Second Day of Carving and Printing: Was It a Good Idea?

Eucalyptus 2 and 3


These are the things I learned today in reworking the board. First of all waking up in the night with a fully formed image in your head does not necessarily mean it will happen. Second, pure white paper is better than warm white which in Stonehenge is too yellow. And thirdly take the time to get the correct tool for the job in your hand first.

For some reason I thought there needed to be more leaves in the almost too much of a white background. So in image number two I added several and used another watercolor to fill them in, Victoria Green and a softer red for the stems, Emily Gap Northern Territory Orange instead of Red. So there are two different greenish greys for the leaves.

I printed the image using a warm white by Stonehenge and found it too yellow. And I thought I needed a another leaf off on the left side background so it did not look like it was dripping from the middle of the page. AND I also thought the gum nuts needed to have more white on them but not totally, so I carved out some of the brown areas. They are okay but I really think I like the plain old gum nuts of the first image better. But like I said in the previous blog, you can’t add back in the wood.

Eucalyptus all of them

So here is the third one redone with only the Victoria Green used for the leaves along with the softer red of Emily Gap Northern Territory Orange, and the extra leaf all done on a crisp white paper. This time I enlarged the groove around the outside of the image and embossed it with the correct tool….a teaspoon I borrowed somewhere in Australia and did not return. Notice in the second yellowish image that I tore the embossing of the outline because I used the same tool I used for embossing the leaves, etc of the image.

Eucalyptus first white line print


I just wanted to add this picture of the very first white line print I carved in a class offered by Mary Walker in Highlands, NC about five or six years ago. It was done on the pine board with knots that she handed out for us to use. This is the photograph I took to  class to extract an image of Eucalyptus leaves and gum nuts.

If nothing else I have made improvements in wood selection, carving and painting, but wonder if the simpler images are much better for this technique.

Starting a New White Line Print

Eucalypt image


I am starting a new white line print today based on a photograph I took of a beautiful Eucalyptus tree that I saw near the Grampians  and Bacchus Marsh this past March. It really is stunning and I wanted to see if I could capture the essence of it in white line. First I cropped the photograph to about where I wanted what would appear on the carved image. Then I drew just the parts that I thought were enough and traced that drawing. I had already determined the size board I would use and made sure my drawing was a size to fit in the right place on the board.


Next I transferred the image to the board using a red colored pencil over the pencil marks that are face down on the board.

Eucalypt transfer to board


I made corrections to the drawing on the board as well as the tracing paper and original drawing. It is very necessary to keep in mind the size line that the carving tool is going to make, which is always bigger than the pencil line!

Eucalypt original drawing and board


Once the initial carving is finished, I fill the grooves with white powder to get an idea of how it might look. Again I made changes where necessary but am very careful….you can’t add the wood back in!

Eucalypt with powder on board

Because this is an Australian image and I have over two hundred water colors I have made from the soils from there, I am going to use them to color this image in. There are only three colors I plan on using, for the leaves a Launceston Hwy Tasmania Light Grey, for the stems an Emily Gap Northern Territory Red and Mildura New South Wales Mud Brown for the gum nuts. For now I plan on leaving the background white with just the embossed edge keeping the shape of the overall image grounded.

Here is the first pulled print. Now I am wondering if I need to use a background color or not. And if I want to enlarge the carved lines….most definitely on the outside edge of the print. But since this took most of the day to get this far, I need to take a break and return to the studio to do some tai chi and yoga stretches…..then a stint on the treadmill and migun bed with another novel being read to me. And finish the day with a nice Australian red wine.

Eucalypt first print

Designing Books to Accommodate Added Pages/Prints

Three printmaking books for Baldessin inside


I am making up some samples of books that could accommodate the addition of prints. The spine must be made deeper to keep the book from having covers that won’t close properly after the additions.

And I am trying several that have no sewn bindings that will do the job. There are classes coming up in Australia in February and March of next year and I think these particular bindings could be very useful; not only for the addition of small prints but other papers as well.

I have also devised a way for a coptic binding to not only hold the prints but the previous page to act as a framing device for the print. The print could actually be removed from this design and then popped back in.

The more I have worked on them the more I realize that with planning ahead, a text such as poetry could be printed on the left hand page. It would require working out the image with appropriate text and laying it all out in the inkjet printed page. I think I will try this.

And I must remember to make a mock up first. This was one of two things that my instructor, John Risseeuw, insisted on back in 1994 when I took his class at Arrowmont. The other thing he stressed was have your content before you even start to make the pages for a book. Everything about the book, paper, form, binding, etc should reflect what the book is about. I do not recall making many blank journals in his class. And they were usually made from scrap materials to demonstrate simple bindings. He along with Dolph Smith were the two workshop instructors I learned the most from in the very few classes I ever enrolled in. Both stressed form following content.

I am presently enrolled in another class coming up at Arrowmont that focuses on surface techniques. Hopefully I will learn from the two designers teaching this class additional ways to have the “feel” of a book reflect more of what the book is about.

It has been several years since I was at Arrowmont and that was when I was teaching a class titled Content and Containment of Intimate Spaces, all about housing the bits and pieces of a personal experience. Some of my most memorable students have come from teaching this class. Their stories stay with me long after they have made their books and placed them into customized boxes of hidden spaces and objects of great importance to their stories.

The instructors for the class coming up at Arrowmont are asking that the students bring in samples of their work to see how their techniques can be helpful. I like that. Now I have two months to figure out just what to show them. It will probably involve earth pigments and the surfaces of books and boxes, but could be other things as well. I will just have to see what is going on in the studio by then. Right now I need to get back in there and begin coloring wood block prints of an iconic Australian tree using watercolors made from the soils down under.


Finding Homes for Unique Pieces



This is a piece I made about Lewis and Clark and their expedition out to the Pacific Ocean. It is titled, “The Expedition of the Corps of Discovery” and depicts their travels out and back between 1804 and 1806.

I wanted the book have the look of a satchel so I constructed the box to be slightly deeper on one side and sloping toward the other. The cover paper was treated in a way to look and feel like animal hide and the sides of the satchel are colored with the soils of Missouri.

Once opened a boxed compass that has its lid flipped up fills one window and its needle moves to determine north. It is compass that I found online that is a copy of the one given Lewis by the president at that time. Above the compass is another open compartment that holds bits and pieces that the explorers could have easily put in their pockets at the start of the trip near St. Louis. Below the compass in a third compartment are objects that could have been collected out on the coast. They are left open so the viewer can touch the small collected pieces.

What fills the section to the right is an accordion style book that depicts the trip out on one side and the return voyage on the other. It is interspersed with drawings and quotes from their journals and like the cover of the satchel is made of the same paper treated to resemble hide. The accordion binding is actually done using the piano hinge technique that has been wrapped with sinew to keep the pages up from ground level.





There are further embellishments to enhance the concept of a travel satchel and it ended up looking and feeling just as I wanted.

The piece has been on exhibit at least twice that I can remember but was never for sale. I don’t sell work like this. I just wanted first to do it and then to have others see it. Now I want to find a home for it. Preferably some place where there is other work about Lewis and Clark, perhaps a museum or a place housing a collection about the discoveries of the explorers.

If anyone reading this has an idea of where I can send this, please contact me through my website. I suspect there will be other artworks looking for homes as well but this one is a good place to start.