I was first introduced to wood engraving by Yvonne Skargon at the RCA many years ago. Already a keen user of pen and ink I became enthralled by the variety and sparkling richness of line, pattern, and texture offered by engraving, and by the pleasure of cutting marks into such a beautiful smooth surface. This enthusiasm for the decorative qualities of the medium has remained with me through 30 years of projects, commissions, freelance illustration and self-generated printmaking, engravings made for the pleasure of exploring favourite themes: landscape, including mountains, rivers, coasts, and woodland; gardens; and traditional architecture, to the extent that I visualise any inspiring places as potential engravings. I look for subjects with potential for a dramatic composition, and enjoy rendering the diverse shapes of flower and foliage in a garden border, or rocks, waves, splashes, waterfalls, and snowflakes, trying to capture their essence in a series of graphic marks on a dark ground. I have also found engraving to be the ideal art form for a short-sighted artist.
Most of the engravings are worked on small endgrain boxwood blocks, which have a dense and close-grained surface, so the medium encourages a cautious and detailed approach. Mistakes cannot be reversed – once a mark has been engraved it cannot be filled in again. An uncut block would print as a solid black area, and the fine tools incise white marks into the black surface, and as with other relief printing methods like lino and woodcut the raised areas are then inked and printed, which gives the engraving its characteristic appearance. I now print engravings on a Victorian Albion press, inherited from my mentor Yvonne, but for many years I hand-burnished them with an old spoon. I source my woodblocks from Chris Daunt.
I have engraved illustrations for Folio Society books over the years, including 'The Lives of the Later Caesars'; Walter Scott's 'The Bride of Lammermoor', Flora Thompson's 'Lark Rise to Candleford', some Shakespeare plays, and endpapers for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I have also used engraving for a food packaging project for Waitrose, and also a private commission to illustrate the history of information technology from ancient times.
In ink and watercolour I have illustrated several topographical books, children`s picture books, and hundreds of decorative images for greetings cards and for the giftware industry, often on Christmas themes, from ceramic mugs and plates to enamel boxes.
Exhibitions and memberships
I have been a member of the Society of Wood Engravers for 30 years, exhibiting every year, and in 2012 I was awarded the first Bewick Society prize. I am a member of the Sussex Guild and show engravings at selected craft events, I have taken part in group exhibitions such as the annual `Florum` botanical show, and also have work in several galleries throughout the country. I have demonstrated engraving at Art in Action and Craft in Focus events, and as a regular participant in South East Open Studios over the years.
A video about engraving and printing a wood block
Working on small endgrain boxwood block.
Making a print.