Saturday, November 27, 2010

Now you see it, soon you won't!

I'm not too far from first proof time. Another good session should see it.

Something that has to go is the seagull on the lifeboat house. I'm not happy with it and I've decided I want that side of the 'house' black against white swirling sea. The enlarged pic shows what I mean, I've 'painted ' the area on the computer roughly to illustrate this. (The shape of the swirly bit is subject to more tinkering)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lair of Mrs Magoo

 Here is my engraving space today. You can see the block I'm working on. It's lying on a leather sandbag for ease of moving the block under the tool. That's raised up on top of a computer software manual, which is just the right thickness! The small block next to it is a scrap piece used to try out textures before I commit them to the block. The small grey corner of card is used to protect the block from being bruised by the back of the tool. My tool sharpening block is on the tabletop, along with a nice stiff (ex-stencilling) brush for sweeping away the wood chips and my magnifying goggles which make me look like Mrs Magoo, but save my eyes from undue strain. For light I use a vintage Anglepoise lamp, which I would like sometime to exchange for something that runs a little cooler! And there's a nice cup of tea to keep me going, served in a jolly mug I received from an illustrator friend  in a 'Secret Santa' exchange.

Today I have been concentrating on the plants at the bottom. I've rubbed a little talc in the lines to show them to you clearer. I wish I hadn't used that white paint to sketch on the block though, it has proved impossible to wipe away and makes gauging line size harder. Luckily it'll go when I pull the first test proof.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chips with (and over) everything!

All over my desk, teeny wood chips where I've been picking away at the block. I'm working on some fiddly areas that need  lots of stipples and texturing. Down at the bottom of the image I'm engraving the plants that cling to cliffs, samphire and candytuft. More tomorrow, unless an illustration job I'm expecting, comes in. Secretly, I hope not!

You may be thinking this is taking a long're right, but it's quite a big block (7" x 5.5") and given the cost of wood at this size, I REALLY don't want to mess it up! Tomorrow I'll show it on the sandbag, alongside my tools, to give a better idea of scale.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Christmas card additions

Taking another look at my card design today, I felt it needed a little more jollity, so I added more fairy lights around the village and some chimney smoke and a few snowflakes spiralling down. Also the pub got a little facelift. It is called 'The Pirate', but you may not see that in this web-sized version. That's better!
And some details:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just a quickie

I have just finished my Christmas card design for this year and thought you could take a sneak peek. I wish I could say we live in a nice converted mine engine house, sadly we don't, but it doesn't hurt to dream.

Back to the engraving tomorrow!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Decisions, decisions!

A full day's engraving today and good progress is being made. As you can see, the apron is cut and I'm heading down the slope to the beach. More detail in the boats has been added, soon I shall have to start thinking about how I'm going to tackle the samphire plants at the bottom. Or shall I do the sea next? Or the seagulls? Decisions, decisions, I'm pleased to say!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to the block

The day job has eased off again, after a frantic couple of weeks trying to do two urgent illustration jobs. Jobs done and sent to the clients....time to turn back to the engraving. It's a blessed relief!

I'm working slowly at the moment as there are a lot of fiddly textures but overall I'm feeling good about how it's progressing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Call of the Sea(gull)

I've been busy with the block as you can see. I've added some more gouache sketching in white to guide me, as pencil and carbon paper marks rub away quite easily. My efforts have been concentrated on the figure and boathouse apron area. Below is a detail.
You can see my friend the seagull is calling.  The dog tries to will him down from the roof. Is the human figure an old sea dog? He looks a bit stern, as if the little boats aren't tidy and ship-shape enough for him.

You can tell I'm enjoying this, can't you?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A starting

Alas (or thankfully for my bank balance!), the day job has lurched into life again and is taking my engraving time away. (For now.)But I've started engraving the new block. You can see I've painted some areas in white gouache on the block. This helps me to balance the lights and darks in my head as I go. Strictly speaking, I should paint all of the concrete pan that the man stands on, but I think I've done enough to settle things texturally in my brain. More soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Further to the last post......

Going on from my last post, I have now turned the composition 90 degrees to 'portrait' ratio, putting the split on the block on the bottom third (see red line on the scribbled rough). With a fair bit of compositional squeezing and jiggling it now misses all the vital components and can be gently eased out of a starring role.

While I was there, I have enlarged the rock samphire plants at the bottom, added a flying gull and given the whole image a cut-away outline. I like this version better.

Again, what do you think?

A new block...and a challenge!

A couple of blog posts ago, I showed a sketch of my next proposed engraving; the old lifeboathouse at Lizard Point.

