Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Did You Have A Good Day At The Press Dear?

In a word - no. Alas!

I collected the repaired part of the Arab press that has been with the blacksmith for over a year. The repair looked strong enough. I know that he has not been keen to take on the work but I am glad that he tried. Here we are:

You can see the repair as the light area on the right hand side. The positioning of the two broken parts was crucial and, after spending an hour fitting it, it was with my heart in my mouth that I turned the flywheel. The press started to move but, after about one quarter of a turn, it started to jam. The repaired pieces were slightly misaligned. There was no point in trying to force things with more pressure and so I brought the press to rest and let it be.

My only hope is that I can locate a spare part now. It has been frustrating to have this lovely old press standing unused and it looks as if the frustrations will continue.

So now... a cup of tea should soothe. Then it is back out to the studio to carry on with the illustration. Tonight I will attempt the face. Its death or glory now; if the face fails then all is lost and I start again - the reason why I normally start with the face.

An earlier positive development was the start of the final drawing for the JG bookplate - one of my long term projects that has been on the back burner while I considered the many elements that are contained in the design. I am gradually working through my outstanding bookplate commissions and hope to have them all at least in the rough sketch stage within a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Engraving... Eventually

J 'phoned from France at dinner time and reported a hot and relaxing day. Definitely cooler here but still very pleasant and spring-like. I lingered over the outdoor jobs such as watering in the greenhouse and collecting the eggs from the hens.

Despite the fact that I have a long list of jobs to finish, I decided to relax a little this evening. I did a little preparation for the engraving on the block - a magazine illustration - and then made coffee, which I took through to the sitting room.

I decided to watch a film and chose Krzysztof Kieslowski's magnificent Three Colours: Blue. I run out of superlatives when I try to describe this visually stunning and poetic film. As always, the rich score by Zbigniew Preisner stayed with me long after the film ended. It is a remarkably precise film which drew parallels in my mind with engraving - everything considered, detailed and deftly wrought. I paused the film at one point to fetch tea and a bowl of figs. I returned to my large. comfy sofa and indulged myself some more.

Of course, I was putting off my work. I decided to concentrate on just one thing tonight and that was to engrave the hands of the child on the illustration. Actually, during the film, I found myself rehearsing the movements of the graver and, when I started for real, everything went smoothly and, examining the block, I know that they will be fine. Hands, like faces, are expressive and mistakes are obvious.

I will not include an image here yet as this is a commission. I did find a photograph of the CG bookplate in progress. I had just finished engraving celtic patterns on the stone cross and was rather pleased with the results. Please disregard my rough hands - I'm a worker!

Afterwards, I had time to frame and hang a recent purchase, a wood engraving by John O'Connor depicting a nude in an interior. It is an artist's proof of one of my favourite O'Connor prints and I was delighted to hand it on my print wall. John's work was so much broader in treatment than mine. I do think that one of the reasons that I enjoy it so much is that it is so different to my own work.

Well, its after midnight and i had promised myself an earlier night so... off to bed

Monday, May 01, 2006

Printing from a Cleared Block - and news

During the week, I printed from several blocks that had cleared areas at the edge. I do clear these areas carefully, using a couple of "scorpers" to take out the wood. I do find that even these carefully cleared areas can print under great pressure, leaving small spots of black. This typically happens after printing twenty or thirty perfect prints. A simple solution is to ink the block and then place a small card mask over the offending area. One drawback is the fact that this makes printing slightly slower but the quality of the finished prints is more important than speed. Here is photograph:

You can see the piece of thin white card that I have laid over the cleared area. It is very important to keep this card clean so that ink does not transfer to the print.

It has been a very busy week. The CG bookplates are completed and posted. I framed and delivered my selection for the Cambridge Drawing Society. This is an old-established society and I was pleased to have all my work selected, as it has been for many years.

I have been spring cleaning the studio and making one or two changes. Firstly, I set up a small platform to raise the work a few inches. This is to ease pains in my neck and shoulders that I am prone to. It has been qute successful so far.

Secondly, I have shelved the end wall. I was reluctant to do this, as I wanted to hang pictures tere but I am pleased with the results. I have lots of things at hand and the floor is now (almost) clear again. This made my spring clean easy and the oom is looking spic and span. Here is a view:

J is away to stay at her sister's house in France so I am spending the evenings working on current projects. I have several final drawings to complete and an engraving to finish. I am still not taking on new work in the hope that I can not only clear my backlog but produce good work. I hate to rush and then be disappointed with the results.

Hmmmm - midnight - better get back to work.