Monday, June 29, 2009

Concentrating on the sky and background...

I spent another session outside in the hot sunshine yesterday, engraving at the little table, while hubby laboured mightily pulling weeds under the deep shade of the old apple tree. It was very hot indeed and I had to sit in shade, too. Engraving outside is a joy, quite different to sketching, I find. When you sketch, your focus is more outward, towards your subject; your general awareness taking note of the light and atmosphere around you, which you hopefully transfer to your sketch.

Engraving outside is insular, inward-looking. You're concentrating on a block of wood (or resingrave!) a few inches in front of your eyes. Your subject is set days before, perhaps weeks. Every cut is considered carefully. You enter a gentle meditative state, lulled by the rhythm of your modus operandi. The way you hold your burin, the act of cutting, slow but deliberate, brushing away the tiny burrs of wood that form in front of the blade as you make the mark. At the same time, you're aware of the warmth of the sun on your back and sounds around you and what could be better than birdsong? It's a sublime state.

Back to the block, and I decided to cut the sky / background area because I wanted to see how the lighter area would affect the rest of the design. It's hard to tell from this photo what will print and what not, but generally I have scorped out much of the sky, leaving small pieces and ridges of wood to flick life into the white. Also I've cut a wispy cloudy formation to help act as a bit of a frame and hold the design in. It's a device I use a fair bit in my illustration work, not just to act as clouds, but gentle curvy strokes around certain elements of a composition can unify the whole. I had wondered how I could start to translate the technique to the starker wood-engraving medium. We'll see how this prints up.

For now, it's Monday. I have a lot of illustration work to do for Cambridge University Press and when my daily quota is done (or if a thunderstorm turns up, forcing me to switch off the computer!) I shall set to and carry on cutting. I hope the next stage you'll see will be ready for a first proof.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Engraving en plein air

This morning was warm and sunny so I decided to take my engraving kit outside to the patio and work there.

I set up my stuff as usual; block on the leather sandbag, burins in groups to the right for easy access, dish of talc to rub over and make the cuts more visible and small practice block to the left, on which to check tool sharpness and test textures. Also visible is the little arkansas block for sharpening and my sketch. The only thing missing is my lamp, but I have plenty of light coming from the great lamp in the sky..........

......and an engraver !

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Surf's up!

I cut some more to the block again last night. You can see the seagull's mates hoving into view and the harbour water.

It's a lovely sunny day today...if it's like this tomorrow I will take my burins and block outside and engrave on the terrace! :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Getting on with it.....

Just a quickie to show you the latest stage. Mostly the work has been done to the courtyard area. I shall be doing more tonight........

Friday, June 12, 2009

More progress

I had a marathon session today, adjusted the seagull and concentrated on the courtyard scene. I had to get the magnifier out for the seated figure, my eyes aren't as good as they once were. Note the radioactive-eyed cat in the window! What do you think it's seen? I think I'll leave the uncut courtyard wall behind the seated figure as it is, as deep contrast. I'll decide for sure after first proof.

I've also moved one seagull down away from the distant houses and added another to the left. I don't think I've mentioned the size of the block but if you're interested, it's 9cm x 12.7cm (about 3 1/2" x 5" ).

It's been ages since I've worked with such enthusiasm and reluctance to pack up at the end of the session. The temptation to just cut one more passage........ but that must be it for today. My eyes are complaining and I have a nice glass of red waiting for me in the evening sun of the courtyard; a bit like this couple on the block. Hopefully no predatory seagulls lurking, though!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sorting out the seagull

I was engraving this sitting on my meditation cushion, with the block raised on my burin box (on the coffee table) and the leather pad, using an anglepoise for extra light. It doesn't sound very comfortable but I was able to work for a couple of hours before my knees cried for mercy. I wouldn't normally work like this, but having been ensconced in my studio all day I wanted to keep hubby company in the sitting room. I think it worked well for the short period I needed.

Anyway, I managed to start bringing the seagull out. I shall take him so far but pull a proof before I lighten him too much. I can always engrave away a bit more if he's too dark, but I can't put wood back. I think he's coming along fine. Next, the courtyard scene.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Another evening's work

I seem to be working on different areas at once this time. That could be dangerous if I start losing touch with the tonal relationships of adjoining areas. I'll have to be careful.

I'm making tiny amendments and additions as I go; in fact I woke in the dark of the night, thinking, "Oh no! I must remember to make the seagull's chimney granite, not brick!" This because granite is the building material of preference down Cornwall and would go better, rather than brick. I hoped I would remember when I woke up and not too late when I'd cut it; luckily it popped into my mind as I got up and I was able to scribble a note on my sketch.

Tomorrow is engraving day! Hooray! A whole day on it. Ah well, for today...back to the deadlines......