February 19, 2013

Faux Woodcuts

        I'm sorry to say that I haven't carved any new blocks recently.  This is partly because I've been saving up my ideas for the next open studio show when I'll need lots to work on, but mainly it's because I've been busy making fake wood block prints instead.  The story I'm currently writing is to be illustrated with numerous Renaissance-style woodcuts of doorways.  I plan to carve several of them and make actual prints (in fact I've already done two), but most of them don't seem to warrant the full treatment.  So instead I'm making digital illustrations that are supposed to look like woodcuts.
        My method for copying the look of carving starts, like real carving, with a guide sketch or picture.  But then it all goes virtual.  With my guide picture on photoshop, I cover it with a layer of solid black, lowered to about 50% opacity so that I can see my guide through it.  Then, using white, I "carve away" the black where appropriate.  Working backwards or subtractively, just like the
process of an actual relief printing block, helps make these illustrations look less like they were drawn, and more like they were carved.
        I have a tablet with a pressure-sensitive stylus, so each stroke, like the carved lines done in real wood or rubber, tends to taper at the beginning and end.  When I'm filling a larger area, I take away the black in lots of small strokes, just as when I carve.  For really large areas, I do fill them all at once, which is a lot quicker, but is also more accurate to the Renaissance woodcuts, which, unlike my block prints, tend not to show any stray ink in their backgrounds.  Another concession to laziness and accuracy is that in places I use selection to define more precisely where my "carving" can and can't go.  And when I'm finished, I "ink" it up by turning the opacity back to 100% to see what I've got.

        The end result, I hope, has enough of a woodcut look to convey the mood and mystery of the sixteenth century book described in my story.  In any case, I'm having a lot of fun with it.  But I do look forward to getting my hands on some real carving again soon!

[Pictures: Three doors, digital illustrations by AEGN from The Extraordinary Book of Doors by AEGN, 2013
(The first and last of these are based on designs from The Extraordinary Book of Doors by Sebastiano Serlio, 1551.)]

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