"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Reference Sketching.

This last week I went out most days to make small sketches of the trees for the book. I find that just a short time sketching is a million times better than working from photos. Making a sketch, especially on a very cold day, requires you look hard and make fast, hopefully intuitive, decisions. So you tend to record just the essence of tree, very useful for the woodcuts which will have to be bold and simplified.

Also I have to say that once I have sketched something I understand much more about the thing, how it is put together, what interests me about it and I remember all those things more easily, especially if I make notes. I am in a hurry too because I need to draw the trees before they all lose their leaves. I need to make sure I draw the right tree. My bark ID skills are not brilliant.

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Hazel and Lime

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Alder and Elm

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Beech

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Elder

I have a tight deadline so I also took the woodblock out to draw directly from the elder tree. This old, much pruned, tree has snaky spotted branches which twist back on themselves. Wonderful and slightly sinister as befits the magical elder!

The tree prints will be based on trees I know well, what I like about them and what I know about them. A personal view rather than an archetype. I have discovered that one elm can look very different from another :). 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Twelve Trees Book at The Logan Press

Over the last few weeks I have been planning a book to showcase just 12 of my favourite trees from the Spinney. I have been working up to making a proper book with letterpress type and the illustrations printed from the original woodblocks. Now it is a little bit closer to becoming a reality.

I am delighted to say that Patrick Roe at Logan Press has agreed that I can print the book with him. I will learn a huge amount, building on the work I did with Thomas Gravemaker at Letterpress Amsterdam who I hope to be seeing again in Feb to print “The Pig Book”.

So lots to do in the next few months. I will be documenting the progress of Twelve Trees on the blog and also on Instagram etc.

It will be a 32 page book with 12 full page woodcuts and a small amount of type based on old sayings, superstitions and the characters of the trees. The format is a nice generous 350 x 250mm portrait with full bleed images and hand cut titles.

Roughs and layouts and first cuts are underway!

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Rough layouts for the twelve images and first roughs.

First block, rough and my original sketchbook drawing from last year on the blog here; “ In the Woods,some Useful Sketches.” I just knew they would be useful someday!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Tiny Brushes and Faint Owl

Last week I attended a workshop with Dr Veeda Ahmed looking at 2 different forms of Middle Eastern and South Asian miniature painting, Neem Rang and Siyah Qalam. “Neem Rang, meaning ‘half-painted’, is a style of miniature that features finely shaded images with selected bursts of colour. In Siyah Qalam or ‘black pen’ paintings, figures are sparingly and subtly shaded.”
I have always loved these beautiful drawings so was very keen to take the chance to learn something more about them. On many levels it was fascinating; the history, the techniques and the materials and the possibilities of learning classical techniques and then using those techniques for more contemporary imagery.

I was most interested in the technique of drawing with a brush, but I had not quite appreciated how very tiny the brushes would be. I could barely see the tip of this tiny thing with its curved hairs squirrel hairs.

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In the right hands it can give a super fine, precise and most elegant line. In my hands it did not. However after a couple of days I began to get the hang of it in a very rough and ready way.

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We worked from copies of traditional images which is a good way to learn but a copy can be deceiving and what appears to be one beautiful ink line is, in fact, made up of many tiny lines starting with an almost ghost image in pale grey, the thickness of the line being built up in certain places to emphasise and describe form. The originals are exquisite.

Needless to say I did not finish anything but just trying these techniques made me understand and appreciate even more the skill and finesse of these wonderful artists and probably improved my hand eye coordination quite a bit.

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3 practise pieces.I think I have now done just 6 of the 10,000 hrs of practise.. way to go.. 

Meanwhile I am working on some much bigger, bolder, woodcuts… vive la difference!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Colour Sketches from the Wood

Some small sketches from the wood to make some colour notes as the weather changes. They will help so much for printmaking. I start with a pen sketch just quickly getting down some main lines and lights and darks and then follow up with the colour notes.

I have wanted to do this for some time dithering about what paint etc as I need a quick drying paint for working outside. In the end I used gouche. Gouache is still my go to paint for these quick colour notes. I love its thick slightly chalky texture.

