Friday, 18 January 2013

Woodcuts in a corridor: John Lawrence illustrations of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials

I was walking along the corridor outside the Mumford Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University  when -- suddenly -- John Lawrence's exquisite woodcuts caught my eye.

Beautiful small illustrations Philip Pullman's Dark Materials novels.

This is what the woodcuts look like on the books:

And this is what they look like in the flesh:

John Lawrence, Northern Lights

This is the compass motif from the first book in the trilogy, Northern Lights.  Marvel at the detail:  an Oxford dome, an air balloon, a zeppelin above rolling hills.

From The Subtle Knife.  I love the combination of a central object in front of a busy background, with a white 'halo' around it.

From The Amber Spyglass.  Woodcuts present rich blacks and whites, with no greys in between.  Every nuance that looks like 'grey' is achieved through intricate hatching and parallel lines.

From Lyra's Oxford.  Woodcutting is a sensual and highly disciplined technique.  The artist chisels or cuts away the parts of the woodblock that later appear as white.  This causes the peculiar 'negative' effects so distinctive of woodcuts.

These woodcuts are so small that John Lawrence sometimes works with a magnifying glass strapped to his forehead.  The detail is delicate but (because of this particular technique) also bold and stark.  I love these evocative vignettes.

Why are these woodcuts in this corridor?  They accompany the theatre's stage production of His Dark Materials (you can still catch this until Saturday).  And John Lawrence teaches for the MA Children's Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University.

You can even buy one of them for £60 (amazing).  Ask at the Mumford box office or email john.clarke@anglia

john lawrence plaque

Find out more about John Lawrence:
Illustration Cupboard:  Bio and pic

Bloggers who met John Lawrence:
Dominique Byron

Illustrator Sophie Wainwright 

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day.


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