24 August, 2010

a bit of a special day . . .

We are not usually ones for foisting on others the more personal details of our lives but, probably encouraged but a nice lunchtime bottle of wine with our prawns, sunshine and wonderful wind in the birches and the aspen, I am posting these photos without even consulting Frances, because I would like to share our happiness with our friends.

What are we celebrating?

Our 47th wedding anniversary. Seems like only yesterday!

08 August, 2010

Worth and Value

Sometime in the early 1960s, my new job involved lots of driving round the country (UK) but I always tried to find a moment to pop into any antique or second-hand bookshop I passed. My funds then were by no means lavish but I did pick up one or two items which still give me pleasure and which retain the fascination they had when I came upon them.

One such item is pictured here . . . although it only got its frame a couple of years ago and previously lived in a portfolio, being visited rather seldom. But each time I renew acquaintance I am stunned anew. I get tingling up the spine as with certain pieces of music. I get a magnifying glass and go for journeys round this enchanted land.

Here are a few close-ups and, if you click, you should get them much bigger.

The complete piece of paper is only 18.5 x 10cm but look below at the trio (or quartet, if you count the horse!) to the extreme left. These characters, walking or riding up the hill with their long pikes or staves are recognizably individuals - and each about 1mm.

Below is my favourite bit, much enlarged. The idea of sailing under those wind-blossomed sails towards that idyllic shore-side town seemed utterly romantic.

So, what do we have here? Clearly it was a piece of an engraving but, until recently, my almost complete lack of knowledge of the subject did not help me towards an identification. A year or so ago, I did have the opportunity of talking to an 'expert' and I showed him the sliver of paper. For a few seconds I could almost hear the hard-disk whirring in his head and then a finger shot out and pointed to a spikey thing about a quarter of the bottom edge in from the right. 'Ah', he said, 'It is Albrecht Durer's The Sea Monster but you have lost all the main subject and an inch off the top. It is, I am afraid, OF NO VALUE'

INDEED! Here is the proper thing (off the internet) and it is indeed magnificent but what have I got?
I have a piece of paper more than five hundred years old on which is printed an image which was drawn and engraved in 1498 by Durer, aged 27 at the time. It is, I gather, now thought that he probably did not actually cut his wood blocks himself but I am sure that it would be he who was guiding the burin So, at the very least, this paper was directly printed from a piece of metal that was touched in one way or another by this consummate artist.

Of no value . . . . . . ?

Another coincidence

For the past many weeks, I have hardly been in my printing office at all . . . rather I have been holed up with my computer, camera, Photoshop and InDesign wrestling with (but actually much enjoying) the putting together of the 'sequel' to our Bibliography, now ten years old. The photograph below is of a selection of spreads in rough proof form. I am hoping that my task will be completed in a few weeks so then it will be up to the printer and binder how long it will be before publication. I will keep you posted.

It happened that I was working on the four pages concerning the book, The Girl from the Sea that was published quite recently. This is a posthumously published "Play for Voices" by George Mackay Brown with wonderfully atmospheric woodcuts and wood engravings by the American artist Michael Onken.

On that very day we had the pleasure of being able to welcome Llewellyn Thomas and his family for a short 'motorway stop' in their journey from west Wales to their home in Kent.

The coincidence lay in that it was Llewellyn who had, way back in 1991, made the (fiendishly detailed and difficult to print!) wood engravings for In the Margins of a Shakespeare also by George Mackay Brown. This book (long out of print, sadly) was one of my favourites and we were all greatly pleased when George said how well he thought of it.

He was unable to see the 'Selkies' book of course but I hope (and feel) that he would have approved as much.

So . . . now back to the Bibliography!

02 August, 2010

Sensuality in the garden!

When, years ago, I first saw the flower photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, I stared and stared to try to work out how he made them so unashamedly erotic. Yes there was choice of subject, angle, reflections on the surface and so on but I ended up reckoning that much, if not most, of Nature really is, shall we say, sensual.

Now is the best time of year of course so . . . out came the camera.

I hope you can click the three above as large as possible. Living Rodins!

And here, by way of a coda, is a cool Frances walking into the light. When I look at the composition of this I find myself thinking of a painting of Stanley Spencer. I can't quite think why!