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.


Magpie Magic said...

It's already so atmospheric. I love the angle and the details that are now showing. I am really excited about seeing the first proof. :-)

Annie B said...

This is looking great, and your afternoon in the sun sounds divine!

Funny, even though I can watch your progress in these photos, I still find the engraving process somewhat mystifying. (Maybe because I don't know what a scorper is?) I'm amazed at how different this process is from the Japanese woodblock method.

Good luck with your Cambridge University Press work this week!

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

What a wonderful piece, will watch developments with bated breath. Your talent makes me green with envy. Is it a Cornish harbour? Best wishes.


Sue said...

Thanks, Sybille! It just seems to be flowing at the moment.

Hi Annie, when I get a moment I'll try and do a blog piece about my personal approach to the process. I may need to press-gang hubby into taking photos for me. For the real expert's view though I'd thoroughly recommend Andy English's blog , he's the man! :-)

Hi Lesley and thanks, as I know you've sussed, it's very loosely based on a view from St Ives' bus station! I adore Cornwall and much of my personal work revolves round Cornish scenery. We hope to make the move there soon. (Credit crunch permitting!) :-)

Jan said...

The thing that strikes me most about this image is the excellent composition, with the harbour wall and houses at the top and the wall and chimney at the bottom, enclosing the cottages and focusing attention on the little courtyard below. It gives you a snapshot into the lives of the inhabitants. There are so many delightful details, and yet the image is not crowded. There is a variety of texture but it's ordered- looks great, and I'm looking forward to the proof.