The white line woodblock method was founded in the early 1900s in Provincetown, Massachusetts, by a group of artists who were interested in Japanese printmaking but grew tired of the tedium of cutting a block of wood for every color as that method demanded. These Provincetown artists, including Blanche Lazzell and Edna Boies Hopkins, developed a way to make a polychrome print from a single block of wood.
|Monongahela by Blanche Lazzell|
|Spotted Dahlia by Edna Boies Hopkins|
In the white line method, a simple line drawing is incised on the block with a knife or gouge creating v-shaped cuts, which become white lines when printed.
|A white line carving in process|
Once the outlines are carved, small areas are hand colored one by one with watercolor paint and brushes and hand printed, usually with a wooden spoon, until the print is complete. Blocks can be re-used to create another print, but every print will be unique because of the variations in paint application.
|Printing in process|
Below is a gallery of contemporary white line prints showing a range of the kinds of prints that can be made with this method. Note that although white line woodcuts have historically been figurative, since they are drawing-based there is no reason why they cannot be as abstract or expressive as any other form of drawing. Your sketch just needs to be simple enough to transfer to a block by tracing with carbon paper. (Or you can draw directly onto the block.)
|Barnstable Harbor Flats by Ray Heus|
|Still Life – Hard, Soft, Sharp by Joseph Vorgity|
|Beekeeper with Smoker by Willy Reddick|
|Four prints from Counterspells by Annie Bissett, all made from the same carved block|
|Abstract prints by previous workshop participants|
|Two different inkings of the same block, by Annie Bissett|