All Creatures Big & Small

In a few weeks time I’m going to be part of christmas show at a local gallery that I like a lot called Doggett St Gallery. Their annual christmas group show is always themed around all of the images being no more than 30x30cm (12×12 inches) in size. I’ve been going to these shows for some years now but this is going to be the first time I’ve ever been a part of one.

I tried one block recently only to realise that it was going to be to big, so I set myself a challenge to try to do a woodblock etching or something as close as I could get to one seeing as I’ve only done woodcuts up til now. I got my hands on three end rounds of Qld Maple that were between 15 and 20cm in diameter and off I went.

The first one I tried turned out all right, if not a little messy (or freehand) for what I was hoping. The second one I tried turned out much better and last Saturday I sat down and designed up one last one in what became a themed series of the sea. On Sunday I had lunch, sat down and four hours later I had this block of a turtle in stormy seas:


I was quite happy with how it turned out and not to make a big deal out of it, the thing that made me so pleased is that a bit over a year ago I tried to do a turtle to the best of my ability and… well I kinda failed at it as far as I was concerned (at the time).


Now after printing my new turtle I made some adjustments and added some lines so that he/she sat down in the water a bit more. This is the final print:


I know it might not be christmasy but that’s not really bothering me at the moment. I’m just happy to have succeeded on a block so small. However now I’m back to starting something large again, more animals, only twice the size of these.

  1. Hello Alex
    As I had never seen your blog update in the barens automatic updater, I thought I would check you out. When you say a woodblock ‘etching’ – do you mean that you inked it up as per intaglio and proofed it onto damp paper through an etching press ? I am also curious as to the thickness and type of wood you used? As you say what a leap of progress in a year !!

    Happy printmaking for 2010


      • alexandeverything
      • February 2nd, 2010

      Thank you for the question. I hope I know enough to answer it correctly.
      As I’m aware, Woodcuts are where you gouge and cut out the wood where as woodblock etchings are where you scrape, scratch and push out the wood with different tools. Normally I use V and U shaped gougers but for these round blocks I used gravers. They were all hand printed on dry Japanese Kozuke paper with oil based inks. Brisbane is a tropical climate a lot of the year so using wet paper is often fraught with danger and so I don’t bother. I rolled the ink onto the block with a roller and printed the same way I would any woodcut. To be honest, all of this was an experiment so I hope I’ve gotten my terminology right.

      As for the wood. My state of Queensland has a type of maple called ‘Qld Maple’. It’s my wood of choice not just because it’s close but the grain is great and tight with a beautiful smell and silver flecks through it… and it’s hard as hell. I also like Coachwood, any other hardwoods are too difficult to source. The thickness varies. because I don’t have a proper press (only a small bookbinding screw press). My blocks are between 1-5cm (0.25 – 2 inches) dependent on what I can get from the timber yard. If I had a proper press I’d probably work with thinner blocks. Alex.

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