Friday, July 25, 2008

Art In Action: Looking Back

My second Open Studio was as successful as the first, with many visitors dropping by to see what goes on and marvel at the small space in which I work. As soon as the Sunday stint was over, I started to gather things together for Art in Action. Some new work needed to be printed and other engravings awaited framing. The days were somewhat crowded. J returned from Prague in the early hours of Wednesday morning and, somewhat later that same morning, I started to pack my bits and pieces into the trusty VW. From this...

To this...

I set off late morning and after three hours, I was in rural Oxfordshire and brewing up the necessary tea:

Unlike last year, the printmakers were sharing a tent with those who practice drawing. This is a logical combination for me as all of my engraving is underpinned by drawing. I set out my workspace:

At the far end of my area stood the magnificent 1876 Hopkinson and Cope Albion handpress

Opposite, and in other parts of the tent, were framed engravings:

During Art in Action, I was working on an engraving to be submitted to the 37th BAREN print exchange. This is on the theme of journeys. More of this at a later date.

The first two days were absolutely mad. I was demonstrating engraving, printing on the Albion and handling sales and queries about bookplates; I started to lose my voice. J and A arrived on Saturday and the pressure eased considerably. J took over sales and kept my stock in order and A demonstrated the art of printing on a Victorian iron handpress; he is becoming a skilled practicioner:

Other printmakers were also in action. Laurie Rudling prints a collagraph:

Around a corner, Jason Hicklin inks an etching plate before printing it:

Opposite me was the extremely talented Karen Wallis, who was working on a huge drawing done over the four days in response to the event. You can see me posing with the Albion to the right of the centre. See the whole drawing here.

Taking a break from printing, A practiced his engraving skills.

J and A left in the early evening and I stayed to help dismantle the contents of the tent, leaving Oxfordshire at about 9pm. No floods this year, just a pleasant and gradually darkening evening in England. It was just over an hour later when disaster struck and the brakes failed on my van.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Art In Action 2008 - Next Week

As soon as I have finished my second and last Open Studio this coming weekend, I will be packing everything away to take to Art In Action at Waterperry near Oxford.

From the website:

How it all began

Art in Action was created out of a simple observation: people are fascinated when artists and craftsmen openly demonstrate their skills and discuss their work.

Bernard Saunders, then guardian of Waterperry Gardens, decided to organise an event at Waterperry based on this principle. Artists and craftspeople would work as if in their own studios, with the public as audience.

In 1977, 51 artists and musicians took part and 14,000 visitors arrived. The event is now a showcase for over 250 demonstrators from a wide range of disciplines including painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics and textiles. Art in Action 2006 attracted about 22,000 visitors.

The event has expanded over the years to include practical classes (open to all ages and skill levels) , performances of fine music and dance, dialogues on arts and crafts, a craft market, and a range of refreshment facilities.

Aims of the event

  • To create a relaxed and friendly environment where artists and craftspeople can demonstrate and discuss their techniques with the public.
  • To present high standards of artistic skill and creative design.
  • To show the range of possibilities that exist in each artistic field.
  • To bring together accepted masters and young beginners.
  • To create a concentrated display of talent that inspires all.
  • To broaden the knowledge and understanding of traditional arts and craft skills of other countries.
  • To support the artist community with a high quality event that will encourage purchases and commissions.

I will be travelling across country and setting up on Wednesday. Last year was a tremendous success, despite being caught up with some truly awful weather. (Link to my blog of Art In Action 2007)

If any of you are going to Art In Action this year, do drop by and say hello at the Drawing and Printmaking tent.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Open Studio Weekend 1 and New Work

Despite odd showers of rain (to be expected on this final weekend of tennis at Wimbledon and so many other outdoor events) I was very pleased with the first weekend of the Open Studio. It was great to see old friends and new faces. Some people had traveled quite a distance to get here. Here is a record of a quieter moment.

