John's Reviews > The Woodcut Artist's Handbook: Techniques and Tools for Relief Printmaking

The Woodcut Artist's Handbook by George A. Walker
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's review
Oct 21, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: art
Read in January, 2007

The art of relief print-making has remained much the same for hundreds of years. Both wood cuts and wood engravings are created today much as they were in the days of Albrect Durer and Thomas Bewick. Even so, a few of the tools, inks and paper have been modernized, and of course the artist’s styles and subject matter have changed dramatically. In this book, George Walker has given an excellent overview of the historical techniques of Woodcut as well as providing many practical tips to the novice printmaker.

As you expect in an introductory work, the author begins with a short history of woodcut and wood engraving techniques, and then proceeds to survey the specifics of the craft such as selecting and sharpening tools, selecting the appropriate block materials (such as linoleum, wood, or resingrave), as well as the various types inks and papers. He covers this material well, but this work really begins to shine when it discusses the artistic processes of designing and executing a wood engraving. The book provides both clear text and illustration to guide the novice artist. And Walker shares many practical tips on avoiding pitfalls and repairing mistakes which he undoubtedly gleaned from his years of teaching experience

One of the most resonant comments in Walker’s excellent preface is that “the best training in technique is to look at the work of other artists.” Consistent with this philosophy, this book has a remarkable number of outstanding woodcuts and engravings from many different eras, along with comments on the artistic techniques employed. The culminating chapter of the book is a gallery with an excellent selection of prints employing a wide variety of techniques.

Another strength of this book is Walker’s discussion of practical considerations often neglected in an introductory text such as how to arrange the workspace, deciding the size of an edition, safely using solvents, and ways to use, mount and store prints. This handbook’s reference quality is further enhanced by the appendices which include a glossary, artist bios, bibliography, and a list of sources for information and materials.

I think that George Walker's Woodcut Artist’s Handbook is an excellent introduction to relief printmaking, and I would gladly recommend it to both printmaker and print lover.

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