To round out our week of introductions to the three British Wood Engravers that didn’t get coverage in December, here is an introduction to Sue Scullard, our final artist in Bewick’s Legacy: Six Contemporary British Wood Engravers. Read on, then come see her work in person at our opening today, 1-4 pm!
Sue Scullard is a versatile illustrator in several media. She has designed for Royal Worcester porcelain, and made greetings card designs and full-colour children’s books: The Flyaway Pantaloons tells its wordless story through dazzlingly detailed and ever more vertiginous views of a fictional Renaissance city; The Great Round the World Balloon Race (1990) and a pop-up version of The Nutcracker (2003) are other examples; but wood engraving is her major and most serious pursuit. Her output is equally divided between prints made for their own sake and the use of engraving in books; but the close observation and beautiful design of her self-generated printmaking comes first, feeding and inspiring her illustration.
The prints in the exhibition are from two Folio Society books, The Lives of the Later Caesars and Lark Rise to Candleford. For the Caesars, Sue drew on Roman portrait busts, statues and bas-reliefs. In the engraving of Trajan, she got carried away, she says, fitting almost 30 soldiers into the background. She is indeed a miniaturist but never loses sight of the large design; and while she says she was very aware of the example of Joan Hassall (1906-1988) when working on Lark Rise, her approach is quite different to Hassall’s chiaroscuro engraving into the dark. Scullard’s world is filled with light and she manages light and space and form while always maintaining a beautiful pattern on the surface too. Her ‘position within wood engraving’ is exactly that: she sustains the vernacular, rural, ‘pretty’ image that can be the curse of the medium as well as its attraction but she does it with such visual integrity as to make it strong and vital and ongoing. Swallow Falls she says, was engraved ‘entirely for pleasure’.
Sue studied illustration at Camberwell School of Art, London 1977-80 and graphic design at the Royal College of Art 1980-1983, where she learned wood engraving from Yvonne Skargon (1931-2010). Pupil and tutor became lifelong friends. Sue regularly made the complicated trip from Kent where she lives with her husband and son, to Suffolk, to continue their conversations about wood engraving and gardening.