Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Beach Near Ullapool Reduction Linocut Print

So the day has gone quite well print wise and I managed to complete my print.


I chipped away much of the lino connecting the pebbles to emphasise the crescents of orange seaweed, then printed in a rusty orange colour.  I added extender to make the orange a little less opaque as I had done with the blue.  I used torn paper to mask areas of the plate that I did not want to print in an effort to keep the print as clean as possible.



Next I chipped more of the seaweed area so that when I printed the richer red colour patches of the lighter rust brown colour would show through.  Once again I used a mask made from torn paper to preserve a crispness to the print.  I really like the way I can 'draw' the pebble shapes and layer one slightly different sized pebble shape over another to give a feeling of depth and a more complex effect.  It reminds me of certain effects I get with a dip pen and India ink.  It's something I want to explore further in another linocut.


Finally I cut even further into the red areas of the seaweed and printed a darker colour mixed from red and black again adding a little extender, once again using a simple paper mask to protect areas of the print I wanted to keep clean.  I wanted to add some darker areas towards the bottom of the print to turn the bottom of the print into the foreground, as I had done in my Cairn print.

Many linocuts I have looked at over the past few months, although lovely, have a very flat graphic appearance and although I appreciate the graphic nature of this medium, and one which comes more naturally to me than a more painterly approach, I would also like to try to do something more painterly with the linocut.

One thing I have really enjoyed while exploring the creation of linocuts is using colour more in my work.  I have always been someone who draws more than someone who paints, and I feel that with the linocut I have found an approach that allows me to use colour in a graphic way.  And maybe push the use of colour further away from the graphic towards the painterly through use of pattern and revelation of one layer beneath another.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Scottish Beach Near Ullapool - It's a little bit mauve

Some progress on the linocut I began last Friday.  It's based on the same set of photographs I used for my Cairn linocut, but this one is half the size as the Cairn print.  It measures 4 inches by 6 inches.  I buy my lino on-line from Ebay.  The lino comes in a variety of sizes but so far I've stuck to two: 4 by 6 inches and 6 by 8 inches (to print on A5 and A4).  I would like to venture larger than A4 but worry that I won't have the stamina to hand press anything larger.

Anyway, beginnings...

I made an initial sketch, traced the sketch and transferred it onto the lino.  I chipped out a few initial marks and started off my edition of 12 in a pale cream colour.

Then I started to cut more detail into my plate...


I printed in a kind of mauve colour which I mixed from about 5 of my inks.  I'm not very technical or systematic when it comes to mixing colours, I should be really.  If I was more organised I would have mixed enough to print the entire 12, as it was I cocked up and ended printing 6 in one shade then (after an intermission of a number of hours and a day out) 6 in a shade that didn't quite match.


But what was worse, in my rush to get the 12 prints done I messed up the texture of the ink and the little white caravans nestling just beneath the far trees disappeared in a gloop of mauve.


Because I don't like throwing anything away I have tried to rescue my oh too blobby prints (there are 2 of them) by sponging white ink over the disappearing caravans and then printing my next layer of colour over this, giving a kind of misty distance appearance. I also printed another 4 prints onto Daler-Rowney Murano Pastel Paper, which is a cream colour, because after mixing the second batch of mauve I found I had misjudged the amount needed to print off 6 images and had lots left over.  So my initial 12 prints has now increased to 16.


I was a bit perplexed about what colour to print next, but decided that I wanted to add the green of the distant hills.  So I mixed a lightish green and masked off the area around it, as I will be wanting to print another colour here later and so can't cut away any lino there yet.  I made the mask quickly by tearing some paper to the shape I wanted.  The torn edge suits my way of working as it won't give a hard edge to the colour once it is applied and will look more organic and painterly.


Then I chipped away the hills and went through the same process again to apply a darker green for shrubs.

Now I want to give some definition to the beach area, the repeated crescents of the seaweed in the foreground.  But I can't print the reddish colour of the seaweed yet, because I still need to add some kind of subtle definition to the pebbles and the distant hills.  I have made the pebbles way darker than I had intended.  I really saw this print initially as something much simpler than it is turning out to be. I sort of planned for there to be a light expanse of shingle then the contrasting deep red of the seaweed.  And only about 3 layers altogether.  

But I'm learning that with printmaking, even on the domestic scale I am practising, you can't really plan anything and rigidly stick to it.  To succeed you have to be flexible with what the print will allow you do to do.  The process is boss.


So I added a blue thinned out with a generous amount of extender, because I didn't want the blue to be too in your face.  And I wanted the blue to draw the whole composition together, from far distant hills to the pebbles which you are just about to step onto.  

