Thursday, December 18, 2014


I received a phone call yesterday from Art Boards. They have apologized for the quality of the block they sent me and have promised to refund the cost. I appreciate and admire that apology and I feel obligated to let you know of their apology. Mistakes can happen when building things and when restitution is offered for those mistakes it's time to move on.

I recognize now that if I hadn't invested so much time and effort working on that block, only to find the effort was wasted, I probably wouldn't have been so hasty to vent my spleen. So I apologize for jumping the gun and going "public" with this so soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


"Some days the bear eats you and some days you eat the bear" came to mind again. I was attacked by the bear and I suppose I learned another lesson. I hope so, anyway. I had ordered an engraving block from a block supplier in the US called Art Boards. I don't believe I've ever used their blocks before and thought I would give them a try. I ordered a 5 X 7 inch maple end-grain block from them, which they claim they make for wood engravers. When it arrived and I looked at it, it appeared to be a well made block… Not so!

I stained the block and began to draw on the block, from some sketches I had made for a new print in the series I call "Aliens Of Planet Earth". When I figured I had enough information on the block I began to do some general engraving, to give myself enough to print an early proof. I like to be cautious and print a proof at an early stage before I remove too much of the surface of the block.

I noticed, as I engraved lines that crossed the joints between sections of the block, fine crumbs of glue were coming out of the joint. The joints are supposed to be milled in such a way that there is no space between them, before they are joined with glue. The person making this block had filled the gaps with glue! I was stunned to see the joint opening up as the glue was crumbling out! I had worked on this image for three weeks, including the last three days of engraving and it was obvious that, with these thin white lines running the length of the print, I was going to have to scrap this block. But I decided to print a proof and see what it looked like. I started up the press and printed a proof today and was shocked to see that, not only were the lines VERY evident, but the thickness of the block was inconsistent. Both ends of the block were low! VERY low! This resulted in no image printing from those ends (close-up of the proof below).

I suppose there's no need to mention that I don't recommend wood engravers order blocks from Art Boards.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


The proofing and changes to the block were finished and an edition of Giant Isopod was run on November 2. Here's a photo of a print from the finished edition. There are 36 prints in the edition and 4 artist proofs.

Friday, October 31, 2014


The process of making a print involves periodically printing the block or plate that's being created. This is very important, especially when creating a wood engraving, because it's difficult to tell what the engraving work on the block is going to look like when printed until a print is pulled from the block. Now that a view of the status is available, decisions are made as to where to engrave further and where to leave it alone. Keeping in mind that once wood has been removed, it can't be replaced. The print can also be drawn upon with white ink to simulate engraving, giving a view of what will happen "if". Then further engraving proceeds.

This is a photograph taken of the Giant Isopod block and the first proof together.

After studying the proof and considering the options, a little more engraving is done until it seems time to see the results of the changes again. Here is the block and second proof together. (Notice that the image pulled from the block is a reversal of the image on the block; harder to notice since the image in this case is somewhat symmetrical.)

Between each proof it's a process of decisions, decisions, decisions. then it's back to engraving the block. The changes that took place between the first and second proof were minor and not easily seen in these two photos. After the first proof, the dark area between the claws on either side was left untouched just in case an idea came as to what might go in there. Probably nothing will go in there and it will be removed. But JUST IN CASE, it's best to wait.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Another old saying ("waste not, want not") comes to mind. Trashing the Star-Nosed Mole block, that was ruined during engraving, didn't make sense. End grain blocks are too costly to throw away, so, with a little manipulating a new image was laid out on the untouched area of the block and it is now in the process of joining the other Aliens of Planet Earth series as Giant Isopod. Check the website to see the finished Star-Nosed Mole print.

Here are a couple of views of the progress of Giant Isopod so far:

The first is the drawing on the freshly sanded and stained block and the second view is the shortened block after a few days of engraving.


Thursday, September 18, 2014


As the saying goes, "Some days the bear eats you and some days you eat the bear." It's not often I get to eat the bear and the other day the bear certainly took a bite out of me. I had been starting to engrave a new block (Star-Nosed Mole) by clearing some large areas that I knew were definitely not going to be in the print. Usually I wait to make sure, before removing large areas because once the wood has been removed it can't be put back. Of course, since this was a large area and the Foredom electric engraving tool I use removes wood  quicker and easier than hand tools, that's what I was using. As I was breezing along with my task, something happened. I probably pulled the tool when I should have pushed. The bit went tearing across the wood in the wrong direction! (note the photo)

I've been asked if the electric engraving tool is easier or quicker than the hand tool. The answer is, sometimes, yes. But it also can have a mind of it's own and does what it wants to do. This was one of those moments. It's like any other power tool. It needs to be used with care. But then, so does a hand tool. I've had accidents with hand engraving tools as well.

