Starting printmaking III: intaglio

printing experiment 4

The fun part of this was drawing with a six inch nail.  I simply traced over my earlier field sketch, working into a perspex block.  When printing, I smudged some ink back onto the plate, using elements of monotype to build some shadowing.  If I wanted, perhaps I could tint this with watercolour or ink.

20130621 Guillimots at St Abbs 1

At its simplest, this is perhaps a way or recycling the contents of my notebooks into finished pieces.  If I can be bothered.   More interesting was a drypoint print posted by Nancy Farmer a few days ago.

What interests me is to think about how to create original works in this method not trace my old stuff.  I have stood in the sleet, drawing using fallen snow and watercolour pencils on disintegrating paper.  Actual rain stops play.  I wonder whether I can sketch with a nail onto a hard surface in all weathers.  What would the resulting print look like?  Do other people do this?

Starting printmaking II: cutting lino

printing experiment 3

Fast and clumsy would describe this. I couldn’t at first find a fine gouge to take out clean lines to show the beaks. The cuts on the tail on the right would have worked better the other way round. Amazingly, the stark contrast of black and white still drives a striking image for all its defects, showing the power of this technique. Practice and more time and care will help this.

Below are the field sketches of the warring gannets used as the reference. I begin to see how I might collect the information on contrasts and shapes in the field sketches with the future prints already in mind.

20130618 Bass Rock gannets 4

20130618 Bass Rock gannets 10

printing experiment 2

printing experiment 1

I had another shot at this, trying to abstract from the sketch, putting in a first layer of colour and cutting more finely. Even so, ink filled my gouges and obscured the beak on the left (there was not time to clean this out and make a further print).

This was the second technique we tried in Kerry’s taster session at the Birmingham Printmakers

Blade of rock II: guano platforms

20130622 St Abbs Head 2 b

I had one more day at St Abbs.  The evening before, I planned an experiment.  I would cover the paper in a simple wash and build in the shape of the jutting rock simply using white and sepia ink for the guano and shadows and teeming birds in the air and dotted on the sea.  The rest would be left with the wash showing through.

20130622 St Abbs Head 1

As the rock became submerged, it took a muted golden hue as shown.  I photographed this on site (lower image) before the next drastic step of putting in the shadow and reflection (upper image).  I think this deeper tone was needed to ground the rock but on reflection it should have been done more delicately.  I unintentionally obscured the fractal line made by the yellow spreading into the blue wash.

20130622 St Abbs Head 3

For completeness, this was my first attempt.

Blade of rock I: pencil

20130622 St Abbs Head 4b

Viewed from the cliff tops, this triangle of rock seemed to project at right angles and be suspended over the sea.  From the side it was like the marker on a sundial.  This was the roosting site for the various birds shown in the previous post.

20130622 St Abbs Head 4a

Blade of rock

St Abbs 21/6/13


Dotted with guillemots

Occasional razorbill

20130622 St Abbs Head 4e

guano covered platforms with guillemots

pairs of nesting kittiwakes

shag nest

Tone drawings IV: watercolour

20130621 Shag at St Abbs 3

20130622 St Abbs Guillimots and shag

The shags were nesting on the lower sloping surface of a great slab of rock isolated by the sea from the eroding cliff.  One, the female I guess, sat on the nest concealing the chicks.  Intermittently, the male would return and stretch and preen by her side.  Just above were groups of guillemots.

I carried on with painting from the earlier drawings in conte crayon.

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Tone drawings II: guillemots

20130621 Guillimots at St Abbs 5b

This became my main challenge during those great days in June on St Abbs Head: to build shape by manipulating the tones, all while painting birds from direct observation mostly through a scope.

Through that painting trip, this was the only time when rain fell while I was drawing, at least until I set off home.  I am beginning to enjoy this challenge: using precipitation to moisten the paper and move the paint in unexpected ways without letting the lot slip off the edge in a pool of mud.

Razorbills and guillemots and kittiwakes: St Abbs Head

20130620 St Abbs Head

I moved out along a narrow spine of rock with a steep drop on either side.  To either side the cliffs projected out to sea in a series of ridges.  The sun was hot and no wind disturbed the paper.  On the vertical surface facing me, kittiwake pairs were spaced out, nesting along the narrow cracks and faults in the rock.  The guillemots formed denser colonies on sloping surfaces lower down and on the tops of the more isolated stacks.  The red sandstone was mottled by lichen and guano and sunlight.

Razorbills and guillemots: pencil sketches

20130618 St Abbs

Mid June, at St Abbs Head bordering Scotland and England.

These pencil notes made in a small sketchbook were preparation for a painting. I wrote in comments on the soundscape and distribution of birds on the cliff faces.

20130618 St Abbs 00

The larger painting was done on rough paper.  But I abandoned it incomplete, despairing of capturing the light on the rocks and atmosphere of the bird colony.  Now I regret this.  Looking at this now, I can see that painting in the sky and intensifying the midground might make something of this piece.  I can still do this.

Here are an assortment of pencil sketches on loose paper and in the small pad made at that time.

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And finally a couple of graphite sketches without a home elsewhere.  The first was made on the boat leaving Bass Rock.  The second was the very simple preparatory notes for the painting at Aberlady posted previously.  I had forgotten I had made these notes.

20130615 Bass Rock

20130615 Aberlady

Tone drawings I: guillemots and razorbills

20130620 St Abbs Guillimots 1c

On the Seabird Painting course, I was struck by the seeming effortless ease with which accomplished artists are able to use tones to build the forms.  Washes merge and blend and separate to make lines and contrasts.  However limited my own efforts appear by comparison, the only way forward is to keep trying.

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What joy it would be to have that skill and mastery of the medium and apply it in the field …

20130621 Guillimots at St Abbs 1a 20130620 St Abbs Guillimots 5 again

Clinging to the cliffs II

Facing  to the rocks, concealing their chicks

Facing to the rocks, concealing their chicks

This was a quick charcoal sketch at the end of the day, standing, looking down the scope.

Below are others in pencil, pen, pencil with wash and drawing directly in watercolour.  These were all attempts to quickly snatch the shapes of the bird groups congregating across the rock face.

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