moon whale linocut relief print printmaking
One of the first “Moon Whale” prints

Moon Whale is my most complex block print design to date, with multiple blocks and overlapping layers of colour. Below I have shared a bit about my inspiration and the process behind this design.

I will never forget the first time I saw a humpback whale in Haida Gwaii, comprehending what is really meant by a mammal “the size of a bus”. The enlarged full moon rising over the whale fluke is exaggerated and playful, designed to conjure the magic of such a sighting.

humpback whale
Humpback whale fluke, taken in Haida Gwaii with 200mm zoom lens and cropped.

As with most of my prints, I start out with an idea and do many sketches to refine the design and figure out how it will work in the positive and negative space framework of relief printing. When playing with the scale of the moon, I came across “The owl and the boy” by Ningeokuluk Teevee and decided to use a similarly larger than life moon in my design. (See more of Teevee’s wonderful work on the Dorset Fine Arts website:

whale tail moon
Transferring design idea to full size sketch. The moon started off way smaller.


full moon whale tail art sketch
The final, full-size design sketch. Some of the details will be refined in the carving process.


linoblock full moon whale tail sketch
Transferring the design to the linoblock.


Carving the full moon into the rubber block.

After carving the block I like to do a test print in all black to see how the design is looking in reverse. Next I tried with colour. I was excited by the results but was looking for more vivid colours and more impact from the full moon.

Black ink test print! Still lots of work to get to the final colour version.


moon whale linocut colour test
First colour test print. I wanted more impact from the moon.

I researched Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints for inspiration when planning the colours for this moonlit scene.

a fairy moon and a lonely shore ukiyo-e japanese woodblock print
“A fairy moon and a lonely shore”, created between 1890 and 1940, The Matsumoto Do, From The Library of Congress Prints


Japanese woodblock ukiyo-e
“Fūkeiga” (Landscape), Andō, Hiroshige, 1797-1858, artist, created between 1900 and 1940, from an earlier print. Source: Library of Congress


ukiyo-e japanese woodblock of fishermen at night
“Yoru no fukagawa sanbashi” (Sanbashi Bridge in Fukugawa at night), created between 1900 and 1920, Artist: Unknown, Source: Library of Congress

I came up with a plan to print a background layer for the highlights and reflections, and then print the carved details in darker colours over top. The carved blocks allow me to make more than one print.

blockprint layers and printmaking tools
The final design is comprised of multiple block sections.

This design is a limited edition of 50. Due to the different components and hand blending of ink, no two prints are exactly the same.

moon whale tail colour print
A finished print in the limited edition of 50.

While lots is known about whales, much about their behaviour is still a mystery. Whether catching a glimpse of a distant spout from shore, or seeing a tail slap or a full breach, each whale sighting takes my imagination below the surface, to ponder what life is like for these giants. My goal with this print was to capture a little of the magic and wonder of seeing a whale in real life.

Learn more about cetaceans:
Marine Education and Research Society
BC Cetacean Sightings Network

Print currently available in my Etsy shop

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