Tom Huck Woodcut Bootcamp Day 6: Field Trip!

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This day was a biggie. It first started with a PowerPoint lecture on the original blocks of Albrecht Durer and some of his contemporaries. Former bootcamper and scholar, Richard Field, spent 10 years tracking down and photographing the master's woodblocks for an upcoming book. He shared his collection of photographs with Tom. Tom made the pictorial tour complete with his colorful commentary, giving us a closeup look at 500 year old wooden blocks. Having seen some of the blocks in person himself, Tom feels that fresh prints could still be made from them.

Drawing on a piece of paper, Tom shows how knives and hammers were used to carve the lines into the solid pieces of hardwood. Aside from the limitations of the available technology (crude, overly large and imprecise cutting tools), even more astounding is that the technical difficulty of the draftsmanship has remained unmatched into our modern times.

Drawing on a piece of paper, Tom shows how knives and hammers were used to carve the lines into the solid pieces of hardwood. Aside from the limitations of the available technology (crude, overly large and imprecise cutting tools), even more astounding is that the technical difficulty of the draftsmanship has remained unmatched into our modern times.

The block from Durer’s Samson Rending the Lion. Year 1497-98

The block from Durer’s Samson Rending the Lion. Year 1497-98

The print from the above block.

The print from the above block.

One of the benefits of being a local celebrity is that Tom can call up the St. Louis Art Museum and arrange for a private viewing. After his block lecture, part 2 of the day was a visit to the museum's Reading Room, where white gloved staff displayed some of Tom's favorite prints. (For those of you who grow weary of my long blog posts, this one is mostly just pictures. Please celebrate quietly.)

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The St. Louis Museum of Art

In the museum’s private viewing room, Tom gives an overview of the work we were about to examine.

In the museum’s private viewing room, Tom gives an overview of the work we were about to examine.

No glass between us and these priceless prints. Close inspection is encourage with magnifying glasses.

No glass between us and these priceless prints. Close inspection is encourage with magnifying glasses.

Durer is not the only printer featured. There is the strong presence of the German Expressionists as well.

Durer is not the only printer featured. There is the strong presence of the German Expressionists as well.

A group of Durer’s prints, Samson Rendering the Lion included.

A group of Durer’s prints, Samson Rendering the Lion included.

Some of Durer’s prints were biblical artworks. Lifting the print, we see the scriptures on the other side.

Some of Durer’s prints were biblical artworks. Lifting the print, we see the scriptures on the other side.

The following pictures are my closeup photographs of the prints on display. When possible, I have included info on the print. (A smart guy would have taken pictures of the info tags as well. Apparently I am not that guy.)

Albretch Durer, The 5th and 6th Trumpets (Battle of Four Avenging Angels of Euphrates) Woodcut, 1496

Albretch Durer, The 5th and 6th Trumpets (Battle of Four Avenging Angels of Euphrates) Woodcut, 1496

Albretch Durer, Saint Eustace. Engraving, 1501

Albretch Durer, Saint Eustace. Engraving, 1501

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Adam and Eve, the Fall. 1509

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Adam and Eve, the Fall. 1509

Albrecht Durer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Woodcut, 1498

Albrecht Durer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Woodcut, 1498

The print I showed at the beginning of the blog I got from the web. Here is the real deal.

The print I showed at the beginning of the blog I got from the web. Here is the real deal.

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Jose Guadeloupe Posada, The calavera of Don Quijote.

Jose Guadeloupe Posada, The calavera of Don Quijote.

Jose Guadeloupe Posada, La Calavera Catrina. c.1910-13, zinc etching

Jose Guadeloupe Posada, La Calavera Catrina. c.1910-13, zinc etching

Max Beckmann, Adam and Eve (Adam und Eva). 1918, drypoint

Max Beckmann, Adam and Eve (Adam und Eva). 1918, drypoint

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Edvard Munch! Moonlight. Woodcut, 1896

Edvard Munch! Moonlight. Woodcut, 1896

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This print changed my life. This is E.L. Kirchner’s Sailboats at Fehmarn and it opened me up to the German Expressionists.

This print changed my life. This is E.L. Kirchner’s Sailboats at Fehmarn and it opened me up to the German Expressionists.

After spending a couple hours with the prints, we were given time to tour the rest of the museum. I got back to the print shop brimming over with inspiration and high on art. It was just the boost I needed to dive into the part of my wood block I’d been dreading; the devil’s face. I knew it needed to be textured in such a way as to reflect the light and shadow of the fire. I decided to use the white line carving technique. So essentially I took a black marker and filled in the devil’s face with black, then I took my gouge and went looking for his face. By slowly chipping away at the black on the board, I was able to create a stippling effect and control the graduation of light to dark.

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