I love wood engravings; there is something about the clean lines that creates scenes more vividly, for me, than many other art forms. It is my favourite, alongside linocuts, and I’d love to be able to take the time to study the form and how to create it. I’d love a room in my house just for this purpose.
However, as that’s not likely to materialise any time soon, I keep myself happy by keeping my eyes open, spotting them in expected places (my friend’s gallery, book jackets) and unexpected places (restaurant walls, the stores in my museum).
Now, once upon a time, there lived a wood engraver of some renown, who’d been an official WWII artist before settling in the area to teach and engrave and make friendships. One of which was with a chap I met through work; a gull-tagging ornithologist with a passion for amateur archaeology and local journalism, who had looked like Dirk Bogarde in his younger days. I have sat over mugs of tea with him and listened to his descriptions of William T. Rawlinson, the man and his work (interspersed with a little gull identification and roman coin identification), for several years now.
The other day he popped into the office:
“I’ve got one folder of Rawlinson stuff left, the rest’s gone to Warwick University. You can have a look if you want, see if there’s anything you’d like?”
Oh yes, PLEASE!
So I was prepared to sift carefully through and pick a small print of trees or a lake or a tiny cottage in woodland.
And I loved the way the rushes bent in the wind;
And how the simple black and white managed to depict mossy and soggy;
Captivated by flickering flames lighting travelling faces with sleeping babies;
The droop and peel of the silver birch branches that would remind me of my parent’s house long after they’ve moved;
The part-hidden dwelling place that I imagine was down a lane where the branches of trees met across the top and there would be a stream somewhere nearby.
And as I faltered, trying to find the one that really called (I think it would have been the gypsies by firelight, by the way), he spoke. “Here you are,” he said, shuffling the contents of the folder into a rapid pile of delicate Japanese paper. “You can have all of these, they need a good home.”
There is such a thing as ‘speechless with gratitude’.
So in my house sit fifteen Rawlinson prints, waiting to be mounted and framed, and I don’t quite know how to say thank you enough, except to say that they do have a good home with me and always will do, wherever I find myself.