NEXT STEPS:  Hopefully I will finish this little print tomorrow.  I plan to chip out the remaining pebbles leaving just the shapes of receding seaweed.  Then I'll mix up a rusty orange/red colour and roll it over the lino plate and pull my 16 prints.

Then I'll chip out a few more spots in the red seaweed area to add texture to the seaweed and then mix up a darker red colour and print this over my 16 prints.

I'm toying with the idea of chipping out a few more pebbly parts at the very bottom of the print and printing this with a very dark red/black to transform the bottom of the print into foreground.  But I'm not sure if I will do this yet, or if this will just be overkill.


Although it's been a gloomy day it was muggy and humid this evening.  I like sitting outside at the end of the day. I water my plants and deny the snails their feast by peeling them off the sunflowers and rolling them under the gates at the top of our garden.  I know it's futile, but it gives me a feeling of control, false though it is.

I'm sure I saw bats this evening.  I have seen them before, 3 years ago, zipping around the top of our Poplar tree at dusk.  Then a few weeks ago and now this evening, just for about 10 minutes or so, this crazy little creature flying frenetically about, whirling in the air in circles of varying circumference, disappearing into the dark of the poplar, pointed crescent wings fluttering as it flew. Its frantic movements in the air reminded me of the way a butterfly moves, not like a bird at all.  The dimming sky behind it, the darkness of the garden with the solar lights glimmering below.  I think it was a bat, I'm not certain though.  But if it was, to think, bats in the heart of the Black Country.  What a wonderful, unexpected thing.





Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Bringing the cairn forward to finish

So I managed to fulfil yesterday's plan and chip out the contents of the foreground pebbles, as well as knocking a few holes and swirls into the brown of the seaweed.  I then mixed a rusty red colour and rolled this in the middle area of the linoplate.  I made a rough mask by tearing some copy paper and placing it over the shingle and the sea to protect it when I pulled the print.

As usual, I placed the plate in my home made cardboard registration device and protected the outer area of the print paper by placing a cardboard frame around the linoplate while rolling out the ink.

For added protection (because I am quite messy and accident prone - more of which later) I also put a paper frame around the inked up plate before laying the paper onto the plate prior to rubbing it with a spoon.  I use a stainless steel dessert spoon.  I tried a wooden spoon but didn't like the feel of it.  I usually rub once all over with the dessert soon, then once again pressing hard with my fist, then once again, more gently, with the spoon.


I left this to dry and dealt with a few other tasks for the day, like painting the fence so that one of our dormant sunflowers can at least bloom a sun shadow onto it...


By which time our resident fat pigeon had feasted on a handful of birdseed, the gnats were swirling in the early evening sunshine, and the ink had dried on my print.

For the final application of paint I decided that I didn't want to cut any more of the plate, as it was already quite flimsy, the hessian was showing through in places (too heavy handed, that's my problem).  Instead I made a mask from copier paper and laid this over the area of the plate I didn't want to print.  I made a couple of these as by the time I had printed 5 of my 10 prints the paper was quite soggy with paint.  I added some crimson to the black and finished off my print.


I'm quite pleased with the results, though I think that perhaps the seaweed area could be subtler.  Still, I had only 2 disasters - 1.  I trod on one of the prints while it was drying on the floor (a bit of spoon pressing and you can barely see the impression made by the ridged sole of my slipper) and 2.  (more annoying) as I was taking a photograph to post here I dropped the camera.  Bouncing off the print it left 2 dimples in the white area around the image.  Arrgghhh!  

Years ago someone suggested that I have Dyspraxia, as I have always been clumsy.  As a child I was forever tripping over.  I was terrible at anything that required co-ordination, especially hand and ball or one leg before the other.

But to tell the truth, it might be that I am really just a thoroughly clumsy so and so!


Quote of the day

'Words are more real when they are in books.'   
The Running Hare - The Secret Life of Farmland

Monday, 14 August 2017

As long as the day is short

It has seemed as if there were just not enough hours in today.  Half past eight in the evening and it's dark already, the curtains closed, the light in the cupboard where I sit with my computer spotlighting the keyboard.  It feels more like late October than mid August.

Outside the wind is dashing the sunflowers (which still have not opened, only one, a red velvet bloom).



I had to make a split for its neighbour this evening as it had broken three quarters of the way up its 10 foot or so height.  We have squirrels in the garden, and I fear they may be the culprits.

Last year the sunflowers, which I have grown from seed annually for about the last 8 years, bloomed late, in early September, when I was on holiday.  I came home to a row of headless corpses.  Mum had watched from the kitchen window as the squirrel swung from the stem of each flower until it detached the bloom and ran away with its prize, presumably to gobble it up in the obscurity of next door's gargantuan fir tree.

