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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Engraver's Workplace

Setting Up Shop.
For the gun engraver, the workplace consists of two environments:
1) the natural environment of the wild animals and foliage the engraver depicts
2) the studio or shop within 4 enclosed walls

1) The Natural Environment

After nearly 20 years in the same location in Mexico NY, I relocated my shop to near-by Oswego, NY. in 2007. I have always liked this small city as it reminds me of a resort town without the inflated expenses of living near a large body of water (in this case, Lake Ontario). Copying the art work of others is not ethical. If an engraver is not a hunter, or at least an astute observer of wild animals, why would he be a gun engraver? Some European engravers I have met are not hunters, don't particularly enjoy the woods, and are clueless as to how game reacts in the woods. I fail to understand why such engravers waste their time engraving guns. Engraving an animal copied from a book or stolen artwork is wrong. If a customer insists on engraving an animal from a copyrighted photo or drawing, the engraver should advise him of copyright law and at the very least, use his own drawings to substantially change the animal so that it is the engraver's own work.Drawing and engraving animals in a zoo will not produce a credible game scene. Animals in zoos do not have the same behavior as animals in the wild. My personal experience 20 years ago, of observing captured bears doing circus tricks for treats at the
Thompson Park Zoo in Watertown NY is but one extreme example. Relate yourself to wild animals. If you were taken as a small child and locked up in solitary confinement or locked up with others of your species who were insane (as zoo animals are), would your behavior be normal? Except to confirm physical details such as musculature or antlers, do not draw farm- like zoo animals.This engraver's opportunities to observe wildlife first hand are immense due to the major migratory flyway near Oswego.The Montezuma National Wildlife Refugeand warmer conditions heading south towards Ithaca NY offer many different opportunities for observing and drawing animals than the Adirondack Park. Cold can be a killer, and at age 56 the bitter Northern Winters and the occasional 12 TO 23 feet of snow will not be missed by this artist.I am advocating the notion that if an engraver wants to draw and engrave wildlife, he should visit where they live.
The gun engraver spends more time engraving foliage than he engraves animals. As the engraver observes animals, he can also observe foliage and how the lay of the land, time of day and food souses are determinant factors as to where animals are.The engraver's scroll is simply ornate foliage. As engravers, we are trying to make foliage more beautiful than it really is. New design ideas can evolve from walks in the woods and canoeing along rivers, ponds, and lakes.Scroll should be growing and flowing (just as in real life) and not stopping and traveling in weird directions. For example, scroll does not originate from a flower! Scroll has flowers towards it's termination; never from it's origin

2) The Studio
Unlike the natural environment, we control the four man made walls that we call our studio or shop.
Factors that make a good engraver's studio:

Lighting Natural light is the best light for avoiding eye strain. Light over the left shoulder should be employed together with other supplementary light from every possible angle. Avoid fluorescent light as it causes eye strain.
Comfort A back on a chair is the best way to avoid lower back pain. Use the back as you are drawing scroll on the steel or checking your work.
Space Cavernous spaces for the engraver is not necessary. if you are not sitting at the vise cutting steel, ask yourself "Why ?" .
Tools Use ergonomic tools that do not cramp the hand or cause spasms. Keep your wrist as straight a practicable to avoid tendinitis.
Efficiency Employ a potter's wheel vise it will save you time and money.
Compliance with regulations
Air quality
Chemical hazards

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