'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Guest Post: illustrating with woodblock prints

Author/illustrator Tina Matthews joins us today to tell us about her very special illustrative process...

The top of a tree always seemed a very safe place to me when I was small. Even at school we were allowed to climb the huge trees and I can remember how smooth and shiny the bark was in the places where shoes and feet had found their footing as kids of all ages climbed to the top. In the weekends and after school, from way up in the big trees at home, I could see places I knew, tiny in the distance. I could hear people I loved near by. And I could feel the world turning as the sun and the sickle moon went down.

Those pleasurable recollections led me to write Waiting For Later. I think kids still love climbing trees, but adults are more nervous about children hurting themselves than they used to be. So I'm very pleased with the cover picture Walker Books chose for Waiting for Later; a small girl high up in a huge tree.

My first book Out of the Egg has just come out in paperback. It's about a hen, a seed, a little red chick and a great green whispery tree. It's about not giving up on a good idea, and children not accepting the silly things their parents sometimes say. It's a bit like the old story of The Little Red Hen but there’s a new generation in Out of the Egg and a new ending.

I did all the pictures for Out of the Egg using woodblock prints. It's a long process which involves drawing your picture on paper, then transferring it to a woodblock, carving the picture out of the wood, inking the block, then making prints from it. This is a very old way of making pictures and it seemed just right for Out of the Egg. With Waiting for Later I did simpler wood blocks then stenciled over the top of the prints. giving a more contemporary look. I even drew in a few of the tiny details by hand.

People sometimes ask why I go to all the trouble and effort of doing pictures this way. My answer is that however you make pictures they can take time and I love the way wood makes its mark on mine. It gives me a hand to get the pictures just right. This is International Year of the Forests so I'm pretty pleased my books about trees have both been published in 2011.

See our review of Out of the Egg


  1. i was a great climber too, Tina. it's the only sport i ever excelled at! i'm looking forward to Waiting for Later - i've seen a couple of reviews of it.
    Thanks for telling us about it - Virginia

  2. Tina, I love your wood cuts (have a real passion for printmaking so appreciate your work). btw, what type of wood do you use to cut? thanks!

  3. Stunning. I love your wood cuts too.

  4. Oops, pressed post too soon.

    What do you do with all the wood blocks after they've been carved? Do you keep them all? Do you ever use them again?

  5. A friend gave me some off cuts of NZ kauri which I used for Waiting for Later but often I use a laminated board with a thin veneer of wood on either side. It has to be fairly fine grained to get the detail I need.
    My shelves are groaning under the weight of the wood blocks. I have to keep them because they represent so much time and effort (and pleasure). And if I ever wanted to I could reproduce the pictures.

  6. is this book available in the US? I loved Out of the Egg and have been looking around for Waiting, to no avail...

  7. ACM - try http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ and postage to anywhere in the world is free!

  8. Marianne Archibald24 October 2011 at 19:34

    Such a perfect book. Beautiful pictures, beautiful story. What a genius you are Tina.


We value your comments, however, please note that all comments are moderated and need to be approved before publication, so spammers ... don't waste your time.