Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beside the Seaside

Off to the seaside yesterday - my favourite beach at Wells-next-to-the-sea. Here we have a beach-hut; nothing grand, just one of a line of rather ramshackle huts built along the shore. At high tide, the sea laps at the steps. Here it is at low tide:

After we arrived, I unpacked my "travelling" kit and set to work, for this was not just a jolly day out:

During the morning, I worked on the trees in the background of the Mathematical Bridge and then J and I took a stroll along the shore before returning for some lunch. By this time, the weather turned decidedly wet and we were glad to be sheltering in the hut while a line of wet bedraggled people files off the beach.

Soon the sun returned and we walked again before going into town for tea and cake. The skies darkened again and we drove through heavy rain to Walsingham where I bought fifteen frames for my Open Studio event next month, before returning home.

This morning, I carried on with the engraving and hope to be ready to proof later today. Here is the block as it stands at lunchtime:

And here is a detail of the top portion:

And now.... lunch and then back to work.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Mathematical Bridge and the Small Crisis

I have spent the last couple of days working on my new engraving of the "Mathematical" bridge which crossed the River Cam at Queens' College, Cambridge.

At the start, I made a fairly careful (reversed) outline drawing to check the composition. I have drawn a punt in the foreground for added interest :

The next step was to copy this onto my darkened block of lemonwood:

I started to engrave the elaborate woodwork of the bridge. I alternated between this fine work and the sky, which was a bit more straightforward:

Next, I engraved the college buildings and continued to work on the sky. The last addition here is the punt and the start of the reflections on the surface of the water:

Here is the upper part of the block in more detail:

At this point - disaster! I stopped work for a moment and the block slipped of the sandbag and fell to the floor. It missed the mat and landed facedown on the rough concrete floor. I picked it up and checked for damage. It could have been a lot worse but there was still a small but deep depression punched into the surface. I could have engraved over this in a light area but it was one of the darker parts of the water and so I needed to deal with it.

The traditional method os to try to swell the wood so that the block is more or less flat again. This is done by putting a drop of water over the hole and using a match to warm and evaporate this so thast the wood swell - obviously being careful not to scorch the block - or set fire to it!

Readers of a nervous disposition will be relieved to hear that the procedure was almost entirely successful. Here we go:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Starting a New Print

I have finished most of the immediate jobs in hand and so I can work on a project for myself.

I love the bridges that cross the River Cam in Cambridge. My favourite is Clare Bridge, which features in this engraving called "Lining Up Through Clare Bridge":

Another interesting bridge is the so called "Mathematical Bridge":

I have a piece of "lemonwood" saved for this project:

I normally darken the surface of the block before I draw on the design. Time to get the darkening kit out:

I keep a bottle of writing pen ink diluted with water. I apply this with a soft cloth until the surface is darkened enough for me to see the cuts that I make but not so much that I could not see any marks I make on the surface to guide me...

...but why don't you watch while I show you:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cambridge Open Studios - July

I promised some more details about my participation in the Cambridge Open Studios next month. Instead of working in my own studio, I will be demonstrating and selling engravings in the Gallery@12A in Fulbourn, just to the south of Cambridge.

I visited the gallery yesterday afternoon to act as steward for a preview exhibition. This is the area that I will be using:

I will have about twenty feet to show framed works and a large table to work on and to show bookplates etc. I'm very pleased with the space. Here is my info page, including a map.

During the afternoon, I found time to work on a sketch for a current project:

The scale of my work does allow me to carry on with it almost anywhere.

It would be great to see you if you are anywhere near the Cambridge area during the following weekends:

Saturday July 7th - Sunday July 8th
Saturday July 14th - Sunday July 15th

The gallery will be Open from 11am until 6pm all four days.

Apart from engraving work in hand, I need to make sure that I have enough stock for these weekends and Art in Action which takes place near Oxford over the third weekend of July. I still need to work on my large Albion and, in particular, cover the tympan. More of that soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Printing on the Albion Handpress

I made a short video for my Albion blog but thought I would also post it here. It shows a "printers-eye view" of the process.

I am printing a bookplate so everything is on a small scale. I am using several layers of very thin ink on the block. The paper is held in a cut-down clear plastic folder.

I had just printed 130 engravings - this will yield 100 really good bookplates and some for practice. The others will be rejected.

On with the show...

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Next Exibition

A change of routine is always a good thing so I welcomed a day framing prints:

I drove these to Oundle to leave them with Geri Waddington in her wonderful bookshop - well worth a visit. I left with a small packet of bookplates.

These prints are on their way to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire fo "Six Of The Best" a group show by six British engravers from June 24th to July 15th:

This is part of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival:

It takes place in the festival shop. The festival website is here:


The next day I was in Cambridge, collecting prints from another exhibition which has now closed. The weather was lovely and I sketched by the River in preparation for a commission I will engrave during this month. Finally, off for coffee. One shop in particular has tables to work at (being in a University city) and its a great spot to spread out sketchbook and references. I was working in another commission, involving Gutenberg:

When I am commissioned to design a bookplate or similar small graphic, I tend to work up three or four small sketches to scan and send to my client. One of these is chosen and I develop it further, making drawings until we are both happy enough for me to start engraving.

Blogging tonight - printing tomorrow.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Revisiting Rembrandt

I'm frequently asked about my lucky Rembrandt find, so here is an update. But first... a lovely morning in Cambridgeshire as I walked out with Bella the lurcher - looking towards Ely Cathedral:

I now have Rembrandt back after the etching was released from the old backing paper. The reverse tells its own story, with evidence that it has been mounted at least twice before and some old pencil inscriptions, including the enigmatic "sup":

The front is looking very fresh:

Now the paper can be examined easily, I took the print back to the museum for a final examination before framing. The verdict? Not a posthumous printing! The paper is a fine - probably French - paper used by R from the 1640s. The print is now going back to the conservator to be prepared for framing.

The marathion printing is done. Three hundred business cards stand drying ready to be packed and dispatched tomorrow. Always a glutton for punishment, I immediately changed blocks so that I could add to the dwindling supply of my own business card:

I should add that I am always happy to discuss commissions for such work.

And next...? A little bit of sketchbook work before making sure that the NA bookplate is ready for proofing.