Mat Hill
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A graphite drawing of a jagged rocky shoreline sloping into a turbulent sea. Windswept grass and white flowers frame from below, a grey hazy sky from above.

Tintagel Coast Path Sketch

I tried doing some sketching at Tintagel in Cornwall. I didn't get far, but I learned enough about drawing rocks and grass (and took enough photos) to produce this study later, at home.

I used lots of graphite, rubbers, and tortillons back in 2022, so it's still my most comfortable medium. It would be great to get quicker, and reach this level of detail quickly En Plein Air!

A square lump of Portland stone, a mallet, some chisels, and a relief tile with a gothic oak leaf design, sit on a dusty workbench. Subtle curves carved into a lump of Portland stone. Pencil lines mark edges to be refined. A finished and washed stone carving of a gothic oak leaf sits on a desk. Dramatic lighting highlights the smooth curves in the design.

Oak leaf stone carving

I found an affordable introductory stone carving course at London Stone Carving, and figured it would be a great way to dive into purely subtractive mediums! We worked fast over two days, but I learned loads about carving tools and techniques. By the end, my feel for how the stone behaved had improved dramatically.

As usual with these courses, I found it best to shelve any related experience I have, and just follow the teachers advice at every step. I was really pleased with the result, and I can imagine carrying on for hours to get a perfectly smooth finish. Being surrounded by examples of the tutors' work proved that basically anything can be perfectly reproduced in stone. It's messy work, but really satisfying, and produces a permanent yet relatively environmentally-friendly result.

A calligraphic 'MH' emblem, surrounded by a circle of curling vines. A calligraphic 'MH' emblem, surrounded by a circle of detailed acanthus leaves A calligraphic 'MH' emblem, surrounded by a circle of curling vines and acanthus leaves

Letter sealing stamp designs

I want to make a metal stamp for sealing letters with wax. It's always excellent in movies when a character seals a letter with their signet ring. I have been using coins for now, but the level of detail captured is amazing! I designed an emblem of my initials on tracing paper, then repeatedly transferred and ornamented it. I started off with simple scrolls, then tried more natural-looking acanthus leaves, then settled for a balance of the two. I will probably try to 3D model a relief of the design in Blender, then get it CNC'd into aluminium. But I would love instead to make a clay version, then somehow shrink and engrave the design into brass!

Illustrated notes on the rules of scroll design, written in black ink on yellow legal pad. White vines growing in evenly distributed curls, against a dark graphite background

Ornamental scroll studies

I wanted to understand the curling vine and acanthus leaf patterns that are prominent in many artistic traditions. It was hard to get good information, so I ended up writing and illustrating my own notes from whatever videos and old books I could find. The goal seems to be complexity, but with naturalistic overall even-ness that lets the eye relax.

The process involves filling the space with even spirals, then drawing leaves with smooth curving lines that follow the momentum. It was quite time consuming to practice, but I can really feel my sense of proportion improving. It's also an important reminder that; with the discipline to erase errors, and sharp enough pencils, you can totally create a perceptually perfect finish without a computer.

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