Tuesday, October 09, 2012

For The Benefit Of Mister Kite

Earlier this year I was contacted about a very singular project - to recreate the engravings from a Victorian circus poster. This in itself wasn't all that interesting. I am an engraver for hire and am offered a wide variety of work. What made this fascinating was the fact that this was the poster that inspired John Lennon to write the song "For The Benefit of Mister Kite" that was on the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper" album.

Available images of the illustrations on the poster were of a very poor quality:

These images would have been printed from "stock" blocks in the printer's workshop. They probably didn't even belong together and may have been trimmed to match. One way or another there was a lot of "noise" in the images that we had. The blocks would have been old, possible mistreated, inked and printed hastily and then we were looking at copies of copies of the original.
I spent a long time looking at the images, comparing them with other Victorian circus illustrations that I could find. I started to make drawings and comparing notes with Peter, who had commissioned the work:

After much discussion and many drawings, I started to mark out the designs on to two lemonwood engrain woodblocks, pick up my tools and start to engrave the images.

I made a short animation of the process using scans taken from the blocks and proofs:

Here are the finished blocks after I had proofed them and and made all the adjustments that I wanted to:

Here is the final proof from the blocks:

A very interesting aspect of this project was that it was filmed:

Nick and Joe made a wonderful short film about the whole story:

Lennon's Poster from Make Productions on Vimeo.

Finally, the whole story is told and the finished poster can be seen HERE.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The View From Swift Cottage

I do enjoy portraying wildlife into an appropriate setting and staying at Swift Cottage in Derbyshire gave me a chance to engrave a rather different landscape from my native Fenlands. The swifts were certainly there. They are a favourite bird of mine.

Originally, I was going to show two swifts in the foreground as this rough sketch shows.
At this point, I decided to use a naturally round piece of boxwood and shaded the sketch in pencil to explore this idea:

Here is the block, darkened with diluted pen ink and ready to start to mark up the design in reverse:
I decided to make a record of the engraving of this block and so can show how it developed from the first ink drawing to the point that I could pull the first proof in the press:

I felt that the second swift was pulling the image apart and so replaced it with three smaller swifts in the distance, flying in the opposite direction:

I proofed the block in the smaller 1865 Albion handpress:

I was very pleased with the first proof (State I) and went about making small adjustments and taking further proofs. Here I am checking State III and making the final changes

I was very pleased with State IV and decided that nothing else needed to be done.

Here is the finished engraving which will be published in an edition of 125, printed from the original block. It is available HERE. During the month of October 2012, it will be offered for a special price.