Raoul Deal is one of my colleagues here at UWM and a terrific artist and human being. He works a lot with the local communities in Milwaukee and has a way of bringing people together to create wonderful works of art that represent the social fabric of the various communities. He also happens to be humble, thoughtful, articulate and down to earth (a coupe of these attributes are rare in a University art department it seems).
Today Raoul and I took a one of his drawings and brought it into Rhino so we could get it ready to cut on the CNC router. I've been wanting to do something a bit more involved in terms of combining printmaking with the Digital Craft Research Lab capabilities and this was the perfect thing bring those two things together. We did some tests to see how engraving operations versus profile operations looked and made adjustments accordingly. Raoul had a mock-up print of what we were shooting for in terms of positive and negative, so this allowed me to select inside or outside profiles to create the necessary g-code. I ran another test on a full size piece of wood and then we were ready to do the real thing.
Raoul had already begun work on the piece that we were going to add the text to via CNC. I was a bit nervous about messing up his work, but he assured me that anything was "fixable"; something I happen to believe in metal, but not usually in wood. Anyway, we got the woodcut situated and aligned and put the CNC router to work. Several minutes later we were able to pull the woodcut off the table. The completed text turned out great and there are only a few places that Raoul and his assitants will have to patch. This kind of detail work would be difficult in this size of print, so this is exciting. Raoul still has a lot of work ahead to "clear" out the rest of the wood, but the combination of the hand and the digital should prove to be very interesting.
It's also cool to note that Raoul's lettering was hand drawn and scanned so it was interesting to see the router trace the marks of Raoul's hand in the section that was continuous line. Stay tuned for more woodcuts and an exhibition of Raoul's work in the near future.