Cafe Interview with Alain Lovenberg

sam

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Thread starter #1
When I first saw photos of Alain Lovenberg's work I was stunned, and questioned whether he was really human. A few years later I had the privilege of meeting Alain in Belgium when I was teaching a class, and was able to confirm that he actuallly is human. In 2005 Alain and his fiddle traveled to Grandmasters and joined our jam session, and he joined us again in 2006. He is a friendly fellow with an infectious laugh, a fine fiddler, artist, and a truly amazing engraver.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a Cafe welcome to Alain Lovenberg. / ~Sam


::: Engraving :::

Q. What's your name?
A. Alain Lovenberg

Q. Where are you from?
A. Liege, Belgium

Q. How long have you been engraving?
A. I began engraving at 18, I am now 56, so that makes 38 years.

Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
A. I first wanted to be a painter but I didn't like the artsy-fartsy "artists' attitude". Near the fine arts academy in Liège, there was a famous school for engraving. The atmosphere there was much more serious and I liked it better.

Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
A. A professional engraver.

Q. How did you learn engraving?
A. At the school in Liège. Liège was always renowned for engraving, especially on weapons.

Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
A. I never had difficulties engraving as it always came naturally to me. The obstacle as a professional was especially being taken seriously by gunmakers. So I began engraving jewelry, as it was easier to find work in that field.

Q. Are you a hammer & chisel and/or push engraver, or do you use pneumatic tools, or a combination of hand and power?
A. I started out with the hammer & chisel technique as it is mainly used in Liège and I soon included push engraving in my work. I recently started working with pneumatic tools as well. They are very useful, especially for working with hard steel.

Q. What are your favorite books pertaining to engraving?
A. The most useful books for me are the Dover re-editions of old books on historical ornaments, as well as books on wildlife.

Q. Of the old engraving masters, who's work is among your favorite?
A. My favorite engravers are the engravers of Liège from the end of the 19th Century: Falloise, Honin, Lemaître, Schoffeniels, Corombelle, and Hannay, who was a teacher at the engraving school I attended. Few people know about them now, but they were incredibly talented.

Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix it?
A. The same mistake as John Barraclough, and the same fixing-up job too! The mistake was invisible after polishing.

Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewelry, etc)?
A. Mostly guns, and some knives and jewelry.

Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
A. I use a microscope and a magnifying glass.

Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
A. The most challenging, but also the most exciting aspect of my work is the elaboration of a new composition. It's the most creative part of the job. After, it's only work.

Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
A. The repetitive aspects of decoration, such as the "English scrolls and roses" style, which is not so original but very sought-after.

Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
A. When the check arrives! LOL!

Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
A. I like it too. Like all the rest of my work, it has to be well done.

Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
A. I refuse to do anything that is in any way vulgar or tasteless.

Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago?
A. Among the masters, I would say it has improved, but the average level has
probably gone down. I think in the past, crafstmen were more skilled because they started working at an earlier age, so it was more natural and intuitive for them. That's the impression I have but I could be wrong.

Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
A. It could be a dying trade if it is not better recognized as an art form. Education is essential for people to recognize the quality of hand engraving as opposed to machine engraving.

Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled engravers?
A. There are many very good Italian engravers. The Italians have always been fine artists in all domains.

Q. What affect has the internet had on your hand engraving?
A. None, because I haven't had Internet for very long.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
A. The first steps are very important to get a good basis. The best is to find a professional engraver who's willing to teach you, or to go to a good engraving school.

::: Personal :::

Q. How many children do you have?
A. I have two daughters and a stepson.

Q. If you have traveled, what was the most exciting country you visited and what did you enjoy most?
A. I loved Ireland for the people (and the pubs!) and last summer I went to California for the first time and I was very impressed by the wide open spaces and the beauty of the nature.

Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
A. I play violin.

Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
A. My workshop.

Q. What’s one thing of which you are most proud?
A. I'm somewhat proud of having avoided doing things that I wouldn't be proud of.

Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
A. Sitting Bull.

Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
A. I wouldn't dare say it!

Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
A. I was at home in front of my computer wondering if it was real.

