“Daily, Nightly” a series of woodcut prints
My goal for this series of woodcut prints called “Daily, Nightly”, was to create a fusion of colors and shapes representing the different times of the day. My inspiration derived from a book called “Decorative Art Of New Guinea”. It illustrates patterns used on decorative weaponry of various ancient Papua New Guinea tribes. As a result, these complex patterns helped me render simple amphorae shapes into a weavings of color representing “Dawn”, “Day”, “Dusk” and “Night”.
Putting Together the design.
Since I was planning a variation on an idea I already had, I knew I would need five printing plates for each Amphora design. Three of the woodblocks would form the vase and background shapes. The fourth, a tribal pattern, weaving secondary colors into the design. All four are using opposing colors from top to bottom, alternating complimentary colors from plate to plate. A fifth and final woodblock with black line, highlights the appearance of more colors, making the total of nine unique colors for each Amphora design. Thirty six colors for the whole series.
I decided to use photoshop to create individual documents for each Amphora design and begin exploring various layouts. To start, I imported a reference image from a series called “Fragmentary Vessels” into the bottom layer of the design, seen below.
Three layers were made representing the foreground, middle ground, and background, forming the shape of the Amphora. Each layer was masked out in photoshop to allow gradations to be easily changed.
Next, I imported one of the black and white tribal patterns. Making a mask of it in photoshop, I was able to add gradations until I found one I liked.
Additional layers were added for alternative color choices after shapes were masked out in photoshop. Finally, Black line is put on the top layer. After coming up with five color combinations that worked, I started planning for the print.
Preparing the woodblock plates.
To begin the process of making the prints, twenty plates were cut from wood planks using a jigsaw.
Transferring my design to to woodblock was the next step. For reference, please check out this link .
Below is an example of “Dusk” after it was transferred onto the wood block. Also an example of “Dusk ” after I carving it out.
After each part of the design was transferred onto the woodblock, I used wood carving tools to carve out the design, including knives blades and gouges. Below are 18 of the twenty blocks I carved.
Blending color with rollers
The ink colors I had to select from were adapted to those loosely planned on the computer. Each color is meticulously mixed in small batches, sometimes taking up to three hours to mix one color.
To begin a blending I used two separate brayers. First, a different color of ink is rolled on each side of the woodblock, slightly overlapping in the center. Next, A third, clean brayer, is used to create a subtle gradation from end to end, beginning from the center and rolling outward. Using a third brayer to creating smooth gradations works great.
Most importantly, for the patterned layer, I used transparency medium in the ink in order to get secondary colors, from the colors printed below it.
To finish, the fifth color, solid black, anchors the composition together. It also helps hide gaps between the plates from mis-registration 🙂
In total, eight unique colors were mixed for each design, nine including black. All twenty woodblocks in this series were pressed by hand. Ink is transferred by rubbing the back of the paper with a wooden spoon. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a printing press, so all of my print editions done by hand are limited. This series is a very limited edition of seven prints for each design.
About the series.
These twenty woodblocks took an average of one block per week to carve. Including mixing and proofing the color.
In this series, registration and color varies slightly from print to print. Each design uses nine unique colors.
I used Japanese Kozo Paper to print the designs. Very small batches of ink were mixed up, resulting in a limited edition of seven prints for each design.
The designs measure 7″x5″ and the paper size is 9.25″X7.25″.