Monthly Archives: October 2013

How To Peel Birch Bark

IMGP5495Peeling birch bark is surprisingly simple.  All you need is a utility knife, and a tree.

Make a vertical cut, however long you want the piece to be…


….and by cut, I mean use the blade part of the knife – for, if you’re like me, Common Sense likes to take regular strolls along the beach. In the meantime, someone should probably take that knife away from you at this point (at least until CS is back from its walk).

Peeling Birch Bark by Saltwater Birch Studio

Once you have the vertical cut, peel the rest with your hand – no need to use a knife for the horizontal part, as the bark will peel itself (and if you just breathed a sigh of’re not alone. Think of it as one less opportunity to accidentally stab yourself!)

Then comes the fun part!

Drawing, doodling, painting… or biting (a traditional Native art form where they bite a pattern into thin bark takes some serious chomping skills…I haven’t tried it but it’s fascinating to watch).

Birch Bark Drawings by Saltwater Birch Studio

Different types of birch bark:

Gray birch (above): harder to peel, impossible to separate layers. Being readily available in New Brunswick, I’ve used this type of tree a lot in my bark drawings. The surface is a little flaky, and very rough on your pens (it tends to ruin the tip)…I’ve had many casualties in my dwindling Micron stock. Best for use with markers, charcoal, or garden variety ink.

White/paper/canoe birch (below): on mature trees, it’s possible to peel each individual layer. The surface looks yellow/orange, and is very smooth – good for using your archival ink, and oil paint. This bark is also waterproof, which means ink (or paint) won’t soak through or run.


One last thing: Be aware of peeling bark from living trees. I try to avoid this, by only using dead trees (those uprooted by storm surges, or that I find in a neighbour’s woodpile). Bark is essentially a tree’s skin – peeling the skin off of a living tree can leave it open to the elements (and possible infection), so you may end up killing it (and let’s face it – no one can afford bad karma these days).

Happy Barking!


Cadmium & Dull Ochre

Autumn Leaves

I would love to chase autumn around the world. An autumn tour of the world. Though fall moves at a quick pace – it may end up as a 20-countries-in-10-days-run-run-run! type of tour.

So, before the last color-soaked droplets fall, here are some of my favorite shots of this elusive season:

(in and around) New Brunswick


Like most of eastern Canada, everywhere you look there are trees, trees, and more trees. It can make driving long distances boring – except in autumn – when vibrant foliage lights up the otherwise mossy landscape. (Incidentally, getting from Point A to B will take slightly longer..unless my camera batteries run out of juice…which has been known to happen on more than one occasion).

(somewhere in) Korea


Fall may be fleeting, but there’s something beautiful in experiencing moments that won’t last. That remain only in the dusty corners of your mind. (Unless you’re a trigger-happy photographer…on a wholly unrelated note, I’ve been meaning to express my thanks for the life-saving invention of external hard-drives!).

Don’t Step On The Carcass

BeachcombingSummer sundays are designated beach combing days. Though “beach combing” doesn’t do it justice – it’s more like “salty breeze adventures with washed up treasures”.

Sand and grass

It’s a nice way to spend the morning – treasure hunting for the perfectly gnarled, twisty driftwood, while stockpiling the vitamin D (hibernation is just around the corner).

However, I learned you should watch where you’re going, even while walking along the pristine beach. As I came within an inch of trotting on a rotting bird carcass. Damn that indiscriminate ocean! Why can’t it just wash up beautiful things, and leave the rest at sea?

So, my driftwood-seeking eyes started looking where I was going…


Today’s crops

…and today became a successful harvest, with lots of oddly shaped bark-less finds, and I can’t wait to show you what I have planned for my loot! 

hint: it involves driftwood and lots of skunky smelling glue.