Assignment 3: Developing Relief Prints

25/02/17

Assignment 3: Developing Relief Prints

Task 1 (Project 8)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

In this task I feel I have made progress with understanding the meaning of the phrase Personal Voice. I found a subject that is extremely personal to me and one that, I’m sure, is not uncommon but rarely discussed.  The purpose of this is to raise awareness, understanding and empathy, not to be judgemental or critical.

Process:
My process began with brain storming ideas of the theme of my image. This developed from words to symbols, both generally recognised and personally created to represent feelings and events. As I worked with thumbnail sketches, a common shape emerged that could be applied to both aspects of the theme, simply put, illustrating the positive and the negative views. I made decisions based on the importance of my subject rather than purely on the technique of the print. For example, I felt a diptych was relevant and I needed to include text regardless of the complexity.

Challenges:
Making the registration jig went smoothly, until I realised that I’d matched the lino blocks (I had measured and also drawn around each block to cut the apertures), the wrong way round, forgetting that the two images would be reversed. I thought this would have minimal effect as the measurements were the same but some discrepancies were evident during registration.

The early and light layers of ink printed really well and I was excited to press on with the bolder colours. Unfortunately, the blue and red printed inconsistently and I am unsure as to why. The ink was applied evenly, as was the pressure on the paper. There was an instance where I buckled the paper slightly and lifted it from the block in a small patch, and for some reason I could not get the ink to adhere in this area again.

I also failed to notice, after each clean down, that the hessian fibre on the reverse of the lino had frayed in one spot and this picked up some ink on the next print cycle. Another opportunity for picking up ink smudges came from the cardboard jig itself. The border between the two apertures had a slight crease in it, which also printed on subsequent pulls. Consequently, I was unable to find a truly clean print among any of the attempts.

Registration, which previously had been successful, became more hit and miss however careful I tried to be. The minute differences mentioned above regarding the apertures being the wrong way round, along with some slightly misaligned placing of the paper became exaggerated as a combination.

What went right:
Although the end results were disappointing, I am very happy with the development of the idea in this project. The thumbnail sketches suggested previously by my tutor were invaluable. The method of developing the images on separate sheets of paper and then joining them together helped enormously too. I could see the progression in one go, rather that having to turn the pages of the sketchbook and seeing them in isolation.

The research of recognised symbols inspired shapes and direction and also helped me develop elements to illustrate my own journey in a way that related well between the two facets.

The actual reduction method of cutting and printing went surprisingly well, by carefully considering depth of colour and layers of the image, each cutting stage was documented as a guide in my sketchbook.

I got the text the right way round!

Overall

My disappointment with the final results are centred on the lack of clean prints and the inconsistency of printing the bolder colours. However, the design and development of the images, along with the message I was trying to convey, I think, have worked well. This was a difficult subject for me, and may make others feel a little uncomfortable, if not defensive, yet looking at the design again, I feel it has an aesthetic appeal in its own right outside of that. I hope that with further experience in these techniques, that my results will eventually measure up to the message it represents.

Sample print from an edition of eight

Sample print from an edition of nine

 

Task 2 (Project 9)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

Tools and Implements Used for Experimental Mark Making Test Linocut

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

I gathered a wide variety of implements from both tool shed and kitchen. Several of the results were surprising, where some tools, I would have thought should have made more of a definite impression than they did. Observations of each implement’s impression results are below:

  1. Small flat head screwdriver – Most marks were very straight, even if I tried to force a curve the line became angular as there was no flexibility in the blade. It wasn’t possible to make a mark with the flat end of the tool as it wasn’t sharp enough, most marks were made with the corner of the “blade”. Wiggling the screw driver from side to side gave the most interesting pattern.
  2. Tile saw blade – as it is a straight blade, I had to bend it into a curve to be able to make any marks. The blade itself is a fine cylindrical shape with an abrasive texture in order to grind/cut ceramic tiles. It is not sharp as such. By using the  blade curved, it widened the surface area and the tiny abrasive teeth made a set of lines or scratches that could be varied by applying differing pressure. No deep cuts could be made.
  3. Stanley knife – Although the blade is sharp and clean cuts were possible, it was very unwieldy to use. I became aware that it cut better by pulling the knife towards me rather than away – a little disconcerting safety-wise. I thought it would cut out shapes easily but I was unable to gouge out the centre of them and the lines were very fine, with varying the thickness of the lines not possible. It was also too easy to cut right through the lino accidentally.
  4. Dinner fork – This was more interesting to use. I could make the more obvious straight set of marks with the prongs, however, by adding pressure and twisting the fork into the lino, it produced the most successful curves so far. It was difficult to achieve a complete circle but was effective none the less.Thickness of line could be varied also by using the fork flat on or sideways. By twisting the end prong into the lino, nice but small, circular holes could be made.
  5. Assortment of keys – I had what appeared to be padlock keys – like small Yale lock type. These made some scraping marks but did not cut deep. Other keys may have been for bicycle locks, being stubby and cylindrical with a small notch at the end. These made some interesting, circular marks, particularly where the end notches cut into the surface, by pressing and twisting them into the lino. Neither type of key made a deep impression.
  6. Pastry cutter wheel – Strangely, this being the tool that I thought would make some of the most effective marks, made barely any impact on the lino’s surface. Although the faint marks were attractive, I doubted they would actually print at all.
  7. Smaller flat head screwdriver – This was a little sharper than the first screwdriver I tried and made lovely wiggly marks. As this was a little smaller than the first, it was easier to handle. I tried using it as if drawing rather than cutting and it could be useful for textural effects.
  8. Small pair of scissors – Using the tips of the blades and actually “scissoring” the lino made strong impressions that were, surprisingly, not at all symmetrical. I also used one blade only and “drew” with it – slightly curved lines were possible. I also managed to gouge small circles with a single blade.
  9. 7cm long brass screw – I thought I’d be able to draw  and make lines with the pointed end, but it wouldn’t move well in the lino. It was also very uncomfortable to hold as when exerting pressure on the surface the spiral of the screw cut into my fingers. It did, however, make good stabbing marks on its point and at an angle. The screw head also failed to make an impression in the surface.
  10. Zester – After the pastry cutter failed, I didn’t hold out much hope for this. Yet it was very successful and had the best gouging capabilities of all the implements, although I think it blunted quite quickly. It could make light marks similar to fret work patterns, or, by exerting more pressure, make deeper ones albeit for not such a long mark. It could also be dug in and turned to give a set of curves. Using it sideways gave fairly ordinary faint lines in comparison.