Q. Do you have any pet peeves?
A. When people use my tools and don't put them back in their places.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
A. Walking in the woods.

Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
A. With Eve, eating apple pie!

Q. What one person was most influential in your life?
A. My father.

Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most like to have met?
A. The first human.

Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
A. A day when everything that I had to do got done.

Q. Tell us a good short, clean joke.
A. After the grouse hunt, the Scottish lord gave a dinner in his manor for all the hunters. After dinner, he asked the French guest of honor what he thought of the Haggish, the national dish of Scotland, that had been served that evening. And the Frenchman answered "My Lord, when I saw it I thought it was sh**, and when I tasted it, I regretted it wasn't." [Sorry Rod!]

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
A. Another joke: In England, if they serve you a brown beverage, if it's cold, it's soup, if it's warm, it's beer! [Sorry Marcus!]
 

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Frank P

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Nov 15, 2006
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Switzerland
#4
as student in Liege school we were pretty familiar to mr Lovenberg s fantastic work, maybe thousand times I looked at the beauty of his skill and will look again probably thousands times more, thanks for the interview
Just wonderful Bonne Annee Alain and Happy new year to all of you
 

John B.

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#5
Wonderful, wonderful artwork and great pictures and interview.
Alain, thank you very much.
And I support your important position on working towards public recognition of engraving as a Fine Art Form.
The work that you and some others do exceeds the skill required in many other art formats.
Thank you for sharing with us.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
John B.
 

Glenn

Elite Cafe Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2006
Messages
716
#8
Your work is extrodinary. I would like to meet you at your favorite pub and visit for a long time. I think that you possess great wisdom as well as great talent. Thank you Sam and Alian you've shared a treasure with me and every one who reads this post.:)
 

Lee

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Nov 17, 2006
Messages
996
#9
I had the priviledge of spending some time with Alain last fall. I am sometimes asked who the best engraver in the world is. There is no one best but there are several that I lump together in that top elite tier and Alain has always been there with the best of them. From my first introduction to engraving he was one of the handfull that truly inspired me and drove me to always reach for something beyond. His designs are inspiring and execution impecable. Congratulations Alain and thank you for sharing. I hope to see you in Reno and perhaps Carina. Even better than his engraving is the person he is. As Sam said he is warm, friendly, and witty. A delight to be with.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Messages
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Location
Christchurch, New Zealand
#11
Thanks for that interview Alain.

Your work is amongst the most stunning I have ever seen. The Napoleonic gun you engraved that apears in a few books is truly amazing in it's detail. The photos accompanying your interview are stunning. You set a bench mark to aspire to. I'm looking forward to meeting you in Reno.

If you ever come to New Zealand we have cold beer down here:)

Merry Christmas to you
Andrew Biggs
 

Tim Wells

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Dallas, Georgia
#14
I had the pleasure of dinner with Alain last year at the Atlanta airport during a lay over. He was there with Phil Griffnee and two other young fellows.

I mostly spoke with Alain as he was seated next to me and shared techniques and other insights to engraving that I will not forget; still have that napkin full of sketches and notes.

Truly a very warm and friendly man. I only wish we could have talked longer in a quieter setting... maybe in Reno, I'll be there with a sharp pencil!
 

Alain Lovenberg

Elite Cafe Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2006
Messages
182
Location
Belgium
#15
Dear Engravers and yet Friends,

thank you for these kind words!
It reminds me what my old master said: " when an engraver do a nice work, it is for the other engravers" meaning that only the engraver's eye is able to really appreciate an engraving. That's why your opinion is important for me.
I hope to see some of you in Reno next January, I'll be there with Philippe Grifnée.

But, between now and then, have a good and happy New Year!
All the best in 2007!

Alain
 

Doc Mark

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#16
Remarkable!

I have never seen such flawless relief work! The depth of relief and the even floor combined with the clean vertical edges of the design elements all make for a stunning technique. But, over and above the technique is the beauty of the design. Someone needs to video this master at work in his studio so we can emulate him, perhaps never get to his level, but we could at least try!

Mark
 

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