Posts Tagged ‘wood engraving’

passing on the knowledge

May 3, 2014



Weekend Workshops Coming up

One of my favoured printmaking techniques is of course wood engraving, the means of creating detailed graphic images which was once so commonplace it was used to illustrate everything from bibles to newspapers.  Technology has long since passed on from the days when commercial printing was done from hand carved blocks wood.  But there are a few of us around who love to preserve these archaic methods, while putting them into a contemporary context, and for me it is a pleasure to share what sometimes seems like forgotten knowledge.  So it is time again to offer some weekend workshops in wood engraving.  I am visiting Sydney at the moment, and will be sharing this technique with students at the National Art School, and while I am here I am also offering a weekend workshop in Newcastle hosted by the Newcastle Printmakers Workshop on May 17/18.  Click on the link for more info.  After I return to Queensland, I’ll be offering the same course in Brisbane, at the newly opened studios of Impress.  That will be 28/29 June.  I look forward to seeing you there.

wood engraving classes

April 8, 2013


I began teaching a new class today at the National Art School in Sydney.  I have been working with first year students over the last six weeks, giving an introduction to woodcut and etching. Today I began working with second year printmaking students on a relief printing course and began by introducing them to wood engraving, which is one of my favourite techniques to work with and also one I particularly enjoy teaching.  I think that is partly about it being a technique that is not practiced my many people, and offered as a class quite infrequently, so I enjoy the idea of being one of the people who is keep that knowledge and practice active.  It certainly didn’t look like the NAS tools had been used recently.  I think the students were a little surprised to see how small the blocks were that they were being provided with, but I soon managed to impress on them the fineness of mark-making that is possible and they have all undertaken admirably ambitious designs that they soon realised will take time enough to carve, despite (or perhaps because of) being so small.  I look forward to seeing some of the images start to be printed some time tomorrow.

I am also offering a number of other opportunities to learn this medium in the coming months, with weekend workshops running in Newcastle and Brisbane.

The Newcastle Printmakers Workshop will be hosting me on Saturday the 18th and Sunday 19th May with more details available at  For enrolments contact Samantha on 0422 362 924 or

On the weekend after (25/26 May) I will have made my way north, and will be running the workshop at the Brisbane Institute of Art in Windsor, with more information and enrolments available on their website.  The BIA phone number is (07) 3857 5377.

I will also be teaching wood engraving and woodcut as part of the NAS public programs winter school in July, with more information available on the NAS website soon.


Diversity in Print

March 7, 2013



Last night saw the opening of Diversity in Print an exhibition of prints at the Royal Queensland Artist Society gallery on Petrie Terrace (Brisbane).  I’m in Sydney teaching at the moment so couldn’t get to the opening of course, but the good people there phoned to tell me I had been awarded a second prize for the wood engraving Forest Tunnel shown above.  This print was one of the ones I made in California, while at the JB Bunk residency.  I particularly like the crispness of the printed bark, that I had carefully retained on the block of birch wood as I cut and polished it prior to carving the image.  This print also makes use of  hand printing with a banana leaf barren in such a way as to produce subtleties of tone through the controlled use of variable pressure.  I’m glad to have been able to represent the somewhat neglected art of wood engraving in a show called Diversity in Print.

The show is on until 23rd March at 162 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane.

printmaking classes

January 26, 2013



I am once again offering two day printmaking classes in the exquisite art of the wood engraving.  A traditional relief printing technique best known for the ability to capture very fine detail in small scale images that draw the viewers attention into a miniature world.

This round of classes will be offered in Brisbane on February 9/10, and Inverell (NSW) February 23/24.

For more details and enrolments for the Brisbane workshop, see the Brisbane Institute of Art website at: and follow the links to classes.

For details of the Inverell workshop see the Inverell Art Gallery website and follow the ‘what’s on’ link.  Enrolments for this class should be made through me by email to


’tis the season…

December 14, 2012


As well as working on the January show for Brisbane Institute of Art, I’ve also decided to make some of my smaller work available to an audience outside the formal gallery setting, so there are things out there in the world all the time instead of only when there is a show on.  The first isn’t REALLY in the world, just your computer.  I’ve reactivated my long silent ETSY page here, where I have listed some unframed wood engravings and other relief prints.

The other new development really IS out there in the physical world, so if you are in Brisbane, you should check out the In.cube8r Gallery in Fortitude Valley.  It’s the home of handmade gifts in the groovy old Valley (on Brunswick St, one bock up from the mall).  I’ve been making some new collages, like the one above, especially for the in.cube8r store. I always take a lot of trial proofs and extra prints when I am working on my artists’ books featuring direct prints from polished sections of bone.  It’s been a lot of fun to play around with these images, re-arranging elements to create new forms.  They are only small, and mounted directly on small canvases so they are ready to hang without framing, making them the perfect affordable gift !


August 31, 2012

Megablah is a members project being run by Megalo Print Studio in Canberra. Inspired by Noel Counihan’s The Broadsheet publications, produced in the 1960’s featuring relief prints by Counihan and others.  Everyone using the studio’s at Megalo is being encouraged to make a megablah – or even just submit and image and they will make it for you!  So of course, over the last few weeks, a megablah has been one of the things I’ve been working on.