Further observations on the results and subsequent use of the more successful tools are noted in my sketchbook, along with some experimental printed images.

Task 3 (Project 10)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

Process:

This time the process began with experimentation of both a variety of surfaces as printing blocks and wood cutting chisels. Effects achieved through this experimentation were revisited after developing the image to be printed, then choices were made of surfaces and tools that were appropriate.

Developing the theme for this print was more of a journey that started with an unknown destination. A dark path was followed for a time until I introduced a song and its lyrics as inspiration. I decided to continue along my original personal voice subject, however, moving in a more positive direction as I realised this is more akin to resolving issues rather than wallowing in negativity.

The use of thumbnails again informed my design development. There were many re-thinks during the process, of which most were tested before being applied to the print run. This was enforced after making a colour choice error on the first print of four. This then became the “printer’s draft” for the rest of the series. Off-cuts of the same types of paper were used to test the more unknown effects before committing to the image itself.

This was by far the most experimental print process I have attempted so far. Three different surfaces were used as printing blocks, both woodcutting and linocutting tools, multi-block and reductive printing, and some rollered, some dabbed ink application techniques were employed. Two different print papers were also used, being heavy weight cartridge and heavy weight, slightly textured Somerset printing paper.

Challenges

Taking into account the lessons learnt from Project 8, the registration jig was constructed with care and the paper size was also carefully measured and marked around the aperture with pencil lines. My challenge with registration this time was the torn edges of the print paper making it difficult to line it up with the pencil line. The registration was generally improved but still not perfect.

I had a mental block with achieving the wispy, meandering lines I wanted, which on reflection, was complicated by the use of the background polystyrene printing block. I tried to create the effect with dab printing, however, this made the lines heavy and clumsy, the opposite of my intention.

I also struggled with the colours of the textured “flock of birds” in the print. This was a shame as the actual effect of the cutting was beautiful, again, I made this too heavy and dominant. This was also hindered due to the poor choice of background.

What went right:

The textures achieved with the foam rubber tile and wood cutting tools were very successful regardless of my wrong colour and printing choices.

Most of the planet shapes and details were effective and I am happy with the colours here.

I also decided, after completing the print run, to use the excess ink and print from the foam tile in a less constrained way and made a couple of prints in brighter colours using a roller only. These were more successful and the texture effects were much sharper. By doing this, it informed how my image could be significantly improved if re-done.

I enjoyed using the Somerset printing paper and would like to use it again.

Lessons Learnt

From the extra couple of prints taken from the foam rubber tile, it suddenly occurred to me that the effect I wanted, could have been achieved by discarding the polystyrene tile and just rolling the ink straight onto the foam tile and taking the print from there. The meandering lines would then have been in place and been lighter and fresher in style. The “flock of birds” could then have been added to by dab printing to increase tone using the same or toning colour, which again would have made the effect lighter and more dream like.

Regarding the registration, this would be improved if I used physical guides of cardboard or off-cut lino to place the paper each time.

Overall

Interestingly, the prints looked more successful in photographs rather than in life. The theme of freedom of thought was entirely lost due to the treatment of the dab printing and the wrong colour choices. The impression is of a dark cloud of despair rather than the uplifting song lyrics I was alluding to. I am pleased that I tried different techniques, surfaces and tools, however, I got carried away and stopped seeing with an objective eye. Once the veil had lifted, it was so obvious where I had gone wrong. I will attempt this again, aiming for significant improvement in the results, before moving on to the next section.

Final print 4 of 4 on heavy slightly textured Somerset paper

Final print 4 of 4 on heavy slightly textured Somerset paper 

 

Additional Comments – 09/05/17

From my tutor’s feedback, I now feel that I was too close to the print result to really assess it clearly. The feedback was positive on the paper used and how it helped the inks work better. Regarding the image itself, it was interesting to see that the elements I perceived as “wrong” or not working were the elements that worked better for my tutor, with the planet shapes considered possibly being too obvious. I actually see that myself now and as I review the prints, I am more positive about them. Instead of re-working for this assignment, I think I will leave this as a moment in time and return to the subject in another project. My tutor is keen for me to explore more text and words in my work and I think this would be an interesting route to explore further.

Reflection

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
I think I had an element of beginners luck with the early projects of this course. With the increased complexity of technique, I have made some basic errors which I think are due to lack of experience. This is particularly prevalent with registration of my prints, I have found that I can struggle with the many aspects involved, ie placing of the print paper, keeping hands and paper clean, thinking through the order of tasks etc. I had to make myself slow down and double-check everything before committing to print, mistakes were often made as I pushed myself to do a little bit more before taking a break. I also had struggles with consistency of the printing of the inks, strangely, this was more obvious when I used my oil based inks. I have found a limitation in the availability of materials on the island, so have had to become more experimental and use paint to print with. I have found a block printing medium that can be mixed with acrylic paint that has vastly increased my palette of colours. The technicalities of different inks and papers are something I need to learn and this, I feel, can only be done by making observations and mistakes. I am learning as I go and although I can become despondent and disappointed with my results at the time, later, I often notice valuable lessons that inform my subsequent attempts. I am becoming more comfortable with designing my prints, trying to think in layers, sequencing my cutting and printing carefully, and fully exploring the composition until I am satisfied with it. I am not a natural colourist and this requires more practice. I am currently attending a locally tutored course in abstract painting and we focus on colour, its relationships and importance of place. I struggle with this, however, it is very helpful and gradually, I hope to improve this skill.

