The Cards of Christmas Past

Tuesday, 6th December 2005

It's hard to believe that in the late 1960s there was virtually nothing available locally in the way of photocopying and a linocut was one of the few options for printing cards at home.

Looking at this design now, I can see lots of possibilities: I like the balance of blank with postmanbusy areas, I like the two characters in the street. I used to work as a temporary postman at Christmas so I had ridden down Queen Street on a GPO bicycle, like the postman in the picture.

Queen Street detailBut I also remember being frustrated with some of the limitations. I liked to include detail then, just as I do today. Working in reverse - you cut away the white areas, rather than 'draw' in the darks with linocuts - I found the proportion of details like the lamp-post difficult to control.

Today I love the funky, graphic feel this slightly out-of-control medium gives the image but at the time, if I could have used some printing technique that allowed me to work in detail, then that is what I would have gone for. I realise now that the limitations of this medium would have been a good influence on my artwork.

In between packing books today, I'm making my own Christmas cards. I've done this for years; one of the first, which dates from around 1968 or 1969, is the linocut I made of Queen Street, Horbury. Thirty years later, with an opportunity to print in colour, I used this watercolour of the Victoria Prize Band playing on Christmas Eve at the bottom end of the street.

The purer blues and yellows that had given my watercolour a Christmassy feel were lost in reproduction and I prefer the linocut because it's has a more striking, graphic quality to it.

Victoria Prize Band

I used my mum's lino-cutting tools, which she'd bought for a college project when she was at Ripon in pre-war years.

Linocraft box
Lino cutting tools

I'd begged an old pattern book of lino from a local shop. The size of each sheet was just right for the cards I produced.

Flook by TrogFlook by Trog

A daily influence on my black and white artwork was the Flook cartoon strip by Trog in the Daily Mail. I don't remember the whimsically satirical stories being very compelling (they probably went over my head, most of the time) but I liked his use of thicker and thinner lines. He'd occasionally draw some subject such as a terraced house in the course of the strip, and I found myself trying to use his approach for graphics projects in my early days as an art student. Next Page


Trog (Wally Fawkes) retired in June this year, aged 81, after 62 years as a cartoonist, article from Camden New Journal.

Richard Bell,