Color Woodcut, Contemporary, Early 20th Century, Foreign Views, Prints, Woodcut

John Ross Color Woodcut Progression

84572

Brittany Harbor [Port Haliguen]. Progressive (series set of 6). Color woodcut, 1963. Edition 150. Image size 9 3/8 x 6 1/4″ (237 x 158 mm). Very good condition. Set of six.  The five different color block sheets are signed and titled “Progressive” in the lower margins . The finished impression, “Brittany Harbor” (seen at top right), is signed, titled and dated in pencil. LINK.

Today we have an intriguing print series to share with our OPG blog readers- which offers an insightful look into the creation of the color woodblock print “Brittany Harbor” by NY artist John Ross. This progressive series shows each of the five different colors and two different woodblocks needed to complete the print.

Woodblock printing is a type of relief printmaking. In this technique, the artist sketches a composition on a block of wood and then cuts away pieces from the surface. This leaves a raised area to receive ink. A roller (sometimes called a brayer) is then used to apply ink to the raised surface, and the image is then transferred to paper with a press or by hand burnishing and rubbing. Because the recessed, cut-away areas do not hold ink, they act as white-space on the printed image. Relief prints like woodcuts are usually characterized by bold dark-light contrasts and an impress into the paper of the inked lines.

Color woodcuts in particular are a result of inking one block in multiple colors to build up texture and create vibrance of color. Artists can also use more than one woodblock, each inked in a separate color, to create their composition. A sheet of paper is printed with each of the blocks in turn, using a method of registration to avoid misplacement or overlapping. The greater the complexity (number of woodblocks, number of different colors) of the print, the greater the chance for failed or imperfect impressions. For this reason, successful multi-block, multi-colored woodcuts are rare and a serious show of talent, finesse, and patience.

John Ross used two different woodcut blocks to create “Brittany Harbor”. First, the colors (dark blue, teal, green, and purple inks) are printed onto the paper. Each color is a separate pass through the press, but using the same wood block.

Dark purple ink. First block.

Dark blue ink. First block.

Teal ink. First Block.

Teal ink. First Block.

Green ink. First block.

Green ink. First block.

Purple ink. First block.

Purple ink. First block.

The second block, with finer and more intricate cuts, is then inked with a dark black ink and printed on top of the colored inks. This last block adds important details to the print, like bricks, roof texture, boat masts, and waves.

Black ink. Second block.

Black ink. Second block.

The resulting final image can be seen below.

Brittany Harbor.

Brittany Harbor.

 

An animation showing the block and color progression

An animation showing the block and color progression

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