November Snow

Oh the irony - my post dated 13th October mentioned about a forthcoming book making workshop at Cartwright Hall on 1st December. The post ended 'I doubt if it will actually be snowing at the start of December but you never know...'

Well not only have we got snow but its quite bad, especially in North Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales where most of the workshop participants were coming from.  Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the session is cancelled, due to the weather, and thus highlighting one of the down sides of being self-employed - no work, no pay. Its very frustrating after I've done all the prep work, created a demonstration model and purchased some paper.  There really ought to be a cancellation fee, but of course artists are always treated shabbily in these situations.

Whilst the snow surely makes a big problem for getting around, it does compensate in the beauty stakes. So to cheer myself up, here's a very recent photo of The National Trust's Gibson Mill at Hardcastle Crags just up the road .

Winter Calligraphy in Window

A bit disappointed that the large-scale version of my Winter Calligraphy book wasn't able to go in the Scandinavian themed window at Spirals, as the space was too busy.  Its in the other widow and has a prominent position facing out onto the main drag of Hebden.  So I'm still hopeful it may create some interest and sales - I've had a few texts from friends who've seen it and recognised it as my work.

I've tried to take a decent photo quite a few times now but its impossible to get a good angle without getting run over and its always dark by the time I get down there so this is the best I can do.

Long-tailed Tits

A selection of my bird prints are now available to buy at the Craft and Design Centre at Leeds Art Gallery, including this latest one featuring 3 long-tailed tits feeding on Hawthorn berries.

The low temperatures and snowy conditions have forced the birds to be more daring about getting food and my tiny back garden has seen a much wider range than usual coming in a flurry of urgent wings. This weekend we've seen wrens bullfinches, thrushes, blackbirds, a sparrow, blue tits and coal tits.

The blackbirds have developed a way of launching themselves off a hanging basket towards the frozen remains of the black grapes left on our wall-trained vine.  We felt sorry for them and have put all the grapes on the ground for them now.

Giant version of Winter Calligraphy Book

One of my tasks today was to make a very large (for me!) version of my tiny concertina book called Winter Calligraphy.  Its for my friends Sarah and Helen, to be part of the Christmas window display in their shop Spirals on the main street of Hebden Bridge.  They are having a Scandinavian theme featuring winter trees, reindeer and other lovely festive things.  I'm really pleased to have been asked to contribute.

The photo is taken in my studio this morning, but you can't tell the scale so its hopeless really.
The pages are about 33 cm square, basically the largest size I can print on the old Epson 2100.

I meant to go down to the shop later on to see how it works in the window space, but got involved in a printing session and by the time I'd cleaned a huge slick of black ink and two rollers it was 6.30 pm and too late.

Hand-tinted Twite Woodcut

This is the hand-tinted version of the Twite woodcut fresh from the inking parlour!  (aka the clean corner of my studio space).  I am hoping to have these on sale at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery below Leeds Art Gallery in the very near future, along with some of my other woodcuts featuring song birds.

Cotton Grass

Hurrah! I've finished the fourth woodcut print for the Pennine Prospects commission.  Its not that I didn't enjoy the work but there's a certain satisfaction in getting the job done.  

Carving the block for this image was fast and easy, but just like the Twite, printing was a problem. The same flaw in the wood was apparent - not surprising since I sawed a larger block in half.  This time I had to resort to Makeready and Underlay, technical terms for adding customised paper padding above and below the block to affect the printing pressure in specific areas.  Eventually the patchiness resolved itself into even black printing - much to my relief.

I feel that this image could be enhanced by the use of different coloured ink and tonight I've been playing with Photoshop to get an idea of the colours I might use.

Printed Twite

So here it is - the first proof of the Twite print, in lovely black ink!

Its been a bit of a battle today as inking-up revealed some strange flaws in the wood which caused patchy printing initially, until I got the inking, pressure and paper just right.

This is the first woodcut I've done that features black line work as a major design element. It is very time consuming, but I'm happy to discover I can do it, and feel inspired to attempt more in the same vein.  And only two not-very-serious cuts in my fingers as a result of all that gouging.  I'm very pleased with the Pfeil woodcut tools I purchased at the start of the year, really sharp and comfortable to use.

Tweeting Twite

The woodcut block for the Twite is finished at long last!  You can see from the detail above that the image is reasonably complex for a woodcut and has demanded a lot of fine cutting - why did I choose to depict Yarrow, with its feathery leaves and tiny flowers? - well because its beautiful of course.  Tomorrow morning I will be taking the first proof prints - it'll be strange seeing everything in mirror image, having stared at it this way round for so many days.