Gillyin  Gatto





  1)  Drawing with     2) Carving with     3) Rolling on Ink  
    Japanese Knife       U-Gouge        with Brayer  
   4) Laying paper down           5) Burnishing   6) Pulling paper off  
      on inked block             with the Baren       block  


Relief printmaking is the oldest method of printing that we know. Each letter and all illustrations in early books were hand carved and printed. Inuit people carved softstone and printed from it; while in Europe and Asia, wood was the preferred carving surface. A woodcut is accomplished on the plank or side grain, while wood engraving is accomplished on the highly polished end grain. Years ago it was considered one of the trades

to be a carver or engraver.

By inventing the printing press and movable type, Gutenberg helped turn the woodcut into the creative art form it is today. The camera hastened this process, making the laborious method of hand carving to produce an image unnecessary. Now, in the hands of the artist, the process of making woodcuts is neither laborious, nor obsolete! IT IS FUN to take a regular planed piece of wood and turned it into a graphic design, using just a knife, gouges, ink and paper. Linoleum blocks are used interchangeably with wood but have a softer carving surface and no discernable grain. The grain in a plank can play an important creative role in the design and helps create textures. I draw directly on the block with white chalk and black marker, pencil or charcoal, establishing my black and white composition. Using a knife or X-acto I redraw many of these lines, especially the curves. Then, using a small or big u-gouge, I take away everything that will be white, using my knife lines as guides. At this point the gouge, in effect, becomes a white marker as each stroke with the gouge becomes a white line when printed. The repetition or building up of many marks creates patterns and contour. By taking away a large area of wood completely, a solid white is achieved. Simply put, everything that is carved out will be white and everything left as raised wood surface will be black.

When ink is rolled onto the wood with a roller or a brayer; it becomes just like the inked bed of a printing press. By laying paper down on the inked block, carefully smoothing it out and rubbing the back, the artist hand prints the block. To finish, the paper is burnished with a baren to insure uniform printing. I may also selectively rub different area of differing pressure with a silver spoon or my fingers. The printed paper is now pulled off the block and hung or laid on racks to dry. (Hence the term "pulling a print") I have carved over 150 blocks of wood and linoleum, many of these I sell as limited edition prints. I believe that woodcuts are the "peoples medium" and, as such, should be available at reasonable prices in galleries, shops, shows, and on the Internet, allowing regular people to become art collectors and discover the world of graphic print.

Lately I have begun making collages of my woodcuts, starting small and getting very large. Making the leap between art and craft, I have been making collages on room dividing screens, a functional piece. Art has a function in life that can often be overlooked or swept aside in favor of (seemingly) more practical things. I am exploring the healing energy and creative spirit that art can give the viewer as well as the maker. The spark of recognition that makes you think, laugh or cry, and the feeling of oneness with others when that occurs. As I carve scenes from my life in downeast Maine and the lives of my friends and neighbors both two and four-legged and winged, I find that people respond to them and see their own lives in the work. This helps me to feel connected and that a great sharing has taken place.

I hope you enjoy this website, return often, and become a collector!

- Gillyin Gatto
















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