31/08 – 23/09/16
Project 7: Multi-block Linocuts
For some reason I found this overly daunting as a project. I had been mulling over subjects for a while and I couldn’t pin anything down that was simple, dynamic and interesting. I was aware that, being my first ever attempt at this, I should not choose something too complicated and that the colours must be clearly defined. My thinking with the colours was to either go for contrasting/complementary schemes or subtle, gentle tones. Initially, my thoughts were to look at landscape and I was drawn to the view across the sea of Fuerteventura with its volcanic mountains with tiers of purple tones. This although beautiful, was probably too subtle for my competency level, so found another view including mountains, sparkling sea and a distant crop of typically Canarian white buildings. This had fore, middle and background with some more distinct elements. I began planning my composition and colour palette.
At this stage, I completely stalled – I wasn’t happy with the image at all. I had a week or two where I did anything else to avoid tackling this again. Then, I noticed that my Bird of Paradise plant had begun to flower and had to draw it – I didn’t even consider this for my project at first.
Having worked on the flower image, I am much happier with the subject, colours and overall composition. The colours are dramatic and complementary and the composition fills the frame nicely, I like the shapes and flow of the lines. Again, as I’ve noticed before, I need to feel an affinity with a subject to be able to progress it and I just had to draw this flower as it’s so exotically beautiful.
Then came the hard work – how to maintain the dynamic yet simplify the colours. My first challenge was that I needed four colours not three as the brief suggested: Yellow, orange, blue and green plus the white of the paper in places. My only way of making the fourth colour, green, was to overlay the yellow with blue. On doing this, I realised that as yellow was my base colour over which all other darker colours were laid, all of the blue had a hint of green. I then had to return to my first block and cut away anything I wanted to be pure blue and avoid the yellow base. I used the first method of registering by eye for the first prints and then, cut back into the first block and continued with the second method of using a jig for registration.
Cutting the Blocks
I had to use the Soft Cut blocks rather than actual lino as I only had these in number in the same size. I stand by my original review, in that, although these do not require warming to cut, they are trickier to achieve a clean, sharp cut than actual lino. This became a source of frustration, particularly when trying to create a precise taper at the end of the flower tips, and a clean edge at the end of a cut where snags would remain.
The cutting was very time-consuming and took a while to get in to the swing of it. It is easy to become too tense and hold the cutting tools too tightly and cause intense muscle tension. The more I worked, though, the more I realised this and made a conscious effort to relax and sit up straight.
I also transferred the tracing onto all three blocks before I read about printing from one block (via a paper print) to the other. This however, helped tremendously particularly where lines overlapped, it also gave me confidence in lining up each block precisely.
Printing and Registering the Multi-block Linoprint (Method 1)
My main challenge was to create a white (completely cut away) background on blocks 2 and 3. I found it difficult not to create many ridges and went back several times to cut these away as best I could. Finally I allowed myself to just clean off any over inking with a wet wipe – for some insane reason, I had this notion that this was cheating somehow. After many unsuccessful attempts I gave in and got on with it!
Funnily enough though, after I had taped these prints up on the wall to dry and to review, I actually quite liked the orange “splashes” of colour! Maybe I should let go a bit?
I was very pleased with the “by eye” method of registration, however, it seemed to work well with this image.
Printing and Registering the Multi-block Linoprint (Method 2)
Using the second method for registering prints via a jig was a more comfortable experience. I knew that every print was in the same place. Although I had some success with the first method, this way gave me more confidence to lift the paper and over print if necessary.
One of the issues I encountered was that the orange was over-inked. When rolling, I had to listen for the “right” sound as the roller went back and forth. A slight sticky sound is the best way I can describe it, this told me that the right amount and consistency of ink had been reached. If this sound was not present, the ink was too wet and this resulted in a squelchy appearance as shown in the proof. This seems to be especially important when printing over another wet colour.
This time, as I had cut away the shapes that were to be pure blue on block 1, I had a more successful colour reproduction, however, the green was not as successful as the first method print with the blue on yellow, but had enough of a difference to indicate green.
I also ensured I kept other parts of the block wiped clean of ink where not wanted especially on the background.
I made three prints plus the proof, where I considered the second print the most successful and “clean”.
- One of the hardest aspects of this project was selecting an appropriate image, particularly as this was my first attempt at this process.
- I am now awaiting delivery of authentic lino blocks, as I found the Soft Cut very frustrating when trying to achieve a clean-cut – I need to weigh up the pros and cons of using Soft Cut against having to warm the lino.
- Time used to work through colours and shapes was time well spent.
- After researching the work of Richard Bawden, I can see the absolute value in using black (or another dark colour) for outline and hatching, directional marks etc. to achieve the detail and depth in an image and composition. I was in awe of what he achieved with 3 or 4 colours and black. I had begun to explore this with the stem and flower bud and am keen to experiment more.
- Both methods of registration were fairly successful, although I can see that the more layers of print that are used, the more useful the jig would be. Using standard sizes of block and creating jigs per size would be worth the effort.
- Posture and tension in my neck and shoulders, together with holding the cutting tool too tightly was problematic at first. However, consciously relaxing the shoulders and altering my grip on the cutting began to alleviate this.
- As before the consistency of the ink was key to success or failure and I have mentioned the desired sound of the ink when being rolled. This is difficult to explain, yet I am learning how things like this help guide the process to be more successful.
- Cutting a large, uniform area to keep white when printed was quite tricky. I swapped to the square ended cutting tool and this help significantly, however, as mentioned, once I had allowed myself the luxury of just wiping the excess ink away, it speeded up the entire process.