Wood engraving is at once the simplest and one of the most exquisite forms of printmaking. The print is made, first, by engraving the reversed design or picture to be printed into the mirror-smooth surface of a block of end grain box wood. My wood engravings tend to be closely worked and relatively small because the tools used are finely pointed. Because the finesse of wood engraving it produces a particularly rich tonal range.
The block is then inked (applied by hand with a roller) and printed onto paper. The cuts that were made into the wood therefore come out as white, the remaining top surface which gets inked, as black; I am, in effect, drawing with light – with a white mark as opposed to the black mark that comes from a pencil, brush or pen.
Printmaking is thus a potentially creative process: it is part of its nature that many prints can be taken from the block once it is engraved, but each of those prints is an original – made by that process, not copied and they are customarily ‘editioned’ prints, as expressed by the ‘fraction’ written on the print near the bottom of the print. 10/75 means the 10th print in an edition of 75.
I rather fell into wood engraving by chance. I instantly fell in love with some strange illustrations within a book my partner bought me, “A Kipling Anthology” illustrated by Leslie Benenson, gorgeous chalk pastels and vibrant pencil sketches, and these slightly unfathomable black and white illustrations. A chance buy followed of Chris Wormells “English Countryside Traditions”. Which told me these where “wood engravings”.
I am a traditional sign writer by trade. A customer asked me to make her a new house sign. She requested that I copied an illustration she had of her cottage. I was really excited when she showed me the illustration, it was a wonderful engraving by Sybella Styles, who it turned out was a personal friend and lived in a neighbouring village. When Sybella heard of my excitement and interest she sent me a rather blunt message “I attend wood engraving lessons in Lewes Tuesday evenings, we will be expecting you!”
And this was how I begun my introduction into to wood engraving, the lessons were run by the wonderful Diana Bloomfield, a very special and generous woman, I believe I am probably the last person she taught as I was the new boy in the class and not long after I started to attend she passed on her responsibilities to Caroline Trant.
I live and work in East Hoathly, East Sussex and I am constantly inspired by the world around me. To be able to engage in the landscape through my engravings deepens my appreciation and love of the world I am lucky enough to inhabit.
I will be demonstrating the art of wood engraving and the print making process at my Open Studio on the 24th and 25th of September and the 1st and 2nd of October 10am 'til 5pm, Village Works, East Hoathly. BN8 6QA
I very much look forward to seeing you there.