Project 6: Single Colour Linocut – continued

15 – 17/08/16

Further Single Colour Linocuts

I decided to explore my other sketches and attempt further single colour linocuts.

Initial inspirational sketches from around me. Pencil in A4 sketchbook

Initial inspirational sketches from around me.
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

A neighbouring villa was interesting due to the mid afternoon shadows cast by its various elevations. I needed to simplify the image and remove the additional extensions which would have added confusion in the monochrome reproduction. I also felt I needed to include some of the plants around it as it would have been too stark and “man-made” without them.

The sketch I made from life was more interesting as the sea was never still and the volcanic rocks appeared almost uniform en mass, yet were very individual on closer inspection. I was challenged by how to make the waves recognisable, how to delineate the sky from the sea effectively and how to create convincing rocks all in monochrome.

 

 

White pencil on black paper sketches of villa and coastal images

White pencil on black paper sketches of villa and coastal images

 

 

I began as before, by drawing in white pencil on black paper. At this stage, I felt that both images would work successfully as a single colour linocut.

I decided to work on the coastline scene first of all as I had more of an affinity with it. This is probably because I sketched from life.  However, as I reviewed the white on black drawing, I felt that the rocks needed more individuality. I then decided to make some studies of the rock to try to become more familiar with its character.

 

 

Coastal Scene Linocut

The following gallery shows the process from white on black sketch to cutting the lino block. To increase interest, two of the rock studies were also traced and transferred to the lino, this was to give a definite fore, middle and background composition.

 

 

Following on from the first proof rubbing, I took a couple of prints, first on newsprint and then on light weight cartridge paper.

Coastal scene - first prints for review on newsprint and on light weight cartridge A4 paper.

Coastal scene – first prints for review on newsprint and on light weight cartridge A4 paper.

 

From these early prints, which are more easily judged for accuracy and success than the proof rubbings, I made some observations and notes for amendments. Those being:

  • The foam coming in to the beach needs to be more horizontal – less slanted
  • The sea goes a little uphill on the right of the horizon
  • The rock from my study looks more like a face
  • Think I prefer the softer white of the newsprint to the bright white cartridge paper

Taking these into consideration, I made some revised cuts and amendments.

 

 

 

 

Coastal scene - selected final print on heavy weight, off-white A4 cartridge paper.

Coastal scene – selected final print on heavy weight, off-white A4 cartridge paper.

 

Self Critique

  • Pleased with the sky, it has a definite separation from the sea, yet has some movement and gives perspective with the varied marks.
  • Once rectified, the horizon is clear and level but has movement.
  • The sea, up to the foam is quite successful, although, I think I cut away too much for the sea spray on the left wave.
  • I was disappointed with the sea-foam, which worked really well in the white on black drawing. Again, I think I cut away too much when trying to amend this part of the image.
  • The rocks were my main disappointment. I think by tracing in my studies in an attempt to increase interest, I made my transferred drawing too confusing to follow, especially as it was in reverse to the original sketch.
  • I don’t think there is enough delineation between the sea and the rocks so the image merges everything together
  • I am, having said all that, glad I tried it though. It is a matter of practice and becoming used to working in reverse. It is an ambitious image for my second lino block and taking that into consideration it turned out better than maybe it should have.

 

Villa

After an ambitious couple of images with much texture, I thought it may be a nice change to go for more man-made shapes and angles. The neighbouring villa, obviously was still there for me to use as reference alongside my original sketch.  The lighting was a little different as it was later in the day, so I decided to stick with my original image for that.

I also decided to try actual lino instead of the artificial, soft cut substitute. Again, using the white on black drawing, I transferred the image in reverse onto the lino. The main “white” or negative lines and shapes were cut out first. I find that, sometimes, I can become too engrossed and forget to change the blade to a more appropriate size or shape, which I did here on the  pillars at the front. This took a little too much out of the sides where they should have been in shadow. I may just have rescued them by widening the pillars themselves.  It was also tricky defining the varied blocks in the volcanic wall – which is built in a similar way to dry stone walls by wedging differing shaped and sized rocks together. There is no mortar holding them together and the crevices between blocks are dark and the blocks themselves can reflect quite a lot of the sunlight.  I tried to replicate this, however, with plants and leaves in front I had to ensure they didn’t merge together and held their own definition.

I tried to give the image a sense of place by lightly indicating the planes in the background and additional shrubs in the front.

On the whole this worked ok, although, I don’t find it as engaging as the other two designs.

 

 

I took a few prints on newsprint, light weight bright white cartridge and heavy weight cartridge paper. The bright white paper appealed to me the most as it symbolised the bright afternoon sunlight.

Villa - selected final print on A4 bright white light weight cartridge paper

Villa – selected final print
on A4 bright white light weight cartridge paper

Comparing Substitute, Soft Cut Lino with Genuine Lino Blocks

Substitute, soft cut lino blocks were all I could get before moving away. My observations were:

  • They are very easy to cut into, although, maybe too easy at times.
  • Trying to achieve a clean end to the cut was difficult and a lot of quickly made marks for texture were inadvertently left “feathery” and not sharp.
  • I felt it would be easy to cut right through – and at the edges I did at times.
  • As I only used these for the more textural images – the soft cut may have had an advantage for these marks.
  • Transferred drawings were easy to see and follow.

