Called by a sheep?

Like any artist, I draw my inspiration from many sources. And, sometimes, it hits when I least expect it.

I follow a number of artist blogs on the web. I love to see how others approach art (and life) and have a peek into their studios, their own stories and eavesdrop on where they find their inspiration.

One inspiring blog is by Michelle Wilman, a talented glass and wood artist. Michelle has studios in Calgary (Alberta) and South Pender Island (British Columbia) and she often goes to B.C. early in the year for a retreat to regroup.

Dave, the sheepOn “day one” of Michelle’s retreat, she posted this beautiful photo of her neighbor’s sheep, Dave. I don’t know why he tickled me, but he did. Partly it was Michelle’s composition, but partly it was just his gorgeous face (which Michelle calls ‘notoriously grumpy’).

I knew I was looking at a future block print, and I have been doing this long enough that I have learned to follow my hunch. So I emailed Michelle for her permission to use her photo as inspiration. Thankfully, she said she’d be delighted.


My limited edition block print of Dave, the sheep. It was done in “reduction” style which is explained in the photographs below the blog.

I developed a three-color reduction print using varying shades of grey. Though Dave has a lot of black in his face, my final inking was composed of Lamp Black printmaking ink touched with Titanium White, to give him a slightly softer shade than a straight black.

Though I don’t know how Dave would feel about being called “soft”, I was pleased with the results. The whole process took about three weeks to complete (each printed layer has to dry before I can over-print the next layer).

This print is created using a process called “reduction” printmaking. In essence, the first layer is carved a little bit, then the lightest color is printed. Next, the same block is carved away a little more — always keeping the overall design in mind — then that first layer is printed over by the second layer using a darker color. This process is continued until the final color is applied. The block left at the end of the process is only a fraction of the block I start with, thus a “reduced” version of the first layer.

A step-by-step visual of this method is included on my website here showing a similar reduction process I used when printing my “Three Sisters, Canmore” limited edition print. Click on the gallery showing “Making a multiple-color reduction block print” to see how it works.

Below I have included a scan of each layer of the “Dave” print, separated into color layers, for those who are interested. The final scan is of my “reduced” block.

Th first layer using the lightest grey ink, and the most coverage on the paper. I didn’t mind a little ‘ghosting’ on the fence since it was weathered.

The second layer showing a little less detail than the first, and printed in a darker grey than the first layer. Much of the layer underneath is covered up, but some is left to show through.

The third layer is the last one, and is printed in a black lightened a bit so that it is really a very dark grey.

This is how my block looks after the last print layer is made. All previous layers have been cut away (or reduced) to leave this final layer only. In this way, this limited edition block print could never be recreated because the first two layers no longer exist. Note that the block is a reverse image of the actual print.

10 responses to “Called by a sheep?

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