Quality of Outcome:
I feel that I present my work coherently and to the best of my ability at the time. That said, I feel very much a novice in the technicalities of printmaking at present and this can only improve with practice. The actual physical presentation and realisation of my ideas from a skill point of view are disappointing to me, however, I am constantly reviewing and learning from my mistakes. I hope to improve against this criteria in time and with experience.

Demonstration of Creativity:
I believe my sketchbook work is crucial to achieving good results in quality of outcome. I begin with a vague idea, brainstorm from the idea, discarding nothing to start and then bringing the dominant themes together, narrowing down my selections. I make judgements all along this process, making choices, re-thinking shapes and colours, experimenting and making drafts before I settle on the “thing”. Even then, I try to keep my mind open for accidental and evolving ideas that may improve the outcome. Some things may not be appropriate for that specific project but are noted for future ones. With regards to my personal voice, I feel confident that I have had an epiphany – with project 8, for example, the emotive subject matter was extremely personal to me. I also found, once I’d got into my subject, that the ideas and symbolism I required to illustrate the concept flowed easily. I was able to recognise evolving elements that connected with each other and clearly related to my subject. It was a cathartic and therapeutic experience that I am convinced is the beginning of a personal journey.

Context:
I feel that I am strong in personal reflective learning and that I can express myself well in that regard. Being self-critical and analysing my progress informs my choices and judgements for progression.  I enjoy researching other artists and now printmakers, and learning from their working practices and processes. From where I may have made cursory reviews of others’ work, I now look more deeply into how they express themselves and their message, as well as techniques and materials used.

In general, although feeling out of my depth regarding printmaking skills, I think I have grown in other ways that have improved my capacity for creating ideas and implementing concepts overall. I am feeling positive and am looking forward to learning more.

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Project 10: Experimental Relief Prints

Project 10: Experimental Relief Prints

30/01 – 23/02/17

By now you will have gained experience in making relief prints in one, or several colours, and in the multi-block or reduction methods. You have also used linocutting tools and experimented with mark making from other implements and tools. With this experience in mind you now have the opportunity to develop an experimental relief series.

Experimental Surfaces

I struggled at first for what to use, however, when floor tiles were mentioned in the course notes I knew we had some surplus black foam rubber type tiles that are used for gym floors etc. The upper surface had a checker-plate raised design so I used the underneath which was fairly smooth considering it had been previously used.

Foam rubber floor tile upper surface

Foam rubber floor tile upper surface

Foam rubber floor tile under surface

Foam rubber floor tile under surface

 

 

 

 

 

I then found some cheap and cheerful polystyrene sheets in various sizes and shapes. I was also keen to try a wood cut, however I couldn’t find anything suitable. I then found an old lino block that had been stuck to a block of MDF, so I used the reverse of that.

A4 size polystyrene sheet

A4 size polystyrene sheet

MDF block 5 x 4"

MDF block 5 x 4″

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting Tools

This was also a bit of a challenge. There are a couple of art shops on the island, I’ve only found one so far. They had a good selection painting and drawing materials but printmaking was a step too far. As I was after, in my fantasy, some wood carving chisels, I tried local DIY stores but they only sold “big boy” chisels. Despairing I ventured into a huge Chinese bazaar which had anything and everything you didn’t know you needed, including some wood carving chisels in a set of ten. Admittedly not top quality but I grabbed two sets anyway in case of breakages. These I numbered for easy identification.

Woodcutting chisels of various sizes and shapes numbered 1-10

Woodcutting chisels of various sizes and shapes numbered 1-10

 

 

 

 

 

Experimental Mark Making and Test Prints

Not wanting to blunt my lino cutting tools, I decided to stick with the wood chisels on the various blocks I had chosen. I also thought it would be interesting to see what the same tools would do with different surfaces.

My full notes on this exercise on are page 37 of my sketchbook, however, below are photos of the test prints and results I observed.

Foam rubber tile:

Results: Pleasantly surprised, the ink printed consistently from the tile, the marks were clear and had a pleasing softness at their edges. A good and wide variety of marks – will use again I think.

Polystyrene sheet:

Results: This was surprisingly effective too. However, there was minimal control over the cutting due to the nature of the polystyrene being made up of particles that would shed easily and unpredictably. This may be useful as a first layer in a light colour to introduce a textured ground.

MDF block:

Results: The block resisted the ink a little, so it was important to ensure good coverage before applying the print paper. Although it was virtually impossible to see the  marks made before applying the ink, they actually printed well and clearly. If I was using MDF again, it may be useful to colour the surface before cutting to fully see what marks are being made.

Development of Image

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 38

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 38

I followed quite a journey before deciding on my theme for the image of my experimental relief print. I returned to my thoughts on female misogyny and batted around a few ideas in my sketchbook. In the current political climate, there were many examples for inspiration, particularly in the US. There, on one hand, it is one of the most forward thinking cultures in the western world and on the other, is so archaic it is almost comical, if it was not so terrifying.

