After the ink on the print is dry (and sometimes before it is dry, depending on how impatient I feel) I'll color the image with watercolor paints. Since I'm using an oil-based ink, I can get as crazy with the brush as I like and I don't have to worry about the black lines bleeding or getting messed up. And that's it. I signed the print in pencil and it's done.


I got ahead of myself and didn't take any photos of me actually printing this image. I did it by hand, like you'd normally hand pull a linocut or monotype. I used black off-set litho ink and printed on white 427 gsm Neenah printable blotter paper. It's thick stuff and has great texture, but it's taking the ink forever to dry. I try to give the prints time to dry before I move on to the next, and final, step...


Now I get to burn this image into the wood. Sometimes I etch the image into acrylic, if I want it to be smooth and clear. I like using wood because the wood grain shows through in the print. It's an added element that, I think, gives the final image a little more life. 


Now that I have my drawing scanned I can adjust the image. I don't "fix" anything in photoshop because I want to keep that hand-drawn look. I want to keep all the stray marks and crooked lines and whatnot. All I do is adjust the image so that it is strictly black-and-white. On this image, I did cheat a little. I want the top half of the image to print black. Instead of darkening all that in with a pencil, I used the paint bucket tool and quickly filled that area with black on the computer.

Once everything looks good on screen, the last thing I have to do is invert the image. Everything black turns white and everything white turns black. I'll have a negative of my image that will burn into my plate - which will then print positive on my paper...

Scan the sucker

I'm really spoiled where I work. I have access to a nice, high-res scanner. So I scan this thing at 100%, which is 5"x7", 400 DPI, Grayscale (to keep the file size down).

Time to choose

Good. Ok. I've decided I want to make a run of hand pulled prints. I don't have a press, so my print run will be very limited. I also know that I want to do a small print - 5"x7". That's my self-imposed size limit for pieces that will be in the show in Franklin. Smaller prints are also easier to store in my basement. That's important to keep in mind because that's where the majority of these things spend their time.

Now I go back through my sketches and drawings, trying to find the right image. If I've drawn 60 pictures, maybe MAYBE 10 of those are decent. And of those 10, one might be good enough (in my eyes, anyway) to turn into a finished work.

In this instance, I've gone through and picked out this pencil sketch. I'm interested in portraits right now, so it fits that bill. It's a line drawing, with very little grey areas, so it will work well as a relief print. Also, it looks kind of funny and weird, so I like it. It's not of anyone in particular… I'll call it Art Lover (You Can Tell).


I tend to go through phases. One day I will decide to do nothing but acrylic paintings on canvas. I'll do a few of those and decide that no, actually I'm only going to do large scale charcoal drawings on cheap paper. A few months of that and I'm on to doing only colored pencil drawings on super thick card stock. Lately, I've decided that woodcut prints are the only way to go. All the while, I continue to sketch, churning out junk with the occasional gem.

Draw some more

Next, I draw a lot more.

Most of what comes out is pretty terrible stuff. I'd say maybe one drawing in 6 comes out as something that could be used as a final image that I'd want to show to someone. These drawings are normally in sketch books, or on loose sheets of scrap paper I have squirreled away. I usually start drawing with no real idea of subject matter, unless I'm sketching from life. Gradually, as one drawing leads to another, I'll sometimes notice a recurring theme that I hadn't even thought about. If it's something cool, I can try to develop more drawings in the same vein.

I'm heavily influenced by whatever I tend to be reading at the time, or whatever artist I'm "into" at the time. Lately, I've really been enjoying the work of Helene Schjerfbeck, and that's led me to try portraiture.

Step One

I draw. Sketch, doodle, whatever. Usually pencil, always 8x10 or smaller.