Massive Woodcut Prints Are Dense Scenes Telling Dreamy Stories

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

Woodcuts stand out for their unique and striking aesthetic. As one of the oldest forms of printmaking, it has been used across different countries and even influenced the art of painters like Van Gogh and Monet. Tugboat Printshop carries on the tactile beauty of this medium by producing exquisitely detailed woodblock prints. Founded by artist Valerie Leuth, the Pittsburgh-based studio specializes in complex designs full of dreamy narratives.

Tugboat Printshop has been producing prints since 2006. The subject matter varies from dense landscapes to botanical designs and even architecture. Leuth finds inspiration for her art from many different aspects of life. “Sometimes inspiration comes from a breeze, a vantage, a flower, a scientific realization,” she explains to My Modern Met. “Sometimes it is a dream, or a story, a song, a rhythm, a pattern. Often it is the sky. I hunt for context, for joy, for meaning, for application in all I encounter. The visual language I have developed in the making of my prints serves to join and share the sentiments I cull from experiencing.”

Creating woodblocks is a time-consuming and meticulous process. But, this is part of the appeal to Leuth. After drawing the initial design, the next step is to carve it onto a block of wood; a procedure that can take a lot of time. “Though the process of making woodblock prints is lengthy, it suits my approach,” Leuth continues. “Each step requires its own complete skillset and a different action of the hand—drawing, carving, printing. When I am done drawing, I am ready for the action of carving. When done carving, I am eager to stand and roll ink, tear paper, to bustle around the press and shop.”

When it is time to transfer the carving onto paper, Leuth must prepare by applying ink to the woodblock in layers. “How ink is applied to the block, how paper is registered–all exceptionally important in the creation of a fine print,” she adds. “I do not use computers, I do everything by hand. The handmade nature of my work is important to me, and I give intention and care to every detail.” Clearly, Leuth's painstaking process pays off, as each print comes out vibrantly on the paper.

You can purchase prints via Tugboat Printshop's online store, and keep up to date with Leuth's latest projects by following her on Instagram.

Artist Valerie Leuth is the creative force behind Pittsburgh-based studio Tugboat Printshop.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

She celebrates the beauty of traditional creative techniques in her portfolio of exquisite woodcuts.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

Each of her pieces is made by hand, by meticulously carving designs into wood.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

After preparing the block of wood, Leuth then sets to work on covering the engraving with layers of ink.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

This prepares the woodcut for the printing process, in which Leuth presses a piece of paper to the design.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

When done correctly, the design should transfer to the paper.

Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop Woodcuts by Tugboat Printshop

Tugboat Printshop: Website | Instagram | Twitter

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Valerie Leuth | Tugboat Printshop.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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