Woodcut and wood engraving

...or xylography is “the art of engraving wood while preserving the image to print. A wooden plank used is called bois de fil because the board is cut with the grain. Artist use woods like cherrywood, pearwood, limewood, etc. as well as plywoods and other pressed woods. In the 19th century, appeared the end grain, a board cut up across the grain of the tree, the end grain, started to be used. It gives more resistance and allows for greater finesse because the wood can be engraved in any direction without being subjected to the constraints of the bois de fil. Boxwood is particularly adapted to this function. The tools used on this support are similar to the ones used to engrave metal (burin, scraper, gouge)”.
José San Martin, Biennale d'estampe contemporaine, Catalogue TRACE, 1986)

Engraving Reinvented

...using modern materials:
Since 1945, wood substitutes (linoleum, gerflex, plaster, synthetic materials) appeared on the market which are used alone or in combination by artist printmakers. Subsequently relief printing techniques have known a renewal in the last decades.

...using new techniques:
Today’s engravers practice engraving not only on wood, but also on various materials and reinvent the meaning of engraving, going from a limited use only applied to wood to broaden it to relief printing, with each material offering its particularities. Working with these newer materials is similar to working with wood (!) with the use of gouges and knives, by exploring the specificity of each of them. Electrical devices, abrasives and chemicals are added to the traditional tools thus allowing to partially burn, cut and inlay. An evolution in the imagery often ensues.

…in the broader sense of relief printing
:
Xylon identifies itself with only one printmaking concept, relief printing - printing from the raised surface, no matter what the technique and the material used for the realization. The setting up of the drawing on the planks is obtained in various ways, whether through a transferred sketch, by tracing the drawing directly with a paintbrush or with pencil, ink or by transfer. The drawing is preserved by cutting away undesired areas, leaving in relief only the image that will receive the ink for printing. The printing of the relief is done with a barren or with a press after rolling ink onto the raised surfaces according to the texture of the material used and the printing desired. For a colour print, generally one board is cut for each colour; with overprinting the palette easily broadens. Colour prints can also be achieved by subsequent cuttings of a single plank (gravure à bois perdu). As well as these traditional relief printing methods, artists deep etch their boards and print them like copper-plate engravings, others run their matrices through presses without inking, thus obtaining an embossed image. These various printing methods, like the various materials, are often combined within a single print. Other artists are inspired by the Japanese method of printing water-based colours on the same piece of prepared wood in complete freedom.