October 25, 2011

Handbook by George A. Walker

        For anyone who's interested in block printing, I highly recommend The Woodcut Artist's Handbook, by George A. Walker.  It's got loads of great illustrations, many by Walker, but also by a whole variety of other artists from Albrecht Dürer to Ralph Steadman, who inks up scraps of old, used wood.  Although the title says "woodcut," this book also covers linoleum block printing and wood engraving, and makes an effort to include a wide variety of styles.
        The chapters cover "Selecting Materials for the Block" through signing and numbering "The Edition," and address the basics as well as more advanced materials and techniques.  In addition to the illustrations of block prints there are also lots of illustrations and diagrams of step-by-step processes, how to hold tools, the different types of cuts made by different tools, how presses work, etc.
        I confess that I didn't read every word of all the chapters.  I skipped the details of how to assemble your own engraving block, or how to repair Resingrave, for example.  But it looks like in everything Walker does a good job of covering both the basics for those who don't know much about block printing, and the advanced details for those who are already pretty immersed in the craft.
        The bottom line, though, is that I enjoyed the illustrations.  Walker's selection included lots of contemporary artists I wasn't familiar with and whose work I'll be keeping an eye out for.  He has a particular emphasis on Canadian artists, since those are the people he works with and knows.  Again, that meant it was a selection I wasn't so familiar with.  And Walker's own work is quite diverse, though he appears to have a special interest in political, urban, and slightly darker interpretations of things.  Here are some of his pieces.  On the whale above I like the contrast between the scratchiness of the whale and the controlled swirls of the water.  As for the caterpillar, I'm sure everyone recognizes it as Alice's acquaintance in Wonderland.  I like its scruffiness.
        I was definitely glad to have found this book to look through.  Check it out.

[Pictures: Whale, wood (or Resingrave?) engraving by George A. Walker, 2004;
Advice from a Caterpillar, wood engraving by Walker, c. 1985.]

Walker, George A., The Woodcut Artist's Handbook: Techniques and Tools for Relief Printmaking, Firefly Books Ltd., 2010.
Walker's Web Site

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