Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A good session.

The block isn't far off completion and I have to say you 'see' before you a happy woman. I was a bit worried about the cutting of the area on the base mound of the thumb. My previous attempts at cutting long variable-width lines with the spitsticker have been...err...variable...but not in the right way! So it was with trepidation that I girded my loins and set to.

Well, what do you think of the lines? I'm pleased, very pleased. They went exactly how I wanted them to. Not only that, during the cutting, something in my understanding went 'click' as I raised and lowered the burin to vary the width...I feel I've stumbled up another step in the engraving learning curve.

This engraving session was meditative in it's intensity. Time simply flew by; I was unaware of how late it was. So much so that when I did happen to glance at my watch, I had to down tools and scoot to prepare supper for my homecoming menfolk, hungry from the rugby pitch training session. That's how printmaking should be.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Look what my arty Mum and I found in an old drawer in her studio. Some old lino and woodblock printmaking stuff she bought decades ago and hardly used! There's an old William Mitchell lino cut set, complete with diddy roller. Also an unopened pack of basic woodcut tools; even some type-high lino pieces. They'll be fun to play with.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Give me a hand?

After engraving feet in my last block, I've found myself doing hands...or a hand anyway. I wonder if my future blocks will incorporate knees and boompsiedaisy?

Back to the block. I recently bought Simon Brett's wonderful book 'Wood Engraving, how to do it' and if you're interested in engraving at all, it's highly recommended. The publishers have gone out of business, sadly, but Simon has a stock of his books which he will sell to anyone interested. This book showed me how to sharpen my tools better and a new way to hold my burins, which gives me more control and that was just for starters. He goes through the engraving process, both practically and also dealing with the 'thought processes' that go with the craft.

So, I resharpened all my burins, cut a couple of little off cut blocks as samplers to get used to my new grip, then it was time to reach for another small offcut and have a play. I wondered briefly what to do as the block was an irregular rectangle then saw my hand there on the end of my wrist and thought...'That'll do'. I have always had very lined hands so can go a bit mad with texture and creases, which sounds like fun. I decided to try Simon's method of cutting the block starting from the dark tones and working up to the lightest, without touching the 'outline' till last.

I darkened the block (not sure what wood it is but it'll be either box or lemonwood) and copied my pencil sketch onto the block. (The old paperweight in the top photo is to raise my hand to almost the same height as the block as I sketch.) To make sure I didn't go too awry I made use of my late father-in-law's calipers but kept the sketch loose. Then I shaded in pencil and sprayed the block with fixative (Tesco's hairspray) to keep the pencil marks from smudging.

Next job was to begin pecking at the darker tones with my small spitsticker. And that's as far as I've got today.

Just a little grouch...why aren't engraving tools standard sizes? My set is twentyeight years old, from Lawrences, but the numbers on their shanks defy logic. If I wanted to buy any more sizes I'd have to make sure I wasn't getting a size I already have. I do have enough for my needs now though, fortunately.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Final print

It took me a while to sort out and finish cutting ,but here it is. There are bits I like and bits I'm not happy with, but I'm never totally satisfied with any of my work. I've learned a considerable amount from creating this block, both in cutting and printing. In that, it's been a very positive experience.

Now I've taken the decision to use part of my working week to apply myself to my wood engraving I hope I make faster progress and return the element of creativeness to my working week. My recent educational illustration jobs have been something of a treadmill in their repetitiveness and inflexibility (the sheer amount of it, too has been draining) and I'm feeling stuck in a rut. to my sketchbook to plan my next block. I still have a maple piece and lots of ideas. Watch this space!