It’s not all about me

A couple of weeks ago I printed this linocut for my mother-in-law Sal. It was cut by her dad, Jim Boswell, who was a significant artist and illustrator. He was also, by all accounts, charming, funny, badly behaved and immensely engaging to know. It’s one of my great regrets that I never knew him in person, though I know him well through the many paintings and illustrations we have on our walls. I’d have liked his help and advice, which I know would have been good and, most of all, I would have liked his approval. Having Jim’s endorsement of my work would have meant a great deal.

Jim Boswell's Linocut

I was lucky enough to know his wife Betty, a woman of great good humour and resource. She had the wit, during rationing, to whisk away Jim’s Communist Party protest banners (which he had painted enthusiastically scarlet) and boil them down into suitably pink nightdress material for Sal’s boarding school wardrobe.

This print is very simple, it was done for a record cover (I’m guessing folk music, probably sea shanties), and easy to print on my Albion. Linocuts are like fingerprints: no artist cuts a block in the same way and to ink up Jim’s block was to get that little bit closer to knowing him better. It’s not a great print, certainly not one of his best, but it’s another piece in the puzzle for me. It’s also made me wonder about my own blocks: will some distant relative inherit them? I pity anyone who has to work out my woodblocks which are a maze of multiple blocks on both sides of the same wood (I learned to be thrifty in Japan and will put work wherever there is space). There’s not much hope for the lino either: my blocks are mostly destroyed as I cut away with every layer of colour I print. No point worrying though; I shan’t be around to care!

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