 

 

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 39

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 39

One thought I tried to stick with, was to avoid being overly representational. This would just be too obvious, I needed to think of shapes and images that symbolised my thoughts. I metaphorically travelled around the world, considering differing cultures and their attitudes to women and back again. I began to settle on the life followed by men and women, considering circles and curved lines to denote the feminine and squares and straight lines for the masculine (thumbnails page 39 of sketchbook).

 

 

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 40

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 40

I touched on the perception that men have shaped the world for centuries and by that very fact have also influenced how some women perceive others of their sex. Some still consider the indoctrination they have been brought up with as the way forward and others want to push these barriers over and create, construct and manage their own futures. From this huge subject, I tried to narrow down a concept as a beginning for my explorations, which could easily last a lifetime! My ideas followed along the lines of freedom of thought as distinct from freedom of speech – what one says does not necessarily reflect one’s thoughts. Freedom itself, is I concluded, the basis of all of this. Freedom to be who one wants to be, if not physically possible (because of culture, upbringing, limitations of wealth or education etc), then freedom to dream. There are perceptions of freedom and it can mean different things to different people. Following from my earlier thumbnails I morphed into illustrating these perceptions as different “worlds” or virtual planets that are loosely connected to each other. I also thought of the song “Feeling Good” (A Newley/L Bricusse 1965) and my favourite performance by Nina Simone – I played this and honed in on the lyrics:

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 41

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 41

“Birds flying high,
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky,
You know how I feel
Breeze drifting on by
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
and I’m feeling good.”

From this uplift in mood, I decided to try to concentrate on positives within my concept – it would be easy to drag myself down by focusing on how bad things could be. This will not improve anything, positive thoughts create solutions not problems. This is how I feel I should take this forward into my ideas.

There were many revisions during the development stages, deciding on scale and sizes, positioning etc plus the order of printing.

Printing Process

I began with my basic ideas of using two printing blocks initially:

1 polystyrene to make a ground with texture marks from its natural surface

2 foam rubber tile to create a representation of linking the planets and a flock of birds flying freely

As I worked, I realised that I needed a separate print block for the planets themselves that would give me a stable surface to cut the spheres and the details within them. I decided to return to lino and lino cutting tools for this, using a reductive technique to build the design.

Even during printing, there were re-thinks and revisions along the way that have been documented and dated in my sketchbook. I made several print dabbers to build the tones and marks rather than relying on rollering on the inks. I also wanted to make each print more individual by using the dabbers as this appealed to me after my recent research into contemporary printmakers. I decided on a small print run of 4 as the method was becoming more complex and I wanted to reduce the margin for error.

Due to my recent difficulties with registration, I created a jig from cardboard and was meticulous with my measurements for the aperture and all three printing blocks. I also carefully measured my printing paper, of which I decided to try two different types. Two prints were on thick cartridge paper and two were on thick, slightly textured Somerset printing paper. I had not used the Somerset before, and was interested in the outcome. After cutting all the paper to size to allow a margin of 6cm each side and 6.5cm top and bottom, I had off-cuts that I intended to use to test pieces for the various effects I was attempting.

I also decided to use water-soluble inks that I had, in conjunction with acrylic paint mixed with acrylic block printing medium. As this was supposed to be experimental, I thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

As shown in the above gallery, I changed my mind from having merging red/blue interconnecting lines between the planets after my first print. This effectively made the first print obsolete, however, it still had a valuable role as a test bed for subsequent prints and I continued to take it through all the printing stages, making evaluations and changes as it progressed.

After completing the images, which as intended, were slightly unique from each other, my initial reaction was disappointment. Having had the theme of freedom of thought as inspiration, I felt that the final results looked far from free. I didn’t like the black/grey of the bird flock and the interconnecting lines were too heavy rather than loose links between worlds.

Due to my despondency regarding the final prints, I decided to finish up by running off a couple of prints from the foam block using the left over inks and bit of ready-made copper colour. This was a reaction to very considered way I had worked and was actually very freeing as intended. I used rollers in a haphazard fashion to make blocks of colour, after applying a base of yellow ink across the entire block. Having rollered the inks on this time, I found that the paper adhered well to the ink and peeled off the block with a little resistance that felt good and secure – a satisfying feeling!

I enjoyed this experimental play and it proved invaluable in a way that I will cover in my assignment self critique.

 

Research Point: Experimental Relief Prints

25 & 27/01/17

Research Point: Experimental Relief Prints

Take a look at some contemporary printmakers who use experimental methods to make their prints. What have you found of interest? What new techniques and ideas have arisen in this investigation?

As suggested I accessed the Printmakerscouncil.com website to research and discover some contemporary practitioners and their techniques. There were all sorts of print styles, techniques and forms available to see and was quite overwhelming, so after a few forays I decided to concentrate on the Relief Printing category.

Christina Frances-Crews

Although etching rather than linocuts, the process of developing an idea is relevant. The stages that Christina appeared to follow were:

Theme => Recurrent Elements => Drawing => Collage => Inventive Techniques & Experimentation (not elaborated on) => Printing Process

She says she responds to the unknown element rather than controls results from start to finish, which is a liberating way of thinking.

Sinclair Ashman

Sinclair uses collograph type printing that I have yet to explore. I am attracted by his preference of single, original prints rather that traditional editions. I like the idea of working on a piece of work to bring out its depth and texture rather than faithfully reproducing a number of the same image. This appeals for the freedom of expression it could give.

Jess Buglerjessbugler.co.uk

Jess creates reductive linocuts in very limited editions. Themes of exploring the modern world in its intensity by limiting the editions stops the message or narrative being diluted. Her Syria series is beautiful in its horror, composition and detail. Jess’ Nightwatch series was very interesting in its technique. When I saw the prints I though they looked like hand formed clay heads with the pulling and stretching of the clay to form the shapes. Reading the commentary, that was exactly what Jess had done. She had sculpted and moulded the heads of the Militia Men in Rambrandt’s Nightwatch painting in clay, then photographed them in bright light and created her linocuts from the tonal and textural images. Genius idea.