The Cambridge Open Studio flag flutters in the sun to welcome you all:

Inside the door you can see a collection of my bookplates and articles about my work from several countries:

Glancing round, you can see through the open door of the pressroom to the small 1865 Albion press and some framed engravings:

More framed engravings, the drying racks, the inking table and a mandolin - its great to play a tune or two as a break from printing:

Now we can see both presses. A was giving demonstrations on "Red" the larger 1902 Albion:

Some of the shelves had been cleared to make room for sketchbooks, examples of my wedding and Christening images and the Seamus Heaney project:

Leaving the pressroom again, "Dr Snake" guards some more door-hung engravings:

Out on the main table, miscellaneous odds and ends:

I set up my engraving kit at the end of the table, finishing a block featuring a figure in a library with books and fossils:

When the sun did shine, it was pleasantly warm and A and I could take our breaks outside:

Here is a walk through of the whole thing. No commentary, just birds singing and music by Brian Eno:

The weekend is over and I'm back to work - designing a bookplate in the garden.

Its great to look up and see one of my favourite flower beds.

Meanwhile, below the table, another kind of distraction as one of the hens absent-mindedly pecks at my jeans:

Today, I was working on designs for three separate projects. They are all now ready to engrave so I will have plenty to demostrate with next weekend and at Art In Action the following weekend. Here, I am finishing the design for an engraving on the theme of a journey for a print exchange. I will be using a lovely natural "round" of boxwood made by Chris Daunt:

Do drop by if you get the chance to next weekend. I am open on Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 6pm. Details here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Open Studios 2008

Its that time of year again and I'm getting ready for my open studio.

A warm welcome to any of my readers who might be in the Ely area during the first two weekends of July (5th/6th and 12th/13th) between 11am-6pm. See here for details (you will have to look me up in the directory).

In 2007, I used a gallery space near Cambridge but this year I will be at home near Ely in Cambridgeshire. Of course, I am nowhere near ready yet - mainly because I am still continuing to work on engravings ( had originally planned to take the month of July off but I don't want to build up a big waiting list).

My studio is a room within a larger garage building and , while it is fine for day to day work, it isn't the greatest space for demonstrating engraving or displaying my wares. I spent this afternoon and evening clearing space in the mail room to set up a table. This was no mean feat as it was cramed full of all kinds of junk that has either been discarded or moved elsewhere - such as into the camper:

Here is the cleared space - yes this is the "after" view, not the "before":

Here is some of the printing paraphanalia. The large blue press in pieces is an Arab treadle press undergoing cleaning and restoration. To the right is a bookbinder's nipping press on a stand. Below that you can just make out a small Adana 5 x 3 resting on an unrestored Vandercook No. 0 proofing press. In the background are small cases of type and cans of ink. Click on the image to enlarge it:

Here is the view from the cleared space looking into the studio. You can see the small Albion through the door and cases of type outside.

Thankfully, it was cooler today, which made the work easier. Yesterday was rather hot and the garden started to wilt a little. The lavender is looking lovely:

The stone heads seem to enjoy in the sun:

A robin decided to strike the kind of pose that I would love to see on a snowy day:

One of the hens finds a shady spot:

Meanwhile, I have been continuing work on a very detailed block that features a nude. It is very difficult to capture the texture of flesh with wood engraving. I treat the figure as if I were drawing it in ink - a series of lines. The scale at the side of the block is in centimetres, not in inches. the block that you see is two inches wide.:

The design features a book. I find it easier to draw it larger and then reduce the drawing. I prefer to do this by the old fashioned method of squaring up the drawing and then copying it onto smaller grids. Below, you can see the original sketch and two smaller variations:

The book was transferred to the block and then other elements were added.......

...and engraved.

Well it looks like I will have a busy few days now. One of the good things about the open studio is that I will be working. I hope to have this block finished at the weekend - and the next one started.

Finally, if you do make it to my Open Studio, do stop off and see our friend Heather Maunders who produces vibrant watercolours. Find directions from the Cambridge Open Studios website.