August 5, 2022

Harding's Bird Alphabet

         It’s been a while since I featured an artist with a relief-print alphabet, so today I present Angela Harding (U.K., b. 1960) whose block prints focus on the plants and animals of the British countryside.  She has done an alphabet of wood engravings of birds (although technically I can find only 22 of them!)  It looks like most of these birds are part of the British landscape, although she’s had to include a few others to complete the alphabet.
        Her style is not about realism, although the birds certainly include identifiable details.  They’re influenced by a mid-20th-century aesthetic that combines a certain amount of geometry, roughly carved texture, and stylization of composition.  My favorite is the kingfisher.  I like everything about this one: the patterns of the bird’s feathers, the contrast with the sky and 
water, the leaves in the foreground and the clouds in the background…
        Next up, the blackbird.  This works well because the simple black shape pops against the background, without too much mixing and mushing of texture and pattern.  The background has a lovely little house at the end of a path, and in the foreground the blackbird is finding berries.  Why people should take so much delight in watching birds eat I’m not sure I can explain.  I only know that we do.
        V is, I think, the only letter for which Harding has used a bird’s scientific name instead of its common name.  V is for Vanellas vanellas, which is the northern lapwing aka peewit.  How can you not admire the wonderful plume on its head?  In her little blurb about this piece, Harding mentions that she remembers lapwings in her childhood near “the small outcrop of trees called the Callow,” which I assume is what’s showing in the background of the piece.  That means this scene is actually a real, particular landscape.  I wonder how many of the others are?
        Finally, for any alphabet you always have to check X.  Yes, Harding has cheated, as one so often has to do for X, but I think her choice is rather clever.  X is for Dodo, the universal symbol of all the birds and creatures that are no more.
        In addition to these small wood engravings,  Harding does a lot of linoleum block prints, and combinations of relief printing with color blocks from screen printing, as well.  She’s illustrated a book of birds, as well as a number of other books and book covers, but they’re all focussed on wildlife in landscapes.

[Pictures: K is for Kingfisher;

B is for Blackbird;

V is for Vanellas Vanellas;

X is for Dodo, all wood engravings by Angela Harding (Images from]

1 comment:

JadeLi said...

I can see why the prints capture your admiration.