Archive for the ‘ Animals ’ Category

It’s All In Black ‘n’ White


So a while back I posted about how I had recently found the etching/drawing medium of scratchboard – mainly to supplement my inability to make woodcuts easily while I live in New York away from my home & studio back in Australia.

Well not much has changed geographically but I feel like taking the time to update here, my initial impetus, to say that drawing on scratchboards has dramatically changed my artistic desires and inclinations – not only my composition skills and speed of which I work. Thankfully there is no monetary motives to me creating, so I do exactly what I feel like unhindered. But like any new path you find yourself on you end up exploring the possibilities, testing yourself and as always trying to find the best way to get that thought, that idea, that (barely in focus) picture in your head out and onto the page.


I have said it before but I can’t draw (in the traditional sense). I have had no schooling in making art and put a blank white page in front of me and all you will get in return is my paralysis. While I do pull most of my inspiration from the modernism of early 20th century European art (Futurism, Dada, Bauhaus, and in particular Der Blaue Reiter and German Expressionism) it is not what I feel compelled to try to make. There is a certain realism that I am drawn to when I create that stands in contrast to my inspirations. It is as if, no matter how strange or beautiful or disturbing something of mine is – it could equally exist in the real world – as if it was a photo as much as any other document.

Woodcuts have for a long while given me an “in” to creating but of late I have started to consider the how and why of it. Scratchboards in particular have gotten me thinking. I don’t actually have the answers to the amorphous how and why but this much I have worked out.


I draw/carve/scratch/print because it gives me a positive feeling of worth. There should be nothing surprising in that though.

I often draw the thoughts I don’t have another outlet for, be it verbal or otherwise. Sometimes I simply draw the things I want to think about but don’t want to talk about. Even the time spent creating gives me the space to better understand what I am trying to clarify in my own head. And….   sometimes it’s just a picture, nothing more.

I find the ability to erase, modify, update or reset, detrimental to saying what I want to say. I question and second guess just about everything I do so working in mediums where the cut can’t be undone, the area removed can’t be replaced means that moving ahead is the only course of action. I trust my first impressions and there is a strange honesty in one’s ability and intent when your first attempt is your only attempt.

There is something inherently foreign to me in the way a painter or illustrator add to an image (each line, each layer building upon the last). I have always been drawn to the idea of taking away. Stripping back until you find that perfect spot where you can illicit the maximum reaction/emotion/dialogue with the minimum amount of information – equal to a sculptor I suppose.

I love going black to white. Finding the negative space, coming to something almost in reverse. It’s like slowly turning up a light until you are finished and the room is illuminated for the first time.

With magnifying glass in hand, of late I have relished the smallest of detail. Creating lines and shapes, so very deliberate but just about impossible to see when standing back and looking with the naked eye. In the way you look at pop art or even billboard sized posters – finding that the image is just a collection of separate dots arranged just so as to fool your brain into identifying it as the content and not the physicality of the actual item.

Now none of this was really the reason why I sat down to do this post. I figured I would just give an update on what I have been drawing of late. But as with such things, the above is what I think about while I work away. The above is me watching me work and wondering what the hell I am doing and why I am doing it instead of going outside or spending time with my friends. The above is what came to me as soon as I started writing.

Why I creative things has always been as interesting to me as the actual creative practice itself. I blame all that philosophy I studied at university…

Ps: my instagram account @againstthewoodgrain is where I put up most of my scratchboard, prints and other creations. Usually about five minutes after I have finished if it has all worked and I am so chuffed I want to show everyone.

Pps: if you are not already aware, my online store on the Etsy website (search: alexgillieswoodcuts) is where I sell my prints and my scratchboard originals.


Scratching About

So at the moment I don’t have a working studio space. This means working away on woodcuts and printing editions is a bit of a challenge. So I decided to try my hand at something that seemed both familiar and new. Scratchboards.


The process is very similar to relief printing in so much as the image is about positive and negative space. But rather than carving on wood in reverse. You simply scratch away at the black surface to show the white surface underneath. A wonderful combination of drawing and the stark reductive process of block printing. Plus that element that I love where all marks are permanent and where nothing can be undone – which makes you commit to what you are creating in a refreshing way.


