1931 - 2010

Born at Dovercourt, Essex on 1 May 1931, daughter of Brian P. F. Skargon, a shipwright, and his wife Lily née Deex, who married at Harwich, Essex in 1923. A makeshift schooling in wartime gave her a taste and some aptitude for drawing and painting and at Colchester School of Art from 1948 where she studied wood engraving and design under the Principal, John O'Connor and her special inspiration, Blair Hughes-Stanton, visiting lecturer. Colchester provided the essential grounding in design work that lead to her first job with W. S. Cowell Ltd of Ipswich, then one of the best and most innovative printers in the country. Under the genial eye of John Lewis [q.v.] she added typography and book-design to her repertoire. Transferred to Cowell's London office, she embarked on a career working for publishers or free-lance, illustrating or designing books and book-jackets. Little of this involved wood-engraving, apart from two books on sub-Saharan village life, due to the photographer Howard Coster (1885-1959). But in 1967 Christophers, the wine merchants, started a monthly newsletter, to which Elizabeth David (1913-1992) contributed and Skargon illus-trated with her own engravings. It was published as a book, 'Eat at Pleasure, Drink by Measure' (1970). In 1976 she became visiting lecturer in wood engraving at the Royal College of Art, a stimulating task that only ended when the subject was dropped from the syllabus in 1980. The following she moved to Lavenham in Suffolk and creating her own garden provided new inspiration for engraving. First in the 'Observer' magazine and then in 'Hortus', the gardening quarterly, flowers and plants seemed to grow out of the wood under her hand, so naturally that the fine detail seemed part of their structure. In 1990 she did roses for the Royal Mail commemorative stamps, adding watercolours of them for the special first-day cover envelopes. Another unexpected success came from her engravings of her cats, 'The Importance of Being Oscar' (1988) and 'Lily & Hodge & Dr Johnson' (1991) becoming world bestsellers. The cats became the trademark of a chain of boutique shops in Japan, and were transmigrated into china and textiles, an unexpected spin-off. Watermarks (2003) was a complete change, a return to the objects and scenes of the sea and shore of her childhood. In this, as in all she did, she had the true engraver's gift of catching the universe in the small space of a wood block. She married at Finsbury, London in 1962 John E. Commander and she died at Sudbury, Suffolk on 16 March 2010

Works by This Painter