Thursday, June 30, 2016


Onto the third block now. This one will take the longest to carve as the lightest grey is in most areas of the print and underlies the other two colors. I start in the upper left slowly working my way down the block taking care not to loosen any of the more delicate pieces of carved wood.

More carving this time on the right side. I'm mostly using an Exacto knife with a fine sharp blade to do the shaping of each area, then a thin v-gouge to remove the wood around the carved areas. Larger areas are taken out with a wider c-gouge and a flat chisel.

Here the block is mostly completed - it has taken quite some time to get to this point. Mainly because I am new to woodblock carving and also because I am taking care not to break off any of the small carved shapes of the somewhat delicate wood.

Knowing that I could lose some of the carved areas when printing, I decide to carefully add thin superglue to most of the smaller shapes on the block reinforcing the glue of the plywood. I pour out a blob of glue then using a thin piece of wire, add glue around the base of each carved shape. This of course takes ages but I am at last satisfied that the wood won't come off of the block later on when I start the print run.

And here is the block with the image washed off and the wood dried. As you can see, there is a lot of detail on this one - trust me to choose such an intricate image for my first woodblock print!

And here is the 4th block in the series. This one was the simplest as it will only be used for printing the blue of the eyes.

Finally I'm finished with all the carving! It really has taken some time but here are the four blocks shown together. So far I'm happy with how things have gone. Next onto to some test printing!

Monday, June 20, 2016


Onto the second block now. Here I am working on removing the wood around the areas that will remain the darker of the two greys. Since I will be using transparent color for the printing, I can safely overprint these areas without creating any problems which would be much more difficult if I was to use opaque oil-based ink. I carefully note which area has to remain on the block then as before, cut around then remove the excess wood with various gouges etc. It's slow work but hopefully I will be able to make many prints from the finished blocks.

This pic shows the completed dark grey block with the registration marks in the lower right and left. Next I'll take the block to the sink and carefully wash off the remaining paper image that was glued on before I started.

And finally the block ready for printing. Since there are more areas in the print that will be dark grey, this block took a bit longer to do compared to the first one. Still, things seems to be going along okay, the real test of course will come during the printing process. Then I'll be better able to compare sample prints to each other and see if I need to do any modifications with the registration etc.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


After deciding to attempt a woodblock print from scratch, I took a look in my garage through the wood pile and found the remnants of a sheet of plywood that I had used to make a cabinet. The surface looked quite smooth so I cut the sheet into four 7" x 9" pieces on my table saw. These were given a little sanding around the edges to clean up any rough spots then the top surface was lightly sanded with fine sandpaper and dusted off.

I scanned my original image of the tiger into my computer then resized it to about 5" x 7". This was printed out onto 4 sheets of white tissue paper that I had taped to regular printing paper sheets. I should have used Japanese Gampi tissue paper to print onto as it is much stronger but didn't have any so the domestic tissue had to do. This was then pasted face down onto one of the plywood blocks. I tried to get is as square as I could but wasn't too worried as I would cut the registration marks according to the print and not to the edge of the block. I didn't have the proper tools so had to make do with a x-acto knife and a few linocut carving tools that M gave me.

Not really knowing what I was doing, I proceeded with cutting the two registration (kento) marks on the lower right and bottom left, then began cutting away all of the wood around the areas that I wanted to print black. This took quite a long time as although the image looks quite simple, there was a lot of detail that I wanted to capture in the print.

Slowly getting there! The plywood was quite soft so it came off quite easily, the problem was making clean cuts so as not to flake off any of the wood that had to remain on the block. I used a gouge to remove the wood in some of the larger areas but had to be very careful not to slip and make any mistakes.

Finally all the carving was finished for this block. I left a ridge of wood that extended up somewhat between the eyes as this would support the sheet of paper when it came time to print. This would stop the sheet bowing down and picking up any stray ink from the block and ruining the print.

Next I took the finished block to the sink and gently washed off the tissue paper using a toothbrush. I was careful not to scrub too hard as the glue used on plywood sheets is very thin and doesn't hold the layers together that well. I didn't want any of my carved areas to come off.

I inked up the block then made a few test prints on ordinary copy paper - not bad so far. The wood held the water-based ink well and with enough rubbing, it transferred to the paper quite well. I know that the printing process will get better as I practice and using better paper when printing will also help. Most of what I have learnt about woodblock carving has been from the incredible David Bull. See much more on his multi-faceted website - Next onto carving one of the color blocks.

Monday, May 30, 2016


I have been interested in woodblock prints for many years and still very much enjoy the ones in my collection that I purchased some time ago. So after doing a lot of research and practicing on a few scrap pieces of wood, I decided to try and create a woodblock print from scratch. The close up of a white tiger shown above is the result. There should be a bit more variation in the greys but I'm still not quite up to speed with the printing aspect so will have to experiment a bit more until I am able to complete a full print run. This one was the best of the few that I did but it is only on cheap photocopy paper so should get better results on proper printing paper. I'll document the whole process in the next post. Size is 5" x 6.5".

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Spring brings it's surprises and early one morning I went down to the lake to find a pair of Double-crested Cormorants there. They had obviously spent the night at the lake so I quickly set up and began sketching and painting through my telescope. The bird that I concentrated on was sitting on a slightly submerged branch and with the mist gently floating over the surface of the water, was an irresistible subject. The morning sun added a wonderful element to the scene and I whiled away the time working in my sketchbook. After a few studies were completed, I began the painting seen here. Most of the painting was finished in the studio where I was able to more easily control the multiple washes of color on the paper. Size is 15" x 11", watercolor on Saunders paper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


An older painting that I'm thinking of doing a larger version of. The scene is at my local lake over in the reserve just as the sun goes down. I was captured by the orangeish evening light and the reflections in the water contrasting with the darker tones of the landscape. I find much enjoyment in trying to capture a quiet restful mood in scenes such as this. Size is 9" x 12", oil on canvas. Private collection.

Monday, April 18, 2016


This bird was present at Mai Po Nature Reserve in Hong Kong where I was able to study it for awhile and do a number of studies. It was in a party of  6 or 7 other stilts hanging about on the mud of Deep Bay waiting for the rising tide. The view of this birds was into the sun and it had a wonderful halo of white around the head and neck - this was something that I wanted to capture in my painting. Starting as always with a careful drawing, I then laid in the background colors wet into wet then concentrated on finishing the water and the muddy bank. The bird was rendered mostly in shades of soft grey. In Winter, stilts have a beautiful elephant-grey hindneck which turns to black as Summer approaches. I used a greenish black for the back and wings. The improbably long legs were a deep red. This study like so many others is a way of exploring birds in their environment and also as a means to further determine artistic possibilities in the future. The watercolor is 7.5" x 11" (19cm x 28cm).