There's another saying, "If the world hands you lemons, make lemonade". I looked more carefully at the block I had been engraving and could see that it had low areas (which I should have noticed before drawing and starting to engrave). As I looked at what I had drawn on the damaged block and looked back at the sketches I had made prior to starting the block I became dissatisfied with the composition I had chosen from the sketchbook. So, the bottom line was that starting over on a new block was a good thing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I certainly didn't expect a response from my last appeal, but it arrived this morning and it looks like the Nigerian con artists are dropping their use of cheques and switching to credit cards. That doesn't give me a trophy, and leaves too many chances for them to succeed, so I'm giving up trying to con the con artists who con the artists.

Here is the response I got to that last e-mail I sent:

Hello Jim,
    emailing you my credit card details is my best option as i have explain. My bank advise me not to use Pay Pal for now due to my changing of address/location i did, they told me it need to be re-activate before i can set up a PayPal account.
    So they said i should inform you that the card need to be run through manual terminal charging machine and it will be go through and you will be able to get the payment from there. So i want you to still try and look for any of your colleague or store that will assist on this.Explain to them that i will be willing to pay any extra charge it will cost for the transaction...If not please kindly go ahead and cancel the order.

...and following that, my bye-bye to Lesley:

There doesn't seem to be a way I can arrange that Lesley, so I guess our business is cancelled.
It's been a slice.

A very sad moment. But maybe I've kept them distracted with my "con" so they were not conning another artist (I doubt that, but it helps). 

Monday, May 19, 2014


I decided to see if this con of Ms. Norway's could be resurrected. I've heard nothing from "her" since sending that last e-mail, rejecting payment by credit card.

Dear Lesley Donna From Norway,
There has been an inquiry regarding one of the items you requested. I promised you I would hold it until you let me know if you could arrange payment. I will hold it for one more week and if I don't hear from you I will consider our business terminated.
Please let me know if this is agreeable with you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


My response yesterday to Lesley Donna From Norway may be the one that brings this con to an end:

Dear Lesley,
I have tried today to arrange for some kind of credit card service but I have been unable to do that.  
I will be very happy to hold the two items you are interested in, until you are able to arrange your PayPal account, or you could very easily send me a cheque for the amount of the two items.
I have tried many different places and it seems that the credit card service is not available for me.

I expect they will give up and stop sending e-mails. If this Nigerian con operation had been functioning as the previous ones, I'm sure the phoney cheque would have been in the mail by now. But since they've switched to using a credit card as their means of conducting the fraud, I would not have a "trophy" at the end. And if I can't have a "trophy" to wave in their face, I don't want to play any more. We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The exchange of e-mails I was having with sweet Leslie was going hot and heavy there for a few days, so, since the last time I'd heard back from "her" was last Friday, I assumed "she" had given up because I had refused to accept a credit card for payment. I was set to post a new entry announcing that another one had slipped through my fingers, when this arrived:

Good Day Jim
      I got your response and I just contact my bank on this and they advise me not to use Pay Pal for now due to my changing of address/location i did, they told me it need to be re-activate before i can set up a PayPal account.
    So they said i should inform you that the card need to be run through manual terminal charging machine and it will be go through and go will be able to get the payment from there. So i want you to still try and look for any of your colleague or store that will assist on this.Explain to them that i will be willing to pay any extra charge it will cost for the transaction... 

So, what do I do? Tell "her" that my bank has advised me not to accept "her" "Master card Detail"? 
Tell "her" that the police have already described the procedures of this Nigerian con to me years ago? 
Not if I want "her" phoney cheque on my wall. 
Somehow I'll need to talk "her" into switching from "Master card Detail" to a huge Lesley Donna From Norway overpayment cheque.

I'll stop engraving the current block for a bit and give it some thought.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A few days ago I was curious about the address of Ms. Norway's "shop" in Oslo. She included it in "her" first e-mail. I used Google Maps and found myself on a quaint street in Oslo, facing a brick wall filled with colourful graffiti.


There have been a number of e-mails, going back and forth, between Ms. Norway and myself since this started, in late April. "She" started the process by saying:
I got your response and i want you to kindly get back to me with some of the available pieces you have right now for sell and their prices so as to list out the ones needed.

I answered the request for prices with a list of 21 drawings and prints (mostly drawings) and their prices. I purposely left out the media and only listed the titles. It still seemed to me that "she" has not seen the work on the website and didn't know what the "items" were.

Ms. Norway responded with a request for Moonrise to Port and Tornado Pilot, and the total price. I answered to let "her" know the total would be $3700.00 and that would translate to 20,055.22 in Norwegian Krone.