So, here are my first few experiments with scratchboards. To say I am fast becoming hooked on it is an understatement. For the forseeable future I am going to continue to experiment and have fun drawing whatever comes to mind…

Above is Louie, a cool fellow I met last year. His mum and dad, Kristie and Luke let me look after him for a few days. The above scratchboard then led to other friends asking me to do a commission piece and below is Frankie. A cool cat with different Bowie-like eyes.


And as I play with textures and backgrounds, shadows and lighting I couldn’t help but do one of one of my dear friends, bandmate and favourite noisemaker: Donnie.


I have a few ideas already forming for what to do next. I am interested to see where this new medium takes me…


Busier Than Ever

There’s so much happening that I might need to break things up into several posts. Heaven forbid I find the time to fill you in more regularly…

So my recent idea to turn one of my latest woodcuts into an affordable and comfy t-shirt was a resounding success and so a huge shout out of thanks has to go to everyone who snapped one up! I had a few extra made up and so there will be another chance to get your hands on one but more of that soon.





A big thanks goes to Matt Deasy of 7th Disaster for doing such a great job on the screenprinting of these. Really people, look him up for anything you want hand printed!

So a while back I said to stay tuned because I had lots of things happening before the end of the year. Well it’s all happening now.

I recently received the vinyl version of the debut album by High Tension when they came up to launch the album. Sure it looked great on the cd (see post below) but boy doesn’t it look better nice and big on vinyl? Stoked!


And just last weekend I got my hands on the latest 7inch single by Melbourne band Harmony of which I (again) did the cover art for.


It is the band’s third 7inch and the prelude to their second album which is out early next year through Posion City records. The band’s guitarist/vocalist/all-round-great-dude Tom Lyncoln is into sharks and so asked for a shark from me. Who am I to refuse? And so it was.

Here are all of the band’s singles, with the cover art for all of them done by me. Happy doesn’t even start to explain what it means to look at all these together.


Sometimes doing artwork for great bands feels better (even though it is harder) than carving and making prints for myself but none of that comes even close to when something like this happens…

Robb Knaggs Tattoos

This is my friend Robb. Great guy and really talented musician. He recently took off to travel the world but just before he left he told me he wanted something that would remind him of home and this is what he wanted.


Obviously the print represents something personal for him but I do find if nice that the Currawongs that hang around my house, gave me the feathers in question and that I captured in this print have unknowingly traveled so far.

CurrawongwoodcutThat also makes two people who have gotten a woodcut of mine tattooed. I think I might have to start planning to be the third.

That’ll do for now. More news soon.


Sing a start to the year

Sometimes woodcuts take a long time to make, sometimes a once in a generation flood hits your town and you find your work inundated and yourself with a week or two unexpected weeks off. Well Lets just say that this year has been a weird one so far for my town of Brisbane. Once I’d helped clean up my work as much as I was allowed and assisted some of my friends, I found myself at home with time on my hands.

One of the things that made me smile a lot during the three months of constant rain (which caused the damn floods) was the Currowongs that would sit in the fig tree outside the window and sing. They have such a beautiful song and they always make me feel good about the world. Well as the sun shone for the first time and the water levels reseeded, the Currowongs were still there singing their daily song. So I decided a week ago to honour them with a woodcut. I really wanted it to be coulourful and beautiful. Up until now, the best woodcut (in my opinion) that I’ve done was one of my typewriter. I wanted this one to be as good!

I finished this today. I think it is as good.

This was the day by day progress. Seven days to carve the block and another day to paint it with Gouache. This is the first attempt I’ve made properly hand colouring a woodcut. I don’t think it will be the last.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m also happy because this is, in a way, part two to this woodcut I did a little over a year ago. Same tree, same family of birds…

Having A Whale Of A Time

This is a poster I made for a little shindig that is coming up next month called Frankly! It’s A Pop Festival. It’s on at the Powerhouse in the suburb of New Farm in my town of Brisbane. I haven’t made a lot of posters in my time and none really that have come from a woodcut of mine so this was a challenge. Given the nature of the event and venue that wanted it, I started with two blocks (one for the whale and one for the ocean) and then went ahead and added text and extras on my computer. This is the woodcut…

Sometime soon, I’ll come back and maybe add a third block to round out the picture. I haven’t decided yet.


