Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Old Owl House

This is a new engraving but it has had a long gestation. On my daily walks I can look out across a meadow and see an old owl house. It is tilted at a strange  angle and is falling apart but I rather like it. I have thought about making an engraving of it for years but I could never quite see it.

Earlier this year I was leaning on a gate, looking at the same meadow when I saw a barn owl hunting. I love to watch this - the quiet beauty and power of these birds is wonderful. As the bird moved around the meadow, I could clearly see the old Owl house in the trees beyond the meadow and the view started to make sense as an image. Sometimes I just see something as an engraving.

That was several months ago and it was only recently that I was able to set commissioned work aside for a week and concentrate on this project. I had a suitable woodblock in the studio:

I worked from a very rough sketch - just enough to give me the composition. I decided to do the work from memory, based on careful observation of the view on my walks.

 The only part that I planned more carefully was the owl. I have made many sketches over the years:

I decided to start by engraving the wings, building up the texture of the feathers by cutting lines over a pattern of dots:

The owl slowly took shape:

 The medieval cathedral of Ely is an essential part of the image. I started to define its characteristic shape:

 Then it was time to sketch in the owl house and the surrounding bushes:

Next, I engraved  the trees behind the meadow. Every one would have different marks to make sure that each tree had its own character. Here is a small ash:

 The tree textures are very fine and wouldn't really become visible until the block was proofed.

I gave my attention to the sky. I often feature a pair of birds; it is something of a signature of mine. In this engraving, I decided to feature swallows as I usually see them flying over the same meadow at this time of year.

I gradually built up the texture of the clouds - cutting in two different directions, which contrasted well with the quiet parallel lines of the darker clear sky:

 When I had taken the sky as far as I could, I worked on the foreground. Among the meadow grasses were Queen Anne's Lace. I decided to engrave the flowers from life:

Here is the engraved block, ready to proof:

Proofing went very smoothly and the image needed little adjustment. It was a pleasure to start the edition. The finished engraving is very much what I had in mind when I first watched the owl hunting.

Here is the finished engraving:

It will be exhibited for the first time at Guildford and available from my Open Studio (see previous post for details). It can be purchased HERE at a pre-publication price for one week.

This engraving has just been accepted for the 76th Society Of Wood Engraver's annual touring show. This starts at Art Jericho, Oxford (Private View at 5pm on Saturday, September 14th).
Other venues include:
High Cross House, Dartington
Bankside Gallery, London
Zillah Bell Gallery, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
St Davids, Pembrokeshire
Marle Gallery, Axminster