THE WOOD ENGRAVING DAY at Poole Painting and Printmakers' studios was absorbing and oh so useful.
For some years now I've drooled over the work of wood engravers and mourned my own lack of skill. So when the chance came to spend a day improving, together with like minded people, even the thought of 45 minutes breathing cider fumes on the Dorset to Waterloo Bummel Zug and running the gauntlet of the Pound Shops of Poole didn't deter me.
The result above isn't the best that can be done but was the best I could do in a couple of happy as a lark and hypnotically absorbed afternoon hours in a little and ancient industrial barn down a quirky alley. It's almost actual size - done on a small 'resingrave' block about 2" x 3". The blacks are also not quite as black as they are in reality.
It's hard to know while you are doing it how it will print out. I'm not experienced enough to predict results without having done a very detailed design and there wasn't quite time to do that, even though the basic image is one which I keep returning to over and over... The boat probably needed to be whiter. The clouds less sausage like. In fact I think I might have taken some cloud away and gone to a larger area of white if I'd had longer... which might have ruined the block because you work from black to white and you can't put back what you take away. But I'd have learned from it.
As it was I was almost the last person left at the end frantically rolling the press bed handle and pulling the clamping lever across to print my little edition of 7.
I discovered a lot of things... some useful texts on engraving (the most complete seems to be by the amazing Simon Brett)... and that my tools might be too long for my hand which could be why I am forced to hold them oddly... and that I can control a scorper (once it's been sharpened lol) and that it's also ok to engrave the whole image with a spit sticker if I need to. (If you think that's a weird name for a tool try the 'bull sticker'!) Also I feel reassured that's it's ok to use the lozenge graver in my own limited way.
I also realised my new tint tool was bent at the tip and the kindly tutor sorted it out for me. When I did a test engraving, it reminded me of the time I made a wooden sledge for the kids when they were tiny. In a fit of film buffery, I named it 'Rosebud' - however it had a design flaw which made it veer off to the left - usually towards the nearest tree. Like Rosebud and the Bummel Zug, all my tint tool lines veered westwards...
Each time I've entered the Bath Prize I've ended up thinking 'Why... oh why... do I do this?'
Plein air isn't completely my forte. You'd think I would have learned that from the experience at Pintar Rapido (not that it wasn't fun but...) . Yet I just can't resist.
So now it's The Bristol Prize. It seems Bath's rich seams of locations (and exhibition venues) finally expired. maybe it just got too expensive. But Bristol. So refreshing. So many interesting semi industrial landscapes - so many quirky buildings and stunning vistas - so much vibrant history mixed with multicultural colour and graffiti and modernity. So much opportunity for innovation...
And what do I paint? The classic figurative view of Clifton Suspension Bridge. There will be about a million of these already. There are a million zillion already floating around the Artiverse. My excuse is that I was given Hotwells Rd. Not the best excuse of course, because Hotwells Rd is a fantastically varied and wonderful location with lots of possibilities. I could have painted Dowry Square, the Swing Bridge, docks, traffic, pubs, Georgian Terraces, more traffic....
But this dawn lit painting was what had to happen so here it is. Yes it's very purple. I wonder whether I should just throw that Dioxazine Purple away but I can't I can't it's such a delicious and hypnotic colour for me. And I can't say I haven't enjoyed it - have loved every minute of it. And yes I know I won't win any prizes and it's usually not the best selling venue....
But enjoying what you do has to be what makes it worth it in the end.