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Woodcuts and Some Words E.G. Craig
IN this book I have not attempted to teach anyone how to wood-engrave. It is the kind of thing, I suppose, one can show in half an hour better than explain in half a year.
I have merely reproduced for you some of my woodcuts made between 1898 and 1921 and added a few pages as preface about a few of my old friends, myself, and my cuts, and a few suggestions for the young woodcutter at the end.
I fear that I am not very skilful with my knives and boxwood blocks, but it is a satisfaction to me to be able to show you what I can do, however little, so that it may be counted as so much in my favour towards being practical, a virtue my critics deny me.
I have produced more wood-engravings than etchings, and more etchings than plays.
To wood-engrave and print one's cuts costs so little, say one shilling and ninepence to cut and print one design.
To etch and print the plate costs more, say nine shillings or fifteen shillings per design.
To produce a play costs a great deal. But there is another reason than the cost which has prevented me from producing for you at least fifty plays.
If you had asked me to cut and engrave wood-blocks or etchings under someone's management, in someone else's house, I should have made no woodcuts or etchings at all To me liberty is essential.
When you will allow me the liberty of my own house to produce plays for you in a playhouse of my own, I will with pleasure produce them as practically as I have done these designs - that is to say, by my own hand.
TWO NOTES ON WOOD-ENGRAVING
SINCE, then, in wood printing, you print from the surface left solid; and, in metal printing, from the hollows cut into it, it follows that if you put few touches on wood, you draw, as on a slate, with white lines, leaving a quantity of black; but if you put few touches on metal, you draw with black lines, leaving a quantity of white.
Now the eye is not in the least offended by quantity of white, but is, or ought to be, greatly saddened and offended by quantity of black. Hence it follows that you must never put little work on wood.
JOHN RUSKIN (1819 - 1900), Ariadne Florentina.
BLACK is the most essential of all colours. It finds its glorification, its life, shall I say, in the direct and deeper springs in Nature. Black should be respected. Nothing can prostitute it.
It does not please the eye nor awaken the sensuality.
It is an agent of the mind far more than the beautiful colours of the palette or prism ... In the Louvre the galleries devoted to drawings contain a far greater and purer sum of art than the galleries of paintings. But few visitors are to be seen there, the paintings being far more popular.
ODILON REDON (1840 - 1916).