First proof

I’m detecting a low spot in this woodblock.

Here’s the very first inking of “Midnight Ride over Mt. Hood.” As you can see, the first pass of ink on a fresh block isn’t very pretty. It does, however, tell me a great deal about how I’ll need to roll the brayer over the block in order to get full ink coverage. What you’re seeing to the left is the block after a couple vertical passes of the brayer. No ink has transferred to portions of the block because wood, being a natural material, isn’t 100% uniform and this particular piece has a low spot. Variations like this are part of the challenge of working in wood, and often a lot of the fun.

In this case the low spot is a very easy issue to resolve, I simply have to roll the ink on horizontally as well as vertically. Truth be told, no block I print is ever inked in one direction, there is always some bit of it the brayer doesn’t hit on a single pass. Most blocks only require 5-6 passes of the brayer, but larger pieces with more troublesome low spots require dozens of strokes from multiple sides and angles. Sometimes a smaller brayer is necessary to ink one portion without creating an ink buildup on the rest of the block.

First impression and woodblock

After fully inking the block, I pulled a proof from it, seen above with the block. You can’t see it in this photo, but the block was overinked and the result is a slightly fuzzy print. In this case, I don’t mind because this print exists for the sole purpose of answering some questions I had regarding the image before I finish carving it. You’ll note, for instance, the leg and foot of the rider is solid black with no detail. My original plan had been to make the pants light, and shoe dark, but as I worked I realized a darker pant leg might better serve to provide contrast between the rider and goat. Seeing it here, I like the effect, but will be adding some white line details to highlight creases, perhaps the seam of the pants, and the transition to the shoe. The goat will also be receiving a few added details, though it really doesn’t need much refinement.

I’ll also be adding some lines to delineate the foothills beneath Mt. Hood — though not too much. Just enough to imply a dark landscape underneath the snowy peak and to make the composition less bottom-heavy.

The block will need to dry a day or two before refinement carving, I’ll be sure to post photos once that stage occurred.