Work In Progress – November 2022

It has been a busy few months, with new work and pressings in readiness for Liverpool Print Fair. The fair was a blast, despite the wet weather hundreds of people came through the doors and I enjoyed discussing my work face to face and talking technique with other makers.

Aside from printing open editions, I lined up a few projects for new and more colourful work. For a long time I’ve been wanting to develop prints based on 8-bit gaming themes, but I went further back – to old mechanical and LCD handheld games from the early 1980s.

Invader, a reduction/multi-plate linocut

Photograph of a 1980s battery-operated LED handheld game. The case is blue and azure with orange buttons at the bottom and on the side of the case. The screen is black with yellow HUD rangefinder marks and the edge of a planet in view at the bottom.
Bandai’s Missile Invader handheld LED game. Photo credit Steve Berry (license)

First up was the device I’d coveted quite a bit as a kid (alongside Tomy’s Digital Derby, of course) – Bandai’s Missile Invader, a battery-operated, palm-sized LED game console.

My aim was to create a clean, crisp representation of the device (think screenprinting, or digital artwork) but with the roughness of edges and print texture you get from multi-colour relief printing.

I wanted the image to reveal more of it’s analogue production methods the closer you examine it, taking you further back in time.

My outline plan was to use reduction techniques to show the colours and light fall on the outer case, then a combination of reduction and separate blocks for the yellows and reds of the screen, buttons and sprites.

The photos below show the design being transferred and the current state of the layers. Note the small three-colour sample piece in the first photograph.

As the colour layers build up more texture is added. Though the original design sketch is precise to the point of dull, the layers of colour are less crisp, which I really like.

Fruit Machine, a reduction linocut

The one gaming machine from this period I own is a Radio Shack Slot (or Fruit) Machine. While working on Invaders I began a concurrent reduction print – somewhat simpler in scope – to capture this device too. Here’s the work in progress:

The Bratton Horse, a woodcut

Woodcut print of the Bratton or Westbury White Horse with the plain beyond
The Bratton Horse, limited edition woodcut

While those long-term prints were in flight I produced my first woodcut, a view of Wiltshire’s Bratton (or Westbury) White Horse chalk hill figure. The horse dates from 1878, replacing an earlier – and in some ways more interesting – horse that faced the other direction.

I’ve been meaning to do a woodcut for some time, and since visiting this hill (and startling an adder in the long grass trying to reach the perfect vantage point) I had wanted to depict represent the strange, elongated features you see close by.

This view will be familiar to many from Eric Ravilious’ watercolour from 1939, showing the older, common form of transit memorialised on the hill as it’s faster, steam-powered companion races along the tracks in the plain below. Both now superseded.

This print debuted at Liverpool Print Fair, and more from the edition of 21 are now hanging to dry.

New card range

Photograph of three Black and White greetings card with a linocut tool and a coin below
Ancient Wiltshire greetings card pack

In readiness for the Print Fair I took detail views from a number of my old-and-ancient Wiltshire prints and had them made into greetings cards. These are now available individually and as a 3-card set from the Print Shop, as are the original prints.

The set includes the new Bratton Horse view, a detail from my linocut of Silbury Hill from a shady tree, and a detail from my Cherhill Down and the White Horse linocut.

Nine Stones Close, a wood engraving

Photograph of the a wood engraving of a stone circle, shown centred on the paper with a wood engraving tool and coin for scale
Nine Stones Close, Derbyshire wood engraving, edition of 50

More wishes fulfilled with this one. I’ve been wanting to try out the sample woods I bought from Chris Daunt, depict an ancient site outside Wiltshire, and finally do a stone circle. This new print ticks all three boxes.

Nine Stones Close is a sizeable circle sitting on farmland not far from Birchover and Stanton in Peak – home to the Nine Ladies and Doll Tor circles.

The block used was lemonwood (nothing to do with lemon trees) and is less than two inches wide. I’ve printed it on Fabriano Accademia paper and taken each impression by hand burnishing with a wooden spoon.

Lemonwood I like, but I have other woods to try – including maple, pear and boxwood – before I decide on a favourite (it’s going to be boxwood, isn’t it?).

Upcoming

While I have the retrogaming pieces to complete, I am inspired to do more work with colour, reduction and multi-plate printmaking which will no doubt keep me out of mischief until as Christmas approaches.

While those pieces take planning and time to complete, new woodcuts and engravings will no doubt fill the gaps while the more complex pieces hang to dry out the latest layers.

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