To start everything off, printmaking could not have been invented if paper have never been invented. Paper was invented during the Han Dynasty in about 105 C.E; quickly spreading throughout Europe. As a sidenote, the word paper is derived from the word papyros- Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant from which the material used in paper was produced. The oldest surviving as well as oldest known woodcut , from Europe (approx. c. 1380), is known as the Bois Protat- a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion. Unfortunately, because of poor preservation, only one-quarter of the block has survived.
Printmaking is the process of creating original pieces, sometimes even copies in the case of monotyping, usually on paper. Monotyping is a production of multiple pieces that are of the same image, however, all slightly different and not considered a copy because each vary to some extent due to the variables in the printmaking process- unique qualities that the prints during printmaking processes lends itself to. And also, because a recreation of an image created for a monotype is not just a reproduction of an exact image but an interpretation or an expression of a piece. Another term for a print is an impression. Printmaking deals mostly with a creation of an image in any
number of materials some of these being: metal plates- copper or zinc; polymer plates; stone; aluminum; polymer; blocks of wood; or linoleum. So, through the transfer of ink through a screen or simply transferred via chosen (prepared) material to a sheet of paper- or other, a print is created.
Over time, like everything, printmaking became more and new techniques were created. Now there are many techniques and sub-techniques of printmaking- woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprinting- as a base. As discussed earlier, woodcut is the earliest known technique- originating and picking up around 1400 in China and later picking up and becoming popular in Europe. The earliest known text with image example of woodcut was a Buddhist scroll, known as the Diamond Sutra (approximately 17 ft long). In the end of the Ming dynasty in teh 1640s, a text, the Painting Manual of the Mustard-Seed Garden was produced. The piece was basically an encyclopedia of painting and was intended for instruction- filled with beautifully hand-carved instructions. It was later reprinted and a creation of the Painting Manual was born; taken to Japan, becoming the basic woodcutting-technique and being later developed.
In the early stages, the creation of woodcuts were mostly useful in stamping designs and patterns into fabrics, textiles, and playing cards but later became an important art form when Northern European artists such as Albrecht Dürer, began creating woodcuts for art purposes.
In order to create a woodcut, the artist starts out with a wood block, sketching out a design or composition, then using a tool to cut away the areas that will not receive ink- areas that will not be...