Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My First Raven Print


This is a newest version of my oldest raven image.

The original print "Raven Call" was started when I lived on Nantucket Island in 1987 but was finally finished when I moved to Alaska in 1989.  While in Alaska the print was used for the cover illustration for “The Raven & The Totem” by J E Smelcer

 The left image is the first edition and the image on the right is a colorized version for the 25th anniversary edition

When I lived in Minnesota all of my copies of the edition were destroyed due to a roof leak. I did not know it at the time but the leak also damaged the plate, I discovered the damage in 2012. A corrosive substance pitted the surface and damaged the image.  I reworked the plate, adding a dark border, I also introduced more foliage and engraved throughout the image and re-aquatinted the raven.  I also added a new image to the print, the “soft ground” impression of an actual raven feather that I had since I live in Alaska. I further enhanced the feather with Drypoint and Engraving.

Printing these two plate takes over an hour of work to create each final print. Each print requires inking and step by step cleaning until the plate has ink in all the lines yet the metal is perfectly clean. Today we are used to everything being done quickly, printing is done with your computer and digital printer. This process dates back to the Renaissance and has changed very little. Acids and engraving tools create the lines. Each print is individually hand printed. 
plate before ink is added
applying ink by hand
hand wiping the plate. Printmakers love to get their hands dirty!!

Finding a Raven's feather was once considered a gift.

To Native People finding a raven feather on the path was believed to mean that the finder was on a higher spiritual path or it may be a sign of encouragement to seek a path to discover new wisdom.

In many Native cultures feathers are symbols of higher thought or spiritual development. Despite the Dark coloration, Raven is the Creator and bringer of light. Eagle and Raven feathers were worn by Native American Chiefs to symbolize their communication with Spirits, and to express their wisdom. Also in the Native American Indian culture, feathers represented the power of the thunder gods, along with the power of air and wind. Raven as a Totem animal was associated with, heightened awareness, humor, enlightenment, higher intelligence, higher thought, higher ideals, and creativity

THE GIFT -Etching 12 inch by 21 inch 2012



  1. Beautiful Sir! Great back story also. Glad you could save the plate. I my list.

    1. Thanks, I printed this plate recently and realized that this plate had been started 30 years ago!!!
      I am old