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Its a small square sketchbook 5.5 inches square 14 x14 cmss

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There are 60 pages.. I hope to fill them all.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Autumn Jess

Sometimes I would really like to get another dog. A few days ago I saw a lovely brindled whippet/cross scampering about in the woods. I could not help thinking on my late, much loved lurcher Jessie who I drew and painted so often.

So just for the sheer love of her and of course of a bit more printmaking practise I made a small print. I liked doing this so much that I plan a few more Jessie tributes.

It’s a two plate lino printed with blend rolls on Japanese paper.

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Jessie sleeping amongst falling autumn oak leaves. image 16 x 11cms

Sunday, 24 September 2017

More Colour Print Tests

There can never be enough tests! After a week in lovely Scotland I have spent today making some more test colour prints based on the sketch book work of the path in the wood.
4 colours. 4 small blocks. many many variables….

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Sketchbook and plates.

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Colour trials.

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Image 4 x5.5 inches.

They are going to get larger..

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Sedgewick Museum, Fossils and other things beneath my feet

Back in 2014 I was beginning to discover the (to me) thrilling world of the fossils embedded in the Oxford Clay which underlies this area. We were once a Jurassic shallow sea and its fishy remains are still held in the sticky mud. I have collected quite a few, see my blog post; More about fossils, here,  tiny crinoids, elegant belemnites and the odd fragment of ammonite collected from the reservoir shore.

On Tuesday we made a brief visit to the Sedgewick Museum in Cambridge. If you love cases of fossils and bits of bones and maps and things, a quiet contemplative atmosphere and no crowds, this is for you. I could have settled in happily for a few days of quiet sketching.

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Photos from the Sedgewick Museum Website.

There is so much there to study and consider; the beautiful hand written labels on the specimens, Darwin’s note books, astonishing relics of creatures that knew a different earth and the strangely comforting feeling of being amongst benign ancestors. I thought more about the layering of my Path prints and those things deeper down from 200 million years ago.

The museum was started by Dr John Woodward (1665-1728) and included fossils which had been collected and drawn by the Italian artist Agostino Scilla who published a book of exquisite observed drawings in 1670 See more about Woodwardian and Scilla here.

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A Woodwardian case including some of Scillas fossils.

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One the drawings from Scilla book magnificently titled La vana speculazione disingannata dal senso (Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense, 1670). I want to draw some more fossils and bones now.

Then there is the structures of rocks to consider, the layering of rocks and sediment.

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Print work has been hampered by an awful cold which has laid me low for the last 10 days but colds are often an opportunity to think about things and I have been considering how I might incorporate some of these wonderful things in the prints. It’s all there under my feet, embedded and hidden, but there.

However in the sketchbook I have been working on a few more rough ideas exploring the path, what I see on it, possible colours, how the map can help and other random thoughts about the fence posts. The charcoal burners keep returning too.~

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A4 Sketchbook notes

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Ideas and thoughts.. sometimes having a cold can be quite productive.:).

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Prints, Prints and more Prints

After the very enjoyable experience with the large print earlier this month I have started taking a closer look at the possibilities of overlaying prints and combining plates. I have made overlays before, sometimes just out of curiosity or even by mistake.
Now I am beginning to find the potential more intriguing, especially where I can combine different types of print: relief and intaglio, monoprint, wood and card or lino etc etc. the combinations are endless but I think this may be a way forward for me. There are technical problems. Plate heights to deal with, ink and paper issues and having the patience to LET THINGS DRY. Curbing my enthusiasm and impatience is sometimes very hard.

They are getting bigger too. A2 is actually beginning to seem a bit small!

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A2 woodcuts ( from the big print) combined with added shapes. Up on the path in the woods the autumn Arum berries are a bright note in amongst the dark tree cover. The woodblocks were made with this walk very much in mind.

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A3 prints combining relief and intaglio blocks.

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A4 Trials



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A2 Plates. Wood lino and card plates. They are loosely based on what I am seeing on the path at the moment, dappled light, twigs, stones, leaves etc

I like these.They are an interesting development.  For me they need more consideration in the way of content and composition etc etc.. and of course then there is the issue of colour.. Hmmmm… way to go.