The twitter hashtag #WOMENSART brought to my attention the poem Dangerous Coats by Sharon Owens linked to a surveillance photograph of suffragette Olive Beamish from 1914. In this linocut I don’t capture her facial likeness but I have explored textures of the coat with large pockets.
Here are a range of sketches I undertook.
From Wikipedia I learned of the Cat and Mouse Act passed by the Liberal government, legislation designed to thwart the suffragettes on hunger strike in prison.
In her poem Sharon Owens equates “sedition”, at that time, with commonsense, fairness, kindness, equality. Faced with a law-breaking, lying, callous, killing government, we may all need pockets to promote these values.
This is a linocut version developed from the dog sketch below.
This version, I printed the foreground tree first in brown before overprinting in black.
This is the press I built this weekend. This 12mm plywood base is blued onto a support to lift it from the table. Two long nails, with their head sawn off and a paper frame act as guides.
Plastic packaging that coincidently arrived with a new barbecue (because, guess what, we can see family again, but only in the garden) works well as a blanket to apply even pressure. You can see ink through this only because I am printing on the reverse side of an earlier failed experiment.
The pressure is applied to the top plank using two slats of wood from an old bed frame. These are pre-tensioned and bowed slightly to take weight. Here the convex side is downwards so pressure at the ends will also transmit to the middle.
Pressure is applied through 4 small G clamps.
The first attempts were disappointing. This was solved by using the plastic blanket and switching the bowed slats to run longitudinally rather than across the upper plank. The effect was dramatic, with the printing paper recessed all round the lino block with, but not without, the blanket.
The next two versions are shown (made to guide further cutting of the block). The one directly below used brown ink contaminated with black from the first attempt. There are cuts in the tree that have failed to print as white gaps, but create a more interesting texture, somehow selectively attracting the black contaminant. This is worth exploring further.
This is an exercise in using oils. I feel a bit more in control, mixing with a knife and using paint on the tip of the brush rather than over loading the bristles. Where needed I am blending on the canvas.
There was no sketch. The only idea was the hard edge between orange and blue centre stage and a vague sense of yellow and green at the top.
Rotating this 90 degrees and working further imposed a child-like grammar of landscape – blue sky and clouds above, earth colours, mountains, trees, grass, below.
The other way up, blue and white are water and surf crashing onto rock faces.
Rotate back one quarter and I am staring down the cliffs onto a torrent. It needs the dentate leaves of ferns and, far below, the small shapes of wheeling pterosaurs.
So this is the finished oil painting. Finished in the sense I don’t propose to work more on it. The series leading to this is below in chronological order, starting with the charcoal sketch, which was then transferred to the canvas.
Part of the challenge here was simply experimenting with mixing paint and applying it to the canvas.
So this is the point I should have stepped back and been careful to retain the structure of the foreground from the original sketch.
So it was with this iteration I lost the structure in the lower right quadrant, obscuring this with vegetation rising from the bottom of the canvas. Part of the challenge was my clumsiness with using the brush to apply a clean stroke of paint
This version had been digitally altered to variegate depth of tone, as an exploration of how to proceed, leading to the final version.
So there were various bits I like along the journey but the final painting does not pull them together. Time to stop. More sketching needed with an eye to the subsequent painting.