Spotty Dotty and Girlie

As part of our quest to find happy pigs we recently visited Sylvia and John’s  Garden Farm at Old Weston.
Sylvia introduced us to her two sows, Girlie the bright little Berkshire and Dotty the Gloucester Old Spot.They are delightful.

Gloucester Old Spots and Berkshires are Chris’ next pigs for Salute the Pig. It was very very muddy .. as it is everywhere at the moment but pigs are happy in mud:).


Spotty Dotty with her long lop ears which cover her eyes.


Girlie the bright and sparky little Berkshire. A4 sketchbook.~

Sylvia was telling us that she was a handful to move and in one pig book the young Berkshires are described as “naughty”.
Both of the pigs have quite luxurious hair. Perhaps Dotty’s hair was slightly silkier. They feel wonderful.  I also worked some more on the acetate printing plate and made some darker prints, with some interesting results.


Dotty: etching 6 x 4 inches

I am impressed by the sensitivity of the thin plastic. I am sure the number of prints is limited. I am going to show the various stages over at Print Daily. So far the things I love about pigs are their ears, their noses and their bright eyes.  T

he sketches are so useful for understanding how pigs are put together. I did exactly the same when I started drawing bees. These initial studies pay off many fold and they are a pleasure to do.
I am discovering that pigs are all very different. face shapes, ears, coats, body shapes etc. I hope to return to Garden Farm. They have lovely chickens too and in due course there will be piglets!

Pig in Jacket and the Consequences of Fire

Over at Printdaily this week my printing adventures have involved etching. Yesterday I spent the day going through the process, at a bit of a gallop, from start to finish. The whole process is faffy and time consuming and I had dithered about an image but, eventually with Chris’ Salute The Pig Project in mind I made a scribble based on my sadly lost, but not forgotten, Pig in Jacket.

Etching plate and Print of Pig.. you can read about the lengthy process over at Printdaily here.

Pig in Jacket” was one of the small treasures that I kept when we made the big move over ten years ago. He was a small, I think about 4 inches high, white porcelain figure. I cannot remember when or where I got him. He had been with me for many years. Today I went back to the photo I found and made some sketches.

Lost Treasure 1. Pig in Jacket


 The Consequences of Fire

Just over three years ago, on the day I set up my “Buzz”show in London. I received an email telling me that everything I had in the world, apart from the suitcase of things I had taken to the USA, had been lost in a “ catastrophic” fire in Spain.

I had taken a small storage unit, not much bigger than a walk in wardrobe, in a new steel, self storage facility, just to keep the special things in my life safe. It seems so ironic now.
I lost all my paintings and drawings, all my sketchbooks, beautiful old watercolour papers, my stash of now unobtainable professional scraperboard, my fine tools and brushes, gilding equipment, precious pigments, paints, the very special selected books I had kept, all my personal treasures, small pieces of jewellery, hangings and silks from India that my grandmother had brought back in the 1920’s.

My teddy, my old toy dog, my tiny old lead farm animals, my desk, my easel, my book press and countless other small but irreplaceable things which I had tried to keep safe. But the state of the art storage unit protected with alarms, sprinklers, cameras etc  had gone up in flames. It was Spain, at its worst.

Probably arson, possibly an electrical fault. Who knows, and not worth wading through the corruption and concealment to find out. What is gone is gone. I have not mentioned the fire before because I loathe “pity me” blogs and the very best thing to do in these circumstances is to shake yourself down, be thankful for small mercies and get on with life.

Anyway amongst the losses was this pig. Oddly enough I had taken a few snaps of my favourite small things just before I left as I had planned some drawings and the photographs were on my laptop. It’s been in my mind lately to have another look at them, now things are not quite so raw, and Pig in Jacket fits in so well with what I am up to now.

A Previous Incarnation of Pig

It’s not the first time I have used Pig in my work.  Some 23 years ago he appeared in my Devil’s Alphabet, which I am about to reprint. Pig here is rejecting the drunken advances of the Devil.

The Devil with Pig… A tiny scraperboard drawing. .. and I think there will be a lino cut too.. He was a nice Pig!

Bumble Bee and Ginkgo

This double intaglio was only partially successful as we had problems with the soft ground which was used to prepare the ginkgo leaf plate. The ease of making the ginkgo image (you “just” run a leaf through the press on a soft grounded plate) was counteracted by the soft ground coming away on the wax paper, the leaf crumbling and sticking to the plate. Hmmm.

