My first woodcut

I have enjoyed the Linocuts, although my results with the actual prints have been rather variable. I really love using resources from photographers whose work I enjoy as it’s so much nicer than simply searching an image. It’s also brilliant to be able to follow other bird species that normally I wouldn’t get to appreciate. I’ve not travelled much, but I took a couple of trips to Canada when I was much younger, and I remember loons (and the bald eagle) being one of the species I remember. I saw a beautiful portrait of a loon on Brandi‘s feed, and was so struck by the wonderful monochromatic look and classic shape of the bird in the water, I wanted to try a Lino print as it would lend itself so well to the medium. When I asked her, Brandi kindly said I could use her image as a resource:

I ordered some new Zerkall paper and more Schminke ink from Jackson’s Art Supplies, and omitted to add any new sheets of Lino; Jackson’s are so efficient, I wasn’t able to add them to my order retrospectively as my items had shipped before they received my email! Hmm. I have a very experienced art friend who said previously that I should give woodcut printing a go, and I thought I would use my absence of Lino to have a go at printing with wood.

I am a beekeeper, so I had a rummage among my hive bits to see if there were any stray bits of cedar I could use, as Iain had said I could use my existing cutting tools on wood. Hive sections are about 1/2″ thick, and have quite a coarse grain – especially as many of my hives are seconds quality. Anyway, I am most definitely a process artist, and I was excited to try working with something so familiar to me in another setting in a way which was completely new.

I printed off a copy of the cropped photo and traced it on to the wood. I never use tracing or any sort of copying with my paintings, but as the emphasis here is on the print, I feel it is more about the lines and cuts I make rather than the basic outline which I wanted to get right.

Cutting across the grain was difficult, and it shed a lot of splinters. Please bear in mind I have done no research on how to actually do a woodcut so this is all experimental! I then used black ink to make a test print:

The wood is slightly warped, and there is also some streaks of propolis (the resin bees use to waterproof and sterilise their hive) hence the ‘Milky Way’ effect diagonally across the water! The fine lines around the throat and breast have not really come out as it is against the grain and puckered when I tried to cut it.

The block has started to fray at the edges, as the ink as soaked in to the cuts. Although this is far from the clean lines one expects from woodcuts, I really like the rough-hewn look, and the fact it’s from an old bit of beehive is even more interesting for me. I truly admire people and love the work of artists who produce the most gorgeous, detailed, perfect prints, but for me the creativity is at its height when I am actually making the artwork, rather than the end result, and using found or significant items provides another layer of connection. I don’t make digital prints of my birds, as I love the action of painting gouache on paper; I would rather paint another original than make prints.

I recently tried embellishing some of my previous linocut prints with black gouache, and really enjoyed the results. I think making prints which vary each time, so monoprints but using a relief method feels like an exciting thing to explore. Thanks again to Brandi for the use of her image, and here is one of the loon prints:

These prints measure 20 x 17cm and are available at £20 plus p&p.

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