March 12, 2012 : Parson The New School for Design. Workshop – part one – a memo of my keynote presentation.

For a definition of  “carving”  and  “printing” and how to achieve it.

Carving as we encounter it in our daily life

On a hot summer  day  walking through the woods in the Pyrenees Mountains just at the very edge top ‘dividing’ France and Spain territories one may be happy to find spring water that does not come out of a plastic bottle [labeled from a company]. Free of charges, a pure liquid is popping out deep from the ground ready to help you moving on with your journey…this water is for everyone to enjoy and share even by opposing ‘enemies’ by trade: custom officers and smugglers. In the year of 1881 smugglers made a point by carving into a big piece of hard stone located just above the fountain a warming message [ in French] for the officers…an other warning message of a different nature casted into iron, a left over from an old Canadian wood stove remind one to ‘ remove the ashes daily’…So does “carving” carries messages?


stone sarcophagi hanging hight outside a church wall in Gerona, Spain

We all are very familiar with  “carvings”  because we are aware that they are linked to remote history – like with the case of this stone sarcophagi above. It is not so much because ancient or no so ancient civilization were only capable to produce this kind of technical work [ instead of laptops] …but it is rather because “carved “work has been able to endure the abuse/punishment of the time as well as repeated human destructions…to the point that on some cases ” carvings’ are the ONLY record left…

motif on concrete stairs made out the pattern of the bottle bottom, France.

The visual effect of “carvings” is not necessary produced by the means of hard hammering down. One has been able to obtain results simply working with soft material, some of them being able to harden lately – like melted metals, pottery and in more recent times with concrete. Most them serving very basic practical needs – above a textured walking surface to prevent it from being slippery [made by stamping a bottle bottom into fresh concrete ]…who has not seen “craved” words/graffiti’s on side walks … ” I love my mom “?

drawn with use of light, an RV’s pottery bottom and a door handle in Spain.

I never had the luxury of carving a block of marble, put I did tackled with clay  – one day as I was stamping my seal under the bottom of one piece I had the urge to “write” in the wet clay ” dessiner dans la lumiere” [to draw with ‘day’ light] – here the image of the letter is not reveal to the eye visually by the help of ink or paint but rather by indenting into soft ‘mud’. If, in any given surface, one can creates a difference of levels/highs one will be able to read it…the digging into, combined with the magic of light creates a ‘shade,’ this unable us to visualize images and words.

Con Edison’s street plate next to it is ‘rubbling’ transfer with pencil on paper, New York

Away from green mountains and 1881 ancient times, today in the New York asphalt we take for granted that we are walking on to of  the ‘ carved’ Con Edison’s steel plates  – YES, the very electrical company that allows us to use our’ virtual/digital’ devices. Including myself being able to communicate with you on this very blog. Con Edison is using strongest possible ‘carved’  tick iron plates ! Why ? One as to b e able to identify them and protect the cables below from the tare of the elements including car, trucks and buses running over it constantly.

I have no clue who had the idea of transferring a 3 D carved image into a 2 D flat material?  But if you stick your hand into the mud and than apply to almost any surface in someway you should be able to read the image of your own hand. In the case of the Con Edison’s plate one needs simply to apply a piece of paper and rube pencil over it, this creates a ‘transfer’, which could be labelled/named as being a “print”  – it has to be well understood that now a day almost anything is label “print” – in our case this word means  ‘transfer ‘-  we achieve this process by applying pressure or friction.

Now it should be out of confusion with wording definitions: ” Carving project” is our short cut name or ” Carving & Transferring Project”.

VIEW MORE: “Gravure à Vivre” a French lecture on engraving

Carving & transfer process: an assignment from the Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles book revue assignment – from start to finish – drawing idea and final publisher paper version

Here is an example describing from start to finish how a newpaper article idea was illustrated and then published April 2010 in the Book Review of the Sunday Los Angeles Times. The original art  work use the technic of “CARVED & TRANSFERRED “

Los Angeles Times – carving into linoleum block – detail

one creates an image by removing pieces of material with the use of ANY tool, as long as it is harder than the material one works with – in this case sharp & hard steel blade versa soft & pliable linoleum …Of course we are tempted to jump into the quick conclusion that the “stronger” wins over the “weaker” material.  But it is not so simple because by its nature the blade may have a tendency to over rule the linoleum, if this is the case I would have the drastic consequence on creating a very poor reading quality image . Only the mastering of [ this] two opposite strength, keeping balance and harmony, would make one eventually progress on any given project.

3 different stages of progress with the ‘carving’ using the same linoleum block. The goal being of creating lines and patterns. It has to be understood that one creates patterns by removing material as well as NOT removing material – one has mainly to achieve a balance of contrasting patterns in order to have an image come to life.

Los Angeles Times – the final carved linoleum block and its printed image created by the use of a press

In the final stage we “transfer”:  the carved block is coated with ” ink” on the NONE carved out part of  it – [process achieved with the roller]. Then paper  is put on top of it and pressure by any means is apply – [ in this case using a press]. While lifting the paper away from the block an image appears  as the symmetrical/mirrored of the block…adding always a zest of surprise.

So now we have come out with TWO separated forms of visual art – they do have a close relationship but esthetically  they appear to us visually different – the carved block being the “mother” and the transfer into the paper the “child” – like in a family the mother say unique but is could have multiple children …

VIEW MORE: ” The line “, published by the Sunday Los Angeles Time

we will meet on March 28,  for a real ‘ carving’ session of a block. Have your drawing ready for this class. – any questions or comment please kindly leave a reply – thank you for your participation.


 this project is my contribution as an invited guest artist to the art program class of Professor Steven Kennedy.

 drawings, linoleum cuts, photographs and texts copyright Raymond Verdaguer, 2012

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