My admiration for etchers grows and grows. One slip of the etching tool, one second too long in the acid, one tiny mistake with the soft or hard ground and you have wasted materials and hour or more of time and expectation.
But the proof turned out better than I had thought. I am beginning to get more of a feel for the inking, but as David, our tutor of 35 years of etching experience, says, every plate has its own character.

Here is a sample of his work. His dark tones are wonderful, and to achieve this I know takes much plate reworking and very expert printing. The internet image does not do it justice at all.
“Flight Line“ 3’’ x 9.5”

See more on his website at

Etching has a beautiful, mysterious feel to it. Something of the antique. They are quiet contemplative things which require an intimate encounter.
They don’t reward the casual glance or give the instant colour thrill of a screenprint. At their best they contain depth,detail and atmosphere. They reward people who enjoy the quality of marks for their own sake and who love the atmospheric.
But I am almost done with etching. The short course will finish next week and without a press, acid and, most of all, space. I won’t be doing any more for the time being.

That’s one of the drawbacks of etching.. its not quite so easy as a few brushes some paints and some paper, and I am still trying to achieve the illusive non smudged, perfect print.

Bee and Ginkgo Plate

bee and ginkgoplate2

I was using some watercolour paper for this proof.. too thin really, as the print has buckled a little .. yet another variable and pitfall waiting for the would be etcher.

bee and ginkgo2

Sunflower and Moon Bees…Trials and Errors.

Having done one bee I decided to try some backgrounds to accompany it. I have always liked combining images and mixing things up so it’s a mix and match bee set. This etching is all a bit hit and miss, every print is a complete surprise… i.e. I have no control! It’s very easy to over or under-ink the plate and every print is different.

I know the master etchers try to achieve a series of prints which are as identical as they possibly can be, but at the moment part of the fun is not knowing exactly what will be revealed.
I first did a quick vine (with, of course, a few pods…) to see how the technique of overprinting, correctly called double intaglio I think, would work..
Basically you have two plates and one piece of paper, and print the paper twice. Just getting the registration right is tricky, but the tutor has a very neat registration system cut out of an old “For Sale” sign. I will try to get some photos tonight. so.. “Bumblebee and Vines”..3 different papers.

bees and vine

Then, I had read how much bumble bees like sunflowers, so, “Bumblebee with Sunflower” printed on different papers with slightly different coloured inks.. and different levels of success!


And, of course, I had then to have a moonflower bee as a companion… “ Bumblebee and Moonflowers ” again different papers, different inking and different results.

moon bees

My aim this week is to try to get a few really nicely printed which will be for sale in my new Etsy shop.. “Waving Bee Press” coming very soon, plus a blog too..
Why Waving Bee Press? .. well a longish story but part of a project I have been developing for a few weeks now, which looks like growing into an exhibition, prints cards and some handmade’s so exciting!! The sort of project I love, lots of research, lots of ideas and an end product. More of this later..

As part of the work I have had to learn Adobe Illustrator from scratch.. phew… vectors…The problem is that switching now between Photoshop and Illustrator has me even more confused.
It’s all to do with digital letterpress, which is whole new box of soldiers to play with.!… Heaven !

Bee Etching

Inspired by my good friend Dy in the UK , I have been learning something about etching over the last few weeks.
Not much, but enough to realise how very tricky, time consuming and complicated it is. Dare I say I have barely begun to scratch the surface..:)

It seems a deceptively simple process. Coat a small zinc plate with some hard ground, (a combination of asphaltum, beeswax and rosin) scratch through this waxy surface with a pointed tool, immerse in weak acid, (which etches into the plate where the surface has been revealed) ink up and print.. easy!

What makes it so difficult are the mind numbing variety of options you have, starting with the different types of plates and grounds, the time in the acid, the inking up, the paper, the pressure on the press and combinations of all of those… however, I am giving it a go.

My little bumble bee seemed a natural subject so here is my first small bee print.

plate and bee

Plate and first print in burnt umber on Strathmore, plate size 6” x 4”


First print…


Second print, on a laid cream Rives BFK paper. It seems that etchings are very difficult to scan, the computer just wants to merge all the fine lines together in a jumble of pixels , so here is a closer detail of the bee, which is about 2 inches from top to toe.

bee detail

I am amazed at the sensitivity of the process.
The tiniest lines with only a short exposure to acid will give the finest results if correctly inked etc. ……..but so much to learn and so many pitfalls along the way as I am learning!