Genuine Lino – I had a few blocks from years ago that I had never used.

  • Had to be warmed for easy cutting – which slowed me down in a more considered way.
  • Much easier to be precise.
  • Cleaner ends to cuts – much sharper finish.
  • Because of the more solid construction, I felt more in control (until the lino cooled too much – the blade could then slip).
  • The main disadvantage, was viewing pencil marks on the darker lino.

On the whole, though I see why the substitute version has been developed, I preferred the feel and handling of the real lino – for now!

 

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Project 6: Single Colour Linocut

10 – 12/08/16

Choosing an Image

Look around you for inspiration. …contains strong light and dark contrasts as well as a variety of textures and shapes.

In my new location in Lanzarote, I don’t have to look far for inspiration. From my window I can see picturesque little villas that follow a similar blueprint but that have been modified by their owners to incorporate their individuality. From my front door, I have a view of a spectacular volcanic mountain and at the end of our road there is a dramatic rocky, volcanic coastline with the Atlantic Ocean crashing against it.

I made sketches of a neighbours villa and, during my morning dog walk, I sat on the rocks and drew a little view of the coast.  I had previously begun a painting of the mountain, Montana Roja, from a sketch so decided to use that also as an option.

 

To help me decide which image to use as my main single colour linocut, I made simplified drawings of each on black paper with white pencil to aid the visualisation of any subsequent print. This was extremely helpful, as the thinking in reverse or negative is quite tricky if not used to doing so.

 

As noted in my sketchbook – I was definitely leaning towards choosing the mountain as my image, but decided to wait until the next day and sleep on it.

Planning your Image

Using your developed sketch you are now going to transfer the design onto black or any other dark coloured paper. This will represent the way your cutting in the lino will appear when printed. It also helps you understand the way cutting areas away to represent the white in your design works.

Ah – and there was me thinking I was “cheating” yesterday. This was definitely worth doing and has endorsed my first choice of the mountain to make my main image.

Reverse your Design on the Lino

Now this will teach me for thinking I was clever earlier. With so much brain intervention, I did indeed trace the image to transfer it to the lino but inexplicably, forgot the “turning over” bit. I reproduced a simple outline of the image and transferred it the same way round on to the lino!

First Cuts

As advised, I cut the basic outlines to establish placement and then using the white on black drawing as a guide, cut textured marks to help describe the fissures, contours, shapes and tones of the mountain. I referred back to the mark making exercise linocut to help inform which tools to use and how. I was keen to ensure that the silhouetted rear peak was clear against a lighter sky, yet maintained the dark sky where the sun hit the main summit.

I took a few proof rubbings to test the effectiveness of my cuts, and found I needed to lighten the sky over the dark peak, sharpen the outline of the mountain and also integrate the light and dark areas of sky. (Some of this was clearer after the first one or two prints I must add.)

 

Even the proofs did not alert me to the fact that I hadn’t reversed the image – they, of course being rubbings, came out the correct way!

Printing your Lino

I decided to stick to black ink as it commands a sense of drama that is befitting a mountain! I prepared some A4 sheets of paper, using newsprint, some inexpensive cartridge paper and some specifically purchased medium weight printing paper. I had bought some equipment and paper prior to leaving the UK, however, as it was in a container goodness knows where for 3-4 weeks, I’ve completely forgotten what paper I’d ordered – so a surprise for me!

After printing a couple of runs on newsprint first, I decided to sharpen some cuts and extend the lighter sky as mentioned above. My initial euphoria at viewing the printed image was dampened by the frustration of the realisation that I had not reversed the image before cutting! How disappointing! I am still pleased with the marks and texture, it’s just back to front. Well, mistakes are for learning from!

Below are the three best prints out of the batch:

 

I think my favourite, being on bright white paper and probably the sharpest print is the cartridge paper.

Montana Roja A4 Bright White Cartridge Paper

Montana Roja
A4 Bright White Cartridge Paper

My Thoughts:

What went wrong?

  • A little more sharpness and clarity in the main outline would be better
  • The lighter sky area could have been stronger on the left edge
  • Yes it would have been a truer image if it was reversed

What went right?

  • The effect of the sun worked just as I’d hoped
  • Using hatching techniques for the distant tonal variations
  • The silhouette of the most distant peak
  • The contrast of black on white, and white on black contour lines
  • The fissures, peaks and troughs
  • Textural marks

All in all, if it wasn’t for the main error (probably don’t need to point it out again!), I am really pleased with this. It is something I have noticed previously, in human and animal portraits and some landscapes, that if I have an affinity with the subject, I feel I have a more successful outcome.

What do you have to take into account in order to create a strong single-colour design?

  • A definite focal point or subject
  • High tonal contrast
  • Simplicity of motif
  • Opportunity for textural mark making

Can you find suitable new drawing techniques which translate into a linocut that have not been included already?

  • Making strong 3 dimensional shapes with blocked tone
  • Using contour lines to describe shape and form rather than outline

I know I will be tempted to try this again – the right way round – in the future. I have after all done all the planning – it’s just cutting and printing!