Yesterday, while attending what I thought was a used book sale, I stumbled upon George A. Walker at a Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) event promoting the work of Canadian artisans and artists. Having only just the other day taken George’s book Graphic Witness out of the library, I was only vaguely familiar with wood engraving and relief printing techniques as a means of wordless graphic narratives. I was much more than vaguely excited by the accident I had made though.
What is great about relief printing is its rawness. It’s an art form that can evoke much more in the reader than just its story. The materials are raw: wood, ink and paper. The block itself can make endless amounts of prints. The black and white of the image is raw, based solely on the presence or absence of the wood and ink. And finally, without the presences of words the reader is left to decipher the picture based on emotion and experience through symbolism.
What I didn’t see in Graphic Witness was George Walker’s own work, and when I finally did I was extremely impressed. His most recent work is called the The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson. True to Walker’s inspiration Frans Masereel, The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson is many images long, and contains not a single word. The book is not yet commercially produced but there are beautiful copies available through Walker on his webpage.
That said, not all of Walker’s work is wordless. He has strategically paired his art with authors such as Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Neil Gaimon, illustrating works like The Raven and an alternate telling of Snow White. These works have inspired very creative art from Walker who is now working with The Porcupine’s Quill to establish other artists in the art form.