John Jānis Šteins

:: Artist ::

Book Cover Art

I was very pleased to accommodate poet Michael Eden Reynolds’ request for one of my linocuts as the cover art for his new collection of poems called Slant Room. The print that appealed to Michael most was a linoblock called Ornament. This was a cut I made after a wood engraving by Paul Nash, a British artist I greatly admire.

It was published in October of 2009 by the wonderful Porcupine’s Quill Press in Erin Ontario. Proprietors Tim and Elke Inkster are very supportive of wood engravers. They publish collections by artists like George Walker and Gerard Brender á Brandis. I was offered the opportunity for one of my very own but alas, like the donkey who perished because he couldn’t decide between a stack of hay and a pile of oats, I continue to be seduced by the smorgasbord of delightful distractions in my creative life.

Ah, the life of an aristocrat!

Unfortunately, liberties were taken by the book designer that I didn’t agree too. Namely the addition of a red background to what is supposed to be a monochrome design. It constitutes an alteration of the art outside the original intent of the artist which of course could be interpreted as an expression of disrespect. I’m a big fan of Michael and Porcupine’s Quill so I figured it was best not to rock the boat, thereby not adding to the pre-publication stress.

In the meantime, I was asked to provide some engraved embellishments to be included in Michael’s book. I prepared eight one inch square boxwood blocks and engraved designs on each. Here’s four of them.

I used Ornament as a reference on which to base these images.

Be sure to check out Michael’s book.

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  1. Caryl Peters February 6, 2011

    I like the engraved embellishments you created for the book – where did you find the one-inch blocks? For one of our books using George Walker’s engravings, I digitally selected a portion of an engraving to use in this manner (with George’s permission, of course), but I like the idea of creating something original. What do you mean by “I used Ornament as a reference on which to base these images”? I’m new at this. Caryl

  2. John Steins February 6, 2011 — Post author

    Thanks Caryl!

    I have a lifetime supply of boxwood stored in my woodworking shop. Not all the bits are of perfect quality but one inch square pieces are easy to find and polish up for a wood engraving. I don’t worry about them being type high since I print them on the etching press.

    I really enjoyed doing that project for Michael’s book. I selected small passages from my cover art to use as a basis for the spot illustrations. It really got me excited to make larger abstracts along the same lines, which I am gearing up to do. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a new engraving.

    If there’s anything I can assist you with, please let me know.


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