• This is my own Bookplate.
    Life Pursuits (7 x 10 cms, 1997)

    I own many old books and lots of them have bookplates sitting on their fly-leaf, like the shadows of their former owners. In 1989, inspired by the idea of a medium that appealed to me as much as a bibliophile as an artist, I drew my first bookplate as a gift for a friend. Since then I have made many more, and can now count two professors and a Knight amongst the private commissions, a public one for a Holocaust memorial library, and the Library of University College, Oxford.

    In all of these I have worked in the belief that a bookplate is a sort of threshold, blurring the boundary between life and art, the art being, in this case, literature. I think that it should, in some way, be both a biographical depiction and personal expression with relevant symbolism developed for each particular piece. The plates are thus created bespoke for each client, to not only enhance their reading experience, but also hopefully including the appreciation of the outside world. To a certain extent the personal symbolism may be lost on the casual observer, but I hope the plates still remain a vibrant work in their own right.

    The pictorial language is a partly of my own invention, as well as a compound of many influences, some of which have been with me a long time. A boyhood interest in heraldry is still very much alive and well, as is a slightly later discovery of the Symbolist artists of the late nineteenth century.

    The seeds for the ex libris image are planted from a dialogue with the client, with the resulting collection of ideas, motifs and themes growing into the final plate design. The style of the lettering for the text and its layout are also given equal consideration in this process.

    My plate designs are drawn in ink by mixed pen and brush work. It gives me great satisfaction that bookplates offer me an avenue for the pursuit of pen and ink work, as places to use the medium are limited, and it is a medium I hold dear. The finished designs are scanned and printed digitally onto a ready-gummed quality paper. Using a computer allows some cleaning up of the image to make it reproduce as close to the original intention as possible, however the computer is not used to generate the design; they are all still hand-drawn images. I always provide the original (signed) hand-drawn artwork as part of the commission, further adding to its uniqueness.

    As the digital print process improves even further, I have utilised another of my pursuits and now create bookplates with a trompe l’œil element.