Her colour palette is limited too and ranges from monochrome to 2 or 3 contrasting colours or tones to give the most impact to each subject as it suits.

Ruth Barrett-Danes2d3dsouth.com

Ruth uses the landscape and nature themes from around her environment. She uses both intaglio and relief methods on limited print editions as the inking up process can not guarantee exact replication across a large edition. Luckily as I didn’t really know the process of intaglio printing, Ruth has put a nice description of her process on her website: The cut plate is inked to include the cut away areas, excess ink is carefully wiped away and then the plate is re-inked for relief printing, this is then printed on to 300gsm damp paper. She says this gives more depth and richness to the print. I am keen to try this method. Ruth often combines mono and linocut techniques too, depending on the effect and image.

These may or may not be particular original ideas and processes but they have given me inspiration to be a little more free spirited with my attempts.

 

Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino

17-20/01/17

Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino

This project will allow you to experiment with different tools to create a broader range of cuts and textures that linocutters  alone can not offer.

After ransacking both kitchen and tool shed, I emerged with a random selection of tools and implements that would hopefully make some kind of mark on my test lino block.

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

  1. Small flat head screwdriver – Most marks were very straight, even if I tried to curve the line, it became angular as there was no flexibility in the blade. I couldn’t make a mark with the flat end of the tool as it wasn’t sharp enough.  Although repeatedly scraping backwards and pushing the blade into the lino made some impressions. Most marks were made by using the corner of the blade. Wiggling it from side to side made a nice, uniform pattern.
  2. Tile saw blade – As it’s a straight blade, I had to bend it into a curve to be able to make any marks at all. When I moved the blade back and forth in a sawing motion to scrape the lino, it didn’t actually cut as such. By using the curve and therefore a wider surface area, the tiny teeth of the blade made a set of lines and these could be changeable in width according to pressure used. Again  curves were difficult to produce, however a nice calligraphy type style could be made but only in an angular shape. No deep cuts could be made.
  3. Stanley Knife – Although the blade is sharp and clean cuts could be made – it was very unwieldy to use and I was aware that it cut better pulling the knife towards me rather than away from me, which was a little worrying. I thought I would be able to cut shapes out easily but I was unable to gouge out the centre of them – so I would have to use another implement in conjunction with the knife. I also cut right through the lino a couple of times. Any marks made were very fine and I don’t think they would print much if anything.
  4. Fork – This was more interesting to use and safer. I could make the more obvious straight marks with the four prongs. However, by adding pressure and twisting the fork into the lino, it produced the most successful curves/almost circles so far. It was difficult to achieve a complete circle but was effective none the less. Thickness of line could be varied also by using the fork flat on or sideways. By twisting the end prong into the lino, nice circular holes could be made.
  5. Assortment of keys – I had what appeared to be padlock keys – like small Yale type. These made some scraping marks but did not cut deep. Other keys may have been for bicycle locks – with a stubby cylindrical end with slight variations at the opening. These made some interesting circular marks, particularly where the actual “key” notches were, by pressing and twisting into the lino. Neither made a deep imprint.

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement – numbered 1-10 left to right down the page

  6. Pastry cutter wheel – Why is it the implements that you would assume make the most interesting marks turn out the least successful? It made minimal impact on the lino although  the faint marks were attractive – I’m not convinced they will print at all.
  7. Smaller flat head screwdriver – this was a little sharper than the first screwdriver and also made good wiggly marks. As this was a little smaller and easier to handle, I tried using it as if drawing rather than cutting and it could be useful for texturing marks.
  8. Small pair of scissors – Using the tips of the blades and actually scissoring  into the lino, made interesting pairs of marks that were not at all symmetrical. I also used just one blade and “drew” with it. Producing slightly curved lines was possible this way. I also managed to gouge circles with just one blade point.
  9. 7cm long brass screw – I thought I’d be able to draw and make lines with the pointed end, but no – it wouldn’t move in the lino. It did however, make good stabbing marks on its point and slightly angled. I tried using it on its side with the spirals but nothing at all appeared. The screw head also failed to make an impression.
  10. Fruit zester – After the pastry cutter, I did not hold out much hope. However, this actually had the best gouging capabilities although it seemed to blunt quite quickly. It could make light marks similar to fret work patterns, or by  exerting more pressure, make deeper ones although not for such a long stretch. It could also, be dug in and twisted  to give a set of curves. Using it sideways gave fairly ordinary faint lines.

    Print from test lino block

    Print from test lino block – as reversed, the sections are numbered 1-10 right to left down the page

Once I’d completed my ten squares of experimental marks, I prepared some red oil based ink and some A3 sheets of cartridge paper. I pulled two prints which were a little faint, replicating the lack of intensity I had experienced in Project 8. Then I remembered reading that dampening the printing paper may help the ink adhere more successfully. This I did by wetting both sides of the paper sheets and then pressing them between sections of kitchen paper – this made the paper consistently damp but not wet. This worked much better and my next two prints were sharp and intense in colour.

Looking at my test prints, apart from random scratches and more organic marks and shapes, some of the implements used have created quite an urban and/or industrial feel. I then reviewed my test print of marks to establish the most successful of the selection. These proved to be:

  • Small flat head screwdriver (1) – wiggled side to side and reminded me of cogs/wheels/chains. If they could be made into arcs, it would be reminiscent of gearing. Some of the other marks could be sparks flying from a furnace or welding equipment.

