My exhibition A Knavish Lad featured the largest piece of book art I've created to date: a wordless, visual retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Today I thought it was time to give a bit of space on this blog to the other pieces of artwork from the exhibition, as there was so much etching involved!
Photos of above prints are taken from http://www.broughtonspurtle.org.uk/news/midsummer-night-enchantments
The first few etchings taken from the plates after aquatinting them came out so well that I decided to create a small limited edition of nine from each of them. Each of these prints has been printed in black intaglio ink on Hahnemuhle paper. They were the first prints taken on the plates after the aquatint had been scrubbed off, and the tonality on them is wonderful - none of the colour prints I subsequently took from these plates seem to match up to the contrast achieved on these first monochrome prints:
|Inking up and removing ink from the zinc plate with scrim|
|Running plate through press|
|first proof from the second plate|
It took over two years to build up enough visual material for this project. Research for it took me in to the woods of Northumberland's National Park with a sketchbook; to pouring over Victorian flower dictionaries; and to looking up indigenous costumes and headdresses of far off places. The Beltane Fire Society was consulted for their library of books on costume, and there were numerous conversations with a certain English teacher on the text and the characters.
|'Methought a serpent eat my heart away'|
The text's imagery informed a lot of detail in the etchings, especially in regard to animals, flowers and plants. For instance in the scene when Hermia awakens, she speaks of a dream where a serpent had devoured her heart, and a small reference is made to this in the bottom right hand corner of the second print. (An apple was substituted for a heart.)
|Act I Scene I|
Puck closes the play by addressing the audience directly - the only character in the play to do so. As a result I let him be the only character who makes direct eye contact with the viewer.
I could go on about the characters for longer, but I won't do it here. However I can't finish this post without talking a bit about one of the most central characters, the instigator of the play's magic and mayhem...
Above is a separate character portrait I created of Oberon. He thieves like a magpie; he acts out of jealousy; and (believes himself to be) a cuckold. I imagine that he is the sort of character who might have a collection of stolen, shiny objects in his possession, which is why magpies became his motif and they appear in a couple of Oberon's scenes:
These last few framed etchings in the exhibition are my favourites. They are also very precious because they cannot be printed again, thanks to a series of accidents in the print room with the plates. Only a few copies of each print available:
|Oberon; one of two prints|
|Etching of Bottom and Queen Titania; one of two prints|
The exhibition A Knavish Lad is on at McNaughtan's Bookshop and Gallery in Edinburgh until Friday 30th September 2016.
If you'd like to know more about any of the artwork or have questions about any of it, then drop me an email or leave a message in the comments section below!