Sunday, 29 May 2011

From out of the Wood

Apart from using wood to create woodcut and wood engraving prints (as explored in the last two posts), I've also taken an occasional excursion into wood carving. For me, half the fun is the opportunity to work with different woods, each of which have different carving characteristics. I have to admit though, the biggest drawback is the amount of time wood sculpture can take, especially when working with very hard woods. As a consequence, I don't carve as much as I'd wish to. From the tiny to the ridiculous, here are a few examples:

'Two Fish'
a miniature carving in sweet smelling Lemonwood (Xymalos monospora) with Abalone eye inlays
5cm x 5cm x 5cm

A couple of very small carvings of sea shells.
The top shell is Black Ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum), a beast to carve! 5cm x 4cm x 4cm. The lower shell is European Beechwood (Fagus sylvatica). 5cm x 1cm x 1cm

Beechwood carving 4cm x 2cm x2cm
Here's the origin of the wood used for this piece: the handle from a kitchen pastry brush. I don't think my wife has noticed that the brush is missing yet, so don't mention it OK?

On an equally small scale, here's a miniature tree carved from pinewood and painted in acrylics. It stands approx 8cm tall on the (painted) gold base.

Continuing with the fir tree theme, 'Mountain Top' stands 25cm tall and is 20cm at it's widest point. This was carved in Oakwood and Pinewood then painted with acrylics.

Whilst the appearance of a wood grain surface can be very pleasing to the eye, it can also distract from the line and form of the final object. My inclination has usually been to paint my carvings and this follows a long tradition seen across many parts of the world. So, more painted carvings:

'A Gift-Wrapped Mermaid for Louisa'
Oakwood and Pinewood painted with oils & acrylics 40cm x 26cm x 10cm
This really was a labour of love: it was made for my wife.

'Wasp Queen'
Jelutong wood painted with acrylics 50cm x 20cm x 15cm

All images copyright Manfred Hennessy. 
All rights reserved.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Walking the Plank

Further personal adventures in the world of relief block printing: Woodcut prints.

Not as demanding as the miniature scale of wood engraving (as shown in the last post), woodcut prints are generally bigger and usually little easier to produce. My preference has been for using one inch thick planks of prepared wood from the Lime tree (Tilia). It carves beautifully and is a real pleasure to work with (as long as you keep your tools nice and sharp).

This is my trusty collection of woodcut knives and carving gouges:

 'Cutter at low tide, Mersea Island'
Initial stage of drawing on the block (keeping in mind that the final printed image will be in reverse)...

The drawing has been finalised and strengthened in dark ink- this helps to keep things clear when cutting. 

The outside border has been cut and the process of carving into the block is now underway. Cutting around the rigging of the boat was probably the trickiest element here, not much room for error! 

The cutting process is very nearly complete. All negative space has been removed from the block so that only the wood that stands proud will be printed.

The final proofing print. If this test print looks OK then the block is ready for printing an edition of prints. At this stage the print is typically a bit pale. Several prints need to be made before they take on a darker tone (this improves as the wood surface soaks up a little of the printing ink on the surface).
The print measures 34cm x 18cm.

I generally use Hosho paper for printing along with a Japanese printing baren (shown below). The baren is used to hand burnish the back of the paper when placed onto the inked block.

'Coastal Town'
A sequence of images that show the gradual removal of negative space from the block:

The finished block ready for printing

Print number 3 from a limited first edition of 8 prints. The print measures 60cm x 19cm.

Here's a closer view of the right panel of this print:

By carving further into this section of the block I was able to produce a new set of prints in two colours. The block is inked (in this case in brown) and a set of prints is made; some of the original block is then cut away to produce a new printing surface. This is then inked again in a different colour (black) and printed over the previous print. Each image needs to be very carefully registered so that the second print goes exactly over the first one with no blurring of edges.

'The Wharf'
Limited first edition of 9 (22cm x 19cm). 

Some further examples of woodcut prints:

'Rune Tree'
Limited edition of 4 prints (20cm x 15cm)
working on Rune Tree 

Limited edition of 4 prints (40cm x 15cm)

'Thunder Chicken'
Limited edition of 5 prints (30cm x 23cm)

The feel and smell of fresh wood shavings is a wonderful by-product of the carving process!
photograph by Louisa Hennessy

All images copyright Manfred Hennessy. 
All rights reserved.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The arcane world of Lozenge Gravers, Round Scorpers and Bulstickers

We're talking wood engraving of course, one of the most time-consuming and painstaking illustration methods known to mankind! Largely impractical for today's world of rapid publishing deadlines but deeply satisfying to produce, if all goes to plan.

Here are a few of my own fumblings with this extraordinarily exacting medium:

Bold Sir Rylas
3cm x 4cm

The Realms of Solitude
9cm x 5cm

Down to the Wasteland
10cm x 8cm

Iron John
3cm x 4cm

The Stargazer
10cm x 10cm
work in progress

Mr Cernunnos Comes Round for Tea
6cm x 4cm

The Tree Keeper
10cm x 10cm

work underway at the retro workstation...

The Hunter in the Wood
10cm x 10cm

The Chicken Whisperer
10cm x 10cm

drawing the image on a block darkened with black ink before engraving

final proofing print

David Iona
8cm x 6cm
(my Zen Dad)

The following print is taken from a sampler block or test piece and shows a range of cuts made with just a couple of the wood engraving tools:
'Flights of Dark Matter'
12cm x 12cm

A few of the original carved woodblocks used for printing...

...and a small stack of limited first edition prints sitting pretty in my studio. Contact me if you're interested in buying one? For you, very reasonable prices including postage/shipping etc ;0)

All images copyright Manfred Hennessy. 
All rights reserved.

The Moonlit Reverie of a Slumbering Armchair Sailor

A sequential series of nine small acrylic paintings. Ideally they should be viewed in a triple triptych format, like this:

Here's a view of each individual painting...

Panel 1 (of 9): The Gentleman's Yacht
22cm x 22cm

Panel 2 (of 9): The Quiet Haven
22cm x 22cm

Panel 3 (of 9): The Empty Watchtower
22cm x 22cm

Panel 4 (of 9): The Deserted Quayside
22cm x 22cm

Panel 5 (of 9): The Overnight Mooring
22cm x 22cm

Panel 6 (of 9): The Hidden Anchorage
22cm x 22cm

Panel 7 (of 9): The Old Boat Yard
22cm x 22cm

Panel 8 (of 9): The Never-ending Restoration
22cm x 22cm

Panel 9 (of 9): The Salt-water Marshes
22cm x 22cm

All images copyright Manfred Hennessy. 
All rights reserved.