    Review of best marks from the selection

    Review of best marks from the selection

  • Stanley knife (3) – using the corner of the blade, these have the irregular appearance of  globules of molten metal being flung through the air. Other very thin strokes made by the knife didn’t actually leave a white mark but, instead, a darker line or streak where the ink collected. These could be the “tail” a bright light leaves in the vision after it has  gone.
  • Smaller flat head screwdriver (7) and 7cm brass screw (9) – both used in stabbing and flicking motions gave a varied set of marks in both size and depth. both 7 and 9 placed in my mind the pitted mark that molten metal can scar other metal surfaces – as if sparks were flying around and landing on other things in their vicinity. This fits in with the other elements mentioned.
  • Fruit zester (10) – These marks remind me of grids or lattice – particularly in metal, looking through railings or bars/portcullis and such rusty metal structures. Because I had used red ink, I think this made me think of heat, the shapes I discovered made me think industrial – therefore metal or steel works.

I then made thumbnail sketches trying to develop and expand on these ideas for my experimental lino print.

Thumbnails of ideas to explore

Thumbnails of ideas to explore

 

Considering colour to emphasise atmosphere for the experimental lino print:

Colour tests for print

Colour tests for print

The colours I would choose would have a large impact on the atmosphere I wanted to convey. I wanted to show heat and bright white light that would reach into dark, musty corners of a workshop or industrial steel works. I had some inks that would be useful in orange, brown and copper but they were water-soluble, plus I needed some other colours to help create the vision I had. As needs must, I had another attempt at using acrylic paint mixed with printing block medium and experimented with yellow, red and ultramarine blue. Once mixed in and left for a few minutes, the medium became tacky enough to obtain that “sound” when rolled which indicates it’s the right consistency. I wasn’t sure whether to mix some colours or just layer them to give a subtle overlaid colour mixing effect. I settled for a combination, the yellow and orange were fairly “out of the box”. I had an “iron” brown, that when mixed with copper produced a less flat colour with a hint of metallic. My main challenge was the dark – I’d tried mixing and layering the brown and ultramarine but neither method quite got dark enough. In the end, I decided to mix a little black ink with the ultramarine but also to dab off a little of it from the block after rollering from the lighter areas. This worked well to give depth in the darker corners and fine outline around the shapes.

Instead of drawing out the shapes on the lino, I just worked freehand reversing the drawings in the thumbnails so that it would print the right way round. My main mistake was not creating a cardboard jig for registering each layer accurately, I thought I could make it work by drawing guidelines on paper to align each colour because I was working so small (A5). I was very wrong and this spoiled what could have been a very interesting print. However, there’s no point making mistakes unless you learn from them and this has been one big lesson. Another lesson learnt was that when experimenting with other cutting tools etc, the same materials should be used in the actual work otherwise similar results can not be guaranteed. I used easy cut for the test block and grey lino for the final print block. They reacted in different ways to the zester tool for example. It had become a little blunt from the mark making trials anyway, and then using it on actual lino, which is much harder changed the marks considerably. I tried a few samples on some off-cuts of brown lino, which is harder than the grey but I gained more understanding by doing that.

 

Below are the four prints taken using the reductive technique and non lino cutting tools. The registration is very hit and miss and this has had a major detrimental effect on the result. However, I still like the prints – the atmosphere has been captured, the marks are very abstract and can suggest different images. My intention had been to create an illusion of hot, sweaty, noisy, dark with blasts of light and sparks place of industry and some elements of that have worked. I can also see an urban landscape depicted in almost thermal imaging of rows of terraced houses, factories etc – maybe the light source is the sun, maybe it’s just a flash of electricity emphasising the man-made world? When I showed my husband he saw an aerial view of where we live –  next to a large (dormant I hasten to add) volcano that has an urbanisation growing up around it – you may almost imagine the volcano coming to life and threatening the civilisation beneath it. I know this is probably the opposite to the intention of most print editions but I also like that there are differences between each one because of the dabbing off of the dark ink. It’s almost as if they are time-lapse photos of the same scene.

The final edition of four prints

The final edition of four prints

My favourites are, I think, 2 and 3.

Print 2 of 4

Print 2 of 4

 

Print 3 of 4

Print 3 of 4

 

Anyway, enough of being fanciful – the registration was still rubbish!

 

Research Point: Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints

06 & 09/01/17

Research Point: Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints

Now look at the work of Clare Curtis or Mark Hearld, both contemporary printmakers, and look closely at how their prints are created. What makes them work? Are there any techniques you could re-use? 

I had a look at both printmakers suggested and had intended to concentrate on Mark Hearld, however, I had another look at Clare Curtis’ work and decided to consider both of them.

Initially, they both use nature predominantly in their work, taking inspiration from the environment around them, although Clare appears to lean towards more of a narrative. Her prints have included a human element with bringing in the suburban and some figurative subjects.

I had a look through the internet searches, however, a lot if not most of her work is recorded on her website. I noticed that there appears to be overlaid transparent colour and almost inconsequential  marks that add interest and liveliness to a scene as a whole. One print I particularly liked, (it is on the page that opens on the previous link), is “Coppicing”. It has a simplification of objects yet a complex composition. Structures in the print pull your eye around it and has many places for it to rest and contemplate as any good image should. The colours are complementary with black/grey dramatic shapes pulling them all together – I see more each time I look at it. Elements are repeated in other prints, once an object is part of a composition it is not discarded but re-used in other scenes e.g. the tree trunk in “Coppicing” appears again in “Woodland” but in reverse, in other colour-ways. One is a linocut, the other is a lithograph. I like the flow of ideas from one technique to another and she says that she often combines techniques within the same image. Colour is used to great effect, particularly complementary colours, which are sometimes muted for subtlety yet still give drama by their juxtaposition. I particularly liked this in the oranges and blues of “Wordsworth’s House” and the pinks and sage greens of “Aeonium”.

