About Woodcuts

As children we still had all those old books around from the thirties or even before. They had hardbound covers and strong bold designs on them resembling woodcut and lino cut prints with some fill-in colour almost looking like lead glass windows.

Most illustrations were black and white, little vignettes or more elaborate pictures, all made, I guess, by graphic artists using techniques to create illustrations to look like wood engravings.

A canal with reeds along its banks, with the water depicted jet-black and a few white squiggles to show where the villain just slipped under towards eternity, definitely made more of an impression on me than had the water been reflecting a blue sky and the reeds been a lush green.

Later, work of artists like Eppo Doeve, Escher, Antoon Pieck, Rembrandt, Dürer, and so on, made a great impression on me.

I have always been an ardent black and white photographer, to the point of shunning colour. Now I do like colour too but not so that it takes over the picture. For example, in some photos – thanks to all the new technology available to us – I tend to partly or sometimes completely desaturate the colours. Some pictures look infinitely better that way as colours would only detract from its tonal impact.

I do like to draw and paint but often lack the time to do it. If I do find time, I’m silly enough to make pictures of things I like and then I don’t want to part with them. That sort of attitude is perfectly all right if I don’t want to take it any further, however, I do want to.

So standing in my wood workshop I saw pieces of plank, sheets of all  different sorts of ply, stacked everywhere. Then a bench full of practically all the chisels and gauges I could possibly ever need. I thought, 'multiple prints'. That is woodcut printing.

For quite some time I thought of all kinds of schemes to construct a press. As a variant to a crude lino press I could perhaps use a hydraulic bench-press, which would be a good start. That was until I discovered hand printing with a baren. Bingo. 

I launched myself into printing with black and white and colour, using what at this moment appeals to me most, which is the traditional Japanese printing technique called Moku Hanga.

For learning and support I find the Baren Forum amazing (see link on Library and Links page). They are a great bunch of people who share their collective knowledge between members and are always ready to help out with an answer.