The Pleasure of a Woodcut

I recently came across this evocative quotation about the fun of making a woodblock print in the book, How I Make Woodcuts and Wood Engravings, by Hans Alexander Mueller.

“To almost every artist there comes a time when he feels the urge to make a woodcut. The result is often exciting, although not necessarily a woodcut in the sense of manifesting a true mastery of the craft.

There is a keen, fresh pleasure in cutting into a block of wood with knife or graver to bring forth a composition of different levels, of heights and depths; and, in the ensuing printing, in rolling the black ink over the surface and pulling the first proof. The process is as unpredictable as the result. There is breathless suspense in awaiting the outcome, which always has an element of surprise. For the past few hours I have been cutting, graving, boring, gouging, scraping and scratching, and the result of my work appears suddenly before me as a whole the instant I lift the paper from the inked block. The contrast between the darkened surface of the block and the lighter shade of the natural wood which shows in the cutting is much less than the bold contrast of the black ink on white paper.

The visual experience is, therefore, entirely different from that in painting or sketching, where the visible result keeps pace with the progress of the work. No wonder, then, that the first proof makes a profound impression and immediately captivates the creator’s eye. Whether or not anything artistically worthwhile has been accomplished can be decided only after the first intoxication has passed.”  – H. A. Mueller

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