Pep Brocal & Blanca Hernández

Pep and Blanca love hand print xylography since it allows multiple images without losing the essence of the author. The fact that the technical process demands simple images leads them to try other solutions that influence the result positively. 

Essentially, what they have discovered by working together is the possibility to reach amazing results that they would not reach separately. It’s like if they were three: the pieces that they make separately and the result of the shared work.

How did you discover the printing world and why did you choose it as a form of expression?

Blanca studied engraving at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Barcelona and when we met she invited me to work with her on a xylography project. What it started as an experiment turned into a common passion. Since then, we have learned a lot from our mistakes. Every time we have a new project in our hands we want to learn something new. It’s a technical challenge for us!

There are many ways to create a xylography, each implies a different process: reduction woodcuts, adding colours, collages. A particular aspect of our woodcuts is that we always print by hand, without a press. This gives us the possibility to make it anywhere with minimal tools: a wood, a roller, ink, paper and a homemade baren.

Sometimes we work together on the same image, while we also continue working on our individual projects.

What are you creating in your atelier right now?

Lately, we have been preparing xylography works for The Miró’s Foundation and for the Plom Gallery. These days we have been preparing an image for the book that Miscelanea Gallery will publish with Stendhal Books to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Could you describe your work routine and environment and (if it does) how this affects your creative process?

Last summer we had quite a big workshop. Now we have a smaller one. However, we have been able to adapt both space to our needs. Depending on what we are working on, xylography or serigraphy, we manage the space differently. Printing by hand gives us this advantage. Any table can turn into a work spot since we do not have any press. The space we work in does not affect our work. Still, a bigger atelier is a better space

We don’t engrave not print every day. Depending on the work load we we can dedicate more or less time to xylography. Sometimes, the entire study smells like ink and sometimes we really miss that smell.

Tell me about your process, how do you start, how does it evolve and finally, which are the materials you use?

We start by making drawings of whatever we have in our heads. Once we have decided what we are going to do (together or separately) we simplify the image in order to adapt it to the technique trying to reduce any insignificant detail to have the best result. The main aim of working together is to reach results that we would not obtain separately. We exchange our drawings so the other one can transform it until we achieve a result that we both consider brilliant. Sometimes, we do not know whose creation it is. It’s a hard exercise, but definitely recommendable for the ego and teamwork. The next stage is to transform it into a xylography cutting the woods and soaking them.

We work with varied woods and supports (DM, plywood, beech) with gouge, Japanese knives, ink printing, offset and paper. These are the materials that we use to make our xylography work but depending on what change it according to what are creating (serigraphy, collage, etc.).

In order to do a xylography you must follow these steps:

Once you have decided the final image, you pass it on wood (the image must be inverted) you prepare each colour in different woods and then, you adjust the colour in order to make the colours coincide when printing. After, cut each wood, prepare the base of the colour, cut out the paper, choose and prepare the colours (Normally starting from the lightest one) apply the ink with a roller over the wood that you’ll print. Then over the paper depending on the colour registration and then, you print it by rubbing the paper with a baren (the baren is a Japanese tool for hand printing) and, there you go! You have the first colour printed. After, repeat the same process.

Before making an edition, we make colour proofs until we decide the one we like the most. These are testing states or artist proofs. Our editions are not much longer than 10 or 15 copies.

Which is the most difficult aspect to decide during the process?

The most difficult part of the process is thinking, deciding, choosing the context and the idea, what you want to communicate with the image. Actually, the technique is not the hardest part of the process. Cutting and printing is very easy, like a Zen exercise! Deciding what to create is definitely more complicated.

Do you try many materials or do you prefer to work by following certain parameters?

We mainly work with xylography, because it allows us to try different ways of applying it. The process will be different depending on the plan. We also like to try other printing techniques like serigraphy, lithography, offset and linocut. These techniques bring us new knowledge and influence the way we set out our projects.

Some weeks ago, we took part in a Japanese xylography course, with the engraver Sebi Subirós from Lupusgrafic. It was very interesting. The tools, the inks or the printing system was not at all related to our western printing techniques. Everything was new for us. Completely recommendable for print lovers!

Tell us about what inspires you from the printing world or other fields (cinema, music, etc.)

Since we are enthusiastic about many things is difficult to make a list of what has an influence on us. For example, from the xylography world we like the cord stickers from Brazil, the Japanese xylography works, and Roman Klonek from who we have a xylography in our dining room. Also other artists as: Kees van Dongen, Kirchner, Brueghel, outsider artists as Bill Traylor; illustrators and designers as John Broadley, Atak (Georg Barber), Olle Eksel, Jirí Šalamoun. Architects like Jean Prouvé. Films: Béla Tarr, Kaurismaki, Dreyer, and Renoir. Books by Hrabal, Simenon, Stanislaw Lem. Promotional adds from the 50’s…and we’ll stop here because otherwise the list would be too long!