Working on the Wood Block

Very cold this morning. I tried going for my walk at the river but turned back about a third of the way upstream. The river is rising slowly.

On the way back to the car the sun broke the horizon. But I was committed to getting a latte to take home by then and checking in with the cleaning lady.

I also wanted to do a catch up on my grey owl woodcut. The drawing was finished and then transferred to the block.

Lots of pencil work on each side of the kozo paper. Then using a felt tip marker to put the blacks in. I need to do this to actually see how it might look and give me a clear idea of where to carve.

Then a start on the carving. Getting the whites cut first on the face.

I use a baby powder to sprinkle over the cut marks so it shows up white and gives me more information. Then I just keep going. It is hard to stop once I  begin. It is the hypnotic sound of the wood being rolled up and away ahead of the cutting tools. I end up saying, “Just a little bit more.” Then I stop long enough to take the block over to where it can be partially inked up with a roller.

Now I see where more delicate carving needs to be done on his face. All the wood will be carved away to the right of the owl and below the branch he is sitting on. I wonder if a bough of pine needles need to come in from the top. No. I don’t think so. So I let him sit and hope the ink dries up quickly after blotting it off the block.

I am not displeased with the body and tail of the owl but think the face needs to be lighter. It gets problematic at this point because once the wood is removed, it is gone and that area will show up white in the print. How much white? His face needs to be lighter than his body but not as light as his beak and lower cheek areas. So he sits for a couple of days.

And at three this morning I awake with the idea of doing the owl in chine colle. This way I can add a lighter grey tissue type paper for his face and a slightly darker grey for the body/tail areas. That way he will stand out from the tree he is in. Of course when you might see these birds in real life they are hard to distinguish from their perches. But I don’t want that in this print.

I want it more like this block print I did of the front yard that is not only chine colle’d, but has added fabric bits in key areas.

I won’t add fabric but do like the idea of colored papers setting the owl apart. So even though the block is a bit sticky, I will go about lightening up his face and searching for the right greys in my mostly packed up papers.

One thing I have learned is that the Great Horned Owl is a more popular subject for wood blocks because he has interesting tufts up top and much larger more expressive eyes. Plus he has more of a contrast in coloration of his feathers.

Here are two prints by Fannie Mennen that I bought from the Southern Highland Craft Guild several years ago. I had them framed together. Her owl was irresistible! And the Christopher Morley quote is constantly inspiring.

In my new house there will be several wood block prints in the main living area. There is such a mark of the hand in these type prints. Most of my favorite pieces have that carved, hammered, manipulated by hand look. Hand built pottery over turned on a wheel. Gouged with hand tools and strength rather than machines. The physical effort is so evident in the work I most appreciate and like living with.

Anyway, I am off to do a bit of carving….

Til later…