Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Peak District Prints Part 2

In the first of these two posts, I described the creation of a pair of engravings which featured wildlife in a Peak District setting - a landscape with a very different character from the low-lying flat lands in which I live.
The third engraving follows a similar pattern.

3. A Peregrine On The Roaches

One of the most memorable events of my visit to the Peak District was to clamber up a ridge of rock called  the Roaches. They are spectacular in themselves but I was keen to see the peregrine falcons that were nesting there. I was not disappointed. Most impressive was the speed at which they approached the nest when they took over parental duties from each other.

I decided not to engrave a peregrine in flight. They have such a powerful presence when they stand and survey the landscape. That is what I wanted to attempt to capture. I started by making very rough sketches and then a more finished ink drawing.

I tightened the image by reducing the size of the drawing by cutting and pasting. It would still be one of my largest engravings on wood. Here is the final drawing:

I added a silhouette of a second peregrine in the sky and, beyond the Roaches, I drew the shape of a separate hill called Hen Cloud. I consciously suggested the shape of the rock formations in the pose of the bird.

Engraving was a lengthy process as I wanted to include much detail at every stage. I started with the eye and worked outwards:

Here is the finished block:

From the first proof, I was pleased with this image. I made a few adjustments to tidy some elements and balance light and dark and then it was done:

"A Peregrine On The Roaches" 
Wood Engraving.  Image size: 120 x 120mm
 Hand printed on Zerkall paper in an edition of 125 

4. Peak Post

I have already described the  making of the nine small blocks that make up "Peak Post". This was a way of including glimpses of the Peak District which had interested me but which, in themselves did not suggest a substantial engraving. 
I have also had a fascination with so called "Cinderella" stamps and have engraved them before. Here are some of my original sketches:

And here are most of the individual blocks:

There was not an issue with printing the individual blocks but I wanted to print all nine together as a "sheet" of stamps. This took a lot of careful preparation as I adjusted the blocks on the press:

It was worth the extra effort when, after careful adjustments of packing, inking and pressure, I was able to pull crisp impressions from the press:

"Peak Post"

Nine wood engravings printed as a group. Image size 130 x 175mm
 Hand printed on Zerkall paper in an edition of 125

I will add a reminder that the whole set of approximately forty engravings will be exhibited at many places in the Peak District during 2014 and that I will be demonstrating engraving and speaking about this experience at Gallerytop, Chatsworth Road, Rowsley, Matlock, Derbyshire. DE4 2EH on Saturday 12th April at the Private View, which runs from 12noon - 4pm.

***The two prints described here are also for sale at a pre-publication price in my Etsy store:

Peak District Prints Part 1

I was one of a dozen engravers who were invited to visit the Peak District and create wood engravings in response. I was part of a group who traveled there in early May 2013 and, over the next few months, I planned and engraved four prints. The whole set of approximately forty engravings will be exhibited at many places in the Peak District during 2014. I will be demonstrating engraving and speaking about this experience at Gallerytop Chatsworth Road, Rowsley, Matlock, Derbyshire. DE4 2EH on Saturday 12th April at the Private View, which runs from 12noon - 4pm.

In this first of a pair of posts, I will show the development oftwo of the engravings.

1. A Chatsworth Hedgehog

I enjoyed the grounds of Chatsworth House very much but found my inspiration in the extensive vegetable garden. I liked the sunny parkland stretching out beyond the stable block and, nearer to hand, I loved the terracotta rhubarb forcers. It was rather early for many vegetables to I decided to imagine those at a later date.

I found this composition rather difficult. No matter how I arranged vegetables and forcers, I was unhappy with the result, which lacked focus. The answer came to me as I was walking round my own village. A hedgehog! They are a favourite mammal of mine and, although I saw no sign of one during my visit, I was sure that Chatsworth must have many hedgehogs scuttling about in the twilight.

Here is a series of four preparatory drawings which show how I took a sketchy idea and developed it to the point that I could start to engrave:

The last drawing is in ink and shows how I turned the stable block to make a more symmetrical image. The leeks make a small "avenue" along which the hedgehog has been moving.

The engraving was relatively straightforward. The first proof pulled was rather flat and grey and so I had to make sure that I let enough light into the image by widening some of the engraved lines.

Here is the finished image. I was particularly pleased with this engraving after the difficulty I had at the beginning.

" A Chatsworth Hedgehog" 

Wood Engraving. Image size 104 x 70 mm 
Hand printed on Zerkall paper in an edition of 125

2. Dovedale Heron

I had seen this heron on a walk along  Dovedale the previous year and had been thinking about making an engraving so this was the perfect opportunity. There was no difficulty in this composition as I had a vivid memory of the heron perched on a dry stone wall, standing on one leg.

The heron is on of my favourite birds and I have made three engravings - one large and two tiny. I was lookng forwards to adding a forth.