Ok, this is a bit of a strange tale but it seemed like a good idea at the time (and still does as a matter of fact).

So back in October a wonderful friend of mine, Patience sent me a link to a website where a boy had bet his friend that he could get a million pictures of giraffes. Well, this kid was almost half way to his target and for some reason, I got the idea to do a giraff for him as well. The one rule of this boys project was that the giraffes had to be hand made by people, as in no photographs or computer generated images. We’re talking, drawing, painting, whatever, so long as the image was hand made. Well thankfully that includes woodblock prints too!

So fast forward a while (cause these things take time as I’m sure you’re aware) and with some time on my hands over the holiday period, I sat down and designed up an image that I thought was fun and well… kind of an innocent image, just something that was nice. Here is what I finished and printed 48hrs ago…

and here’s what it came from…

I’ve emailed the print to the giraffe collector (wherever in the world he is). This is a nice one to end the year on. Thanks need to go out to everyone that helped me over the last year further my hobby of relief printing and everyone who was so supportive coming to my art show, everyone (all over the world) who bought one of my prints and all the people who have said nice and encouraging things about all that I’ve done so far. I can’t wait to see what 2010 bring for me in this medium.



New Works On Show


If you’re in Brisbane (The Valley/New Farm to be exact) this Friday night, then at Doggett St Gallery is a group Christmas show that I’m a part of. I have three new woodblock etchings and one coloured Woodcut. The show is for 24hrs only, starts at 6pm Friday and should you wish to purchase something, you can take it home from 8pm that night. Cool huh!

There’s some awesome artists also showing and just as the title infers, all works are 30cm by 30cm or smaller.
Might See you there 🙂

More Owls… and some new stuff as well.

I’ve just gone and sent the combined Owls print off to be framed.  Considering the print itself is 70cm wide, It’s going to be a big once it’s boxed and framed. I’m looking forward to putting this one to bed seeing as I have four new blocks all drawn up and ready to go…

Owls (Combined)

There’s going to be an edition of 10 for the combined Owls print. However, for prints that are just of the Owls themselves, I don’t think I’m going to edition it. What I have decided though is that each print I do of this one is going to be on different type of  paper – that way all of the prints will have a very different feel about them. This is some of the different ones:

Owls (V3)

Owls (V4)

Owls (V5)

Also in other small (but exciting news for me). A good friend of E’s, Zena, returned recently from China with a present for E. It was a carvable soapstone that you could make a stamp/seal with. I have a sneaking suspicion that both E and Zena knew where it was going to end up because once I laid eyes on it, I knew exactly what it could be used for…

And after some fine work with a scalpel, here’s what the stamp looked like:

Soap Stone Stamp

Signiture Stamp

…and the first print I applied it to was one I finished just a few days ago, it’s my tribute to the lovers of all things old but not redundant. The Luddite in all of us (well, in me at least).

This block/print was inspired by a friend of mine who so eloquently pointed out to me my inherent suspicion of all things new and technological. It wasn’t obvious to me at the time but he was 100% right.

The Machine Breaking Riots Of 1847

Owls (revisited)

A little while back I did up a woodblock of two owls for a special friend. The response I got from both them and from others that saw it was overwhelming. I had a print in my recent show and quite a few people wanted a copy even though there was only one available (sorry).


So I decided to revisit the owls about a month ago, but of course, I didn’t want to just repeat myself. I decided to do something a little more detailed and not quite so cute. I found some old National Geographic’s and of course (as is the way with me) let things get out of hand. The result is below and it’s a lot more detailed than I originally planned but it seems to have worked out alright.

The first one is hand painted with watercolours.

Owls Painted Sml

The second is made up of multiple blocks to show a background and mid-ground with the owls in the foreground.

Owls Combined Sml
It’s been really challenging and should I get a good print on the Dutch Etching paper I bought today, I’ll do a full print with colour. Don’t expect an edition though.