"Her" response to that:
      I got the total quote of the order which is ($3,700.00). The shipping company will have the order picked up from your facilities because i have made an arrangement with the shipping agent who will be coming to pickup the items right from your location so as to avoid the shipping responsibilities and difficulties that you might be experienced in shipping to Norway.The Shipping Agent have all the documents and permits required for the exportation of these order.And they will handle all the custom duties and insurance as well because all will be dully paid by me .They have got similar items shipped to me here successfully.So i have discussed with the shipping agent about the nature,quantity of these items and i was charged ($3,380) for the shipping cost,including some of my merchandise i ordered from different countries that is with them which they will be delivering tome here in Norway.I will need you to do me a favor as explained below:
     The shipping agent informed me that as for now they can only receive payment by direct Bank transfer.So i am asking for you to please help me to charge the shipping fee of the shipment which is ($3,380) on my credit card account and then transfer to the shipping agency's office via direct bank transfer and their representative will come for the pick up.I know it's not your responsibility to do this,i just want you to try and understand me and be of assist to me and my next order will be ship by you.Also, I'm compensating you with the sum of ($200) for the transfer fee and for your efforts.So the charges that will be deducted on my credit card will be:

TOTAL COST OF ITEMS BOUGHT:                    ($3,700.00)
SHIPPING FEE GRAND TOTAL  :                      ($3,380)
THE GRAND TOTAL COST :                             ($7,360)

       Note that my credit card will be charged for the amounts above.Please do get back to me if you are in the office right now so that i can email you my credit card details,then you can charge the full amount and transfer the shipping fee to the shipping company so as to proceed the shipment.And as soon as the shipping company received the shipping fund, they will schedule the time for the pick up and then come to your facility for the pick up.

"She" is using dollars instead of krone and there is no indication that "she" realizes I'm quoting Canadian dollars, not US (I've included my address so "she" knows I'm in Canada). I have indicated on my website that the prices listed are in Canadian dollars. Why "she" would be adding the shipping fee, a credit card surcharge fee and a transfer fee and my "commission" for juggling this extra charges into my invoice is anybody's guess! That nearly doubles my quote. Why not just order twice the number of  "items"? I'm sure I'm going to find out.

I answered that by saying, yes I was in the "office" and that I don't have an arrangement with a bank to take credit cards.

Ms. Norway's response:
   I got your response,presently my best form of payment is via credit card,that is where i put all my money for any international transaction, i suggest you look for a colleague or a store that has a Credit Card  terminal charging machine that will assist you in charge the fund and then get the payment there, i will be willing to pay the surcharge fees, which should be billed to my account, reason with me please.

I responded this morning by saying that I will look into that method, but I prefer to use PayPal and reminded "her" that "she" could use "her" credit card with PayPal and that if "she" didn't want to do that "she" could send a bank draft. I've heard nothing yet. I suppose "she" took the weekend off to celebrate Norway's Mother's Day (if Norway celebrates Mother's Day this weekend).

Thursday, May 08, 2014


My suspicion seems to have been correct. That visit to my website, from someone in Nigeria, may very well have been the origin of an e-mail I received today from…. Now, are ready for this?
Lesley Donna From Norway!
See? Same middle name (From), and the last name is a place.  Stan From California, Debbie From New York and Jon From Norway all have that same middle name.  I wonder if Lesley Donna knows Jon?

I know, I know, I probably shouldn't be posting this on the blog until the rat has the cheese, but I just couldn't resist and am excited that I might get another chance to pull this off.  But this one has a different twist. There's no mention of Lesley Donna sending a cheque this time. Instead there's a credit card mentioned. She says she will pay with her "Master card Detail".  Hmmmm? Never heard of a "Master card Detail".  There is one similarity to the others however. There will be a courier who will be picking up the purchase, so no need to send it. She doesn't say which print or drawing she wants. In fact, as you can tell from the content, she doesn't even know what I have to sell, but she likes them and finds them "creative and desirable".  Another difference this time is that her courier, Stanley Braim, is also adding information in the e-mail.  Maybe Stanley and Lesley Donna are an "item".

Here's the content of the e-mail:

Good Day,
   I am Lesley Donna from Norway, i want to inform you that your items are most creative & desirable, so much talent! I am interested in purchasing some of your artwork/items into my shop here in Norway, but before this is done, i want to inform that i will be making the payment with my Master card Detail because presently my best form of payment is via credit card.

 This is where i put all my money for any international transaction, so kindly reconfirm your website/contact details and get back to me with it so as to know if I'm right with the site.
Stanley Braim is typing...
Stanley Braim: Concerning the shipment, my shipping company will be coming to pickup the items because i already have some merchandise with them in which they will be shipping together to me here in Norway, so you don't need to be worried about the shipment nor handling fee.