Here is my original ink drawing. Having made it, I decided that I wanted to change the slope of the wall and so made the very rough sketch below it.

As usual, I made an outline drawing in ink on the block. The cuts themselves are improvised as I work.

I enjoyed engraving the stone wall. I tried to give each piece its own character, rather than use a formula throughout the wall.

It was soon time to start working on the background:

Here is the engraved block. Notice how the valley side behind the head is engraved right up to the bird.

I was happy with many aspects of the print when I pulled the first proof but it seemed a little "flat". After much thought, it occurred to me to cut a circle of light behind the head.  As soon as I took the next proof I was happy with the image. Who knows where inspiration comes from?

Here is the finished engraving:

"Dovedale Heron"

Wood Engraving.  Image size: 106 x 67mm
 Hand printed on Zerkall paper in an edition of 125

I am offering a special pre-publication price on these two engravings. They can be purchased at this price exclusively from my Etsy store:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Busy November (Forthcoming Events)

I have had my head down and have been working hard during the past few months, mainly on bookplate projects. However, there are some other things on my desk at the moment. More about them soon.

Right now, I am preparing for three separate events that all take place during the next three weeks. I hope that you will be able to attend one of these; do please introduce yourself if you can.

1. Oxford Fine Press Fair

First is the FPBA Fine Press Fair at Brookes University, Oxford. This takes place on the weekend of 2nd-3rd November. Details of this event can be found here.

 Here is my table from 2011. As then, I will be selling a selection of hand made books and engravings.

2. Exhibition at Fulbrook House, Near Cambridge.

I was very pleased to be invited to take part in a group exhibition at Fulbrook House Gallery, which is in Great Eversden CB23 1HN. I will be showing a group of framed engravings, together with some unframed. Details can be found here.

Here is an invitation - it would be lovely to see you at the private view:

3. Ely Cathedral Christmas Gift and Food Fair 2013

This is my first year at this event. It was a huge success last year and I am looking forwards to taking part. I will joining a hundred other exhibitors and forty specialist food stalls. I will be taking engravings, books and cards. Details can be found here.

The cathedral has been one of my favourite buildings since childhood and features in so much of my work. It will be a pleasure to show my engravings there.

But first - back to the bookbinding!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Old Owl House

This is a new engraving but it has had a long gestation. On my daily walks I can look out across a meadow and see an old owl house. It is tilted at a strange  angle and is falling apart but I rather like it. I have thought about making an engraving of it for years but I could never quite see it.

Earlier this year I was leaning on a gate, looking at the same meadow when I saw a barn owl hunting. I love to watch this - the quiet beauty and power of these birds is wonderful. As the bird moved around the meadow, I could clearly see the old Owl house in the trees beyond the meadow and the view started to make sense as an image. Sometimes I just see something as an engraving.

That was several months ago and it was only recently that I was able to set commissioned work aside for a week and concentrate on this project. I had a suitable woodblock in the studio:

I worked from a very rough sketch - just enough to give me the composition. I decided to do the work from memory, based on careful observation of the view on my walks.

 The only part that I planned more carefully was the owl. I have made many sketches over the years:

I decided to start by engraving the wings, building up the texture of the feathers by cutting lines over a pattern of dots:

The owl slowly took shape:

 The medieval cathedral of Ely is an essential part of the image. I started to define its characteristic shape:

 Then it was time to sketch in the owl house and the surrounding bushes:

Next, I engraved  the trees behind the meadow. Every one would have different marks to make sure that each tree had its own character. Here is a small ash:

 The tree textures are very fine and wouldn't really become visible until the block was proofed.

I gave my attention to the sky. I often feature a pair of birds; it is something of a signature of mine. In this engraving, I decided to feature swallows as I usually see them flying over the same meadow at this time of year.

I gradually built up the texture of the clouds - cutting in two different directions, which contrasted well with the quiet parallel lines of the darker clear sky:

 When I had taken the sky as far as I could, I worked on the foreground. Among the meadow grasses were Queen Anne's Lace. I decided to engrave the flowers from life:

Here is the engraved block, ready to proof:

Proofing went very smoothly and the image needed little adjustment. It was a pleasure to start the edition. The finished engraving is very much what I had in mind when I first watched the owl hunting.

Here is the finished engraving:

It will be exhibited for the first time at Guildford and available from my Open Studio (see previous post for details). It can be purchased HERE at a pre-publication price for one week.

This engraving has just been accepted for the 76th Society Of Wood Engraver's annual touring show. This starts at Art Jericho, Oxford (Private View at 5pm on Saturday, September 14th).
Other venues include:
High Cross House, Dartington
Bankside Gallery, London
Zillah Bell Gallery, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
St Davids, Pembrokeshire
Marle Gallery, Axminster