Wood Engraving with David Frazer

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“With most of his life dedicated to the miniature and highly detailed art of wood-engraving, and the slightly larger but equally disciplined format of the linocut, his last decades saw a joyous transition to the freedom and flourish of gestural lines executed in black gouache brushmarks on vast expanses of Arches and other imported artists’ papers…….His later work, on a grand scale, is the very antithesis of the art of wood-engraving. The surety of touch and control of the medium in the late gestural works is heavily indebted to the discipline engendered by the precision necessary for meaningful wood-engraving.” ~ Jenny Zimmer, in an article about printmaker, Tate Adams.

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of participating in a wood engraving workshop with David Frazer at his studio in Castlemaine. This traditional craft predates linoleum, but is also a relief printing method, often used historically to illustrate pages that included letter-type. The blocks, made of box or lemonwood, are the same height as letterpress type and very durable, because the end grain is used, rather than the lateral grain of the wood. First developed at the end of the 18th century, the artisan uses much finer tools (such as an engraver’s barin) and is capable of achieving a much more detailed image compared to woodcut or linocut techniques.

David Frazer is a master with this method, producing small, intimate pieces such as “Lost”, which features a caravan surrounded by domestic animals, which he calls an “Australian Nativity scene”. He also creates much larger scale works in linocut, engraving and lithography, which are filled with the same amount of detail, creating truly impressive images.

Portland’s Upwelling Festival

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“In coastal waters rich in runoff, plankton can swarm densely, a million in a drop of water. They color the sea brown and green where deltas form from big rivers, or cities dump their sewage. Tiny yet hugely important, plankton govern how well the sea harvests the sun’s bounty, and so are the foundation of the ocean’s food chain.” ~Gregory Benford

On Saturday 29th October, Portland will be buzzing with the excitement of the annual “Bonney Upwelling” Festival. The Bonney Upwelling is the largest and most predictable upwelling in the Great South Australian Upwelling System.  The Blessing of the Fleet, market stalls, a street parade, Whale boat races and live entertainment will celebrate the natural bounty that comes with a confluence of climatic, seasonal and geographical conditions. The work above shows a blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, feeding upon the smallest plankton.

A Shoal of Seahorses

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“Nature is infinitely creative.  It is always producing the possibility of new beginnings.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The collective noun for seahorses can be both a “herd” and a “shoal” – I went for the more watery “shoal” for these four. I used coloured inks on wet paper for the backgrounds and then printed the linocut with Prussian Blue Caligo safewash. I had a very productive day at the Portland Bay Press, where members can use any of the Enjay presses and the well-equipped studio facilities. I look forward to meeting some of the members there, who are due to hang a new exhibition soon.