My concern this time is the "Master card Detail". In the previous ones My goal was to have their cheque framed and on the wall. There will be an overpayment, for sure. That's how the scam works. Then I'll be asked to send a cheque for the overage, but maybe this time there will be a different method of sending a refund. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 28, 2014


I checked the statistics on my website counter this morning and noticed there were two separate visits from two separate computers in Nigeria earlier today. Each of them had followed a link from two other different wood engraver's websites. That might be a coincidence, but I'm interested to see if there will be an e-mail arriving soon, requesting a large purchase. This suspicion is raised after the experience I had in 2010 through 1012 (see my blog entries of March 2010, to November 2012).

If I've guessed correctly I'm hoping to receive a message from "Juan Gomez From Madrid", or "Hans Weiss From Hannover". Whomever it will be from will be wanting a large order and I will be instructed to not send the prints or drawings, but for me to wait for Juan's or Hans's courier (they are very well-to-do and have their own private couriers!) to pick up the work. The money will arrive but the courier will not. The payment will be far too much and I'll be instructed to send a bank draft to Mr. Madrid or Mr. Hannover (their last names are always a city and one of their middle names are always From) for the overage.

My goal during these exchanges was to receive that hefty payment and frame it, to hang on my studio wall. But I was having so much fun stringing "Stan", "Jon" and "Debbie" along, I think they recognized I was on to them and they stopped corresponding. This time, if this is another of those Nigerian scams, it's either members of the Nigerian gang who are new, or they don't have very good memories.

Here's hoping I don't scare them off this time.

Friday, April 11, 2014


For me, this has been the Winter From Hell. It began with the usual plummeting temperature and heavy snow sometime in October, and has not let up until this past week (it's April 11 today). The forecast on the local radio is calling for two or three centimetres of snow tomorrow, but then it's supposed to stop and the temperature will rise back above zero (32 degrees, for those in the States). At the beginning of the Winter From Hell (October), the snow was beautiful and created interesting formations. We have a round glass-top table near the entry to my studio where, during the few weeks of warm weather, we sit and have breakfast in the morning or enjoy a gin and tonic in the afternoon. We always leave this table out all year and I enjoy watching the snow grow higher and higher. I call it a snow-cake.  I took a picture of it back in January (1).

Shortly after taking that photo the snow-cake began to shift (2). But the odd thing was, even though the grade of the concrete sloped downward slightly, to the left, the snow-cake was shifting to the right. Then a few days later, as I was going from the house to the studio I noticed the snow-cake had shattered the glass and had fallen through the table. Those little blue shards beneath the table (3) are what's left of the glass table top. Looks like the snow-cake exploded the table top.




This snow-cake disaster illustrates the nature of this 2013-14 winter we've just survived. In mid January, about the time the snow-cake was shifting to the right, Carol was admitted to hospital and has been there, recovering, since. There are encouraging signs that Carol will soon be coming home and that Spring just might be arriving (hopefully after tomorrow's predicted snow). 

I've learned many new things during this Winter From Hell, such as: how to set the washing machine to wash dirty clothes and which frozen single meals I like from the supermarket and which ones to avoid. Between January and today I've tried to get work done in the studio but it's been hard to concentrate and my mind wanders. 

I owe a great debt to my family and many friends for their support and encouragement and for the wonderful home-cooked meals I've been invited to share with them. I admire their incredible patience and ability to avoid falling asleep as I go on and on, repeating stories I've forgotten I've already told them numerous times before.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


The Society of Wood Engravers (SWE) and Tin Films released a new DVD last year titled MODERN BRITISH WOOD ENGRAVING A New Look at a Traditional Medium. I recommend it highly. It is produced and directed by Leonie Bradley and David Robertson who introduce us to contemporary wood engravers in Britain. The main film runs for 45 minutes and there are also 10 minute conversations with each of the ten wood engravers featured in the film. The wood engravers include: Neil Bousfield, Simon Brett, Harry Brockway, Chris Daunt, Anne Desmet, Edwina Ellis, John Lawrence, Peter Lawrence, Miriam Macgregor and Hilary Paynter.

The exceptional value in this DVD, I believe, is how we are introduced to the individual artists. We see their studio environments and we listen and watch as they describe not only their working methods but what motivates and inspires them to create these fascinating wood engravings. I have met a few of the artists who are interviewed in this production and their generous and sharing nature comes across in the film just as it did when we met face-to-face. Of course, that should be no surprise. One of the consistencies of wood engravers is their open and willing nature, to share what they do and how they do it. I suppose it comes with the territory of working in an antiquated medium. There's a compelling desire to share it, in the hopes that it will be picked up and will continue on to the next generation.

The British DVD system is different from the system in North America. There are different systems throughout the world. Britain's is a number 2 and North America is a number 1. If you have a DVD player that gives you an option of 1 or 2, you can play the disk in Canada or the US, but if you have an old and simple DVD player like mine, you can play the disk on your computer. That's what I do, I'm in Canada (and yes, it's bloody cold here).

The SWE website has a page that includes information about how to order MODERN BRITISH WOOD ENGRAVING: