MC Escher, and printing block materials

MC Escher


Escher’s early linocuts are masterful in their use of different hatching effects to create areas of light and dark, and, thus depth.

At times this looks very decorative, pattern rather than meaning.

Some of it is quite similar to painting in the way solid shades are suggested through shading. It is also quite representational, in the sense that “accurate” information is given about the external markings of a particular form, e.g. a bird in this print.

Printmaking presents so many choices, even when using only one colour.


Not only colour, but also printing materials, present a range of choices. When researching other works, I tend to look at both woodcut and lino, mainly because there seems to be a lot more of the former. I now have experienced making relief prints using vinyl, softcut and “real” lino. The latter I just managed to procure recently, and it’s a revelation- a much, much more satisfying experience than the others. I actually dislike the sliminess of the softcut. By contrast, real lino is crisp and crunchy to cut. It’s a tactile pleasure, as was cutting wood. It feels like “carving” too. Softcut and vinyl, it’s not “carving”, it’s more like some culinary experience, like slicing ham or something. It makes a difference.

Escher’s prints are mainly woodcuts, although he also used lino. His linoprints of reflections in water are beautiful. In the catalogue I have from last year’s exhibition in Granada, which is written in Spanish and English, his prints are mainly categorised as either “woodcut” or “xylography”. I’ve tried to find out the difference, but internet definitions give them both as the same thing. A search for images gives the same results for both. The Spanish translation however, has them as either “xylografia” or “xylografia a fibra”, and I’m wondering if this has something to do with cutting either with or against the grain, a feature of woodcutting that lino doesn’t have of course. I don’t read Spanish, but came across a reference to a contemporary printmaker called Francois Marechal ( wonderful prints on the website at  A search on Google came up with some marvelously fine prints, plus some that actually used the grain of the wood in the image. I can’t see the connection to Escher’s though.

Anyway, that was just an aside….


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