Monday, December 01, 2014

From Provence to a Badger Part 2

So... where were we? We were in Provence, surrounded by trees and looking at a statue of a wild boar.

So what on Earth has this to do with a badger?

I have been planning an engraving of a badger for a couple of years but I haven't encountered one - alive - in the village. For me, the subject of a wildlife engraving is like an actor - it needs a stage. When I have encountered an owl hunting in a meadow, I can set it in the same location. My engraving "I Can See You Mister Hare" showed a real hare that I had been watching in a barley field. The badger in my mind had nowhere to inhabit.

Back to Provence. I was sitting out on a cool terrace while the wedding was in full swing and I was drawn to the the effect of the moonlight on a line of trees. I started to engrave in my mind. The moon became a "Samuel Palmer" moon. You know - this sort of thing:

In front of the trees, I imagined some shrubs and a meadow and the stage was set for a badger to come ambling towards the viewer, hair glistening in the moonlight.

Later, back at home, I could start to make a drawing, working on powerful shoulders and level, fearless gaze:

I made a start with the engraving. You can see that I am not using wood but experimenting with Resingrave, an artificial substitute for boxwood. It isn't a material that I habitually use and I don't find it as pleasing as wood but I felt that it might suit the marks that I had in mind to make. In the end, I was very happy with the results of this experiment.

Printing turned out to be one of those rare moments that we dream about. I inked the block and pulled a proof but there was a smudge in the corner so I inked and pulled again and there it was. Nothing needed to be done to this and the first state was also the final state; I could make a start on the edition, using a very smooth version of my usual Zerkall paper.

Within a few days, "Moonlitt Ambling" was framed and hanging in my exhibition at The Old Fire Engine House in Ely:

... and here it is:

"Moonlit Ambling"      100 x 75 mm.      Edition of 100

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This engraving is now available on my website as well as from my Etsy online store.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

From Provence to a Badger Part 1

Yes its an odd title but I hope that it makes sense in the end. We were invited to a wedding in the South of France in the late summer and, since we had planned to be in France that very week, we set our sights to the warm south and enjoyed out first visit to Provence.

The first thing that really caught my eye while driving from the airport was the long ridge of  Mont Sainte-Victoire, that I knew so well from many paintings by Cezanne.

Something that impressed me from the start was the aroma of the countryside, which was rich with herbs; the late summer heat was another pleasure.

The wedding was unforgettable and took place in lovely surroundings. The trees that surrounded the chateau feature later in this story; here is a typical view:

But let's set those trees aside for a while. We attended two days of the wedding and then explored for a couple more days. We were fairly close to Vence which attracted me for a couple of reasons but, even before exploring those, it yielded other pleasures, such as this lovely mosaic by Chagall in the small but handsome cathedral:

One of the reasons why Vence interested me is that the Cambridge wood engraver Gwen Raverat lived there with her husband Jacques until his early death. I love her engravings of the town and one hangs in my printing studio. Here is another...

... and how it looked in 2014: 

Another draw was the "Matisse" chapel. I had seen the designs for this at the Matisse "Cut-Outs" exhibition at Tate Modern and it was exciting to glimpse the building in the distance as we walked towards it:

Here is an exterior detail but photography is not allowed inside, which did help to maintain the wonderful atmosphere of this sacred space. We were given a very good tour of the interior. You can see more here:

The next day found us beside the sea in St Tropez, watching the waves, the people and the yachts:

All too soon, it was time to prepare to return to a chillier England but I was taking an idea back with me which involved those trees at the chateau, glimpsed on a moonlight night as I sat out on a cool terrace, escaping from the heat and sounds of the dancing.

All will be revealed in part 2!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Artist's Proofs

Some of the engravings available on my website are Artist's Proofs and I have explained what they are during conversations at events I have sold at, but never discussed them here - so here goes.

Googling "Artist's Proofs" is interesting, especially since the results show so many variations in interpretation. This is my practice. Say I print an edition of one hundred engravings for sale, they are signed and numbered 1/100 to 100/100. In addition I print some additional proofs which I have always regarded as being for my own use. When I started to do this, the general opinion was that these proofs should number 10% of the edition. I sign them and mark them "A/P". In recent editions, I have taken to numbering them as well ("A/P 1/10").

