‘“Those are good pigs,” he said, “aren’t they?”
If he had said they were bad pigs I should have agreed with him equally. Their shape meant nothing to me.
“Good length,” he explained, “broad in the back and not too much head.”
I strove to see it, but no person can appreciate the points of a pig till he has dwelt long with them.
Looking back, I cannot tell at what point I began to know a good pig from a bad one. The farmer’s eye is as subtle as the artist’s.’
We’re celebrating blue skies and sunshine this morning as Spring seems to have finally arrived. There are crocuses sprouting in Hoxton Square, and yellow tulips brightening up our office. These spring catkins by Yvonne Skargon first appeared in Slightly Foxed Issue 29, where they adorned the contents page.
‘She rises still. A region must be found unhaunted by birds, that else might profane the mystery. She rises still; and already the ill-assorted troop below are dwindling and falling asunder. The feeble, infirm, the aged, unwelcome, ill fed, who have flown from inactive or impoverished cities – these renounce the pursuit and disappear in the void. Only a small, indefatigable cluster remain, suspended in infinite opal. She summons her wings for one final effort; and now the chosen of incomprehensible forces has reached her, has seized her, and, bounding aloft with united impetus, the ascending spiral of their intertwined flight whirls for one second in the hostile madness of love.’
‘They fly free from every page, carrying the salt breeze and the sound of the waves with them . . . The author was very much a field naturalist, and accordingly British Sea Birds takes you where its author went, out among the birds, into their world. Gibson-Hill’s birds, captured in his fresh, lucid prose and exquisite photographs, are not dead specimens, anatomized by a detached scientific gaze.’
‘One image of a veiled woman was all net and nose. Then, by laying down carefully pared pieces of onion-skin tissue-paper behind the place where the impression would be made, Brian brought out and made visible the expression of traumatized, envious sympathy the artist had engraved into the wood in her depiction of the woman’s face. It slowly came alive at his touch – though Brian would pass the credit back to the artist who created the picture. I suppose he is right; but his contribution is closer to that of a concert pianist interpreting a score than that of an engineer.’
Today’s featured wood engraving for Woodcut Wednesday is a ‘Great Spotted Woodpecker’ by Ian Stephens. It first appeared in Issue 51 of Slightly Foxed, where we featured a series of birds engraved by Ian.
We’re not busying ourselves with harvest this autumn, but with books to be packed, proofs to be checked, and new office puppies to be played with (of which, more news coming soon . . .) we might just need a rest under the apple tree by the end of the day. This is ‘Autumn’ by Simon Brett, which first appeared on the contents page of Slightly Foxed Issue 19.
‘The landscapes have such presence and resonance and charisma. I remember now that I liked to take this book with me on the remaining family holidays of my teenage years and in the hot, empty geometry of sky and swimming…
‘I left the A303 and followed the A30 down a dead straight Roman road to Stockbridge then along the old drover’s road towards Salisbury. I began to recognise the distinctive local features, the gentle rolling hills, the trees silhouetted against the sky, and I knew I was entering Phipps country.’
‘They shut the road through the woods/ Seventy years ago./ Weather and rain have undone it again,/ And now you would never know/ There was once a road through the woods . . .’
These cheerful daisies adorned the contents page of Slightly Foxed Issue 38, Summer 2013. Ian Stephens was born in North Buckinghamshire in 1940. He studied illustration and lettering at Northampton School of Art and started engraving immediately on leaving . . .
Branwen Lucas explores the towns, villages and coast of Suffolk with Julian Tennyson’s Suffolk Scene, a ‘sparkling record of his love affair with this often neglected part of East Anglia’. Her article ‘Silly Suffolk’ appeared in Slightly Foxed Issue 23, and was illustrated by wonderful wood engravings of the county by Howard Phipps. This is the beach at Aldeburgh, Tennyson’s best-loved town.
From the very first issue of Slightly Foxed we’ve championed the art of wood engraving as a form of book illustration and, over the years, have reproduced a wide variety of works by some of the best artists in the field. These richly detailed illustrations became so popular with our readers that we decided to give some of our favourite works a life outside the bounds of text illustration and, from the autumn 2014 issue, have run an occasional series of standalone features on engravers. This Tawny Owl by Kathleen Lindsley was the first to be featured in our Slightly Foxed wood engravers series.
This woodcut by C. F. Tunnicliffe illustrated Slightly Foxed Editor Hazel’s article on The Cherry TreeSF 54. Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe was born in Macclesfield in 1901. He grew up on a farm in Sutton around the wildlife which would later influence his work . . .
“Most of Strunk’s injunctions repeat common and commonsense rules of grammar and syntax, though his hatred of the term ‘student body’ and his preference for ‘studentry’ after the example of ‘citizenry’ shows how usage is often personal and sometimes eccentric . . .
Robert Macfarlane delights in dialect and explores the landscape of language in Slightly Foxed Issue 49, accompanied by Claire Dalby’s woodcut of Heylor, Shetland.
