Evolution of a Relief Engraving

I've just finished a new engraving, and did a much better job of documenting each step than I usually do (it's easy to forget to stop and take photos!). So, I thought I'd share with you how I make my engravings, from the first sketch to the last print. This is a commission for the Southern Highland Craft Guild to create a new design for their rack cards that list 2018 events. They needed something eye catching, in a tall narrow format, with plenty of blank space for events listings which will be added in digitally.

1. Sketch. This is the final sketch I made after a few different ones. Early sketches included a sheep on its back legs on a rocking chair, but it was just so hard to make it clean and not too distracting! My goal was to include each of the crafts represented by the SHCG: wood, metals, fiber, ceramics, glass, and ceramics. I ended up with this image, more balanced and with plenty of space along the sides for added information.


2. Transfer. I transferred the image to a Corian block, refined it with a Sharpie, then stained the block with a bit of red ink so that I can see the white lines as I carve. This is only my second time carving on Corian (the countertop material), and I'm really happy with the results. As compared to cutting on engrain wood, pros: very uniform surface, doesn't react to moisture, harder and doesn't bruise easily, and much more affordable. Cons: harder surface wears down the cutting tools faster, doesn't cut with a nice curl, takes a little more effort to make a mark.

3. Cut the outline. This doesn't always apply to every image, but this one does sit on a white background, so I could cut all around the main elements and mark the areas that need to be cleared away. Most importantly for this step is to cut enough of the image to make a first proof, then be able to continue without the need of the drawing which will be cleaned away after printing.

4. Keep cutting. Determine a light source, add patterns, and create volume. I leave any large areas that need to be cut away until later; these help support my brayer as I ink up, to keep it level and steady.

5. Remove large areas. To give my arm and wrist a break, I use a Dremel to clear away large areas. I use a Dremel "Work Station" to hold it in place, take my time, and steer clear of cut areas to avoid tragedy and tears.

6. Final touches and print. This is listed as one step, but this is repeated many times until the image looks just right. If the areas that have been cut away are hard to see, I'll sprinkle some talc and rub it into the cuts to brighten them up again. To be honest, I've been using talc, but for this print I switched to magnesium carbonate, a white powder that stiffens the ink. I've been adding this to my printing ink anyways, and it makes more sense to me to use an ink additive rather than talc, which might affect the print quality.

And now I'll leave you with a short reveal video:


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