I’m currently based in the new Parkside campus of Birmingham City University, within the newly established Faculty of Arts, Design and Media ( formerly the faculty was BIAD, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design). We moved into our new space eight months ago and since then its all been about adapting to new teaching spaces and getting used to a more open and ‘open door’ way of life…One of the big decisions has been to forego the traditional degree show for something more proactive and entrepreneurial, were calling it a Graduate Festival and its taking place between 12 and 17 June in Birmingham.
One such initiative was to open the studio space up to include pop up shops, visible marketing for the school, selling stalls, a Portfolio Day as well as an Awards event and a School Open Day. Amongst the array of activities is an auction of original work which will include industry names as well as work by staff and students. I was given the chance to coordinate this which meant approaching people such as the wonderfully accommodating Jonny Hannah as well as asking staff and students to donate work. Rather than ask my team of illustration staff I decided that this being the inaugural event I’d do a new piece especially for the event.
Some years back when I moved into a new office I decided to make an ‘Art for Office’ piece, it was a large charcoal drawing and it now hangs in my home, but whilst it was on public show it got many comments and so I decided to repeat the theme of the androgynous silhouette morphing into a rather round droplet. The new work is primarily charcoal and pastel and was drawn onto Fabriano Rosapina, that special paper with the creamy rose hue, so sympathetic to rich black marks and etching ink.
So on the 13 June at 7.00pm this along with eight other originals will go under the hammer and all money raised will go towards student support funds within the School of Visual Communication.
I’m not sure why it’s take so long to finally pluck up the courage and use the array of razor sharpened tools, incise the polished wood surfaces and print the resultant engravings? I first happened upon the seductive box wood blocks over 30 years ago, in Leeds, my place of study…it was enough to just caress the blocks, knowing that Bewick, Tenniel, Ravilious had taken the medium of wood engraving to extraordinary levels of achievement.
Perhaps it was the ignorance of the tools, maybe the relatively simple Lino cut was closer to my natural cutting ability, who knows ? Finally this year I engraved my first blocks, tentative, over cautious but determined and wholly prepared to accept the slips and misshapes…the first block was a challenge and the result would accompany me to the Double Crown Club Dinner where I was a guest of Christopher Brown, what could be a more fitting occasion to produce a wood engraving? After all such masters of the medium were esteemed members.
I made the engraving, Sara, my wife produced elegant display folders and we placed them into protective glassine envelopes recently bought in NYC. The reaction at the DCC was positive and John Lawrence, a master of the medium gave me plenty of ample encouragement.
So now I’m showcasing two recent engravings, Tree of a Life and Explosion, both different in approach but representative of my ever growing confidence.