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.