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art

One of my art projects last year was an attempt at nerdy art in a retro PCB style:

The idea was to use traces and board shapes to make something fun. After some hours of sketching and vector work I liked the results, but found that the general look isn't as interesting as I thought it could be. That's how art goes sometimes; idea, reasonable execution, and fizzle fizzle. And that's okay.

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I was looking at buying a set of PFEIL carving tools this year, but was holding off as they're pretty pricy. I expanded my search a bit and found a similar set from a local Canadian company, Lee Valley Tools. They're hardened steel with a comfortable wooden handle. They sharpen easily (and keep their edge well), and feel like they will last a lifetime. They're also ⅓ the price of the PFEIL tools.

$49 (CAD) block carving tools at Lee Valley Tools

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When my sketchbook is stale and I'm not feeling inspired, I look to pop culture for inspiration and ideas. I'm also a fan of other artists, and channeling some of their works through my own hands is immensely satisfying. It's an exercise that pushes you to analyze and rethink a thing that's interesting to me, and I always end up learning or discovering something new in the process.

A Super Mario Star (single colour, carved in EZ Cut)


No Face (2 colour, Quick Kut)


Jake the Dog and Lady Raincorn (single colour, Quick Kut)


Tortoro (single gradient, EZ Cut)

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A coworker was asking me what I used for linocut, so I made a chart of the blocks on my desk. There are several types of blocks that I don't have in my supplies (like mounted block and clear blocks), but the ones I use are a pretty common set of hobbyist materials.

  • I love carving the easy cut black: it's soft, makes great edges, and it's cheap in my area (at Opus). But, transferring artwork to a black plate is super inconvenient.
  • The safety kut style blocks are a lot of fun to work with, but the edges tend to crumble a bit. It's also pretty pricy, but great for kids to start out with.
  • The flooring vinyl is school flooring I bought over 20 years ago (at auction). It's hard, but cuts a sharp edge and is the cheapest of all the supplies I have. If you warm it up a bit, it carves nicely, and it can print hundreds of copies without degrading. It does have a bit of surface texture, but this tends to make prints more interesting.
  • The battleship grey block is the classic school art department block. It takes a good edge, is fairly cheap, and carves easily enough once warmed up.
  • The golden and wunder cut blocks are interesting. I got these from Dick Blick, and they smell wonderful (like linseed and sawdust, probably because that's exactly what they are). They carve fairly easily, but the edges crumble a bit. Regardless, these are very affordable and great for prints with patterns.

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Occasionally I like to sketch and carve things around our lemony brand. It's fun to think sideways around our polished brand marks, dreaming in colour and texture. These prints don't represent anything we would ever use, but the exercise was a good stretch for me (and good practice).

This is a second print of the plate with an attempt at layering a textural plate over top. I still need to work on this technique, but I do like the extra texture it adds to a print.

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I made a quick print this weekend based on a few drawings I was working on last week. The idea was to make a block print look like a sketch, and to use background lines as a textural element.

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We tried something new on art day recently: printing with Lego. It has potential, even if it's a bit of a pain to clean up.

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