Portrait of an acrobatic nuthatch

Nuthatches are the acrobats of the forest. These little birds love the pine trees behind our house, giving me lots of camera opportunities. They are fast and so nimble!

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch2These are red-breasted nuthatches, and they are a fairly common bird here in Alberta. They will walk up or down a tree like they are defying gravity, and sometimes hang upside down to get at the bugs beneath the bark.

LINDA COTE-Red-Breasted NuthatchIt’s a joy to watch them, but it’s also tricky to catch them with the camera!

LINDA COTE-Red-Breasted Nuthatch2Their long bill helps them dig deep for food: beetles, caterpillars, spiders and ants. In the fall, they will also eat seeds and nuts. They sometimes stick food into bark crevices and may even cover them with pieces of bark, lichen or pebbles to disguise them from other birds.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch3

My latest print is an homage to this lovely little bird. It’s part of my linocut “Little Bird” series.

Here’s how I captured its personality with a hand-carved linocut print.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Carving Block

The first stage is to transfer my design to the block. Carving begins with taking away the background.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Block

I use several different sized carving tools to achieve a variety of lines in the art. A close-up shows the detail of the bird and its feathers, created with a very tiny ‘V’ tool.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Final Block

This shows the block, all carved. The graphite pencil will come off after I pull my first few test prints.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Ink pull

The block is inked with black oil-based printmaking ink, then the test print is pulled. I can see any adjustments I need to make, then carry on with the edition.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Ink

The (right to left) ink, the roller (brayer), the baren to rub the back of the paper by hand once I lay it on the inked block, and the paper print!

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch & Artist

The reveal! Always one of the best parts of this process!

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Prints hanging

Next, I dry my prints on the clothesline in my studio. Since there is only one color, and the ink is applied in a very thin layer to the block, this print will be dry to touch in a few days, and ready for packaging in about a week.

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Prints

Progress…an edition of 33 prints (like this one turned out to be) will take about 3 hours to print by hand. Every time a print is pulled off the inked block, most of the ink transfers to the paper, so I must re-ink the block every time I make a print. I turn up the music and … ink, print, repeat!

LINDA COTE-Nuthatch Prints drying

The prints drying (above) and the final print (below). Thanks for following my process!

LINDA COTE-Little Nuthatch

The final print: LITTLE NUTHATCH 7.5″ h x 5.5″ w


8 responses to “Portrait of an acrobatic nuthatch

  1. Linda, this is just lovely! Might I suggest another print, based on the image of the nuthatch upside down?? That’s one of the things I love most about watching them!

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