top of page

Marcus Wood

LARGE WOOD CUTS 1982 - 2000

My big woodcuts were made on 12 layer Beech Plywood.  I would make a series of preliminary drawings, then suddenly paint the design with big sable brushes on the white wood surface with etching ink diluted in turpentine.  Then I would cut away the white spaces with a mallet and gouge over about a week, taking proofs as I went.  Then the prints were made on starched ironed white sheets.  Four of us worked furiously with barrens from the outside in. We tried to meet in the centre before the ink had begun to sink in and make the imprint faint and uneven.  When the prints were dry I then coloured them by hand with watercolour, which sunk into the uninked parts of the paper, or textile, while the inked parts were waterproof.

My move towards big prints was inspired by exposure to the extraordinary work of the Japanese print master Munakata.  When it comes to big prints on wood he has few Western competitors. The great German print maker Hap Grieshaber comes closest and his work also informed my technique.


I worked in lino-cut for a short period.  I liked the clean white line on blocks of saturated colour. What I disliked was the feeling of the line under the gouge.  When cold the lino was both gritty and slippery to cut.  When warm it had the disgusting feel of thick rind like skin, I always had the feeling I was cutting through the epidermis of a walrus or even a whale.  I never went back to it after 1980.


These small playful cuts were made for a variety of projects and publications over the last thirty years.  The runaway slave is one of several I engraved on boxwood, the design exactly based on the original runaway slave advertisements which appeared in poster's and newspapers across the Atlantic slavery diaspora for over two centuries.  I wrote about the image its mystery, its efficacy, its horror at great lengh in my book Blind Memory but I also found many ways of taking up its legacy in my art and film.


I started making large woodcuts when I was sixteen, I would find the chainsawed stumps of large trees, plane them down, and make and print them in the woods.  I would take a series of proofs as the wood became smoother and the chainsaw striations started to become fainter.  Images always appeared and they were always animals.  The grain and rings of the trees revealed hidden spirits, I just had to let them come out

bottom of page