The process of making a woodcut print

Last Easter I was lucky enough to chance on a curlew nest ( I found out later that its actually the nest of a Golden Plover) whilst walking over High Brown Knoll on the moors above Hebden Bridge. I've been meaning to make a woodcut about it ever since and finally got my act together this week. Here's a set of images documenting the process.

Working from memory and a snatched photo, I made a bold drawing on paper with a chunkyish felt pen. Because a relief print will always come out as a mirror image its important to remember to reverse the image on the block (so easy to forget to do this when you're itching to get started!) Old fashioned carbon paper is what I like to make the transfer.

I always slightly darken the wood block with dilute paint or ink before cutting so I can see what's going on. For the past year or so I've been using 'Japanese Plywood' supplied by Great Art because its easy to cut, although it has its problematic aspects which I'll come to later. 

I'm still very happy with the Pfeil palm tools I bought in 2010 although I wish they did an intermediate width u shaped gouge, the ones I have are either very narrow or quite wide.

Cutting the design is hard work but also compulsive - I have to force myself to stop for a rest, as you make mistakes if you get too tired. And being analogue, there's no Command Z to put back that vital little sliver of wood you've just accidentally removed...

Its easy to be fooled by the range of grey tones where you've drawn on the block, in reality the printed area will be just black and white, positive and negative, yes or no, binary. 

Its always a shock when the ink goes on, everything looks suddenly bold. The ink roller is very heavy, the ink is so very sticky and just longing to spread itself everywhere you don't want.

Unfortunately only now I notice the wood block is warped and in some places seems to be resisting accepting the ink. This is a common problem with the Great Art plywood blocks especially if using the larger pieces. 

Contrary to what most people expect, the block goes ink side up on the press and the paper is placed on top. Brooklyn Studios' relief printing press is actually an old converted mangle but its very effective.

It takes a few attempts before an evenly inked print is finally revealed. This is a called a proof and there will need to be some minor changes to the shading on the eggs before I print up an edition.

Postscript: Here is a completed print made with oil-based ink on Simili Japon paper with watercolour hand tinting.

And this is a Turkish map fold booklet made from a digital reproduction of the original woodcut. More images and option to purchase copies available from:

Frosty January Morning

The lovely hoar frost earlier this week inspired a bit of sketching. I found it really difficult to capture the look of the frost, which to my mind looks like white iron filings.  Also, applying the speckles of white paint really knocks back the colour to a surprising degree.

Sorry about the confusing creases in the background - my bed was the best lit spot in the house this morning - shame the sunshine didn't last all day.

Sunshine Between Storms

A recent walk above Hebden Bridge during a golden interlude between storms.

CHEERS! - Here's to a happy 2012

This is life through the bottom of a glass - but in a positive way. When I first got my little Canon Ixus some years ago I went crazy for photographing glassware against a dark background with full on flash. Much Photoshop fiddling later the above image emerged.

Whatever happens in the coming year I'm hopeful that there'll be much to celebrate along the way.