A fellow artist/blogger Gregorio Perez joked to me that one reason he wants to move to woodblock printing is that he’s tired of people telling him that they used to do linoleum block printing in grade school. I think it’s possible that wood may get more respect than linoleum, but he got me thinking about all of the virtues of woodblock printmaking.
I started using wood in printmaking because I saw some real life examples of moku hanga and I was completely blown away by the beauty of it’s transparent color and visible woodgrain. I was excited that I could use some of the knowledge that I had gained from years of working with watercolor to this new medium. On the practical side, wood is a renewable resource and it is relatively inexpensive (especially if you consider that you can carve both sides of a piece of wood). It is also quite forgiving and can be glued and sanded. You can even remove small dents with a little water and heat.
On the down side, wood can be a bit difficult to work with as it varies in hardness and has a grain. It requires very sharp tools and a patient and careful hand. Mark Krecic, the woodshop studio coordinator at the UM School of Art & Design, once told me that he hated it when students would tell him that the wood didn’t do what it was supposed to do. He taught me that the wood always does what it’s supposed to do. It’s our job as artists to learn to understand that.
But the simple fact is that I’m in love with this artform. It takes my meager ideas and transforms them into something I could never have envisioned. I look at the way the carved grooves enhance the quality and excitement of something as simple as the shape of a cloud and I am breathless.