Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Something new: White Line Print

Several months ago, I learned about a new (to me) printing technique called "White Line" woodblock printing, also called the "Provincetown Print."

A truly American print making technique, it was developed in 1915 by a group of Provincetown and Cape Cod artists. It is considered among one of the few art techniques unique to America (jazz being another one...)

Traditionally poplar or clear pine were used. Since I've got stacks of clear maple on hand, that is what I used for my first White Line print.

I've had this image of my friend Bob for a couple years. I had first used it for a moku hanga print, but I was never satisfied with how it came out (it was too big - I'm finding out this seems to be a major problem with me and moku hanga prints... more on that later...)

So as with most all prints, the image is first transferred onto the woodblock. Then, instead of carving out individual color fields, all of the lines are traced over with a narrow blade, creating a channel along each line between the color fields. I used my medium V-gouge for this.

What results is the image incised in the block:

A piece of printing paper is then tacked onto the bottom of the block, folding it over to create a hinge:

This hinge is where the print will be folded back and forth during the printing process, to ensure perfect registration. To give the print added strength for this, I added a piece of Scotch tape where the thumbtacks fasten it to the block.

The block is ready to be printed.

Each color field is filled in with brushes and printed, one by one, by folding the paper over the block and burnishing with a barren. I wanted fully saturated colors, so I ended up printing each color multiple times until I was satisfied with it's density.

Eventually, slowly, the color fields are filled in. I usually print color prints lightest color to darkest, and I did the same with this print, but because the color fields are separated by channels (the White Lines), it really doesn't make much difference.

I like the results. Very different from what I'm used to. Its very exciting: I've got a whole set of images that just never really seemed to work with the other wood block techniques I use. It looks like now they'll have a chance again!

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