Queequeg Redux


4″ x 5″ wood engraving on Stonehenge paper with
Graphic Chemical Bone black ink

So here I am with a second engraving, the first since I took the wood engraving workshop with Rik Olson, and not only is it not perfect, it’s a mess. It’s a disaster. It didn’t come out anything like it was supposed to. If Elizabeth Barrett Browning will excuse me, “How did I screw up? Let me count the ways.” How can it be that I am not perfect when I’ve done this once before? I am eating worms and have a permanent case of the grumbles!

Oh well. At least I don’t have to go out and spend money on bigger hats to fit a swelled head. And there are benefits even to disasters. I am pretty sure I can do better next time. After all, what if I had really created a masterpiece? I would have had to throw away or give away all my brand new engraving tools because I would be certain I would never be able to create another engraving as good. Now I can talk about my incremental improvement and force people to look at one good line out of an entirely poorly cut block and have them say, “Oh. I see. Yes. That is very good.” while they neither see nor care to see what it is I am talking about and while they are thinking, “How can I escape? Get me out of here! Where did this bore-of-the-month come from?”

And I have learned a great deal from this piece. Although I keep hearing from people that I should set up an outline on the block and leave room for embellishments and spontaneity when carving, I think it works better for me to plan everything out ahead of time. After all, using a little bit of an eraser is much cheaper and less frustrating than ruining another block. I’ve learned that even rock maple has soft spots, and less is more when it comes to pressure. I’ve learned that with a little less force, the gravers slide through the wood more easily, and the block will still print when I don’t try to dig the tool deeply into the wood.

So I think, over all, my failure was a success after all; and I can get started on my next practice piece.

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