From looking at these works of Clare Curtis, I am struck by the mark making, use of apparently unrelated shapes and the simple colour choices that add depth and complexity to the image. Comparing these with my efforts, even with all the planning of Project 8, my images are far too simplistic. I need to make more of the elements of my images with a variety of marks, and also consider the use of less colours. I should make fewer colours work harder for me by overlaying transparent colour and considering which goes next to another. I have also noticed that I tend to avoid the addition of black in my colour images – why is that? I have previously mentioned that I like the outlining in other research and the way that black is used to denote tone, yet I haven’t taken advantage of it myself. Maybe I think too much in flat colour, I should draw on my painting and tonal work to incorporate the black hatching and mark making. I am thinking back to the Monoprinting assignment, where I used templates of vases in different sizes and orientations, overlaying them to make interesting abstract images. I need to bring all these things I have previously learnt to the table and not think in isolation. As they say, I need to mix it up a bit!

Final Print for Project 4

Final Print for Project 4

I also watched a few YouTube videos of Mark Hearld’s work and processes. He, like Clare, uses nature as his inspiration and builds images and designs from motifs he finds around him on his walks in the countryside. Whereas Clare often follows a narrative and has many book illustrations to her credit, Mark has followed a path into design, fabric design being most prevalent.

I found this short film interesting as an insight into Mark’s thought processes and journey. I watched this last Friday and tried, over the weekend, to assimilate the content of this and other films that I viewed. Of course, there are many similar aspects from most printmakers, however, I found it interesting that both Mark and Clare were advocates and practitioners of collage. I haven’t tried much collage myself, apart from at school many years ago, it did however, make sense that these two media would inform each other by the overlaying of shapes, colours and textures. Mark says that he thinks in layers, which I now realise is key to producing interesting prints. Printed images are of course created in layers. Is this why my print images are flat and simplistic, I wonder? Layers create depth and interest – if I think of the flat finished article before I even begin, this must ignore many aspects I could explore to create interest! Maybe I could use collage as a tool to work through ideas rather than just relying on drawing. It is an extension of the back, mid and foreground of any painting composition.

Techniques to Consider

  • Introduce black as a tool for outline, texture and tone
  • Consider keeping elements of an image simple, yet introduce complexity in the composition
  • Draw on previous experience such as drawing, painting and monoprinting to bring interest to a composition
  • Use less colours but make them work harder by overlaying, considering juxtaposition and texture
  • Explore non representational mark making to add life
  • Consider using collage when working through ideas
  • Think in layers rather than a flat image to incorporate depth in an image
  • Let things happen!

 

Project 8: Reduction Method Linocutting

18/10 – 05/12/16

Project 8: Reduction Method Linocutting

In this project  you will learn how to cut and print a multi-coloured linoprint from a single block of lino. This is called the reduction method.

Preparing Your Design

Following on from tutor feedback, I had decided to try to expand on a subject that I was exploring as my personal voice. That being misogyny perpetrated by other women, which is a puzzling subject – however, I decided to be brave and zoom in on a very personal angle. From my experience of not having children, I was surprised and often quite hurt by the attitude of those lucky enough to be mothers. Assumptions abounded that I was selfish, career driven, cold and unfeeling. The question “Do you have children?” became, from my perception, almost accusatory and, with my answer in the negative, I felt the superiority dripping from my interrogator’s words. Due to the frequency of my own “near misses” shall we say, this feeling was reinforced many times.

As my sketchbook was in transit between the UK and Lanzarote, I resorted to using roughly A5 sized paper to work through my design, these I joined together horizontally to create a long, type of story board. This worked well as each page was visible as I progressed my thoughts. I began with the positive aspect of my subject, looking at general symbols for fertility such as the Madonna and Child, Lotus flowers and the moon. Others were explored for example, elephants, cats, frogs and pomegranates. As I moved along with my thoughts a circular motif evolved, which naturally gravitated to include the moon, lotus flower and the Madonna and Child. I also felt I needed text to help illustrate the meaning behind these symbols. I tried sentences, yet they seemed too explanatory, I felt that just relevant words would be better for both establishing meaning and composition, yet leaving a little interpretation to be made by the viewer. I think I was subconsciously inspired by a video my tutor suggested I watch, of Angela Cavalieri creating a large-scale linoprint. She drew with words to create her work which also heavily relied on symbolism. I watched this several times and once more to write  this blog – my efforts seem extremely elementary in comparison but I still feel they do the job required of them. However, on reflection, I could have maybe curved them around the centre pieces to accentuate the cyclical element – maybe I missed a trick there?  After working on the positive, I needed to address the negative, which after all, was the more personal experience to me.

Following a similar principle, after a little experimentation, I decided to work with a circular motif again, although this time in a wreath style. This alluded to remembrance and I felt drawn to the Christmas Rose flower for the wreath. As tears were many during these times, they began to formulate into a constant shape throughout the images, I considered hearts both whole and broken, however, I felt this was too obvious and pulled away from the shapes I wanted to use. As with the previous image, I worked in thumbnail sizes, evaluating the overall appearance and composition and how it was to symbolise my message. The fetus shape contained within the main tear drop is, hopefully, not too gruesome but a simple representation of what is lost so early in its life. The Christmas Roses signifying the number that was lost and the three small tear drops the average number of months of those lives.

After both sets of thumbnails, I began to think of creating a diptych type print as, the images would make more sense as a pair. To this end, it was important to refer backwards and forwards between the two, they were opposites, yet joined as if two sides of a coin. As both images were circular, I needed to think about the space they were placed in. I felt that a square frame was ideal, plus when they were placed next to each other in the jig for printing, I would have a rectangular whole image made from the two images.

