Drypoint from NatureChris Allan

Chris Allan:

In addition to the twelve framed items in the show we have a limited number of unframed drypoints. Contact us for further details.

Unframed Prices – Hand Coloured £750 – Black and White £600

Drypoint from Nature 

Drypoints are among the simplest of prints to make. You scratch the design into the surface of a polished copper plate with a hardened steel point. The furrows you cut, and the displaced metal ( called burr ) thrown up by the point will both hold ink, and are printed like any engraving or etching. You can build up the design in stages to create rich dark tones, just like re-working a drawing in pencil or pen & ink, and alterations can be made by “rubbing out” using a steel scraper and burnisher.  However, the lines are shallow and the burr can break away, so the processes of inking and printing soon wear the image down, limiting the number of prints to 20 – 30 good impressions .  At an intermediate stage where the composition is clear and firm, but not too heavily worked, I take proofs in a suitable base colour for hand-colouring. The watercolour washes amplify the underlying structure without looking muddy. Additional work then strengthens the design to create a further edition in monochrome.

These prints are based on full size studies from life, mostly in watercolour pencil. The flora are cut from the hedgerow and drawn in the studio. The fauna are variously drawn from life and from museum specimens or adapted from photographs and book illustrations. All contribute to the purpose of portraying nature at close quarters. Not a nature only to br revealed on a TV trip to the tropics with Sir David and crew, but one that can delight us all in every hedge and ditch, or at the bottom of the garden. The familiar natural world around us seems annually transient, yet is reassuringly resilient. Brambles, bullfinches and bumble bees were all flourishing in Britain long before the first human foot ever crushed a daisy, and I’m sure will flourish long after our departure.

But a pile of sketches do not make art – one needs models on which to build ideas. Both the format and the content relate to the hanging scrolls developed by oriental “Bird and Flower” painters over centuries. The verisimilitude of the Dutch C.17 flower painters and the technical prowess of the best engravers of botanical Flora always astonish me, while the wildlife specialists of the past two centuries – from Audubon to Thorburn, Tunnicliffe and more, are a valuable reminder that excellence is hard-won.