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.
The prices given are for unframed prints which are presented with white card within a polypropylene or acetate wrapper. The small prints are usually on A4 size paper and so they are classed as a large letter by Royal Mail.
If required, prints can be supplied framed using a simple limed ash square moulding with a talc (off white) mount board.
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Bodmin Moor Head: a copperplate engraving inspired by Brian’s 30plus years cycling and walking across Bodmin Moor. He has also recently been much inspired by Roger Vieillard, the great French engraver of the 20th century whose skilled use of engraving tools showed their wide range of line and texture.
In ‘Bodmin Moor Head’, Brian has combined line-work and textures with geometric shapes to depict an imaginary ‘Head’ containing various physical and spiritual aspects of Bodmin Moor, from ancient times with stone circles, crosses etc up to present day granite quarrying. In much of the line-work, he has used his beloved Victorian French tools originally given to him during his apprenticeship in the printing trade back in the 1960’s: he finds that they are a joy to use and contain so much history. He used a 10x magnifying glass plus 3x magnifying spectacles to work on the very fine detail in the engraving.
Although the print is in black and white, Brian believes there is a sense of colour from his use of texture and tone-work. As usual, his initials are engraved on the copper plate and also incorporated is his personal symbol of a snail.
Brian feels that this is an important work for him as it encapsulates the feelings and emotions created by the amount of time he has spent on Bodmin Moor. He intends his next engraving to be ‘Bodmin Moor Head II’, seen in profile.
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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.
Many of his engravings have been inspired by his local area of Bodmin Moor and its tors and quarries: images such as “Shine, Shower, Gorse & Stone” and “Quarry & Storm Clouds”, while his love of cycling appears in images such as “The Missing Rider” and “The Impossible Climb”: the latter was shown in the Royal Academy Summer/Winter Exhibition 2020 and was very popular.
In contrast, “Stricken Tree” is Brian’s metaphor for Covid-19, reflecting the pain and anguish caused by the pandemic, while ‘The Lonely Tower’, inspired by Samuel Palmer’s etching, also mirrored his state of mind during the pandemic. The spirit of loneliness is similarly present in his pastel pictures "House on the Hill" and "Jacob’s Ladder II".
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.