pronounced as a true white-line woodcut.  The print to above also has some uses some reduction.  Without seeing the plate, we’d guess there were 4-6 main color shapes–perhaps the foreground, back cliffs, water, and sky, that were each printed and then re-carved to get some of the darker colors.

“Ernesto” by Ed McCluney, from his recent Press Room Mini Solo

Some of Ed McCluney’s woodcuts are also jigsaw woodcuts (see his chicken, Ernesto, at left, which was printed using two jigsaw pieces).  As you can see, there’s a lot of aesthetic variety within this media!

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