Monday, July 25, 2005

Cutting and Proofing

Another productive day. The wedding block and tail-piece are proofed with just a little adjustment to make on each. The corals are particularly striking and I am very pleased with the work - unusually after the first proof. It will only need a few more minutes work.

There is a little more to be done for the tail piece - a series of small adjustments that will take about an hour. All of this is to be done early tomorrow morning as it is my father's 80th birthday and we will be spending the rest of the day with him.

The fritillary design is ready to transfer to the block. Hopoefully I can start that late tomorrow night to finish by Wednesday lunchtime. Its all go! I'm really starting to look forwards to a holiday.
This is the block for the wedding project just before I inked it and took the first proof. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Hospital, The Bottle and Cracking On

Yesterday got off to a slowish start as I took my older son to Hospital for an appoinment. Actually, things worked out rather well as I took my V&A file with me and, after about an hour of waiting, thinking and sketching, I had finalised designs for two of the part blocks that I had not yet started: the press device and the fritillary. The former is going to be another suprise and so I will not show it here. It involves a large number of elements and I spent much of the rest of the day drawing these pieces, fitting them together and then reducing the drawing to fit the 2 x 2" boxwood block that I have been saving for this particular image. By 6pm, the drawing was transferred to the block ready for the engraving.

After the appointment this morning, A and I walked through the small city of Ely. There is a craft and collectors market each Saturday and I was pleased to find a lovely ceramic bottle made at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives by Trevor Corser. This is my second piece by TC and it is a fine piece of work. The very low asking price put a spring in my step; I love a bargain!

No work on Saturday evening as we travelled to a nearby village to celebrate the wedding of two friends. They live on a farm and the evening was perfect: great weather, good food and dancing in the farmyard to a band who played from the open doors of a barn. Its good to take a break eh?

This morning (Sunday) saw me busy engraving the press deevice. Box is such a lovely wood to work on, especially if lots of detail is needed. I engraved throughout the day, taking breaks to walk the dog and clear up. The block was finished this evening and I had meant to take a proof but we spent far too long looking for a hotel in Berkeley, CA - that last night to fix up on out American adventure.

I did manage to transfer the design for the wedding project onto its block. I will be engraving this as I crack on with the V&A blocks as its sometimes good to hget away from a project for a few minutes.

Its late. I'm tired. So I wish you a "Good Night", gentle reader.
Here is the block for the Wedding project. I have carefully drawn out the design in reverse onto the block. I will now darken the wood slightly with diluted "Quink" ink so that the light emerges as I engrave. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Advertising My Albion Handpress Blog

This is just by way of an advertisement for my new blog. This tells the story of the continuing restoration of my Albion Handpress.You can follow the story here:

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Productivity Saturday

Quite a productive day, today. Once again, I juggled references and sketches for V&A as I give "If He Be..." a rest and work on one of the full page illustrations. I keep tweaking the sketches to play with the balance of light and dark or reveal a shapely ankle, or more. It is good, sometimes, to lay down the graver and think about design. It must be right before I cut the wood and there is no going back.

I also sneaked a few minutes sorting through type - I have to find some way to get my hands dirty if I'm not printing.

The "doves" block is finally on eBay and I look forwards to seeing if anyone is interested. If I get anything at all, it will go towards new wood for future projects.

Finally, I scanned and emailed the sketch for the EW wedding invitation. This is a very exciting project involving corals at night illuminated by moonlight filtering through the water.

And now I can take an evening off as its party time out there in the Fens. Have yourselves a great weekend, faithful readers!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Into the Type Cave

Over fifteen years ago, I bought the contents of a small print workshop. It was a modest collection of old worn type and other odds and ends but I always wanted to print letterpress so I went ahead and made my purchase. An immediate problem was storage.

I made good use of much of the type in the early 1990s when I made small books for my own "Isle Handpress". After that, the type just sat there as I concentrated on developing my wood engraving. I have recently renewed my interest in letterpress and I have acquired small amounts of display type. However, I was short of larger amounts of founts suitable for text.

Recently, I have been told that the room that I teach in is being refurbished. I have been going through the room and its cupboards and throwing out the accumulatiuon of twenty-five years of clutter. I pulled out a tall cabinet in a walk-in cupboard and felt the same delight as Howard Carter must have done on first looking into the tomb of Tutankhamun - twenty-five cases of type that I had salted away like a squirrel. Here were old friends: Blado, Albertus and Cantebury. Best of all was the discovery of many cases of Melior and Times Roman - enough to get me started on setting text.

