Copperplate engraving is a slow, laborious technique which uses tools to cut lines directly onto a copperplate. It is a different technique from etching where the metal plate is covered with a resistant wax which is drawn through with a scriber: the plate is then immersed in an acid bath, allowing the acid to etch the exposed lines. While etched lines have an irregular edge, engraved lines have a clean, sharp edge, giving a very pure appearance to the line.
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Brian Hanscomb engraves on copperplate using tools passed on to him by his journeyman during his apprenticeship. Some of his tools are over 100 years old and are of French make while others are Swiss, American and English in origin. The tools – burins – have traditional names such as spitsticker, lozenge, square, etc. and are used to create a range of different marks and textures on the copper.
The limited editions, usually of 95, are printed by hand, using a Harry Rochat press, and Brian finds the discovery of the most sympathetic paper for a particular image to be highly rewarding. The paper used is mainly hand or mould made and some date back to Victorian times. His use of a single colour ink, usually black or umber, demonstrates superbly the simple line of engravings; where his work is more detailed, the use of a single ink gives the tonal illusion of colour in the print. Each print is unique.
Brian’s love of cycling led him to tour Spain and Portugal and this inspired him to create a series of engravings of the Iberian Peninsula as seen in “Iberian Trees”, “Portuguese Cart” and others. While many of his engravings are figurative, others, such as “Squared Circle of Zen” are quite abstract, but all show the skill of a master craftsman in the engraved lines. “Christ appears in the Factory” is one of his largest engravings and represents the hope of mankind over the cynicism and degradation of factory life.
The highly acclaimed Whittington Press has published three limited edition books with Brian’s engravings:
‘Sun, Sea & Earth’ (1989) in which the engravings illustrate the poems of Richard Jeffries and his followers, including two poems by Brian himself
‘Cornwall – an Interior Vision’ (1992) in which the engravings illustrate Brian’s own poems and prose, and
‘The Phoenix’ (2005), in which the engravings are from before, and after, the disastrous studio fire in 2002, and are accompanied by Brian’s own haiku poems.
‘Matrix 15’ (1995), also published by Whittington Press, includes a biography of Brian.
The Folio Society (1987), ‘John Milton – on The Morning of Christ’s Nativity and other poems’: illustrating in engravings 5 of Milton's poems
Merivale Editions (1988), engravings illustrating two of Thomas Hardy's poems.
|Copperplate engraving would seem to be an underused, even disappearing, medium which Brian has every intention of keeping alive. In 2010, the ecological magazine ‘Resurgence’ (edited by Satish Kumar) wrote that ‘Brian Hanscomb is known as Britain’s leading copperplate engraver’. Brian was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) in 1997: he is now a Senior Fellow.|
Copperplate engraving would seem to be an underused, even disappearing, medium which Brian has every intention of keeping alive. In 2010, the ecological magazine ‘Resurgence’ (edited by Satish Kumar) wrote that ‘Brian Hanscomb is known as Britain’s leading copperplate engraver’. Brian was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) in 1997: he is now a Senior Fellow.