Wood engraving is one of the oldest forms of printmaking and one of the simplest – in its fundamental process, if not in the highly detailed and diversely styled works that result.
Wood engraving has its origins in wood block printing, one of the earliest printing techniques, in the 15th century but it was not until the 18th century that the modern wood engraving method was invented, resulting in more finely detailed prints, by the British naturalist and engraver Thomas Bewick.
Prints are made using a block of smooth wood, into which the artist carves a reverse image which, once rolled over with ink, will be printed on to paper. The areas that stand proud are in black, the carved areas white. The Society of Wood Engravers (established 1920), which has organised this 80th annual touring open exhibition of an art which is historically strongly associated with book illustration, calls it “drawing with light”.
The call for submissions from society members around the world goes out every spring and the chosen works are, as ever, hugely varied, ranging from works designed as artist prints, to be mounted on the wall, to those designed for the page. There will be more than 150 works on display, including some other related forms of printmaking.
The Society of Wood Engravers 80th Annual Exhibition, The Pier Arts Centre, Victoria Street, Stromness, Orkney, 01856 850 209, www.pierartscentre.com, today to 16 June, Tue-Sat, 10.30am-5pm. If you’re in the area, don’t miss a demonstration and exhibition tour by wood engraver Kath Littler on 18 May at 7pm. After the Pier run, the exhibition will be at Woodend Barn, Banchory (24 June-21 July).