out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire

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.

Starting to cut

marsh Lane lino test

I have joined the Birmingham Printmakers studio. The first Sunday evening I called in, the shutters had been pulled down over the entrance. On my second attempt last weekend, I actually made it through the door. I was alone. I had had an induction on how to use the presses but could not find the light switch to the main studio. Still, I could work standing up at a bench next to the hot plate in the room with the press.

marsh Lane lino test 02

I had called in to test my first cuts on this reduction lino print. I probably need to lift more white out of the stratified clouds – I might print a version then cut the clouds away and print again.

Next time, I need to have worked out a jig for perfect registration before I start printing the first light grey/blue layer. Any advice welcome.

Cutting the snow

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow 1

I am continuing to explore the translation of field sketches into prints from cut lino.  The idea – not yet realised – is not to copy the picture into a print form, but to abstract from the sketch into a set of patterns.

Malham Cove (15)

Posted before, this sketch was made in water-soluble pencil while standing in sleet near Malham Cove in Yorkshire.

I miss that place.  In this weather, the sink-holes must be the sites of  torrential falls.  I need to arrange a few days walking.

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow

20140210 linocut Yorkshire hills in snow 2

201402 Yorkshire hills snow 02

This last image was from a previous linocut of Malham Cove.  I had used the inky roller to burnish the back of the paper and then, on a whim, printed over the top.

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Malham Cove, snow, last March

Malham cove in snow, reduction linocut

Ten months ago I stood in the sleet and mist on the rocky path that leads up the side of a steep drop that had been carved by falling water powered by the melting Ice Age glaciers.

Malham Cove (14)

I have adapted this sketch, experimenting with carving a relief into a soft cut rubber block.  The aim was really to understand how the tools worked this material.  It was like butter against the broad bladed gouge yet buckled and resisted the greater pressure applied from the narrow V shaped cutter.  It took a while to learn how to cut fine lines.  This was the first cut.

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Those small white vertical lines seemed to say nothing about the rock structure beneath, so I made four prints with various depths of blue and then recut the block.

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Actually, I quite like this simple image without the blue underprint.  To me, it has a pleasing abstract nature.

Printing was done on the floor with an eighteen stone weight applied to the paper and block: i.e. placing a dictionary on the paper, with me standing on the book, lifting my daughter and with my son balancing on my feet and holding onto hers.

 

The garden beneath the bones

The garden beneath the bones 2

This large picture began as a layer of chalk pastel using a remembered images of a fallen tree as a source.  I disintegrated that with charcoal, oil pastel and water.  The skeletal remains of a long extinct mythical creature were overlaid in acrylic.  And then I developed this further on the iPad as a steampunk cityscape, creating “The Ribs“.

Still, the real picture remained.  I experimented with printing from paper covered with coloured oil pastel and overlaid with white acrylic, placed face down on my picture, and with heat applied. Initial tests suggested the acrylic would melt and carry the oil pastel onto the picture.  It failed.  The acrylic did not adhere and instead, the paint for the ribs was lifted off.

The next experiment was more successful.  I took scraps of various papers, layered in oil pastel my desired colours and, on top, white oil pastel.  Again, I used heat to print these onto my picture, creating the effect seen above.  I worked into these with more layers of printing and then brought out contrasting tones with ink painted onto the resisting surface.  I had to repaint the bones.

All in all, satisfying textures and strengths of colour on a dark background.  There may be more to do on this.

Planning how to make the cuts

20131031 sketch for printmaking 3

Field sketch.

marsh Lane lino source drawing 1

Planning a reduction linocut.  White black and two mid tones in acrylic ink.

20131031 sketch for printmaking 2

Increasingly turbulent,

White broken,

Striated linear,

Light blue:

1. Black

2. Mid

3. Contrast

4. White

Light from sun from above and behind left arch of bridge,

Thin reeds tapering up silhouetted to water,

White striated clouds like rock facies some areas darkened – dense parallel lines, others sparse striae

Areas of mid tone dense non-striated grey cloud in front in lower parts,

Trees silhouette against sky but more variegated by the light in front of bridge,

Here, shape the undergrowth in white and mid tone against the darks

Evening light at Marsh lane.

31/10/2013

Linocut: guillemot assembly

Last weekend I was back at Birmingham Printmakers, cheerfully learning the techniques of suicidal linocutting from Jacqui Dodds and Christine Bradshaw.

20131103 Printmaking guillemots (2)

I had done a tonal drawing sitting on the cliff top at St Abbs in June.  I had had the idea from the start about using this as the template for a print.  I wanted to use the blue as the mid tone for both the darks of the birds’ uppers and the shadows of the white underparts.

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I mixed a light blue ink for the first cut.  On reflection, I think I should have cut more white into the foreground and allowed the background to recede in the mid-ground blue.

For the second cut, I mixed a reddish brown which darkened when overlaid onto the blue.

When the third layer in black went on, it was like magic, suddenly pulling the whole piece together.

I’ll add a plug for my hosts.  The Birmingham Printmakers are celebrating 30 years of existence with an exhibition in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.   It’s very good though I was dragged around rather rapidly by my impatient children.

Thanks Jacqui and Christine.  I’m looking forward to joining BPM and doing more of this.

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