Thursday, October 4, 2012

it's alive!: woodcut prints by loren kantor

(4" x 6", black ink print)

I love this Boris Karloff (Frankenstein's Monster) woodcut by L.A.-based artist Loren Kantor.

Check out more of his work on his blog where prints and custom carvings are available for purchase.

Here's a statement from the artist:

I was first exposed to woodcut prints in the 1980's when I attended a German Expressionist art show at L.A. County Museum.  I was blown away by the stark lines, bold imagery and powerful subject matter.  In the 90's I lived in San Francisco near the Mission District where there was a gallery on every block. I encountered a new generation of woodcut printing, largely from Mexican artists.  I fell in love with the genre but I never anticipated making woodcuts myself. 
About 4 years ago my wife bought me a woodcutting set for my birthday.  I watched a few youtube tutorial videos then I dove in headfirst. I cut myself often at first (the blades are quite sharp), but over time I got the hang of things.  We needed some art for our walls at home and I've always loved classic movies, particularly film noir. I got the idea of carving images of my favorite old movies.  I later learned the roots of film noir cinematography came from German Expressionist movies so this provided a nice link to the woodcuts.

Lauren Bacall, (5" x 7", black ink print)

The process begins when I find an image or photo that inspires me.  I make a pencil sketch of the image then I transfer the sketch to a wood block or a linoleum block. Using woodcutting blades, gouges & awls, I slowly carve away at the block.  The areas I carve will show up as "white" (they do not print). The areas I do not carve will print; they show up as "black."  This is a bit of a mindjack at first; it forces you to visualize things in reverse as if you're staring into a mirror. 
Once the block is carved, I clean it to remove excess residue then I apply a thin layer of ink. I place a piece of a acid-free, archival paper atop the block then I hand press the paper using a "baren" (a Japanese tool that resembles an air hockey paddle). Each print comes out slightly different depending on the amount of ink on the block and the amount of pressure applied.  The yield for each block is about 40-50 prints before the block starts to degrade.  The whole process takes about 40-60 hours, depending on the image.  It's crucial that you take your time.  Small mistakes you learn to live with.  If you make a big mistake, you have to start over from scratch. The process is quite meditative and it helps me to slow down and relax.


  1. Amazing portraits!
    Love woodcut!


  2. I love these! I used to do woodcut prints as a hobby when I was younger! These are beautiful!