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Bluebell Wood Fox

Updated: Mar 26

There are a few bluebell woods around this area. My favourite is the small area amongst the twistier and generally smaller trees in the valley under the cliffs of Craig y Cilau. The bluebells tend to flower a bit later because of the altitude. A quick burst of blues and fresh greens before the shadows of the leaves and bracken cast a denser shadow.

A couple of recent paintings and a print that feature the local bluebells

I’ve seen a fox up here a couple of times in the spring. So with the purple blues and greens it adds in a bit of orange/red, just a touch, or the balance goes.

There's link between two of my favourite artists, William Blake and Edward Bawden.

William Blake as we all know wrote the lines (this is just the first verse) …

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

It was printed by Blake with his usual rich illustrations as a part of his book, Songs of Experience, 1794.

In 1974, as an homage to Blake, Bawden produced this linocut in his simple, beautifully graphic, slightly comic style. TYGER! TYGER!

Blake’s lines and especially Bawden’s linocut were in my mind making this design.

Well I’ve never seen a tiger up in the woods;) a beautiful slinky fox will have to do! I’ve tried to use the patches of shadows and colours to begin to deconstruct the form of the beastie, a bit like the Bawden linocut but in my style of working.

I've made several prints and paintings of the foxes on the hillside over the past few years. They aren't like their urban cousins, much more difficult to see close up. The acrylic painting, Bluebell Fox (the first picture shown here) is the setting and image in my mind that I combined with the Tyger! Tyger! idea.

I made the usual painted design using tones of blue acrylic. Elements are painted, scanned, cut up, reversed and stuck back together until I'm happy. Then I leave the image to marinate for a while, pinned to a board for a few days before another round of changes. One big adjustment this time was a change in the angle of the head.

The basic idea came rather quickly but then the fox and the positions of the trees and leaves developed over several weeks. Then the cuckoo turned up again! He’s flying to the right and gives a bit of balance and movement in the background, in a window through the leaves.

Just before I started cutting the lino I remembered that last spring there were bumble bees on the bluebells, something I'd never noticed before, so they had to be included. The lesser stitchwort was also out and blooming at the same time so it's in there at the front.

The cutting and the inking up of the lino have been rather tricky. I like to make my prints quite ‘painterly’. Colour gets splashed around a bit and isn’t necessarily kept within shapes and lines.

The reduction print has six layers of cutting and inking/printing. I've ended up adding another dark layer, right at the end, to give the fur more texture and more depth in the landscape.

Once again where the different colours have ended up on each layer has been a bit variable. So it's a varied edition again (V.E.)

Layers 1 to 4.

The inks for the first layer. Note they are all roughly the same light tone. I work tonally so colours are rolled onto the lino quite loosely for each layer but the overall progression through the tones, as successive rounds of cutting and printing are made, gives the final image coherence and structure. It also means there are some unexpected and exciting (hopefully) colour combinations.

Here is the lino plate rolled for the first layer of printing.

The lino and registration set up. This is ready for the third layer of printing. The lino is stuck to the MDF with woodworking PVA.The registration pins are fixed using double sided and wide clear tape over the tope (belt and braces!) Note, I use the three registration pins, at the same side, for the paper. When printing on a multiprinter/etching press, it works better for me to just fix the paper at the end that feeds under the roller first.

For this design I've tried to make sure that the image that I transfer to the lino is registered even more accurately, so it is fixed in place with all 5 pins. Also because I have room and a few offcuts, I've stuck some strips of lino along the edge of the board. When I'm printing on the Gunning press it helps to ensure the roller is at the right level (no sudden bumps when it reaches the edge of the image lino).

Here is a short bit of video of me placing the reversed and printed design (by computer)backed with a piece of graphite paper to transfer the image to the lino. You can see I use the pins to make sure the design is in exactly the right place each time. I use a fine burnisher rather than a pencil to trace the lines, it doesn't leave marks all over the design.

Cutting those lovely crinkles in the birch leaves.

Here's a small section of the lino cut and ready to print the last layer of ink. Notice that some large areas of cleared lino have been removed completely. The cut out lino can be peeled away fairly easy, just taking the top thin layer of MDF with it. Also, by this stage of the process, the lino tends to be stained with ink (especially the blue it seems), I often use a ball point pen to make clear what areas and shapes are to be cut for each layer. It hangs around on the lino for a couple of layers of printing but eventually wears off. I've found that when you are printing lighter colours it's a good idea to wipe the lino over with white spirit to remove some of the pen ink otherwise the lines transfer to the paper.

I started out with 40 prints but a few have fallen by the wayside (they go in the logburner!), so it is an edition of 30. I've a few interesting proofs that are a bit more varied and fall outside the edition although I have editioned the prints as a varied edition (V.E.)again. Almost a serious mistake...I must remember it's 2023!

After two weeks of printing it's not far off the original design! This is a proof after 5 layers.

Possible names?

Spring Fox at Craig y Cilau

Vernal Fox

Fresh Spring Fox

Spring Fox

Spring Shadows Fox

Bluebells Fox

Spring Hillside Fox

Vulpes! Vulpes! (see what I did there?)

The final decision, not the most exciting but simple and descriptive...

Bluebell Wood fox

A share on Facebook and a nice surprise, Chris Packham's Fox of the Day!

Here's a short video of some of the stages of making the print.

Here is the real Bluebell Wood Fox! This is taken about 100m from the area I had used as the background in the print.

Sorry it's a bit shaky. I was just walking along with my camera in my hand, no hide etc and lucky to get anything as he ran by. He had what seemed to be a hen pheasant in his jaws.

It's good to get one of the prints framed up and looking fine!

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Hi! I saw this print on display Rheghed today and it was stunning. So glad to see this huge behind-the-scenes post, genuinely fascinating!


Great to see your process! And love that Chris Packham shared your fox!

Replying to

Thank you. It's good to know somebody is reading it!😁 I was an art teacher for 30+ years and I just can't stop. The blog is also a good way for me to keep a record of what I have been doing. Not quite so ephemeral as FB.

It was good to see the Chris Packham thing. The print wasn't even properly finished at the time (hence the small detail). It has had a lot of attention on his feed.

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