There is only one true thing: instantly paint what you see. When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug.
-Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883)
While I have no idea whether the great French painter Edouard Manet, was a sportsman or even if he ever saw a shotgun, his statement above literally says it all when it comes to engraving. You put on the steel just what you see, details, surroundings, shading and shadow. Finally, and almost magically, from all of your effort comes forth the quality of the subject and the feeling of a moment. But, the steel is unforgiving, it tolerates no excuses, shortcuts or dishonesty. It's either there or it isn't. If you have failed, that is what files are for! They give you the chance to begin again.
As well, Manet's quote is not misplaced because he was speaking about oil on canvas. Gun engraving, if it is to be truly worthwhile, meaningful and to have lasting value, must rise to the level shared by any fine work of art. The figures must demand your attention, they must spur your imagination, even a simple scroll must draw you to look upon it. If we haven't arrived at that level of fascination, if we haven't created a gun that absorbs you, our work was for nothing. It is as simple as that.
I came upon this realization slowly, without thinking much about it, in my father's shop. There, from the time I was a child, I handled and worked on many great guns every day. There I was exposed to the most inspired engraving of the time. Fascinated, I remember taking guns from the shop to copy with pencil the work of very fine engravers, working with their designs repeatedly to the point where I can still clearly recall even minor details.
Not every boy grows up in the midst of the work of Rudolf Kornbrath, John Warren, Arnold Griebel and Robert Runge. I got to work on best grade doubles everyday while the other boys did chores! Legendary gunmakers and writers frequented my father's shop and Harvey Donaldson was occaisionally my babysitter (the creator of the .219 Donaldson Wasp). Many of my parents' friends worked at Remington or had been employed by Savage. As well, the Del Grego shop was busy restoring Parkers only a few miles away. Looking back after so many years, I realize how greatly I benefitted from these very fortunate circumstances. In those pleasant days sprang my life long obsession and, I must admit, I feel immensely fortunate.