Three years ago I spent much of the summer drawing the sunflowers which grew big and strong.  In those days, as I remember, the squirrels were nowhere to be seen.


Today's progress began with finishing cutting the lino plate with more detail in the foreground pebbles and the retreating seaweed and to lighten the distant hills, to attempt to give the impression of distance between the cairn in the foreground and the further distance of the pebble beach.

I chose to print this in a dark brown, in my attempt to fulfil the brief I set myself last week of creating a composition which is enclosed in darker lines.  Although to be honest, the design is running away with me somewhat and I'm in danger of not fulfilling my own brief.


Next I turned my attention to the far distance.  I chipped away at the hills as I did not want to alter what I had printed there, and chipped a little detail into the green areas in front of the mountains.  I printed a muted light green which I mixed from a variety of colours, including some magenta, to knock the greeness off the green.  I didn't want it to scream out from the distance of my print.


 Finally for today I chipped more of the green areas and wiped all of the top area of the beach out, except for the little tufts of green seaweed, then printed again a darker green to add foliage to the distance.  I used a piece of torn paper to mask the top part of the sea, as I didn't want any green in that area.

The task for tomorrow is to cut out all the pattern lines in the pebbles and to clean away everything surrounding the streaks of seaweed in the distance.  I'll cut a few pebble and swirly seaweed shapes into the large darker areas, then I plan to print a rusty red/brown over everything that's left.  Then I plan to cut away everything leaving just the bare bones of the cairn and surrounding pebbles in the foreground.  I will print this black, or black with a hint of something or other, to bring the cairn out of the picture plane.  

At least this is the plan.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A browner shade of grey

Managed to do a little more work on my Cairn on Scottish Beach linocut today.  After printing the initial buff coloured layer of the print on Tuesday I began chipping away into the detail of the design.


Working from the 2 photographs I am using as the base for my composition.


This evening I printed the second layer of colour of my 10 prints. 

I mixed up a slightly browner version of the grey I used for the initial layer of colour. 

I had to mix up 2 lots of colour as the water based pigment I use dries out very quickly.  I added some extender to try to make the pigment retain it's sticky yet liquid consistency, otherwise after rubbing with a spoon, my hand, and the spoon again, all I get is a pale freckly misty image.  Which can be quite nice and impressionistic, but in this case it's not really what I want.  I want to be able to see the pigment on the page. 


Tomorrow I'm hoping to begin cutting the lino again.  I'm not really decided which colour to add yet though, I know I want some very muted green in the distance, but I also want to define the strong rust brown of the seaweed crescents on the pebble beach.  Hopefully I will be feeling more decisive tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Cairn on Scottish Beach

So I set myself a task for today to create a new linocut that uses line around the coloured areas, or at least that a dark outline would play a key part in the composition.

Maybe I selected the wrong subject for my composition last night, but anyway, it took me a long time to get started this morning, maybe it was the rain today and that it felt more like late October than flaming August, but I found a whole lot of things to faff about with this morning, including going through my box of maps and booklets from past travels...


...which left me feeling oddly bereft and wanting to escape my life.

Well I had to do the next best thing and escape into a picture.  A little time travel back 3 years to a holiday to Ullapool and a lovely pebble beach which we always seemed to stop at on our way back from our daily travels.  It was always just before dusk and the beach was always deserted.  At least in my memory it was.


I had never seen a cairn before travelling to Scotland.  I remember seeing hundreds of them beside the road travelling up from Fort William to Ullapool on our first visit there in 2009.  We stopped in a parking area and joined the Japanese tourists marvelling at these strange otherworldly structures.

Since then I've got a little more used to finding them in far flung places.  We've built tiny ones of our own, but they were mere squibs compared to some of the fantastic Gothic heights others have achieved.  The cairn in the photograph was one of these 'found sculptures' long dismantled by the elements I now imagine.  And all the more poignant for that fact.


 Anyway I eventually managed to quit my faffing about and sketch my composition then trace it ready to transfer to the grey lino block.


I usually keep my initial drawing very basic as I want to make my real drawing when carving the lino block.  Otherwise I feel that I am just copying my own drawing and this kills any spontaneity in the process.  I did draw a little on the block to clarify my design, and made a few notes as to how I wanted to start carving.


So I started carving, and eventually, pulled 10 initial prints from my block.


And now it begins to occur to me that making an outline a major part of this design might be more difficult that I had thought.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Flamborough Old Lighthouse

I've taken photographs of lighthouses when on holiday for years now.  I'm always drawn to a lighthouse, for many reasons.  I used to have a romantic idea that a lighthouse keeper would be my dream job, it's an ivory tower with a purpose, and the view from the top is usually glorious.


