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Woodcuts are my passion.
The intricate craftsmanship of knife and wood, the dance of negative space, and the sense of narrative are all inspirations for these pieces.
Let me describe the process-
I choose a piece of wood- an old, worn shelf from a discarded bookcase works the best because the wood is dry, stable and has its own character and integrity.
Then I choose an image that will fit with that particular piece of wood. I have a small library of sketches, photographs, and compositional ideas that I consider based on the shape and size of the wood. I could certainly cut the wood to any size I needed, but I prefer working with the wood as is because its like meeting someone halfway in a conversation or a debate.
I draw out the image on the wood.
Depending on the complexity of the piece, I might “nail” the image down by drawing it with a Sharpie marker, but I usually keep the pencil sketch on the wood so I can make changes as I cut, or improvise the composition if there’s a knot in the wood, or a broad, clear area.
I carve the image with a few trusted tools- a line cutter, v-gauge, and u-gauge. These tools are usually all I use to carve the image onto the block. Sometimes I’ll add texture by sanding the block or scraping it.
Once the image is carved, I roll ink onto the surface, and place Okiwara, cream-colored rice paper (I’ve tried many different papers over time. but always come back to my trusty, hardy, handmade Japanese rice paper) on the block.
I rub the back of the paper with my spoon (I’ve only ever used one soup spoon I stole from my parents 25 years ago-please don’t tell them.)
When I can see the image through the rice paper, I pull the print off of the block to reveal what you see here.
It’s always a shock to see the print at first, because It’s a mirror image of the block, but it settles in after I pin it to my wall and live with it for a while.
My images document where I live or what I see on a daily basis- NYC streets in the winter, Nantucket Harbor in the summer (where I teach painting and drawing), or the wonderful woods in Orange County New York, where I have a small cabin.
I hope you enjoy the images and feel the passion I put into them.

Thank You,


John Carruthers