Anyone Can Play Guitar

…or to be more accurate, anyone can play with a guitar. Way back in February of this year I was talking with Tim of Tym Guitars and while we don’t really talk guitars, we can talk wood. He obviously uses it to make superior audio instruments (aka: guitars) while I use it to make pretty pictures with. He had the great idea of me using a guitar as a woodblock. On paper it seemed straightforward enough.

Well, it turned out to be a bit more challenging than first anticipated. There’s the types of wood that guitars are made of and there’s the wood I usually use which would make a guitar possibly way too heavy to hold comfortably and anyway a lot of guitar woods are too soft for the fine detail that I wanted to achieve in a woodcut. Thankfully Tim found a body that worked for me and most importantly was flat! If skateboards have taught me anything, it’s to stay away from printing and carving on curved surfaces.

While I play drums in a band and don’t know the first thing about playing guitar, I do profess an almost obsessive love of music, even more than my love of art which too is quite sizable. So knowing that this woodcut was going on a block that cost several hundred dollars, I wanted to make sure I got it right and I wanted it to, even partially, speak something of those things that I love in the creative sphere of both aural and visual arts.

So I looked into the art, artists and music that have inspired me greatly in recent times and placed like trophies those elements into one image. All the while grappling with the block and it’s life post woodcut. From the outset, this had to end up being a fully functioning guitar that someone would play and continue the creative journey.

The wood was a minefield. The grain changed direction every few centimeters, there were potholes of softer and harder wood in amongst the grain and so I ended up carving almost the entire block with an artist knife (basically a safer type of scalpel). Another element of the project that came from the initial conversations with Tim was for me to use the whole guitar, meaning the front and the back so as to try to make something more than what you could easily see. Well, working at it when I could and taking time away from it now and then, I finally finished carving in May. Now it was time to print the block…

Obviously looking at the print, you can see the reverse (or positive) image from the block (the negative image) with the front of the guitar on the left and the back of the guitar on the right, both joining in the middle to complete the image. So the printing part of the creative process was by far the hardest. I couldn’t put the guitar through a printing press for fear of damaging it so I had to print it by hand at home (with the help of plenty of masking tape and patience). A few weeks later and I had completed five prints (of which one was the test print). From here The guitar was set aside for a few weeks which is how long the oil based ink was going to take to fully dry.

I then set about finishing the prints. I had decided that they needed some colour, not a lot but enough to bring out the depth of the image. I pulled out my gouache paints and began the battle that I have with them and their ever changing colours… Needless to say another month later and I had four prints completed. After a bit of framing and at over a meter wide, this is the finished print.

The final (and current) part of the puzzle was where Tim re-enters the picture. At the moment this is what the guitar looks like:

The original plan was to have it fully finished before unveiling but while I was filling my spare time painting prints last month, the fine folks at Paradise Hills gallery in Melbourne contacted me about being a part of their group, music-themed art show. I figured I had to show the guitar! It’s like they already knew I’d made this even though Tim and I had told no one of our pet project (in case I didn’t work out how we’d hoped).

Either way, both the guitar and the print will be hanging on the wall at Paradise Hills in Melbourne this coming Friday night. If you’re in Melbourne then please come down and have squizz! When the show’s over the guitar will go to Tim to be lacquered, built and set up. Then both the guitar and the print will most likely go on sale together at Tym Guitars for someone to go and make a racket with!

I love it when a crazy scheme comes through!

  1. Very cool.

  2. You did a fine job with this axe! I dig it immensely. It is not easy to create block prints and if your goal was to preserve the guitar surface by using masking tape (how?) then the prints I see here show a lot of hard work on your part. Dang. If I could stand a rough surface on the bass I play I would ask you to do it. Your artistic choices show real talent. Way to go! – Andrew J

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