I have been engraving "If He Be Dead" for V&A. I started by very very carefully defining the tones on the face and now, exilerated and relieved that things are going well, ripping through the wood for the shirt. Great Fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Image Splash

I promised some images to illustrate recent posts. Here they are. As usual, some of them can be enlarged by clicking on the image.

Here is a larger block for V&A, "If He Be Dead..." You can see how I have divided the figure into areas of tones, based on my original drawing. Posted by Picasa

Here is the snail - the last "spot" for V&A in the block before the first proof was taken. Posted by Picasa

And here is the snail in person - or, at least, in ink. Posted by Picasa

Here is the "Secret" bookplate - for my friend Chris and commissioned by Gina. Posted by Picasa

Here is the final package: signed prints in a folder with an original sketch and a box of 100 unsigned bookplates. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 11, 2005

Spots Away

Saturday was a disaster as far as engraving was concerned so I left it all behind and visited Sebastian at the Rampant Lions Press. Sebastian is one of Britain's finest printers and book designers and I enjoyed seeing his recent work and wandering around the presses and type. I gave up on the rest of the day.

Sunday was a different matter. The "Doves" are finished and so is the "Snail". The former is, perhaps a little larger and the latter a little smaller than I had first planned but these things do sometimes take on a life of their own. They will float between stanzas in the book. The larger prints will be a different matter as they have definite sizes. The first of these is ready to engrave with the design transferred onto the block. I always take more care with figures and the face and clothes have been broken down into separate areas for me to cut the lighter and darker tones. Faces have to be convincing and so I will proof the block at an early stage before proceeding. If I am not happy, I will move on to another block and have the first resurfaced.

I have decided to part with the evil doves (see earlier posts) and will offer them, together with a proof, on eBay. This will be the first time that I have offered an original woodblock and have no idea where to start the bidding. I think that I will start very low; someone may get a bargain!

I am conscious that I haven't posted images for a while. I need to get scanning tonight and remedy that.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Cleaning, Selecting and Thinking of Sleep.

I walked into the pressroom on Saturday and looked around. When I moved into the pressrom, it was newly converted and pristine. Everything was cleaned and dust-free when I took it in and, for a long time, all was well. The trouble is that I am going through a busy spell. I finish one job and take up another without clearing up and the detritus was starting to build up. On Saturday, I had to grit my teeth and set to.

Everything that was out of place was put away or thrown out. I dusted all the equipment and surfaces and shook out the mats before vacuuming the floor. I tried to arrange things in a better fashion and then made myself a mug of tea and looked around again. Much much better. Now I can work again.

I need more shelving. Alas. At the last house, my studio seemed to have shelving on every available wall and it was claustrophobic. In the new room, I have tried to leave blank wallspace to give more of a sense of space - and also to hang works by some of my favourite engravers.
Sadly, I am going to have to give up a wall for shelving. I need to store blocks and small boxes and also free up the bookshelves for books and portfolios. I'll save it for the summer but I cannot escape it.

Sunday saw me driving to London to help select the SWE annual touring exhibition. It was a tiring but enriching exercise that confirmed to me the quality of work that is being made around the world at the moment. We have all had works rejected from selected shows and my experiences helped to form a few guidelines that might help in future submissions:

1. Always submit the maximum number of works.
2. Do not submit two works that are almost identical as only one is likely to be selected.
3. Do not think that a larger work is necessarily a better work.
4. Try to submit works that have an air of originality in subject, vision or technique.

At the end of many hours of selection, we had a great show. However, many good works were not chosen that would have had a greater chance if the above guidelines had been followed.

A lovely task at the end the day was to award prizes. This was suprisingly easy and there was a high degree of agreement between the three of us. Certainly, the two main prizes rewarded artists of sublime vision and great technical skill. The whole experience left me with a positive glow as I struggled through the London traffic, pointed my car northwards and headed back to my beloved fenlands.

I am exhausted. Its crept up on my over the last week. I can barely work and have to drag myself to a task, inevitably making mistakes. Looking ahead, I think of sleep - early nights and late mornings, afternon naps and lazy evenings. Looking ahead, I can only see work.