‘In clear and elegant prose he described how lanes and hedges, copses, farmsteads, fields and place names could tell the story of the past and explain the configuration of the present . . .’
Most Slightly Foxed readers, we suspect, have some irritating gaps on their bookshelves left by favourite titles lent and never returned. A personal bookplate is an elegant and practical way of solving the problem, and would make a very handsome present for a bookworm or provide an excellent incentive to do that sort-out of your own books that you’ve long had in mind. This fine fox by Sue Scullard is one of eight designs available.
Mark Valentine explored the Isles and wild seas with Robert Atkinson in his article on Island Going in Slightly Foxed Issue 50, beautifully illustrated by Paul Kershaw’s woodcut of Stac Lee, home to part of the world’s largest colony of northern gannet.
‘When you see your Crocuses wide open in flower sally forth with a stick of sealing-wax or the amber mouthpiece of an old pipe in your hand . . . Rub whichever of the two unusual accompaniments of a garden stroll you have chosen, on your coat-sleeve if it be woollen, and hold the rubbed portion as soon as possible after ceasing rubbing near the anthers of an open Crocus, and you will find the electricity thereby generated will cause the pollen grains to fly up to the electrified object, and, what is more, to stick there, but so lightly that directly they are rubbed against the stigma of another Crocus they will leave the amber and be left where you, and Nature before you, intended them to be.’ Essential instructions from E. A. Bowles . . . if you were wondering how to pollinate crocuses. Ursula Buchan introduced us to the green-fingered Bowles in her article on My Garden in Spring, which was featured in Issue 33 of Slightly Foxed and was illustrated by this woodcut from Rosalind Bliss.
‘Strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of. “The best fruit in England — every body’s favourite — always wholesome. — These the finest beds and finest sorts. — Delightful to gather for one’s self — the only way of really enjoying them — delicious fruit — only too rich to be eaten much of — inferior to cherries — currants more refreshing — only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping — glaring sun . . .“’
‘One blazing sunny afternoon he finds himself for some inexplicable reason playing a game of croquet. He is a poor player up against a very good one, but he takes this as a pretext to expound a philosophy in celebration of the loser. ‘It is only we who play badly who love the Game itself . . .
‘There’s something inspiring about the way he comes to write Tarka by a kind of deep immersion – plunging himself into the creature’s habits and habitats, crawling through spinneys and splashing through rivers to get an otter’s-eye view of the world . . .’
‘Swift knows about containment and spillage. It’s the basic dynamic of her garden. In summer the plants billow out over the clipped box hedges that mark the borders, and roses ramble profusely away from their arbours. In winter, with the disappearance of summer’s temporary improvisations, the straight lines of the garden are revealed, dark evergreen and brown.’ Alexandra Harris wrote of the joy of reading Katherine Swift’s The Morville Hours in Issue 50, accompanied by Geri Waddington’s wonderful woodcut.
This woodcut by Howard Phipps, ‘Salisbury Watermeadows’ from Bemerton Rectory, home of the poet George Herbert, first appeared on the contents page of Slightly Foxed Issue 18 in Summer 2008, but more recently we made it available to readers as one of our bookplates.
Before moving to Hoxton Square, the Foxed den was in Clerkenwell, and Farringdon was our local tube stop. This woodcut of the station by Sasa Marinkov was featured in Slightly Foxed Issue 13, in Spring 2007.
Today’s woodcut first appeared on the contents page of Slightly Foxed Issue 33 in Spring 2012. Rosalind Bliss is a landscape artist based in the UK. She learned the rudiments of wood engraving from her father, the painter and art conservationist Douglas Percy Bliss, but went on to train as mural painter at Edinburgh College of Art. Later in life she turned again to engraving, working as a book illustrator and designing bookplates. She lives in Derbyshire, and is still producing paintings, wood engravings and murals, which she paints on to folding screens.
‘His descriptions are precise in every line, shaded so cleverly that the whole ninety pages work on you like a painting by Seurat. The dabs of colour are pretty enough – but stand back and there lies an entire landscape . . .’ wrote Gee Williams in A World of Shining Beauty, an article on John Masefield’s 1966 memoir Grace before Ploughing from Slightly Foxed, Issue 33. While there may not be dabs of colour in this week’s wood engraving, Peter Reddick has beautifully captured this rural landscape of rolling hills and spring meadows.
It seems that spring has finally sprung and the bluebells and crocuses are out in full bloom. We long to see some snake’s head fritillary out in Hoxton Square, but alas will have to make do with Yvonne Skargon’s wonderful wood engraving, taken from Slightly Foxed Issue 41, Spring 2014.
We love wood engravings and in the printed quarterly we have an occasional series to introduce the work of some of our favourite engravers. We’ll be sharing a woodcut from our archive on the website each week, and hope you’ll enjoy them.