The Gelly Hill (after David Carpanini)

Wednesday, 19 February 2020


In late 2019, my wife and I visited our friends Rosey and Steve James who run a fantastic B&B in Devon. Steve and I were team mates when we played for Oxted RUFC way back in the 1980s. In the course of our visit, Steve showed me a copy of a print that he greatly admired. It was of an etching by the renowned printmaker David Carpanini (see below for some background information). The etching was a small work (3.5” x 3.5”) entitled “The Gelly Hill”. What piqued my interest was that one of the houses in the print was where Steve was brought up in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The house was in the High Street, Abergwynfi, West Glamorgan.

In the image, the view looks up Station Road, across Commercial Street, up an un-named cul-de-sac and, finally up some steps to the High Street; with the Hill beyond. I did notice that David Carpanini had printed the image ‘back-to-front’. Nevertheless, it is a delightful piece of work, full of atmosphere.

My idea was to interpret the original work by enlarging the scene, making some drawings and printing in both drypoint and linocut.

Initial Drawings

I decided to increase the width and height from 3.5” x 3.5” (9cm x 9cm) to 8” x 8” (20cm x 20cm). My first drawing was made freehand and the second using a pencilled grid. (See Drawings 1 & 2 in the gallery below.)

Drypoint Version

I used a thin acetate sheet as my matrix and made my marks using a variety of needles. Inking was done using Hawthorn’s black etching ink and printed on Somerset 300gsm paper. (See Drypoint)

Linocut Version

David Carpanini’s etching was dark and somewhat forbidding; it certainly brought coal mining and ‘dark satanic mills’ to mind. I therefore decided to render the image in monochrome starting with a background of extender/black (99.9% to 0.1%). In subsequent reductions, I increased the amount of black I added to the extender.

* Winsor & Newton “Bristol Board” 250gsm
* Matrix using traditional grey linoleum
* Selection of Pfeil lino cutters
* Hawthorn’s “Stay Open” Black oil-based ink
* Etching press


Step 1: The first task was to reverse my drawn image and transfer it onto the matrix using carbon paper and a biro to go over the transferred lines. (Biro is a good way to retain the lines after repeated cleaning post reduction.

Step 2: I took the edge off the whiteness of the Bristol Board by using mostly extender with the merest amount of black ink. Prints 1 and 2 only just about shows the contrast between the inked and un-inked areas! Trust me on that -:).

Step 3: Here I started cutting the matrix by removing the sky (see Matrix 1). It wasn’t clear on Carpanini’s etching, but referencing contemporary photograph of the location showed that the Gelly Hill was actually beyond the furthest terrace of cottages. I therefore included the Hill in my interpretation.

Step 4: Once the ink had dried on the Bristol Board, I reduced the matrix from the lighter areas to the darker dark in several steps until the final inking was mostly black with a touch of extender. (See Matrixes 2 to 4 and Prints 3 to 5)


David Carpanini

David Carpanini is one of Wales’ most well known and respected artists. He was born in the Afan Valley in Glamorgan in 1946 and trained at Gloucestershire College of Art, the Royal College of Art and the University of Reading. He held the post of Professor of Art at the University of Wolverhampton from 1992 to 2000.

David was the first Welsh President of the Royal Society of Painter – Printmakers. In 1969 he won the British Institution Awards Committee Annual Scholarship for engraving and has since exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy. He is also a member of the NEAC, Royal Watercolour Society and Royal Cambrian Academy. David has been associated with the Fosse Gallery before and has exhibited here in the past.

Although much of his adult life has been spent in England, his paintings, drawings and etchings are almost entirely devoted to the presentation of the valleys and former mining communities of South Wales where he was brought up.

Lonely figures, scarred landscapes, perching terraces of houses and ragged roadside sheep are the images to which he is faithful and to which he attributes the development of his creative imagination.

He is a painter and printmaker devoted to the plain complete statement which leaves little to chance and yet, if made with sufficient authority can distil poetry from those ordinary and everyday facts which can go almost unnoticed by most of us.

Although solidly representational, his pictures speak eloquently of abstracts – fear, isolation and survival. They are set in Wales but the statements he makes are not confined to the Welsh valleys, the feelings they evoke are international.

David Carpanini’s work has been the subject of three television documentaries and is represented in numerous public, corporate and private collections worldwide.

Some of the prestigious collections which own his work are Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Her Majesty the Queen, Windsor, Royal College of Art, National Museum of Wales Cardiff, The Permanent Collection of the Royal West of England Academy, The Welsh Mining Museum, The Ashmolean Museum Oxford and The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Source: Fosse Gallery (online) “David Carpanini PPRE Hon RWS”. Available from [Accessed Wednesday, 19 February 2020]