These are mine to dispose of. I give them as gifts, exchange them with other artists, give them to be sold for charities and, sometimes, sell them. Some of my most popular engravings, "The Fossil Collectors" and "Walking Towards Ely", and only available now as very small numbers of remaining Artist's Proofs.

Here are some more examples. They are all private commissions where there is no numbered edition for sale but I have my Artist's Proofs, which are available in very small numbers at £40 each with free postage and packing.:

 "Sparky" is an elderly Border Terrier who I eventually met in person. No longer as sparky as he once was, he was very charming. Available for Purchase here

Unlike Sparky, I never met this handsome fellow in person. Available for Purchase here

"Woody" lives close to the studio and he is strong and full of character (and not too keen to pose)
Available for Purchase Here

(On a technical note, sometimes the links to my web store lead to a "blank" page but refreshing it brings up all the details)

I should add that as an "Engraver For Hire" I do undertake commissioned work like the examples shown here but, because of high demand, I cannot always do this at short notice

My Ely exhibition is going well and still has a couple of weeks to run. Scroll down my blog for full details.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Old Fire Engine House Exhibition 2014

This is my third exhibition at The Old Fire Engine House in Ely. It is a restaurant and gallery and I think that the domestic setting it offers presents my work very well and I am very pleased to have been invited to show there again. The exhibition contains 46 engravings and continues until 3rd November 2014. I hope that you will be able to visit.

I have included many recent pieces and some were made especially for this exhibition, including my long planned badger, which I will feature in another post very soon.

My exhibition continues until 3rd November 2014 at
25 St Mary's St, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4ER
Opening times:
10.30am-10.30pm Monday-Friday,
10.30am-5.30pm Saturday,
9.30pm-5.30pm Sunday excluding lunchtime, Closed Bank Holiday

Sometimes the room is used for dining and if you are travelling a long way, you might like to check with the gallery that the prints are accessible on 01353 662582 (they almost always are).

This venue is also a fine place to enjoy coffee , lunch or an evening meal.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Open Studios July 2014 And Some Other Forthcoming Events

Here are four events taking part during the rest of 2014.

1. My Open Studio (July 2014)

I will hold an Open Studio here at Little Downham during the second (12th - 13th) and forth weekends (26th - 27th) of July. I will be open between 11am and 6pm on all four days.

I will be engraving during the weekend and will be very pleased to demonstrate the process.

"Red", the larger our the two Albion handpresses here will be working so you will be able to see prints being pulled from an engraved woodblock.

As usual, there will be engravings and cards for sale. New work will include my Peak District prints.

Details are available from the guide - or email me for directions.

Here are some photographs from last year's Open Studio:

I hope to see many of you this year.

2. Cambridge Original Printmakers (September - October 2014)

I am taking part in this event in Cambridge. This event will run from Friday 26 September to Sunday 5 October 2014. Here are the details:

Contact me if you would like to be sent an invitation.

There are also a number of talks by printmakers. I am giving one of these at 2:30pm on Sunday 28th September. Admission is free but registration is required. Find details here.

3. Exhibition at The Old Fire Engine4 House, Ely (October - November 2014)

I will be exhibiting over forty engravings at this, my third exhibition at The Old Fire Engine House.
I particularly like this gallery as it shows my work in a more domestic setting.

There is a Private View on Thursday 2nd October from 6:30 - 8:30pm.
The exhibition runs from Friday 3rd October until Sunday 2nd November.

Opening time:
10.30am-10.30pm Monday-Friday,
10.30am-5.30pm Saturday,
9.30pm-5.30pm Sunday excluding lunchtime, Closed Bank Holiday

Here are some photographs of my last exhibition in 2012:

4. Ely Cathedral Christmas Gift and Food Fair 2014

I really enjoyed taking part in this event last year and I am very pleased to be able to show my work and demonstrate wood engraving again this year.

