Earlier this month, we showed you some fascinating woodblock prints from husband-and-wife team Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth. We loved all the intricate details involved and learning all about the carving process for their ‘Overlook’ piece.
We spoke with Paul and Valerie from Tugboat Printshop to learn more about their work and discover what else they’re working on.
Tell us how you got started in woodblock printing. Did you study printmaking? Was it something you were always interested in?
‘We both studied printmaking in university (starting in 1998 or so). Valerie specialised in etching for her BFA, only beginning work in colour woodcut after the move to Pittsburgh. Paul has long been making large-scale color woodcut prints, starting in his undergrad and continuing through his MFA. Our collaboration in woodcut started in about 2006’.
We imagine it takes a long time to complete the carving each woodblock. Walk us through the process of woodblock printing.
‘The bulk of our time working on prints is spent drawing and carving. We trade woodblocks back and forth, first sketching our ideas out in pencil, then defining them in pen for carving. We use sharp handtools (knives, chisels) to carve blocks in low relief. If we are making a multi-block print, we will ink the key (first block drawn and carved, usually with the most detail in the print) and print to paper then back to blocks, creating a ghost ‘transfer’ to work from as we draw new info on color blocks. When all blocks are carved in full, they are hand-rolled with brayers (using oil based inks) and printed to paper through the press’.
‘Overlook’ took three years to complete. Can you tell us about some of the challenges involved in this artwork?
‘The number one challenge in making ‘Overlook’ has been sticking with it and seeing it through. The scale and complexity of this print surpasses any other we’ve made and has taken immense stretches of very devoted time to complete.
‘Feeling confident enough in the image to spend a year alone making colour blocks was a big step. We didn’t imagine that it would take three years to make! We have worked steadily to complete the print, but we have not rushed.
‘We did not want to compromise the artwork with deadlines – we missed a few self-imposed release dates before realising it was a silly exercise to try to predict when we’d be able to call this print complete! But we kept at it through it all and it is indeed wrapping up nicely! So nicely.
‘A second challenge has been our space. We’ve been working out of our 1900s row house for nearly ten years now, and with two young children the space is no longer optimal. Working large scale has been impractical in our current studio setup. We have realised the need for a serious studio upgrade if we continue to make work at this scale.
‘Other challenges? The extra labour in working large. In colour proofing, five big rollers and all five blocks had to be cleaned /stripped with each color change (basically we could only test one or two colour ideas a day)’.
What are you working on now you can tell us about?
‘We are working to produce the ‘Overlook’ edition. And we are both playing around a little with work separate from our collaborative stuff… shouldn’t be long before we start sharing process pics of those online. Join our mailing list for the latest updates about new prints!’
How do our readers order your prints for their home?
‘Pre-orders for the ‘Overlook’ woodcut can be placed on our website here.
‘Prints will be shipping as they dry and are curated post-production (we are currently producing them)! The price for the print will be going up when production is completed.