I fell in love with woodcuts in the 80’s when I attended a German Expressionist art show at the LA County Museum. The exhibit featured the work of Kathe Kollwitz, George Grosz, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. I was mesmerized by the stark lines and brusque images.
About four years ago my wife gave me a woodcutting set for my birthday. I viewed some online tutorial videos and I dove in headfirst.
The process begins when I find an old photo or image that I like. From the photo I make an initial pencil sketch which I then transfer to a wood or linoleum block. I use standard woodcutting blades and other odd tools (awls, dental implements, exacto blades).
Once the image is carved I clean the block, apply a thin layer of ink and hand press the image onto archival paper using a Japanese Baren (this is a bamboo tool that looks kind of like an air-hockey paddle). The entire process takes 40-60 hours depending on the size and complexity of the image. If I make a major mistake, I have to start over. Minor mistakes I live with; they add to the organic nature of each image.
The process is slow and meditative. This is probably what I love most about carving. It can’t be rushed. In these days when everything is moving so fast it’s nice to have an activity that forces me to relax. I guess woodcutting has become my personal yoga.
For more from Loren, check out his blog Woodcuttingfool.