The block I have decided to use is the last uncut block of my vintage early 1980's stock. I bought several good size pear and boxwood blocks back then (when I had more disposable income!). But my first attempts at engraving at this time were unsatisfactory and my interest and patience waned. Working in isolation didn't help and I went back to painting.

Blocks, burin tools, roller and sandbag all ended up in a box in the loft, surviving 3 house moves, until 2008 when the engraving bug bit me again. Harder. Out of the loft came my engraving equipment. The roller had melted, not unsurprisingly, but the new durathene roller refill fitted my brass frame and was even better. I had several of my smaller old blocks that had been engraved (with toecurlingly bad results!) resurfaced by Chris Daunt, who recreated a fine surface for my newer work.

This particular block is 7" x 5 1/2" , one of the largest I've got. It's pearwood, I think and has never been touched by a tool. The challenge lies in the fact that the block was made using three pieces, jointed and glued. One of the joints has over the 29 years in storage, opened out a little.

To see how much of a problem it might create, I inked the block up and ran it through the press.

 Granted, it's a relatively light impression, but the split is still clearly visible. The question is: can I work around it and obscure it when I cut the design? I think probably, the human eye being what it is, it will be slightly noticeable, even if I position the design so that much of the split is cut away or textured. I'm not overly bothered by it really.... to me it speaks of the wood the design is cut into. It's not a perfect, inert plastic surface, impervious to changes of temperature and humidity. 

What do you think?


Monday, August 16, 2010

Print success

I recently sent two of my engravings off to the selection panel of the Society of Wood Engravers, to see if I could exhibit them in their prestigious travelling annual exhibition. I've had prints accepted the past two years.

I'm very happy to reveal that both the prints have got into the exhibition!

They are:

Late Shopping and my latest print, Winter Walkies.

Details of the exhibition venues are on the SWE website, more venues to be announced.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Old Lifeboat house

I've been working on a new idea for my next block. A few weeks ago we went walking down to the old lifeboat house at Lizard Point, Cornwall and I was taken by the viewpoints down onto the boathouse, fishing boats, clinging samphire plants and beach from the cliff path. I managed to take two photos before my camera batteries died on me, but it was enough.
The black area of sea I'm still thinking about. And the scribbled reminder in the margin is so that I don't forget to flip the design when I trace it to the engraver's nightmare!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The finished print

 I should have been working, a stack of black and white illustrations need doing..... but I took a chunk out of the day to get this printed. It took several proofs with minor block tweaks before I was happy to go for the edition but I was done by 3pm; just enough time to get some of those dratted illustrations done!

 And now all I have to do is think of a title for it! Image size is 7.6cm x 9cm.

The building itself is based on a traditional Cornish tin mine engine house, the like of which dot the landscape hereabouts in great profusion. Everywhere you look are crumbling mine buildings. I think they're wonderful places, massively built like ancient castles, yet only a century ago these were working mines.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

First proof

I pulled this quick proof yesterday morning, before 8am. As you see, some tweaks to be performed and some ragged bits to tidy up. Despite my careful cleaning up of press and inking table after the disruption in the studio, a small bit of dust has managed to sneak through onto the figure's ear.

I will be working on the block this week and hopefully have something further to show by the weekend.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The last stretch

After a period during which the whole studio had to be dismantled to allow the laying of flooring, coupled with the arrival of visitors and lots of work for the 'day job'....finally....I managed to get some more engraving done last night. It's tantalisingly close to being finished, but I don't want to rush it. This block is so satisfying to engrave, it feels 'just right'. I hope the print is as satisfying.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The wall

This is Friday's engraving work. As you can tell, I've been dealing with the engine house wall. I gave this area a great deal of thought; it needed to be light, but darker than the snow. It needed to show a little texture, but not too much because of the size of the engraving. I think it will print ok, I'm happy so far.

I'm working now on the illustration work I mentioned before, but will carry on engraving a little at the end of each day till this is done. I'm looking forward to seeing how it proofs up!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Snow, snow, quick quick snow!

I'm engraving again today, as the illustration brief I was expecting hasn't come in yet. :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our Cornish Heritage

Another day's engraving and the image is taking shape. I'm very much enjoying the vigorous cutting of the snowy bank and looking forward to another day engraving tomorrow.

This building is on an old tin mine, on the edge of our village. The whole area is riddled with old tin and copper mines and they mostly closed forever in the early 20th century. Only one still survives, soon to be re-opened; South Crofty, in Camborne, just down the hill. This is Marshall's shaft Pumping Engine house once used for pumping water out of the South Condurrow tin mine workings. Another set of mine ruins not far away (still in the village environs) on the fabulously-named 'Great Flat Lode' are softened by moss and mounds and constitute part of the best network of traffic-free bridleways in Cornwall. We went walking there for the first time a couple of weeks ago, without the camera, unfortunately, but I shall take it next time as it's a wonderful walk.

