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.

Liverpool Print Fair, Sunday 6th November 2022

Liverpool Print Fair promotional image
Open edition 'The Island of Small Joys' print on heavyweight Fabriano Unica paper. The wooden spoon used to transfer the image sits on top of the print.
Open edition ‘The Island of Small Joys’ print on heavyweight Fabriano Unica paper

I’ll be doing my first print fair this November, hosted by Liverpool Print Fair and Chapters of Us.

Right now I’m feverishly preparing new works, and creating new open-edition prints to bring along.

Some of these will be on alternate paper types especially for the show.

Scroll down for more information on the venue location, or visit Liverpool Print Fair to see the range of exhibitors and learn more about their work.

Map of Liverpool's Baltic Triangle area showing the location of landmark businesses and the venue for Liverpool Print Fair.

Kunichika – Japanese woodblock prints exhibition highlights

This exhibition of the work of Toyohara Kunichika closes very soon, for visiting information please take a look at the exhibition page.

I was delighted to visit this show of woodblock prints by Toyohara Kunichika at the Lady Lever Gallery. I had a basic familiarity with Ukiyo-e (‘Pictures of the floating world’) but to see so many works by a late master was a treat.

The first thing that strikes you is the depth of colour, these are water-based inks and I would have assumed that they can deteriorate as fast as a watercolour painting under the same conditions. This collection is therefore much loved and looked after. These prints are immaculate and vibrant, with only a few works bearing notes that certain colours had faded or changed over the years.

Kunichika’s work was the affordable, popular imagery of the day – household name theatre stars, ‘beautiful women’ pictures, scenes from well-known tales and the activities of Emperors and actors.

Detail from Seven Evil Women woodblock print by Toyohara Kunichika, 1879
Detail from Seven Evil Women woodblock print by Toyohara Kunichika, 1879

One startling set of pictures shows theatre actors in intimate settings, mopping a brow after a performance and being fanned by an attendant. These works were direct challenges to the rise of postcard-style, mass produced celebrity portrait photographs. Kunichika knew and socialised with many of the stars of the day and could depict them (with flattery) in candid, and full-colour, moments.

In another work entitled ‘Seven Evil Women’ you can see the artist’s disdain for photography. All figures in this picture are shown in dazzling attire.

One figure holds a small photograph which pales in comparison to the rest of the scene. Photography was to replace woodblock printing’s hold on celebrity imagery , and inevitably affect the livelihoods of print artists. Kunichika himself spent his last years working in a relative’s photographic shop.

‘Seven Evil Women’ is dated 1879, and shows actors playing the role of real-life women with criminal, even murderous backgrounds – ‘dokofu’ or ‘poison women’. Then as now the popular press was obsessed with the idea of women who kill, and knew money was to be made from their notoriety.

Seven Evil Women woodblock print by Toyohara Kunichika, 1879
Seven Evil Women, Toyohara Kunichika 1879

The show describes Kunichika as both an important designer and a master of his art, though reading the history of this artform – and not unlike others – both the genre and the individual’s importance have been reinvigorated by rediscovery and the appreciation of modern collectors.

As for mastery, each print is inked and impressed by hand, though this was probably undertaken by a team. Nevertheless the skill in design and the fineness of line is impressive. One good example of this is in the image ‘Nakamura Shikan as the boatman Matsuemon’ of 1883. Kunichika has employed multiple blocks and different ink tones to mimic the effect of fine brushwork.

Close up of ink and brush effect achieved with woodblocks from Nakamura Shikan as the boatman Matsuemon, 1883
Close up of ink and brush effect achieved with woodblocks from Nakamura Shikan as the boatman Matsuemon, 1883
Nakamura Shikan as the boatman Matsuemon, 1883
Nakamura Shikan as the boatman Matsuemon, Toyohara Kunichika, 1883

A final delight are the works that depict actors in the roles of famous westerners, my favourite of these was ‘Baiko as the balloonist Percival Spencer

Woodblock print 'Baiko as balloonist Percival Spencer', from 'One hundred roles for Baiko', 1894
Baiko as balloonist Percival Spencer, from ‘One hundred roles for Baiko’, 1894

As is always the case with The Lady Lever Art Gallery (and particularly their print shows) the exhibition is beautifully presented, the context boards and related materials describe the man (alcoholism, womanising, misspent youth and all) and the period in a way that really brings the pieces and their subjects to life.

All photographs in this post were taken on site at the exhibition, so show some reflection from gallery lighting and do not do the pieces justice. Of course, no flash was used.

August ’22 work in progress – Silbury Hill linocuts, wood engravings, new works

Late July into August has seen me continuously inspired by Silbury Hill, making another linocut of the iconic neolithic mound. A break is coming, I promise.

skip to non-Silbury news.

Shop news

Both my Etsy store and the Print Shop now have new variations for The Island of Small Joys A3 linocut. This print can now be purchased on white or off-white 130gsm paper. More news on islands and Invisible Cities below.

My small edition of Silbury Hill from Waden Hill, a 21mm high wood engraving has been completed, with the leading proofs being well received.

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Work in progress – July 2022

July’s been good to me so far, offering plenty of daylight and long, long days to get things done. The days of intense heat we experienced in the UK turned normally stiff ink into liquid which hampered the progress of some editions – nevertheless with the ongoing changes to our climate threatening life, livelihood and home for so many around the world, I can hardly complain.

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Work in Progress – June 2022

Silbury Hill 220gsm A4 linocut print
Silbury Hill 220gsm A4 linocut print
Silbury Hill 220gsm A4 linocut print on two choices of paper

June has been marked by production and discovery. Production in the sense of pressing new work, restocking open-edition prints and a run of new three-colour greetings cards.

Discovery in returning to sketching with pencil, white on black and black on white ink, and some thoughts on broadening out into other media and subjects.

I’ve complete my Silbury Hill linocut view and begun to print the edition. I originally planned one paper option for this but a second, more textured option has been added to work well alongside other prints, such as Cherhill Down and the White Horse.

130gsm and 220gsm prints are now available in the print shop.

Framed prints

A number of my Cherhill White Horse prints are now available framed. These are one-off frame and mount choices, including close-cropped versions and mounts in white and a smokey grey.

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Three linocut prints in the Southport Contemporary Arts Spring Open exhibition

Today I dropped off three framed works at the ArtHouse gallery, Southport for inclusion in their Spring Open. Works include the the limited edition ‘Landscape Study’ and ‘Cherhill Down and the White Horse’, which looks great in a black frame with a white mount.

English Landscape Study
English Landscape Study, after Ethelbert White

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Shop update: all proceeds to Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Fund

For the foreseeable future, I will be making a personal donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal every time a print is sold from this site.

If you’d like to buy a print from the Print Shop, I will make a personal donation equivalent to the sale price minus postage and packaging costs.

Please note that for sales from this site I only ship to the United Kingdom.



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If you can make a direct donation yourself – great! Please follow the link above or visit their appeals page for other giving opportunities.

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