Reduction Woodcut Printmaking in Oaxaca (Step by step)

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Oaxaca de Juarez is a city that lies South East of Mexico City. Dirk and I have started referring to Mexico City as DF (de effe), the way Mexicans talk about the capital. Oaxaca is a colonial city with cobbled streets and walkable sidewalks:

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After a month and a week in DF and a week in the paradise that is Puerto Escondido, we spent a week in Oaxaca. This is the Templo de Santo Domingo in Oaxaca during the daily rainfall:

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We took an ADO overnight bus between Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca. The ride between Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port in English) and Oaxaca is dreaded by many travellers. The two places are physically close to each other, but the winding road over the mountains takes at least six hours, or in our case, with a bigger bus and a different (I like to think less bumpy) road, it took ten hours. We paid around 260 pesos per person for our bus tickets, it usually costs more than 400 pesos, but we bought the tickets four days in advance, so got a better price. Something to note when travelling in Mexico: with every ADO or OCC bus ticket you buy, you get a discount on your next ticket. So, it’s important to always keep your pink bus ticket.
There are many stalls selling crafts, clothes and street food next to the streets in Oaxaca:

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I was fortunate to do a printmaking workshop in Oaxaca, a city known for the many artists that live there. The workshop’s name is Taller la Chicharra and they also offer group workshops.
This blog is especially for my sister-in-law, Elisma, because she asked to me to take a lot of pictures of the process and she is an artist herself. Hope life in Joburg is still exciting for you guys! Lots of love to that side of the planet!

So, here follows the process of creating a woodcut reduction print. This means that you only use one block and cut away parts when printing different colours.

I drew leaves in my sketchbook earlier the day, so that’s what I decided to use as theme:

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My inspiration at the hostel:

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This was the example that Oziel, my tutor gave me, to explain how the different colours will be printed:

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I drew this sketch to scale and painted the different colours to remember the effect that I wanted. Only later did I realize that I made everything green, except the leaves!

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I drew the exact same picture of a painted mdf block. I used an mdf block, because it is easier to carve than a block of wood. The carving tools are laying above the mdf board:

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Almost the end of my first day at the workshop and halfway through the first part of carving:

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Because I chose to create a lot of white spaces, I had to carve very deep. The block is ready to be inked:

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The first colour of tinta (ink) is green for the background:

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The print workshop didn’t have a press, so we were printing by hand and I had to apply a thick layer of ink:

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The block is covered with the paper (after doing the registration) and another paper is placed over both. The workshop had a special roller to apply pressure to transfer the ink from the block to the paper:

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After hard work with my hardly existent arm muscles, the first layer is printed:

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Day three was spent carving the next part. It was quicker, because I wanted to print texture on the green, so I didn’t remove as much as the first time:

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Ready for the next round of printing:

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Blue ink this time:

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The print closest to the camera did not line up, even though we did the registration correctly. We used a different method for the print at the back, and it lined up better:

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Dirk decided to visit the study and Oziel convinced him to also try a small black print:

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By the end of day three my hand was sore and tired from all the cutting. I had to cut away a lot of the board, because the last print would be in black ink and should be mostly outlines:

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On day four, the last day, it was time for the black ink. We covered the parts that were not supposed to print with talcum powder:

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A mini roller is used to apply ink to finer detail:

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Nervous smile; will I like the end result after all my hard work?

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Taa-daa! I am quite happy with the final product. The blank parts are less open and clean than I wanted, but the lines lined up and the colours work well together. I’m not sure if it’s obviously leaves?

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My four prints drying. It’s like a game of spot the difference:

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This is Dirk’s artwork. He chose to print a perspective of a street in Oaxaca:

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Oziel in the background while Dirk is applying ink:

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I’m impressed with Dirk’s use of positive and negative space. It’s an interesting exercise to learn different ways to print. After his first print, he cut away more parts so that the white appear cleaner. This is his first print:

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Above is Dirk with his final product with Oziel and below is a Picture of me with Oziel. Muchas gracias por todos nosotros apremdimos en el taller Oziel! Yo disfrute el taller mucho!

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4 thoughts on “Reduction Woodcut Printmaking in Oaxaca (Step by step)

  1. What does “de effe” mean? Second picture, such a beautiful street! Well done with your printing. Hard work indeed!

  2. Wow, I can see it was real hard work to do the prints! I noticed that Dirk did the print of the street view in the second photo – or more or less so.
    I think the buildings in Oaxaca are beautiful – the temple and the buildings in the street view in the other photo.
    Thanks for the briefing. I did’nt realise Dirk’s print was so small – now I understand how he could do it so easily – in comparison with what you did.
    Enjoy your adventures in Mexico. Love from South Africa

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