Music and art just go together. I often play music in my art studio while creating (mostly jazz) and recently I had an idea to combine my love of art, birds and music into a new print. There is nothing quite so lovely to me as the sound of a bird singing.
This is the inspiration behind my latest print “Canadian Songbird 2” that features a red-wing blackbird on sheet music for our national anthem “O Canada”. (My first “Canadian Songbird” print can be seen here and is one print away from being sold out.)
I’ve loved red-winged blackbirds for such a long time. Their distinctive trilling song can be heard in prairie and mountain marshes alike. With the idea for this print firmly in mind, I spent several trips to Bow Valley Provincial Park and “Middle Lake” where I have seen and heard these birds. Camera in hand, I could hear them, but their elusive nature meant I never got a photo that was usable as a reference.
Then, in the lovely way these things work, my oldest son was out for a visit from BC, and we spent an impromptu walk along the boardwalk in Canmore — right in the middle of town — and we were delighted when a red-wing blackbird flew into a tree beside us and posed.
Did I have my camera? Thankfully yes! The photo you see above is taken on that lucky afternoon. And, in another twist, the sheet music of “O Canada” is a scan from an old sheet music book I found in an antique store while out with the same son before he moved to BC. Oh, and did I mention he is in BC earning his music degree, majoring in jazz? A love of music is rampant in our family!
I began the print by making my reference drawing on tracing paper and laying in on my light table to make sure the drawing would line up with the sheet music.
Next, the image is transferred to the block, ready for the carving to begin.
I carefully carve away those pieces I do not want to print. Thinking in reverse, I leave those places I want the ink to cover on the block for the final print.
Below is the final carved block, ready for inking. For this block, because much of the sheet music will show through on the final design, I’ve cut the block to the shape of the design so I didn’t have to carve away all that extra space on the block.
Next, I apply the thin layer of ink to the block to see the final image. At this point, I refine the carving — taking away small parts to complete the design — then pull a test print to see what it looks like on paper.
The fully inked block, ready for printing.
I have built a small platform to register where I put the paper. The paper stock I am using is quite thick, so I will not be able to see the block at all once I lay the paper on top of the artwork. So, I will line up the block on the white foam core shown here, then register the paper by lining the paper up with the green masking tape. It’s a hand-process, so each print will be slightly different.
The paper is laid on top of the inked artwork, and burnished with a baren tool — a flat, smooth surface contacts the paper with the artwork to transfer the black ink onto the paper completely.
Pulling the paper off the block to reveal the print.
Next, the prints go up on my clothesline in studio to dry for several days before I can add the red on the wing of the bird.
Here I am part way through the edition, with the prints lined up behind me in studio.
Several days later, after the print is dry enough for the second color, I carve the tiny piece of red for the wing of the blackbird. It’s a tiny piece, and registering it will take practice!
Happy with the placement, I continue to print the red. The final prints hang to dry on my line.
Here is the final (scanned) print of “Canadian Songbird 2″, sized 9″ high x 6” wide.