- follow the sites in London where Blake lived, was educated and worked.
In addition to home-schooling from his Moravian mother and his hosier father, Blake's formal schooling came from Henry Par's drawing school. For his parents to provide this opportunity to him, he must shown a talent for art and a strong interest in it early in life. There is no way to know how much skill in art he had picked up before he was sent to drawing school at age 10, or how rigorous his training was at Par's. When he was apprenticed at age 14 to the engraver James Basire, he began a thorough education in a demanding discipline. Basire's apprenticeship made him into an accomplished engraver with the wide range of technical and artistic skills necessary for a mastery of the trade.
With his apprenticeship complete, Blake knew that he had acquired a skill with which he could with diligence earn a living. But Blake's desire was to be an artist not an artisan. He never let his engraving skills lie fallow, but his work as an artist was his passion. He could use his engraving skills for illustrating other people's books or producing advertisements and leaflets, or producing pictures for a catalog. He preferred to put his engraving to the service of his own art and poetry.
We see from the first books that he produced (1788), All Religions Are One, and There Is No Natural Religion, that he was willing to start small and simple as if he were beginning an exploration. These tiny books had images less that 2x3 inches in size. With combined text and images in black and white, they would lead to further experiments with size, color, media, and techniques. Sometimes his poetry took center stage and left the images as the supporting cast. In other cases the image provided the essence of what he wanted to communicate.
He experimented with a technique of adding colored pigments directly to his engraved plates before they were printed. This produced images in which the color rather than the line was of the greatest import in the work. Images from this short lived period are among my favorites. However Blake did not stick with this technique, probably because the defining line which was all important to him was less evident in this style of printing. Blake valued originality, the unique expression. His artwork evolved throughout his lifetime to give continuing fresh expression to his imagination.
_____Book of Los, image 1________________America, image 8
Blake repeatedly stated his loyalty to the use of outline in his works of art:
Jerusalem, Plate 74, (E 229)
"I tell how Albions Sons by Harmonies of Concords & Discords
Opposed to Melody, and by Lights & Shades, opposed to Outline
And by Abstraction opposed to the Visions of Imagination"
Descriptive Catalog (E 549)
[BLAKE'S EXHIBITION AND CATALOGUE OF 1809]
"If losing and obliterating the outline constitutes a
Picture, Mr. B. will never be so foolish as to do one. Such
art of losing the outlines is the art of Venice and Flanders; it
loses all character, and leaves what some people call,
expression: but this is a false notion of expression; expression
cannot exist without character as its stamina; and neither
character nor expression can exist without firm and determinate
Annotations to Reynolds, (E 651)
[Reynolds - Page 75] "A firm and determined outline is one of the
characteristics of the great style in painting; and . . . he who
possesses the knowledge of the exact form which every part of
nature ought to have, will be fond of expressing that knowledge
with correctness and precision in all his works."
[Blake's comment] "A Noble Sentence
Here is a Sentence Which overthrows all his Book"