I started making art based on my digital library of photographs the year before last, when I began selling ACEOs on Ebay.  Old Flamborough Lighthouse was one of my subjects and I sold a couple of these pocket sized artworks on-line.  


This started a bit of a series for me, and one I have revised since starting to explore creating linocuts.


My new reduction linocut based on photographs I took back in 2003 of Old Flamborough Lighthouse has taken me roughly 3 days to complete.  That isn't 3 days continuous work, but on/off over the 3 days.


I am already thinking about my next linocut.  I would like to produce something that resembles a pen drawing with washes of colour behind the line.  So a black (or almost black) line around the colour areas will be a key part of my new design.  Hopefully I'll start this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Meadowhead Finished

After a short break I finished Meadowhead this morning.

A couple of days ago I mixed up a dark reddish colour and rolled this over the bottom half of the lino plate.  I wiped some of the pigment away from the miner's coat area as I didn't want it to disappear entirely into the darkness.  This gave a more gentle feeling of something disappearing into shadow rather than a harsh linear delineation of the coat, which I didn't want.



This morning I dabbed a little blue on the plate over the edges of the butterfly wings and then printed from this.  I used a small paintbrush to apply the ink to the plate.


Then I cut away some of the miner's coat and cut into the roots and the darkness around him to give a feeling of depth and layering then brushed over a blue with extender added to it in the area around the miner's head and the remaining defining lines of his jacket.  I used a small square brush to apply blue onto the plate then printed from this.  I really didn't want to get any blue on the upper meadow area of the print as I wanted the contrast to be as great as possible between subterranean darkness and brilliant sunny summer meadow.


The finished print, 'Meadowhead'.



I had quite a bit of the blue left when I had finished, so I added a little red and white to produce a kind of subtle grey.  I printed 2 prints from what remained of my linoplate from this.  Cut into it a little more to leave just the most basic of lines, and rollered a darker version of this pale grey pigment over the bottom half of the plate to produce this monochrome image.

When it is dry I will do 'something' else to it, not sure what yet, to give it some kind of completion.  I think it will make a nice complementary pair to my main edition of 10 prints of the miner emerging into, or thinking about, his wildflower meadow.



Friday, 28 July 2017

Meadowhead Printing Day 3

I've made considerable progress on Meadowhead today.

Here are some of the stages my print has gone through...


Printed red, which immediately added drama to the composition.  I want there to be a feeling of blood in the dark earth, blood of the earth and of the life within it.


The life force within the earth and the lives of those who go down inside it to mine what what has died and become precious within it, be that 'black diamond' or other substances mankind mines for profit.


To lighten the butterfly (I've modelled it very loosely on a Red Admiral, because I've been visited by a particularly frenetic one in my back garden these past 2 weeks) and to put a little more vibrant sunshine into the meadow, I printed an opaque yellow in areas of the top half of the print - I applied the ink to the plate using a brush because a roller would not give me the definition I required.


A more dramatic addition is the green I added both in the grasses above and down into the subterranean darkness where plant roots reach for nutrition and where the miner toils at his work.



Finally for today I have added a second darker red in the lower areas of the print, this gives more definition to the miner's features, also I have overprinted the lower green areas to darken the green/soil areas and to start pushing back a background area around the miner's face.

That's probably going to be it for today.  Partly because the paper is saturated with ink - although the ink that I use is fast drying, it is still sticky with the layers I've printed today.  I'm also tired.  To be honest, cutting and printing repeatedly takes its toll on me, both physically and mentally.  I know that sounds wimpy, but at this moment, although I really want to carry on with this print, in my head I've had enough of it!!!  

Hopefully I'll be fresher in my head when the ink has dried on the paper. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Lilac and White

I've made a little more progress on Meadowhead today.


I added lilac to the flower heads and continued this colour down over the miner's eyes as I want to start building up a feeling of shadow and solidity in the lower half of the picture.  It's going to be mainly red to black in the bottom half, but I thought a few lilac lines around the eyes and forehead might give it a transitional zone where the daylight is breaking through the subterranean gloom.


I like the way the eyes are appearing peering up from the gloom.

I carved a little more out of the plate intending to add the red next, and then I realised that I had missed one of the flowers which should have also been printed lilac.  So I re-printed another shade of lilac and also, while I was at it, added a little white on the butterfly wings.  I added the colour to the plate using 2 small paintbrushes, one for lilac and one for white.  I marked the back of the print lightly with 2 pencil circles to show where I would have to rub to transfer the ink from the plate, and then printed...


I make a few notes when I create reduction linocut prints to organise my thoughts as to what order I need to cut and print each colour layer in.  As this print is building in quite a complex way (I'm really printing in 2 halves: green and red/black, above and below ground) so my notes are a bit more involved.  And (like train timetables) subject to changes...