Earlier this year, I worked on four pen and ink drawings of hares which would become Limited Edition prints. I had not produced any pen and ink work for a while and was looking forward to getting to grips with that style again. Of the hundreds of images I’ve been commissioned to produce for publication in books, many have been pen and ink. Over close to two decades, I have been mostly known for my digital work. However, for much of that period, I was also regularly getting book commissions. Which tended to be simpler black and white images. For which my preferred method of working would have been familiar to illustrators as far back as the 19th century.
An obvious limitation of producing work for commissions is lack of choice in the subject material. After all, the purpose of a book commission is to produce the images the publisher wants. Not only that, commissioned work for books is also produced to a price point. One which usually precludes getting too carried away with the detail in the illustrations. My web site includes a number of my book illustrations.
Personal work obviously takes second place to paid work. When it comes to pen and ink, that meant I have only produced a handful of personal pieces. When I do, I very much want to do something which takes me beyond that which I have produced within the constraints of commissions. A prime example of this is “The Making Making of a Fayble” which took in the region of 150 hours to complete.
Pieces like “Fayble” really are one-offs, produced primarily to see if I can. When I decided to do some new pen and ink work, I knew that it would have to be of a more modest scale. The motivation was a community exhibition close to home, in the village hall literally round the corner from where I live. I thought it would be nice to do something new for this and decided to produce some pen and inks which reflected the area. And so the idea of producing drawings of hares was borne.
Although I have used stock imagery in the past, these days my preference is to use photographs I have taken myself as reference for an image. In this case I used my photographs of hares in the Stonehenge landscape within the World heritage Site; which is only four miles from here. One was taken on 21st of June in 2016 and the other three in April 2021. With the latter, I’d finished taking photos of the sun, packed up my equipment and was heading back to the car when I saw some hares running around. So I knew I was gong to have to stop, set up the tripod and see what I could get. I am glad that I did.
Initially, I was going to produce six drawings; common sense told me to bring that down to four. Far more sensible given the short time I had before the exhibition. A feature of book commissions was nearly always the tight schedule. I may have had free rein over the content of the pictures but it would appear I could not escape all features of the commissioned work experience. This meant the inking stage of the images was produced at quite a tight pace. I finished the last piece only hours before the exhibition was due to be set up.
Working with a steel dip pen could not be further from that of the digital experience. There is no undo button for a start. The threat of an un-required blob of ink hitting the paper is a very real one. The opposite end of that spectrum is when the ink refuses to flow off the end of the pen. It is certainly an organic experience and one where pressure and nuance of the pen stroke alters the nature of the line being produced. As the pen nib flexes, it widens and narrows creating a variable line with a quality all of its own.
Although the sun did not feature in any of the reference photos, I decided that the sun would be a theme running through each of the pictures. Inspired mostly by the countless number of times I have been to Stonehenge to witness a sunset. Of sunrises I’ve seen far fewer; wrong time of day. And so I decided to call the set of four hare drawings the Sunset Series. I have produced them as a set of high quality Limited Edition prints. Which have now recently been added to my web shop.