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  • Michael Smith, Mythical Britain

Creating a linocut print of Sir Hugh Calveley

For the last few months I have been working on a new series of linocuts of mediaeval knights; the first of these has now come to fruition following a busy day of printing at the Curwen centre at Linton in Cambridgeshire.


As regular followers of my work will know, I have been interested in mediaeval history since I was a boy, whiling away the hours playing with my Timpo and Britains Swoppet Knights on the dining room table. Heraldry and chivalry have never been far from me and now, as a printmaker, I wanted to take this a step further by creating a series of prints of knights of the realm - in particular those of the fourteenth century, another area of interest for me.


So, fresh of the blocks this week came the first of these knights, Sir Hugh Calveley, whose effigy can be found at Bunbury Church in the county of Chester. As with my prints illustrating Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I base my work on the slightly amateurish illustrative style of mediaeval illuminators. I like the way their horses sometimes appear out of proportion and the way the knights sit in a strange way on their mounts, or stand on castle walls.

In this case, Sir Hugh is riding a horse through a carpet of different coloured leaves and plants as he charges gallantly towards some distant opponent. He wears armour typical of the fourteenth century although I have given him a ceremonial helm featuring his crest of a black calf and a decorative lambrequin or mantling. It is not thought that these helmets were worn on the battlefield itself but they often feature in illuminations of mediaeval jousts and ceremonial occasions.

Four colour process

It is never easy creating a complex linocut print; particularly one involving four different colours (some of which I print as wet-on-wet to deliver extra colours in the final print palette). As a rule, I do not use the reduction method and instead create several printing plates for the different colours over a series of months. In this case, the cutting alone took over 100 hours. In the image gallery below you can see different stages of the printmaking process which culminated in the production of Sir Hugh.

I am very proud of him as my "first knight". I do hope you like what you see and think the effort has been worthwhile. There is a limited edition of only 7 prints available for sale. If you would like one, please click here for more information

About the author

Michael Smith is a printmaker and author. His first book, an illustrated translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight publishes in July 2018. To pledge for your special collector's limited first edition, please click here.

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