As I worked, I discovered that, and then exaggerated, the tear drop shape was repeated in both the positive and negative images. After all it is common to have both happy and sad tears. This was another factor that linked the two. The Madonna and Child were simply indicated by two tear drop shapes combine together and even the highlights on their faces resembled a tear drop.

The next thing for both images was to explore the text aspect. I knew I was making it harder for myself but the subject was too important to me for half measures. I felt that I should make the lettering soft and not “type cast” and uniform. The actual words to use must also reflect my perceptions and make the viewer ask their own questions. I suppose my objective is to make those that have successful outcomes consider the feelings of those who don’t – it is not a medal of achievement and therefore, the opposite should not be of failure. It is just the way it is.

Colour was also important – I wanted them to be representational, they had to be fairly minimal in number and had to be uniform across the two images. I decided to keep the text white, the robes of Madonna and child the traditional blue along with the text background and tears, with silvery grey for both moon shapes, flesh/peach for the faces and the internal petals of the lotus flower and the Christmas Roses and finally a deep red for accentuating elements of the roses, the outer lotus flower petals and the main tear drop. With a little experimentation these fell into place nicely. I had considered a final black outline on the main objects but after printing the blue, felt that this would deaden any subtlety that remained.

I was really pleased with the final designs and was keen to get going.

Planning process for the positive image:

Planning process for negative image:

I transferred the designs on to two pieces of lino cut to the size and shape I had determined using the scaled designs from my sketchbook, that being 15x15cm square. This was also in response to suggestions by my tutor, where she rightly surmised that I had worked to the scale and shape of the pre-cut lino block and not through any real thought process. I had also decided to add a thin border line, purposely making the internal line ruler straight and the outer more ragged/natural, this being left white like the text it would contain. Using tracing paper to follow the outline from the drawings and being mindful to reverse the image when transferring to the lino – particularly important with the text element! As the lino was going to be cut in sequence and frequently washed of used ink, I enhanced the outlines with indelible pen.

 

The Cutting Process

I took my time during the planning to work through in which order I would print the colours and therefore considered carefully how to proceed with the cutting of the lino. I worked through the colours in pencil on my sketches and then hatched out each stage to ensure I was cutting the right lines – no going back!

I was using genuine lino this time so was careful to keep warming the surface with a hairdryer to make cutting easier. Although I was using many different shapes and lines, I couldn’t quite see how to incorporate a variety of mark making – maybe a different subject would be more appropriate for this.

I took rubbings of each stage to check the success of cutting before each different colour was printed. See below:

In between cuts, prints were taken as documented in my sketchbook. I only have the three primary colours and black oil based inks. As I needed to mix pale colours for two of the print runs, I decided to try Titanium White oil paint to mix with the inks as necessary. The first colour being a pale pink/peach colour using white, a little red and even less yellow. The mix was just right in shade and with the addition of a little linseed oil, appeared to be the right consistency. The next print run was to be a pale silvery grey and consisted of white, a little blue and minute amount of red – again this was very successful and with a little linseed oil, printed very nicely.

Surprisingly, my most challenging prints were the straight colours of red and blue. I again mixed a little linseed oil with each, as I have done with all the oil inks so far with success. This time, however, the coverage was sporadic and varied in both colours. This was very disappointing as these solid colours really needed to be just that. I was convinced, because of my previous use of the same inks, that my prints would be successful particularly at this stage, the hurdle, I thought, would have been the mix of white oil paint. This was one challenge, the other was my registration jig.

I had created a jig of cardboard for both lino cuts, with apertures for each square measured out equidistant horizontally and vertically to place the two images centrally in an A3 sheet of paper. I marked where the A3 sheets should be placed to maintain registration. There did seem to be a millimetre or two of play in the apertures which gave a couple of instances of misalignment in my printing. The main problem occurred where the printing paper got marked and made the printing a little messy. The main culprits being:

  • an unnoticed crease in the cardboard where I had cut the apertures, which eventually picked up ink and printed
  • a stray fibre or two from the lino, which again picked up ink

Having noticed this, I snipped off the offending strands – and checked for any subsequent ones and also masked the apertures with tape when inking, and removed it before printing (except for one occasion where I forgot!).

Below are some work in progress photos following the process:

 

The paper used was a heavy weight cartridge paper size A3. The inks were Sakura Printing Oil Colour in Red (19), Yellow (3), Prussian Blue (43) with a mix of Titanium White Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour. I attempted a run of 12, bearing in mind potential losses and an artist’s proof, I was looking at an edition of 8 prints. I am still at a loss as to why the red and blue inks did not print consistently as the lino was well inked but not over inked, the burnishing was thorough and it didn’t seem to matter I let each colour dry thoroughly before applying the next. There seemed to not be a common denominator other than it being out of the tube and mixed with a little linseed oil. I will have to do further research. I don’t even think a press would have made a difference so I can’t blame my tools!

So in conclusion, up until the third and fourth colours, I was very happy with the progress. My greatest leap forward was with the subject and its personal connection. I feel that I depicted my thoughts well, which I admit did get a little dark at times, however, I feel the overall vision was more positive and pleasing to look at regardless and in spite of the message. It was also therapeutic for me, and has left me with a sense of making the best of what I have and still finding happiness – in life (except for the last two colours – in my prints!!).

Sample print from an edition of eight

Sample print from an edition of eight

The above sample probably shows the best registration but unfortunately is a little patchy and not overly clean around its edges.

Below are close-ups of each square image.

 

 

Close up (warts and all) of the positive print in square format

Close up (warts and all) of the positive print in square format

Close up (warts and all) of the negative print image in square format

Close up (warts and all) of the negative print image in square format