Tuesday, January 11, 2011


My friend Bill Starke, suggested I should display some photos to illustrate the engraving process and I thought that was a good idea.  So, as I was about to start engraving a new block in the series See What I'm Saying, I took photographs of the block as I worked.  This print went through a number of title changes.  I started with the phrase, Change Your Mind, then Change Her Mind, then, Bill suggested Headlock, which I thought was good, but did not reflecting my motive (he wasn't aware of my motive behind the image).  The title I've finally given the print is My Mind is Made Up.  The first photo shows the ink drawing on the block and the block was stained, so I'd be able to see, more easily, where I  engraved.  The blocks I use are end-grain hardwood, similar to butcher blocks, only with a very smooth and flat surface.  In this case it's a maple block.  I stained the block by brushing oil paint lightly over the surface with a dry brush.

I started engraving and moved into more than one area to get a feel for the relationships between areas.  These early areas are usually places in which I am fairly confident of what I want to achieve.  The surface which is removed in the engraving process cannot be replaced so I need to be sure of my decision before removing it.  Ink will be rolled over the surface of the block during the printing process and since the untouched surface of the wood is what will print, I need to be sure of my decisions before removing an area.  Wood engraving is a process of bringing light out of darkness.

By this stage I hadn't printed a proof yet and wasn't sure what I would be doing with the area around the head.  It was time to see what I had.  It was time to print the image.  Quite often I start proofing earlier than this, but this one went differently.

I usually print two or three proofs so I can draw on them with white paint or manipulate the proofs in some way to get some visual feedback as to how my plans for the print will look.  It's safer to mess up a print than mess up the block.  The middle proof in this photo has had the paper around the head cut out with a razor knife and a piece of white paper set behind, so I can see what it would look like with the wood removed from that area.  I decided I wanted some major white areas around the head, but still didn't remove it all.  I kept drawing on proofs between engraving, until I arrived at the final stage.  This is the final print, My Mind is Made Up.

You can see the other prints from this series, as well as other wood engravings and drawings on my website: http://www.telusplanet. net/public/jimwest


Silvia said...

It's a very good work, congratulations

Federico said...

Absolutely beautiful, sensitive work. Wow!

Federico said...

Absolutely beautiful and sensitive work. Beautiful lines. Wow!