In Conversation With Andrew Davidson Part 2
Part 2: In the Studio
In Part 2 of our conversation with Milne Graden brand artist Andrew Davidson, we re-join Andrew in the studio, giving us a behind-the scenes-insight into the creation of the Milne Graden Harvest Mouse, an illustration for our upcoming 9th holiday cottage, Mouse cottage.
For Andrew, his “garden shed” studio is a haven away from the world. However, his brilliantly light space is no ordinary shed, it is an artist’s paradise.
Andrew first “gets into work mode” by making his “23 second commute”
Shelves stacked high with woodcut blocks and glimpses of past projects, surround the interior space. With a wry smile, Andrew describes this as “his archive”. When asked a question about the collection, Andrew jests; “the person who runs that is permanently away” – another example of the quick wit that has peppered our conversation throughout!
A marvellous array of pointed metal lengths housed in round wooden handles, sit on the desk by the window. These engravers are the tools of his trade and have changed very little over the years. Andrew muses, “my studio is like something from another century”, a quality he finds “refreshing”.
Before he does anything illustration-related, Andrew first “gets into work mode” by making his “23 second commute” from his house to the studio. This is where the whole process takes place. “I can be sitting working on an engraving then I just walk over to my 1857 Albion printing press, and pull the handle!”
Once Andrew is safely situated within the walls of the studio, we can begin. When working on previous illustrations for the Estate, Andrew has made them unmistakably Milne Graden by weaving in bespoke details, such as our riverside holiday cottages on the banks fo the Tweed.
“the very nature of the Harvest Mouse, means that the scale will be tighter than other works.”
Andrew also mentions the quirky architectural qualities of the Damford and Littlehaugh salmon fishing shiels and how their uniqueness to the river Tweed, immediately places them.
However, he explains, “the very nature of the Harvest Mouse, means that the scale will be tighter than other works.” The illustration for – small but perfectly formed – Mouse Cottage, calls for a delicate intricacy. A different kind of treatment. Perhaps taking into account the “white shapes as well as the dark.”
Having taken time to fully digest the brief (more on this stage in Part 1), Andrew is then ready to put pencil to paper using the lightweight pages of a layout pad, as this enables him to explore several composition options at once.
We ask what challenges Andrew might face during the composition process. He firmly believes most things can be overcome by thinking from a different perspective. “Go around the other side, look at it from a different angle, there is always a way”. There’s probably a lesson there…
Once the illustration has come together, Andrew forwards a pencil draft onto the Milne Garden team for feedback. Any adjustments are made, and when all parties are satisfied with the rough, it is time to start preparing the woodblock.
Andrew mentions the famous Ginger Rogers quote about “doing everything backwards…”
The design is reverse traced onto the block, and the lines reinforced using a fine black felt pen. Andrew then uses diluted Quink ink to darken the surface of the wood. This provides a contrast between the removed material and the remaining marks.
We must admit, the concept of reversing an image for printing sounds somewhat baffling to the novice. Laughing, Andrew mentions the famous Ginger Rogers quote about “doing everything backwards…”
Now the block is ready, the magic can begin. The very act of making the engraving on the wood provides another opportunity for creativity to take flight. Varying the tools and types of marks, makes for endless possibilities. Resulting in a depth of light and shade, rich textures and variation of line. All the quintessential ingredients of the woodcut illustration.
As he intuitively moves the tools around the block, Andrew’s orchestra of talent, skill and experience combine. Woodcut engraving is a fabulous synergy between excellent drawing skills and masterful craftsmanship. Of course, Andrew is characteristically humble when describing the craft, making it sound much easier than it is.
Once complete, the block is inked up and the resulting print is fastidiously packaged up and posted to Milne Graden. Meanwhile, we excitedly await the big reveal and the chance to see the bespoke Harvest Mouse illustration within our proposed scheme for the new Mouse Cottage interior.
“perhaps I could take a sabbatical to do some fabrics…”
The image is also scanned for use across our guest literature and digital platforms – did you spot the sneak peak of the Harvest Mouse on the Autumn Top Tips?!
Andrew explains the process is very similar for his fabric designs, as featured on our generous headboards in North Lodge and Park End cottages. These bespoke fabrics are created in conjunction with Lewis and Wood, “a wonderful local company just along the road” from Andrew, producing original textiles and wallpapers.
Talk of Lewis and Wood, leads us onto the subject of upcoming projects. What might Andrew be working on next? He laughs, “perhaps I could take a sabbatical to do some fabrics…”