June 4, 2013

Boats by Dodds

        Some friends of mine, upon hearing that I like block-printed alphabet books, lent me on Sunday Alphabet of Boats.  This is a charming little book, just under five inches square, featuring a bold, simple linoleum block print representing a sailing boat for every letter of the alphabet.  Now, I'm not much of a boat buff, but, like many people, I've always found sailboats beautiful.  Moreover, I think their lines and shapes make them great subjects for black and white block printing.
        The artist of this Alphabet of Boats is James Dodds (UK, b. 1957), who apprenticed as a shipwright before going to art school.  So, unlike me when I get an idea to go make a block print of some random thing, he really knows whereof he carves.  At the end of the book there's a very brief explanation of how the development of the different boats related to each other through history and geography.  This gives some context to the fact that some of the boats look very similar, while others have more obvious differences.
        All the pictures have the same strong, graphic format: the boat in silhouette against a textured sky, with a thick black border.  Does this make for visual consistency or for boredom?  I suppose that's a matter of opinion, but I like it.  I also really like the endpapers, with their grid of tiny black boats.
        Now, those of you with a mathematical bent might have noticed, as I did, that there are 32 little boats on the endpapers, and only 26 letters in the alphabet.  I set out comparing all the pictures to discover what the extras were - and I found to my surprise that only 22 of the illustrations from the alphabet are actually represented on the endpapers, while there are ten bonus boats.  Just a little extra nautical fun for those who want more!
        I also went looking up James Dodds on the internet, and I liked what I found so much that I plan to feature more of his work another day.  So stay tuned for Dodds's much more detailed work later.

[Pictures: Cutter and Dhow, linoleum block prints by James Dodds;
Wherry and Xebec, lino prints by Dodds;
Endpapers, lino prints by Dodds,
Yawl, lino print by Dodds, all from Alphabet of Boats by James Dodds, 1998.]


  1. Having just finished my black and white woodcuts for a Cats A-Z book, I loved reading this post and checking out this wonderful little images of boats. Thanks for posting!

  2. Ooh, congratulations on finishing your alphabet! I've been enjoying the finished cats as they get posted.