Tree of Knowledge

A Commission

tree wood engraving

Here’s my wood engraving commissioned for a new publication by the Center for Action and Contemplation, an institute run by Fr. Richard Rohr, a highly regarded Franciscan Mystic in Albuquerque, NM. The journal is called Oneing in addition to another called Radical Grace for which an earlier engraving of mine was used.

The art director provided me with a theme according to what Fr. Rohr wanted to see as an illustration. The foliage represents  knowledge of the millennia with nourishment drawn up from the aquifer via the roots.

Resistance provided by deadlines is a great motivator for me. I had roughly seven days to finalize the sketch and translate it into an actual wood engraving. It measures roughly 4.25 x 4.25 inches on a boxwood block made by T.N. Lawrence & Son a long, long time ago.


  • Annie B

    Beautiful! I still have trouble using woodblock for commercial clients. I can never make the deadlines! Hats off to you.

  • John Steins

    Thanks Neil. I don’t engrave every day, wish I could though. I think after years of practice one develops a sensibility in their approach to making a relief print, regardless of the material used.

  • Neil Peck

    Those residual cut lines proved to be very effective! Very nice work especially in six days. I wonder if engraving gets any easier for full time artists who engrave every day? It may get harder as one’s standards rise faster than technique improves…

  • John Steins

    Thanks Jenny for your ongoing positive support. It means a lot. I actually started with the leaves paying attention to the residual cut-lines around them for textural interest, etc. Any way you do it is nerve wracking, ’cause you don’t want to ruin it.

    What would you like commissioned for your house? Haha.

  • Jenny

    Beautiful! A question for you John: What did you start engraving first? Did you begin with an outline of the trunk and roots?

    Since you like deadlines: You have 6 days to create a wood engraving for my house!

So great if you could take a minute and leave your thoughts on this.