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...

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


It's been over a year since I posted last, and during that time I've worked on my pen and ink drawings, exhibited some, been awarded a Prize and sold a few.  I've been very fortunate there.  

I continued producing ACEOs (small playing card sized works of art) to sell on Ebay.  I sold these via auction quite regularly for a while and it was a good experience as it helped me find a professional way of selling my art, something that took courage on my part, and also something that I should have attempted to do many years ago.  

Earlier this year, I don't know why, but I dug out some lino cutting materials I bought about 3 years ago from a shop that isn't there anymore (where have all the art shops gone?  To that shop heaven called 'on-line').  I made a linocut of artist Frida Kahlo and, taking courage from my the selling experience gained from selling my ACEOs and other small scale artworks, I posted it pretty much immediately on Ebay as an auction.  It didn't sell, but I found that far from finding it a wrist breaking frustrating exercise of crumbling lino and sliced off fingers I actually enjoyed the process of cutting lino.  It reminded me in many ways of making a pen and ink drawing, of chiselling out an imagined space in 2D.  I quickly realised that after years of working pretty much exclusively in black and white in my dip pen and ink work, I now had a chance to expand graphically into using colour, something that I had not managed to do previously, despite various attempts at using other materials alongside India or acrylic ink applied with dip pen.  

I very quickly began using colour in my linocuts, firstly simply printing the linocut plate in a single colour, then by applying a second colour to the single linocut plate and printing twice, using a registration device I made myself from corrugated cardboard (Youtube is a great resource for linocut advice).  I made my first reduction linocut print of La Corbiere Lighthouse.  I enjoyed the process, though it is quite tiring as I hand press my prints, as I don't own a press and have very limited space to work in.  I have made several reduction linocut prints since then (March 2017) and am now embarking on my first imaginative linocut composition, which I am calling Meadowhead.

The plate I'm using is small 4 inches x 6 inches (the same size as my Corbiere print).  I print small as I hand press using a dessert spoon and I'm not sure I have the energy to print much larger prints this way.  Though no doubt I will try before long.

The inspiration for the Meadowhead composition comes partly from my heart, partly from the imaginative sparks that occur when I'm tired and drowsing in the sun (I saw the image of a coal miner emerging into a field of wildflowers in a half-waking moment) and partly it is the result of my reading recently, John Lewis-Stempels Meadowland and thinking about my family history, my great grandfather died in a mining accident in the Black Country at the beginning of the 20th century.  We are what we do for a living, and sometimes what we do for a living does for us.

I sourced photographic images, some from the Internet, others are my own digital photographs of wildflowers taken recently.

I made sketches using the photographic material, then refined this using tracing paper.  Though I really don't want to over plan as part of the joy of a linocut is treating the cutting as a drawing process, and the ink application as a painting process.  

First application of colour after initial cutting, a pale yellow with green tinge to the top 'meadow' half of the linocut print.

Second application of colour of pale green.

Third application of yellow mixed with a little extender to increase transparency of the ink.