Open Studios: Andy English

Second in our series of interviews with Open Studios artists, we meet up with wood engraver Andy English...

Where did you learn wood engraving?
Most of the wood engravers of my generation are largely self taught. I found the basics in books and used trial and error before taking two courses with Sarah Van Niekirk. I have engraved since 1991 but feel that I am still learning every time I pick up a graver.

Have you tried any other ways of printmaking?

Yes - mainly other relief printmaking techniques such as linocut and woodcut.

Why is wood engraving your preferred medium?

I always put off trying wood engraving as I perceived it to be difficult. However, when I made the first cuts it seemed the most natural thing. I remember feeling that it was more like remembering than learning a process. It suits me as I prefer to work on a small scale, I love detail, I prefer black and white and it lends itself to images of the rural environment where I live and work. It is also excellent for making bookplates (exlibris) and illustrating books (including Philip Pullman and Susan Hill), which are both very important aspects of my work.

What kind of woods can be used for engraving?
The best is boxwood, which is slow growing and dense so it takes fine detail and stands up well as a printing block. Pearwood is also good. For larger, less detailed work I use "lemonwood" (not actually from a lemon tree) as it is less expensive. Whichever wood is used, wood engraving is carried out on the endgrain.

Describe your workspace.

I work in two spaces. Designing and engraving take place at a desk  in a small room in the house - I really doesn't need much space. I am surrounded by books and reference materials.

Printing takes place in a converted garage. I have two Albion handpresses dating from 1865 and 1902. I find that nothing compares with iron handpresses for printing engravings.

The rural setting of the studio is very important to me; it is nor far from where I was born. Walking along the lanes gives me inspiration for my work.
If someone wanted to take up wood engraving, how could they start out?
I would look at a lot of engravings, reading about the processes and then starting with a single tool and a small block to get a feel for it. A few engravers teach courses and this would be a great way to experience engraving and sometimes being shown is easier than working it out.


Which artists do you admire and do any influence your work?
My artistic heroes are very varied but there is a core of English artists with an individual vision: William Blake, Samuel Palmer, Eric Gill, Stanley Spencer and Carel Weight. At the same time, I cannot ignore Rembrandt. I tend not to have direct influences; I just engrave images how I see them in my mind. My work is influenced by the environment of the Fenlands in which I live.

Where can we purchase your work?
I have an online shop on my website: I carry out a lot of commissioned work and don't have to rely on exhibitions but I do have them occasionally.
Have you got any exhibitions/events coming up?
I have and Open Studio during the first two weekends of July (part of the Cambridge Open Studios ( and I have an exhibition of about fifty works at the Old Fire Engine House in Ely from 6th July to 5th August 2012.

Wood Engraver / Printmaker / Illustrator

My Revised Website with store:

Read my blog here.

Become a Fan of my work on Facebook

Welcome to the Cambridge Creative Network where we invite creative professionals to promote their work through our gallery, find events and opportunities and network with other like-minded people in Cambridge. Want to join us? Apply here...

About Mandy Knapp