Mr. Guppy and Tony Jobling

Mr. Guppy sitting on the window-sill, nodding his head and balancing all these possibilities in his mind, continues thoughtfully to tap it, and clasp it, and measure it with his hand, until he hastily draws his hand away. 

‘What, in the devil’s name,’ he says, ‘is this! Look at my fingers!’ 

A thick, yellow liquor defiles them, which is offensive to the touch and sight and more offensive to the smell. A stagnant, sickening oil with some natural repulsion in it that makes them both shudder.

Sketches and remarks

I decided early on that I would approach this project as a “haunted house” book. Not that it is (or is it?) but that it provided me some thoughts on visual themes and suggested which scenes to illustrate. It also uses to advantage linoleum’s penchant for heavy blacks, mysterious shadows, and high contrast.

One drawback with linoleum cutting is that you can’t go back and touch up, edit, or redo, in any way, shape or form. I have heard that it is possible to fill bad cuts with wood putty and then recut, but I haven’t experimented with this yet, and it seems like it would have some serious limitations as an editing method. All one can do in editing a linocut, is to remove black and add white!

All of which is to say, if a linocut comes out wrong, or bad cuts are made, or bad choices about lights, darks, or contrast while cutting, there is no other option than to recut the entire piece from scratch, all of which demands that the original drawing be as correct as possible in all respects.

This lino of Guppy and Jobling had to be cut twice. As you can see, in the original I got way carried away with cutting hatching lines and ultimately lost some much needed contrast between the figures and the background.

However, as is almost always the case, when you have to do a piece over completely  in whatever medium (as I’ve had to do once or twice in my career) the redo is always way better!

Author: mooney2021

I am a commercial artist and illustrator from New York and now retired. I'm also a longtime Charles Dickens fan and I've embarked on a project to illustrate his great BLEAK HOUSE.

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