Woodcut: King of the Blues

A woodcut marathon this weekend!

Working for the first time on MDF board, I completed an artist proof hand pull of an image that I almost did as a small linocut, and I am so glad I took the plunge with larger MDF board!

“King of the Blues” is my tribute to not only B.B. King, but to his (and my) home state of Mississippi. The blues were born in the Mississippi Delta, and many of the greatest blues musicians were as well. By using the shape of the state as the borderlines for the main image, I tried to convey that feeling of coming forth from it.

King of the Blues Woodcut

King of the Blues Woodcut

Now, as this was the first time I used MDF board, let’s discuss its pros and cons…


  • Inexpensive for it’s size (a 24×48 board ran me less than $10)
  • Very easy to carve and cut
  • Absorbs ink well


  • Dulls your blades quickly
  • Absorbs ink TOO well
  • Difficult to seal, as it absorbs so well
  • Seems somewhat brittle at times, especially if you dig to deep

So clearly, it would seem that I think the pros outweigh the cons, but here is the thing, I enjoyed it.

This image will ultimately be a limited print. I pulled a few section tests on butcher paper and then one Artist Proof test on 20×33 inch, 140lbs watercolor paper. The butcher paper was continually coming back lacking full saturation, and I felt that was the fault of the paper and the wood.

However, when I got ready to pull the first Artist Proof, I found that the MDF board was soaking the ink up as an amazing rate. I ended up using more ink that I ever have before and was actually worried that I still did not have enough on it. As you can see from the above image, I may not have. But, this is also the fault of my pressing method, which involves a rolling pin and body weight.

What I found interesting was my first worry proved false; that the wood would resist the ink due to the shellac layer I used to seal the design down. Nope, but again I wonder if this was part of the spray shellac I used or the MDF’s high absorption rate.

Currently I am planning on making a few adjustments, those include thinning my ink slightly and pre-watering the paper. Both of these methods combined should raise the absorption rate of the paper, but may do the same to the wood. Anyone out there with MDF experience feel free to drop me a line and share your experiences or techniques.

That said, I did get a little crazy with the inking, and inked WELL outside of the image area. I have to do some cleaning up outside of the outline. The above print was large, larger than anything I have done, and I ended up getting a little assistance in placement from my wife.

After I clean it up some, I have a novel way of printing the run, and will start that with just a little research.

It may be offered as a limited print, the size of which will be determined by how long the wood cut lasts. I really don’t think its lifespan will stretch much into the double digits, and I’ll be ecstatic if I can get a run of 10 after another Artist Proof.

If you would like to be informed when the run is available for purchase, including prices and other information, feel free to let me know in the comments and I will start updates as soon as they are available.


Printmaking tonight…

A few weeks back I finished up a series of linocut pieces for the classic EC Comics three horror host, The Old Witch, The Vault Keeper, and The Crypt Keeper. Tonight, I prepare to hand pull some prints.

The original art graced the covers of many of the EC horror comics, mainly Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, and the Haunt of Fear. Jacks Davis was the original artist, and I based my #linocuts off of his work. I love the Graham Ingels art that came alter, but The Jack Davis work had a simplicity ot it that appeals to me.

The first one I did was The Old Witch…

The Old Witch

Kinda tough, the color adds a lot in the original, but I was able to transfer it and got close to the original look.

The next one was The Vault Keeper…

The Vault Keeper

This one I was not as happy with, I shaved off a spot on the chin I did not need to, and they eyes are suspect. I need to do a repair on the chin and we will see how this one comes out.

The last one was The Crypt Keeper…

Crypt Keeper

This one I am extremely happy with! My transfer came out great, my hand did not start cramping up, and it was very representative of the original.

The point is that I am about to sit down and do some really-real prints of these tonight. The image area is 7×5 and will be printed on 8×10 paper 100lbs printmaking paper.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.