The event will run from the 14 - 15 November 2014 with a special preview evening at 6.30pm on 13 November.
Friday 14 November: 9.30am - 4.30pm / 6.30pm - 9.00pm
Saturday 15 November: 9.30am - 4.30pm
Entry price £3.00 / Children under 16 FREE (when accompanied by an adult)
Pre booking is highly recommended: To pre book tickets please contact the Cathedral Box Office on 01353 660349 or

 Here are some photographs from 2013:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Interlude: The New Cabinet

After many years of engraving, I have built up rather a lot of engraved blocks. Some were in drawers, older ones in boxes and recent ones lined up on shelves. Sometimes, I couldn't find a block that I wanted to refer to without a search - It was about time I did something.

The opportunity came when we removed some old "built-in" wardrobes from a bedroom during redecoration. We hauled parts of the carcus outside and I set to work with a power saw:

The idea was to keep the height and width of the wardrobe more or less the same but to cut it so that it was only 20 cm deep. The pieces of the sides that were left could then be cut into strips to make the many shelves that I would need. I reinforced the existing fixings with plenty of screws to make the thing solid.

I had already cleared a space in the studio so all I had to do was drag the cabinet inside, fix it securely to the wall and refit the original doors. I had drilled plenty of holes for shelf supports and once the shelves were in place, I washed over the wood to remove dust and dirt and painted the shelf edges with acrylic paint.

When everything was dry, I started to put the blocks in - each on its side, the way they should be stored.
I grouped them: illustrations, bookplates, gardens,places, people, birds and animals. Long, awkward ones were laid at an angle at the top:

I stopped counting after 350 blocks. I still have a couple of boxes of early blocks to process so the final number will be something between 400 - 450, I imagine; quite a body of work.

The cabinet works a treat - it keeps all of my blocks safely and does not impinge very far into the space of the printing studio:

I have plans for the decoration of the doors.

You can see that a few things have been pushed behind "Red" during this process and when they have been tidied away I need to set about moving that press. That is going to be interesting!

Monday, May 26, 2014

I Can See You Mister Hare

The story behind this engraving goes back to Spring 2013. Walking down into the fen with our, now deceased, lurcher Bella, I would often see a large buck hare in a field a few hundred metres from the studio.
I would see it in a field of young barley and, as the crop grew, I would see less and less of it.

The last time I spotted it, it had to sit up on its haunches to peer over the top of the barley heads and that was when, in my mind,  I "saw" the engraving that I wanted to make. I started by drawing a head:

This was an engraving that I simply wanted to do for my own pleasure and so it had to fit in as and when I had a moment - the sort of thing I might work on while taking a break in a coffee shop:

As 2013 became another very busy year, I set the project aside. However, it was the perfect thing to bring out when I wanted to demonstrate engraving. In July, I engraved the background view of Ely Cathedral during my Open Studio:

 I like to carry out as many processes as possible by hand. I reduced a drawing of the hare by "squaring down" and transferred it to the block:

I didn't do much more until November. I completed the engraving of the background at the Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford. You can just see the block in this photograph of my table in "Parenthesis 26", the latest journal of the Fine Press Book Association:

The next weekend, I was showing work and demonstrating in Ely Cathedral, which features on so much of my work:

Conditions were not great for engraving, but there was just about enough light to start to work on the head of the hare.

I next picked up the block in early 2014 when I started to plan the barley that would surround the head:

 I spent January completing my Peak District engravings and spent a couple of days on "Mister Hare" getting ready to pull the first proof

The block then sat in the studio until April, when I was demonstrating  engraving at Gallery Top in the Peak District. I completed the engraving by adding highlights to the grains of barley:

In May 2014, a year since I had planned the engraving, I finally started to print  the edition, ready to show for the first time at an art event in Bury St. Edmunds. This image has been with me on all of my artistic travels and many of you will have seen it as a work in progress.

Here is the finished version of "I Can See You Mister Hare"

The image measures 73 x 52mm (approximately 3 x 2 inches) and it has been printed in an edition of 100 original artist's prints, pulled directly from the block in my 1865 Albion handpress.

I am selling this engraving for the relatively inexpensive price of £25.00.
You can purchase it from my website and from my Etsy store