What are woodcuts? From wood to print
The principle underlying the woodcut technique is simple: What is cut out of the block comes out white when printing – and what is left on the block comes out black. You draw in white, as Tal R says in the film.
This fact gave the technique its name: relief printing. The raised areas of the relief is where the ink is applied when pressed against paper, they form black lines/planes on the paper.
Early on there were variations of the traditional black and white woodcuts. Examples include wood engraving, white line woodcut and coloured woodcut.
Artist, block-cutter and printer
In earlier times woodcuts were collective works of art. First, an artist created a design. Then a block-cutter cut the block, then a printer printed the finished block. Today, we mainly know the artists, as the signatures on the blocks are usually theirs - and they are known to us from other contexts. The other stakeholders involved in the woodcut process are usually forgotten.
From around the mid-19th century onwards, the division of labour involved in the creation of woodcuts disapperaed. Now, artists would carve their blocks themselves. For example, Asger Jorn's woodcut on a tabletop.
See how Tal R makes woodcuts
Click the boxes on the right side of the page to see how Tal R creates both a woodcut in black and white and in colour.