Caren Loebel-Fried: Artist. Illustrator. Author.
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When I was a child, I spent summer days at the beach with my mother while she made woodcuts. I loved watching her strong hands work the tools, the metal blade gouging out thin lines of wood, and I would play with the curly strands left in the sand. I could spend hours this way without getting bored, because it was fascinating to see the image gradually revealed. My own block carving methods have developed mostly through experimentation, but luckily I have my mother to call on whenever I have a question or a problem.

When I make a block print, there is much work to be done before I even touch the block. Relying on my research of the legends and natural history, I try to represent the plants, animals, and life from the culture I am working with as accurately as possible. Sometimes it is a symbolic portrayal and other times a literal depiction of the story.

I spend a great deal of time developing my drawing on paper and do not transfer the image to the block until I am satisfied with its design. All cuts are permanent, and I have learned the frustrating lesson that when a cut is made by accident, the block is ruined. So I make sure that I am certain of every line before I do any carving. All areas that will appear white on the finished print are carved out of the block's surface. My block of choice is linoleum and I have found "Golden Cut" made by Dick Blick ( to be softer and easier to work with than the "Battleship Grey." While a variety of specialized tools are available for carving, my favorite is a simple mat knife with a fresh, sharp blade.

The printing is the most exciting part of the process-it's the "grand finale" and always a surprise. Ink is applied to a flat surface and rolled out, then spread onto the block, covering the remaining uncut surfaces. I carefully lay paper over the inked block and then rub the entire surface evenly with a wooden spoon. In a moment of tension and anticipation, I pull the paper slowly off the block and the final image is revealed. The colored images in this book all began as black and white prints on which I painted washes of color. Any translucent medium will do, such as watercolor paints, drawing inks applied with a brush, or artist's markers.

Block printing is a very pleasing medium with which to work. I enjoy its simplicity and knowing it is roots in history, dating back to ancient China, Assyria and Egypt. It also gratifying to continue the work that my mother taught me by example. Although the results are sometimes disappointing, most often I am happily surprised. The animals and plants I have studied and the legends I love so very much now have a life of their own in the dancing lines and shapes that sweep across the printed page.


All artwork and text on these pages Copyright © 2002-2014 Caren Loebel-Fried. All rights reserved.
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