Saturday, August 8, 2015

Unpleasant Drawing, First Step in Tearing Out a Block with My Teeth

I'm getting ready to carve a 34 x 34" piece of tempered Masonite for a steamroller print event.  My design is from a 4 x 4" sketchbook drawing of some sheep.  I've decided to forego my usual way of transferring the image and instead to dive right in and draw the image right on the block using a carving tool.

Step one is to trace the little image, since I want to draw it backwards so that when I print it, it comes out the way I originally drew it.  So I made this tracing on tracing paper and flipped the paper so that the design will be backwards on the block.

Step two is to scale the small drawing up to a giant drawing using a grid.  I folded the small drawing into 16  1 x 1" sections.  Then I divided the big block into the same 16 sections, only these sections are 8 5/8" x 8 5/8" square.
The next step is where the not-fun begins.

I want to lightly sketch the design onto the block, just sort of map it.  I can't do that very easily with a woodcut tool because the tool doesn't make curves quickly , and the Masonite is somewhat slippery;  so if I'm trying to move fast, there's a good chance that the tool will slip.  So I have had to unearth my ancient, infrequently-used Dremel tool from the back of a cobwebby studio shelf.  The tip that's on the Dremel is very pointy but tiny blades flare out rom the tip on four sides.  There is another tip, but it's a fat little ball, also possessing of flaring blades.

When I turn on the Dremel I discover how much it vibrates and requires a strong grip to control it.  I also notice how awkwardly fat the handle is.  Drawing with this vibrating clunker is going to be like doing intricate topiary with a weed whacker.  And the cord is short, and I'm working on the floor and need to get into a yoga split to reach the top of the giant surface.

The best I can do is a rough approximation of the drawing, but that's okay, since I want to do the actual drawing with my woodcut tools.  The main thing is that I am able to scale the drawing up by going square by square as I D-d-d-dremel, referring to the small drawing and shakily clumsily sketching the lines up to scale and in the approximate position.

There are lots of slips and errant lines.  The tip is no good for curves.  Next time I'll try the ball tip.  But I am able to do what I set out to do.  And I want the final carving to stand on its own and have its own meaning, not depend on being an accurate facsimile of the original drawing.

This closeup of the sheep's head shows the jerkiness and sketchiness as well as the grid lines (which I did in water-soluble Caran d'Ache crayon and can wash away with a damp-not-wet sponge.  Tomorrow I will start carving.  This is going to be a contour line carved drawing with some abstract textural marks maybe outside and maybe inside the shapes.  The lines will be white (carved out) and the background black (left in), just the opposite of the original drawing.  I have only a couple of weeks to carve this thing, not enough time to clean out all that space!

I'm counting these as drawings as 5334-5337.


  1. gwen, seriously, you impress me!

    1. Ha! Just everyday life in a studio!

  2. Another interesting, original idea, Gwen!

    1. As my old friend , the gardener at my kids' school , used to say 'Lettuce see what will turnip'

  3. Insane. Can't wait to see the print.

  4. Insane. Can't wait to see the print.