With Counihan’s work being the loose inspiration, I wanted to make something with a more obvious political content.  So it was, that I decided to make use of the copy of the San Francisco Chronicle I had kept from last year, along with some of the leaflets I picked up at various Occupy Encampments.  I left California in late October 2011, when the Occupy Camps were still in full swing on the streets, and it was very much an issue in the media.

I decided to pretty much make a straightforward re-creation of a selection of my source material, and let it speak for itself, but with a few twists.  So this led me down the wondrous path of CMYK screenprinting – something that has long fascinated me but which I hadn’t actually done before.  CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – known as the process colours and used along with colour separations and halftones to print full colour images, like those found in newspapers and magazines.  When you see the separations, it can hardly seem possible that they will combine to produce the colours you want, but magically they do.  Well almost.  Printing this stuff by hand, not to mention variations in the amounts of pigment and paste, always leads to minor variations and inconsistencies.  With a lot of patience and careful testing they can be ironed out, but this was meant to be a quick fun project, so caution was thrown to the wind and I just printed them straight up.  Time for some pics-

First colour down, Cyan.  Megalo had already printed up the border for me, I just had to insert my image.

Second colour down, so with Cyan + Magenta it’s looking pretty purple.

The yellow screen, clamped in the table and ready to print.

So now with Cyan, Magenta and Yellow all printed, it’s looking pretty good (though it did end up a bit over yellow in some spots).  The final black will really make it zing, even though in this case there was a lot less on the black screen than I would have thought.

And There we are.  I just love the way the shadows under that top part of the image really make that bit of paper seem to sitting above the rest.

The final stage to complete the image was to cut out and paste in the wood engraving I had made previously to replace the main photo of some pretty heavy looking police action to clear the Oaklands Occupy Camp.

Quite pleased with the final result.  On one level it’s simply a recreation of my memorabilia, documenting a particular episode in history.  On another level, the two types of print used refer to newspaper imaging old and new, with wood engraving being the original means of producing illustrated newspapers, and of course CMYK and halftone is the current technology.

remembering san francisco

August 14, 2012

It’s been nice to be remembering my time in California last year, while I’ve had the Fog and Fault-lines exhibition on at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery in Canberra, and as I relate to the audience here my experience of the residency there.  While the works from the residency focused on the physical and natural environment, I was of course also interested in observing aspects of culture and politics etc, especially while I was travelling after the residency and spending more time in towns and cities.  So this week I’ve  been working on a new/old project, that I have had in mind since then but is only now starting to take form.  I’ve kept a San Franciso Chronicle (October 26, 2011) and various leaflets that I collected from the Occupy Camps in Berkley and San Francisco, and am planning to recreate them to produce a print as part of Megalo’s Megablah project.  So far I have made a wood engraving, based on the main photo from the Chronicle’s front page, and printed them on kozo paper, but that is only a part of the overall image, so stay tuned for more…

Fog and Fault Lines

July 22, 2012

Tomales Bay, relief print, Peter McLean, 2011

The Great Northern adventure is not quite finished (a few days left in Helsinki), but it is time to cast my mind back to California as I will be showing the work created there last year at Fog and Fault Lines, a new exhibition at Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Canberra.  I was invited to participate in the JB Blunk Residency by the Lucid Art Foundation, located in Inverness, West Marin, and spent two productive months there.   Actually, I often cast my mind back to California, and Inverness in particular.  I felt so at home there, like that place and I were really beginning to understand each other, especially the hills and forest around JB’s very special house.  The prints and drawings that will be shown in Megalo’s gallery still make me feel like I am looking into the eyes of the spirits of the land, speaking to me with a voice I can’t quite understand.

The show will be opening on August 2 at 6pm and will run until August 18.  Megalo is at 49 Phillip Avenue, Watson, ACT, Australia and is open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am – 5.00pm.


island engraving

June 22, 2012

Eye Island, wood engraving,Peter McLean, 2012

This is the second of the wood engravings I have made in Fiskars, Finland.  A group of nearby lakes forms the shape of an eye on the map, and is my favourite area to go walking.  On my first visit there I was entranced by the light shinning behind this little tree filled islet.  Placing the image in the centre of this elliptical block of apple wood, the whole image has become rather eye-like.

I also posted a photo of this little island a while back on Four Feetour blog about the Fiskars Residency.

engraving on apple wood

June 18, 2012

wood engraving, Peter McLean, 2012

After some initial trouble getting hold of some suitable ink, I’ve finally been getting into some printmaking.  First off I edditioned this small engraving I did on some apple wood left by the previous artist in residence.  By traditional criteria, the apple turned out not to be ideal for engraving.  While it is reasonably hard, the grain is certainly not uniform, with rings of softer wood containing minute pits.  Perhaps this is the rapid spring growth.  The end result though, is quite pleasing.  The pits are just big enough to show up as lighter rings in the print, but not so much as to overly distract from the image, and I had made sure that the focal point of the image was at the centre f the growth rings so the two patterns would be working together rather than against each other.


Of course seeing how those growth rings show up, I also did some printing of other pieces that had been sanded smooth, but not yet engraved.  I felt like turning these into something more than the simple cross section, even though that is nice, and they became a little text piece.


Apple, relief print, Peter McLean, 2012

%d bloggers like this: