Finist The Bright-Eyed Falcon, Russian Folk Tale

Here for your perusal is Finist, The Bright-Eyed Falcon, a Russian Folk Tale with beautiful illustrations. My scanner is putting a pink cast on everything (grrr), my apologies.

Finist, The Bright-Eyed Falcon
Drawings by Stanislav Kovalyov
Malysh Publishing House, Moscow, 1979


Andy English

Andy English

You know how seeing something striking or impressive makes you stop? Well that's what happened when I came across the work of Andy English, a Wood Engraver living in Cambridgeshire, England. Andy's beautiful wood engravings of wildlife, gardens and children are inspired by the Fenland region where he lives. After spending time looking at Andy's impressive body of work, I emailed him for permission to show some of his wood engravings here. Andy was very gracious in his reply and I am very pleased to show some of his work.

Andy English is a full-time professional engraver.  He does illustrations, designs for wine labels, images for use on Wedding stationary and bookplates - which are a specialty. (His website is recommended by Beesker as Britain's best website for buying bookplates) He has a special interest in fine press and handmade books and occasionally produces his own. Currently on his website for sale is a beautiful book, 25 Bookplates, a gathering of twenty five of Andy's engraved bookplates.  It has been printed from the original engraved blocks on a 1865 Albion handpress. The books were hand bound and signed by the artist in an edition of 150 copies. 

I used to mix up wood engraving and woodcuts,  but they are two different forms of relief printmaking. The wood blocks used for woodcuts are cut lengthwise on the grain of wood. For wood engraving, the blocks are cut across the grain. This enables the engraver to cut easily through the wood, not having the grain to cut across. It also allows for much finer detail. The wood engraver uses different tools and wood than the woodcutter does and the net results are wholly different. Types of wood used for engraving are usually boxwood or lemonwood. The wood blocks used in engraving are typically not very big, ranging from 2" x 3" to 9" x 12". Andy shows a work in progress on his website that is helpful in understanding this art form.

Andy states on his website that "My work is unashamedly rural, autobiographical and traditional."  I think when people are inspired by what is around them,  a very strong sense of design can come out of that. I also think when that is coupled with fine artistry, the results can be spectacular, like the wood engravings of Andy English.

You can go to Andy's website here - www.andyenglish.com
You can go to Andy's blog here - studiodiary.blogspot.com



Vietnamese Water Puppetry

Vietnamese Water Puppetry is an ages old art in Vietnam. It's traditions are closely tied to the rural culture and agricultural civilization of rice planting by Vietnamese peasants. The mechanics of the puppets are hidden under the water. Different effects are achieved by the movement of the puppets, water and fire (like a fire breathing dragon). 

According to Vietnamese Artwork: "The puppets are all hand made and hand painted in Vietnam. Each puppet has different function. The old water puppets are special because they all have ages and performance histories. They have been in the shows in many countries. The big water puppets are made of solid wood and covered by lacquer. Each big puppet is a beautiful wood sculpture and painting work. They all have the signature of the artist. Modern, water puppetry is performed in a pool of water with the water surface being the stage. The puppeteers stand behind a screen and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The puppets are carved out of wood and very heavy. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music accompaniment. Singers of Cheo (a form of traditional opera) with origin in north Vietnam sing songs which tell the story being acted out by the puppets. The theme of the skits is rural and has a strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. It tells of day-to-day living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales that are told by grandparents to their grandchildren. Stories of the harvest, of fishing and of festivals are highlighted. Legends and national history are also told through short skits. Many of the skits, especially those involving the tales of day-to-day living, often have a humorous twist."

This would be so cool to see - especially at night. For the New Year celebrations in Vietnam, dragon boat racing is a popular activity . I'll bet that the water puppet shows are even more special then too.


Want A Cab?, Jan Palmer

Want A Cab? is the sweet story of a young boy who wants to buy his mother a gift for her birthday. He finds a way to earn money by hailing cabs, despite the interference and teasing of some older kids. Great illustrations by Jan Palmer, love the style of this book. No credit given as to who the author is.

Want A Cab?
Illustrated by Jan Palmer
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1973


American Tall Tales, Michael McCurdy

My very first post featured American Tall Tales, illustrated by Michael McCurdy. New to blogger, I struggled to make it look presentable. I am reposting it to (a) do it justice and (b) because this is one of my favorite books. 

First, the swooning: Michael McCurdy's wood engravings are very fitting for the folk tales. Folk tales are a part of literary history and McCurdy does it justice. I really like his depictions of the characters. They all look strong and larger than life, just like a folk hero should. The multi-color palette breathes life into them. It should also be noted that American Tall Tales was chosen as one of School Library Journal's "Best Books".

American Tall Tales 
by Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Michael McCurdy
Alfred A. Knopf, 1991

Michael McCurdy is an award winning artist, illustrator, author and publisher. For over 25 years he has worked from his red barn studio in the hills of Great Barrington. Born in 1942 in NYC, he was raised in New Rochelle, New York and Marblehead, Massachusetts. McCurdy attended the School of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University in Medford. He has produced an amazing collection of wood engravings, etchings and drawings which have been in over 200 books for both adults and children.  An Archive of his work covering 48 years as an author and illustrator will be housed in the Boston Public Library. Michael McCurdy has close to 600 Wood Engravings in addition to his scratchboard drawings.

Some of Michael McCurdy's books: The Sailor's Alphabet (1998), An Algonquian Year (2000), Walden Then and Now (2010), Trapped by the Ice (2002), Old Man and the Fiddle (1992), A Childhood (1995), Third Person Rural (1999), Lucy's Christmas (2007), My First Summer in the Sierra (1989), Lucy's Summer (2008), Johnny Tremain (1998), Giants in the Land (1993) and The Owl Scatterer (1990).

To read more about Michael McCurdy go to: