Sunday, 20 May 2012

May course inspiration...

After printing my Oystercatcher 1 and meeting my new paper love while printing the Robin it's back to the real world of my once monthly linocut workshops. This time we had Tracey a Motion Designer/Animator and Nick a retired teacher of teachers. I always get a bit nervous having teachers on the course. Not sure why, perhaps I feel they will be mentally marking my teacher methods, or lack there of, and maybe even slip out the odd tutting noise at my lack of 'proper' teaching technique. Of course they are all far too polite to do such I thing but what if they find out I'm not a teacher after all but merely an artist taking a workshop! Detention for a million years, then extra homework.

As usual for all those that come on the courses they get straight down to listening to my ramblings, drawing up idea and producing a blizzard of lino shavings as they began to cut their black and white. Tracey, perhaps as an art professional was very confident, even a bit gung-ho and her great attitude was summed up in the phrase; " lets give it a go." Which she said to pretty much all of my suggestions.
She had some lovely images of Durdle door and we looked at old woodcuts for ideas of patterns to use then she was off cutting away and managing to use just about all of them. I think this is a really strong richly patterned, atmospheric print and, as I always do, feel quite inspired to actually do a black and white print of my own. Rather than just telling other people to do them.

Tracey Aston - Durdle Door

After the success of the B/W we decided to use the same drawing for the colour print to see the difference strengths and otherwise between B/W and colour. Again Tracey was quite confident and tried cutting a two toned pattern in her sky to suggest clouds and then got all carried away again over the cutting of the pebbles. That I understand, I love spending hours cutting the pebbles on a beach, after a while it gets really Zen.

As with the B/W a really lovely strong print. The yellow sky to blue works really well and as I mixed the colours I feel okay about stealing this particular combination for a future print. I did admit to Nick and Tracey that one of the main reasons I have the courses, other than to maintain some semblance of social contact with people, is to be exposed to new ideas, inspirations and ways of looking at the world that I can then steal for my own work. I think they thought I was joking.

Nick as an obviously very competent teacher teacher was much more cautious, deliberate and thoughtful over his print than Tracey. Though it was a bit of a Tortoise and the Hare, as they pretty much finished at the same time - ish.

Nick had an interesting print of a Cotswold cottage which didn't immediately shout out as an effective subject for a lino. With a bit of tweaking, we thought, it may work. Nick was also labouring under the obvious handicap of having no cricket to listen to while working and having me hurrying him on while being showered by a cascade of lino shavings from Tracey across the table. His black and white, while it did work strongly as a print had areas he wasn't totally happy with. We also used the same drawing for the colour to show the comparison and allow Nick to work on those areas he wasn't happy with. Nick also had a bit of a concern, as a lot of people on the course do, over the use of colour. So I initially told him we would choose a simple ochre like colour and just darken it down for each layer to show how the layering worked in reduction without stressing about choosing colours. I sort of lied.

After using the same initial colour as Tracey, a warm golden brown, I informed Nick he would be using the same selection as Tracey. To demystify colour he wouldn't even get to choose/agonise over his own, we would use Traceys cast-offs as he called them, to show how effective apparently random colours can be.
 Also I think the idea of using golden brown, blue ( teal?) and then a deep purple would have been a bit worrying. Here is Nicks colour print, which I think you will agree is absolutely lovely. It has a great variety of texture, depth and really feels like a scene from a story. I want to see the rest of the book from which it appears this print has been lifted!
The stone wall in the foreground works very well and has a real weight and presence to it that sets the tone for the rest of the print and contrasts well with the lighter cutting further in to the print.

Well done both, and I look forward to seeing new work from both of them in the future. Oh and Nick was very complimentary about my teaching technique, even when he didn't do any homework!

Course over it's back to my own prints, and Oystercatcher 2 which I transfered to the lino and then with course suggestions still in my  head I coloured in all the white areas directly on the lino. Something I suggest to coursees  to help see how the white section of the print will look and where to print. As there is so much white on this print it does help and I quite like colouring direct onto the lino.

Really happy with my little beach bound Oystercatcher. More on them and the progress of this print soon. Next blog though something I tried a while ago and had to have another go at Friday gone before I can print this picture, or any other.

Yes I can put it of no longer, I have to recover my Baren. HELP......

April course inspiration

Did I mentioned that the sky in my first Oystercatcher print, see previous post, was inspired by the American woodcut artist J.J Lankes after Robert, Bob, on the April course used his sky as a background for his colour print. I think I did. I also said I would post the pictures from the course later. Well here is later.

As a consequence of showing the work of old J.J to Bob for his inspiration I had another good look at the fella myself. The more you look the more subtlety you see and I like the silvery tonal quality he achieves in his black and white scenes of midwest america.

I did tell Bob that it was highly likely I would steal his idea to be inspired by JJ and use something similar in my next print. Luckily he seemed quite relaxed by the idea.

Here is Bob's bird with the linear background suggested by Mr Lankes:

Of course rather than a black and white we dropped a graduation over the background, but it lightens the colour in a really nice way. The other person on the course, Sarah, also did a bird but with a completely different, decorative feel:

There is a wonderful simplicity in the design and limited colour which shows of the strengths of linocut very well. It is such a graphic image I can see it as wrapping paper, a card, a fabric print even a rich exotic wallpaper. Direct all enquiries to me and I will pass them on. As always I am impress and gratified by the quality of prints produced by beginners in a couple of days. So well done to both Sarah and Bob for working hard and coming up with two very effective and attractive prints.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Robin and Rosie

Had a double date today with Rosie, and printed the Robins red breast as an insert patch with my smallest roller. After cutting out the red breast and the growing tips of the stump.  I then mixed up a dark brown with blue and red for the remaining layer. As the red was only on the cut away part of the print I didn't need to wait for the layer to dry so I could move on to what could become the final layer.

As I mentioned in the previous post, with all the cutting on the Robin and the background I wanted to avoid over cutting the stump as well. So when inking up I varied the ink on the roller and the print to allow some of the background to show through. I also used the very complicated technical trick of wiping some of the ink off with a damp rag to give a bit of highlight in slightly random places.

As usual for an artist, my favourite part of the print is a tiny bit hidden away somewhere, unnoticed by all other viewers. This print is no different. The two small stumps in the immediate foreground on this print are my bits du jour. Dark tipped shapes paling to a lighter fading base, lovely. What do you mean you didn't notice them??

Not quite sure this is dark enough as I was going to do a final black, especially for the little fella's eyes and beaks. Those beady bright black eyes are a signature of the robin, and while I'm quite relaxed about the rest of the print, I'm not so sure I can get away without those black eyes. Any thoughts?

Paper? Well it took the ink well, slight issue with the impressions having a tidal mark but as before that is more of an issue with over liquid inks due to the water soluble vehicle and perhaps a bit of over zealous pressure on my part with the baren. As with any new partner you cannot act with the old ways you have to grow together in a new partnership, find new ways of working together... mmm perhaps taking this tortured metaphor a bit too far. I just got a bit carried away because, as fellow expert printmaker Sherrie York mentioned, the search for the perfect print paper is always there. So when you think you have found it, especially after previous disappointment, it's very easy to get a bit carried away and get a bit gushy!

The paper is...drum roll please...mould made Fabriano Rosaspina. 285gsm two deckled edges of soft well sized printmaking pleasure. Enjoy.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Second paper date.

Second layer on the Robin a warm brown to cover the blue, which it only just does, and to bring the bird and stump forward of the background. ( I printed the first blue a bit too dark ) There is a lot of cutting in this print so I am thinking about using a bit of tonal printing with the roller for the foreground stump to give it a bit of form and pattern rather than cutting too much into it. I used broken printing at the base which allows the blue first layer to show through. 

Now how did my lovely new paper do, I here you all cry? Well the above picture is the one on the new paper, It took the ink very well, though I need to work on the pressure. As the paper is so soft the pressure of the baren embosses the print into the paper, which works well as long as there is not too much ink on the block or that the ink is to liquid due to the addition of a water soluble vehicle. When it is a bit too runny it catches on the lip of the embossed area and leaves a slight tide line of ink. Not my papers fault, really, it's all my fault. I just need to get to know her better. She has come all the way from Italy after all.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A little bit of Kacho-Ga

After showing the crashing wave oystercatcher picture as my next piece I am having a small intermission.

As previously mentioned in my list of 'Things I want to try with prints' one was what the japanese call Kacho-Ga. Prints of Flora and Fauna. I had this lovely sketch of a robin that came to sit on my picnic bench at Tan y Coed and obligingly stayed still for plenty of sketches and photo's. So I thought rather than sitting and staring at it from time to time I would try and get it drawn up and printed before the end of the week.

I transfered the robin on to the lino and then started thinking about where he was going to sit.......

On my courses I stress over and over again the importance of settling on your composition before you transfer the image to lino and here I was breaking my own rule. I didn't have a clue what to do around/behind this robin. I looked at reference for different trees and habitats, looked at other artists renderings of birds. Even, when wandering back from the post office, stopped to stare up through the branches of a suitable tree on the pavement much to the bemusement of passersby.

I then saw these new indian ink permanent markers I had bought to trial drawing with lying innocently on the table, and mused that one of the other things I wanted to try was drawing directly on the lino to keep a more fluid natural line...

First option. It was really nice to put the colour directly on the lino to give a sense of where the emphasis would lie. Drawing straight on with quite a large marker keeps the fluid spontaneity that is lost with the tracing and redrawing. The next task is to make sure I keep that quality of line when I cut.

Wasn't quite sure about the blue background branches here, like some of the marks but felt a bit to chaotic and distracting from the foreground and the important bit. Got a bit carried away being fluid and  didn't stop when I should have done.

So just thought I would go a bit cutty and tonal, so I scribbled over everything below the stump. Felt very nice to be able to start cutting directly after drawing so loosely on the block. No tracing and drawing over. Tried to cut close and keep to the drawn quality, then got all cutty for the tonal background..

It's quite dark for a first colour when I have a light brown, a dark brown and most important a robin red breast to go in there somewhere. As usual it will lighten up as the colours progress.

Now something I always try to do when ordering paper is get a couple of sheets of something I haven't tried before. This Robin is being printed on papers I am very familiar with: A BFK Rives mould made deckle edge 210 gsm, ( A good beginners paper for the courses ) a BFK Rives mould made deckle edge 250gsm, ( currently my paper of choice, and the one I printed the previous oystercatchers print on ) and a Zerkall extra smooth 250 gsm. Then I thought I'd try a new sheet of something I had received in a TN Lawrence order recently.

Well! I may only have found my perfect paper. So far on the admittedly meagre evidence of one colour on two sheets ( It looked so good on the half sheet I used that I immediately dragged out the other half and whacked some ink on that to. ) It looks and feels very good quality, has a slight woven texture, is a bright white, is actually 285gsm ( normally far to heavy and thick to print by hand satisfactorily but is so soft I needed to use less pressure than when printing with the 250 gsm Rives ). Picks up the colour and fine cutting very well. I am in love. As much as you can be with a 60% rag mould made italian paper.

I won't mention the name, as it's early days and as we have both been disappointed before we are taking it slow. I need to see how she reacts to a second layer, maybe even a third before we go public.

We've got another date tomorrow and I'll let you know how we get on.