I was running short of "Mix" so I thought I would share its secrets. "Mix" is what I use to darken the block before I transfer the design onto it prior to engraving. It is simply diluted writing ink.
I use blue-black "Quink" writing ink but I imagine that any water soluble ink would do but you will have to work out the proportions.
I use a simple pipette to measure out a small quantity of Quink. I can see no reason why you should not use a spoon:
Then, for every measure of Quink, I add six measures of water, give it a shake (with the lid on!) and we are ready to darken a block.
I use a piece of smooth cotton cloth (from an old t-shirt) and wash a little "Mix" over the block - taking care that it does not get too dark. My preference is that the block is light enough for my ink lines to show but dark enough so that I can make out the cuts that I have made and get an overall balance of light and dark as I work:
This block is going to be engraved with an image of the Ghost Of Christmas Present from Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol":
This is one of seven large engravings commissioned by Susan Hill's Long Barn Press. This project is great fun and I will keep you posted as the engravings are finished. Ideally, I would like to complete one a week but that might be pushing it a little - we will see.
Outside, Spring is finally here. This is my favourite season - such an optimistic time of year - and our spring bulbs are looking wonderful both in border and in pot:
Back in the studio, I have been making a display of four information boards and some blocks, tools, prints and drawings. These were installed in Cambridge Central Library last week ahead of the workshop I gave as part of Cambridge Wordfest Spring 2010:
Everyone who bought a ticket was to receive a keepsake which included an original engraving printed from the woodblock in the 1865 Albion handpress. I signed each one beneath the image.
The event was great fun to do and very well received. It was a sell-out - not surprising as I was accompanied by author Philip Pullman in a unique event. I told the story of the design and engraving of the illustrations that I made for "A Outrance" and Philip talked about the project, his own drawings made for the "His Dark Materials" trilogy and then gave a wonderful reading from the chapter of "Northern Lights" that told the story of the bear fight. I was in the happy position to be able to sit at the front and enjoy both the telling of the tale and also the faces of the audience as they listened, entranced.
"Iorek & Iofur Fight" from "A Outrance" is the new "Print of the Month" on my website and is available for sale here.