Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Woodcut Opportunities

So, you want to do woodcuts but have no experience.  No problem.  I saw some examples of German Expressionist woodcut in an art history book, decided it would be cool to try, and I took the approach of figuring it out.  Found a nice sanded hunk of pine plank where I worked, did a sketch on it in pencil of a portrait,  based on a photo in my college yearbook.  I never had a lesson, or owned any woodcut tools, but I understood the basics of relief.  I cut out the design using a drypoint needle, a carpet knife, and a small screwdriver.  Got a simple brayer and some Speedball ink, and ended up with something I liked.  (if I can find a copy, I'll post it) Did more, liked those, too, decided to take a class, and the rest is history.

Now if you'd prefer to have someone show you the basics, teach you about tools, inks, papers, etc, that's a little trickier.  If you can even find a college that teaches printmaking (fewer and fewer over the years), they may not cover woodcut, or may not teach much.  Several years ago I was hired to print four editions for a college print student who was too injured to do it herself, and she was astonished to learn you could print blocks by hand without a press (I had to make some quick BAT's for her unprinted blocks and didn't have time to clean the junk off Molly's press).  And last year when a senior at my university wanted to include large woodcuts in his final show, he remembered that I had told him about better tools and where to get them, not the official print professor, and asked me to  be his faculty.  And some of the organizations that used to teach woodcut just aren't anymore.  Thanks to the internet, people who want to learn woodcut in New Jersey often find me.

I may need to count on that again.  Had a successful workshop last summer, six participants, including one who had searched the state looking for a place to teach him.  Here they are in action.

Belmar encouraged me to do it again, and also asked if there could be some kind of printmaking themed show for the gallery.  A few months later I was approached by one of my longtime students there about an idea for a show, something from her and an old college friend out west, which seemed to suit their needs.  I brought it to the director, who liked it and gave us an exhibition slot in September 2018, with me promising to offer my woodcut class a time or two for those who needed to learn the process in order to participate.

Since then things have broken down a bit.  The previous director left to take a long needed full time job, a new crew is running things, and they aren't so much into the printmaking.  My former student tells me she gets no response from the board regarding issues that need to be settled very soon on this fall show (she and I took a meeting yesterday afternoon), and weeks after I put in dates for the first woodcut class of the year, it still wasn't on the website.  Finally last week (thanks to reminders from the college student who is a holdover from the previous administration), the class and the registration form finally was added to the website, but as of today there is still nothing on the online calendar, and there have been no e-mail announcements to members or other places, so if you don't know to go looking for it, you aren't going to know about it.    (Update- later that day I brought up the current status of things to that college student and she went and put the class on the online calendar, which I have since verified.  She also said that she would see if they will put out announcements by the end of the week, but I'll believe that when I see it.)

The only way the class happens is if people sign up for it, so we'll see what happens.  Meanwhile I'm doing what I can to promote it.  Been talking it up for weeks, and now I'm promoting it here.  If you want to learn woodcut here in New Jersey and the internet brings you here, just take the link to, and click on the tab for Education on the home page.  That will show you woodcut printmaking in a drop down menu, which will give you the information and a registration form.  This first print series will be on alternate Tuesdays in April and May, starting April 10, 2018, and includes 4 sessions of 2.5 hours each.  Paying participants get basic wood, ink, and paper, plus access to cutting and printing tools during class meetings, as well as instructions and advice, all more than I ever got when I started.  Whether or not this spring class happens, I will offer it again in the summer if they are willing.  Maybe someone reading this will find their way there.


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