Another illustration job is due in the next few days, so I'm making the most of this free time. Hopefully I shall be able to finish this block soon and get a proof run off.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

And the next one please.....

The idea for this block has sprung itself on me very quickly and I'm really enjoying engraving it. I should be able to crack on with it this week, as I'm awaiting the brief for the next illustration job to come in.

Although the left side of the building has been shaded on the block, I have had a change of mind and the front will be the darker side, with the light coming from the left, instead. I've changed my paper rough accordingly but must be careful not to get carried away and forget I've changed my mind!

This is another resurfaced block. That dark blob going up the right hand side goes right the way through the block; not sure what it is, but the wood feels very slightly different under the blade there.

I have some more old blocks to get resurfaced by Chris Daunt, when I dig them out. I'd also like to try lemonwood and resingrave too.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


 As promised, I have set to and printed the block. It was probably the easiest block I've ever printed....hardly any duff prints, at first glance, but I need to have a good look through them later, when they're dry. This is a vast improvement on my duff/good print ratio when I first began printing....then it was almost 50%!

The block is 12.6cm x 8.8cm and was an old pear (I think) block that I sent away to be re-surfaced and thus re-used. It's a very good type of recycling, as it saves you the cost of a new block (and end-grain blocks aren't cheap) but you do have to contend with the block being lower than type-high, as the original design has been shaved off it. Nothing a piece or two of card under the block, on the press bed, won't fix though. Of course if you print without a press, say, you burnish your prints with a spoon, then the height of the block becomes irrelevant.

It was printed on a thin Japanese paper called Sunome Senaka, using my old Farley cylinder proofing press.

And a peep now at the sketch for the next idea, one that I have actually started to engrave. The image is 7.6 x 9 cm and depicts one of the many engine /winding houses that dot the Cornish landscape hereabouts (I live in the Camborne area) and the image also celebrates the rare snow that covered Cornwall this winter.

This is a smallish block, (another re-surfaced one) so I think I will keep it simple in detail and clean-lined.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Printing tomorrow!

Here is the block, elements adjusted, re-cut to let in more light and parts that needed more in the way of defining have been defined. Printing tomorrow, or maybe....later today! As soon as the print is dry enough to scan I shall post it here, so keep an eye on the blog.

Friday, March 26, 2010

First proof and the amendments to be made

Well, it's been a long time! I pulled this first proof two weeks ago, but at last I've had the time to consider the changes that need to be made. Overall I'm quite pleased with the way it has come out; it just needs a little lightening here and there to lend some definition and focus. One print, here on the left, I have left as it came off the press. The other has been worked on with white gouache.

You can see I've lightened the foreground figure as he/she was getting lost in the background. There are some roof lines more defined and the seagull. Then I've added more rain coming in and softened the horizon.

I'm going to keep looking at these over the weekend before I cut any further. I may lighten further areas.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Not far now

I had a reasonably good day's engraving today. As you can see, I just have an area of cliff face to do and one or two other minor bits that I'm not happy with yet, plus what crops up after a trial proof. I have no idea whether I'm going to be pleased or disappointed with the proof print, but I do think I might have to lighten and define one or two areas a little. I'm as certain as I can be that it is going to be a bit of a pig to print, as it contains a lot of finely-cut detail...the photo doesn't show it at all well. Hey ho, that's engraving!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A stage further along....


I've just spent over a week fighting off a cold; I tried very hard to work on this block but I just developed a stonking headache, so that was that till today. I feel a lot better now and was more than keen for another fruitful session engraving. 

I'm enjoying playing with textures on the roofs and walls. I haven't yet decided how to tackle the squally  shower coming in, watch this space! It won't be too long before I try a trial proof, to see how the cutting's getting along. Some places on the block I think will still be too dark and the purpose of proofing is to pinpoint any areas like that so that you can deal with them.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Another chip off the old block

As promised, my efforts of yesterday. I'm starting to pick the foreground figure out a bit now and have cut some more background houses and some beach.

Sadly, the day job has a claim on my time today but I hope to do some more this evening.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Back to the block

Since the house move I've managed little engraving time, but progress is visible. I'm doing more today so there will be another update by tomorrow.

I'm trying to retain the gloom of a cold and blustery winter afternoon; there's another shower coming in off the sea and the best place to be is in front of your fire.