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!

 

Assignment 2: First Relief Prints

28/09/16

Assignment 2: First Relief Prints

Submissions:

Task 1 (Project 5):

 

Two printed test cuts (mark making).

 

Task 2 (Project 6):

 

Three single colour linocut prints

 

 

Other single colour linocuts

 

Task 3 (Project 7):

 

Three multi-block prints

 

 

One impression in a single colour of individual lino blocks

In Addition

To support your work you will have drawings, comments and ideas for further experiments in your learning log.

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments  "Contrasts & Female Misogyny" Ideas

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments
“Contrasts & Female Misogyny” Ideas

I have been exploring concepts and ideas with meaning and an emotional connection to me. I have considered contrasts as a subject, which has been explored in page 19 of my sketchbook, and also a subject that strikes me often in everyday life and news, misogyny by other women. I have encountered this first hand throughout life and it never fails to surprise and disappoint me – from school days when apparent friends discuss others’ faults behind their backs, to the workplace (particularly in male dominated environments) where a female manager saw others as a threat, to mothers judging childless women as lesser emotional beings. These occasions are frequent, however, they are dealt with by conflict or taking the higher ground as appropriate. It is particularly prevalent in today’s society, where social media (a misnomer if ever I heard one – more anti-social), is used by anonymous keyboard warriors to spill their vitriolic opinions. However, I am interested in exploring why this is the case. During my brain storming, it transpired that the latter example was the one that meant the most to me. It is a personal journey that I am beginning and may be cause some offence and indignation to some, however, that is exactly how I have felt on many occasions being the recipient of such judgement.

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments  "Contrasts & Female Misogyny" General Brainstorming

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments
“Contrasts & Female Misogyny” General Brainstorming

How can this be brought into my artwork? That is a very good question, and is probably why I have not tackled the conceptual element of art so far. However, working through my thoughts and feelings in my sketchbook is beginning to forge a path through the minefield (pages 19, 27-29). I have come to the conclusion that it is best tackled in a series of images and considering that this is a printing course, the use of symbols is a good place to start. I am also exploring the use of text within an image. I concede that these are not original elements, however, I am hoping that they will put across the message. The message that everyone has their story and is entitled to their privacy and not to be judged unfairly or cruelly.

 

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments  "Female Misogyny" Mothers - Childless

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments
“Female Misogyny” Mothers – Childless

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments  "Contrasts & Female Misogyny" Mothers - Childless - Totem Pole Designs

Concepts and Ideas for Further Experiments
“Contrasts & Female Misogyny” Mothers – Childless – Totem Pole Designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTION AGAINST ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

Materials:

This was a big learning curve, from the Soft Cut to authentic lino, water-based to oil-based inks and different types of paper. I have discovered a preference for authentic lino and oil-based inks, types of paper will be an ongoing experiment and often depends on the outcome of the proof print.

Techniques:

Learning which type of cutting tools to use for the desired effect will be ongoing. I was particularly held back when cutting away larger areas that I didn’t want printed until I thought about using the square ended tool. The registering of the paper and block successfully is crucial to a clean print, particularly when using multi-blocks. I had some success with both methods, by eye and using a jig, however, as noted in my write-up, the jig method gave me more confidence. The multi-block linoprints were a lot of work, however, they are versatile in that I could make the required change to the first block, which I wouldn’t have been able to do with the reductive technique (not that I’ve tried it yet).

Observational Skills:

Looking for suitable subjects appropriate to single colour and multi-block techniques, and to my current skill level was sometimes difficult. Composition is still key and I drew on previous courses to consider fore, mid and background, the rule of thirds, using the frame to fill the space, playing with scale etc.

Quality of Outcome

The single colour linoprints were of variable quality due to the subject and materials chosen plus obviously, skill level. My favourite composition for the single linoprint was of Montana Roja, even though I forgot to reverse the transfer! I still feel it has impact and am pleased with the marks replicating the light and dark, texture, scale and perspective elements. I would like to try this subject again, the right way round, in the future. Regarding the multi-colour linoprint, I am relatively pleased with the result for a first ever attempt. However, I can see may improvements to develop:

  • Use genuine lino for the block to increase crispness of cut
  • Be more adventurous regarding the detail marks as was begun in the flower bud/sheath.
  • Introduce outline where appropriate

Application of Knowledge:

I think this played a big part in my subject choices. Previous courses in drawing and painting influenced how I structured my compositions as note above.

Presentation:

This improved throughout the projects. Initially the test prints were a little messy on the edges. As I progressed I was more aware of superfluous marks and smudges and tried to eradicate them prior to actually printing the image. I haven’t addressed the subject of editioning as yet because I haven’t had a long print run – although I have taken on board the theory.

Discernment:

This is improving, which is probably why I stalled for so long during Project 7. I felt that the initial composition wasn’t right for several reasons and it was not until I found my subject by accident that I was happy to continue. Selecting the most successful prints is becoming easier too. I am extremely self-critical and will continue to be so, however, I have to accept that I am learning and “mistakes” are a crucial part of that process. Sometimes “mistakes” are actually more exciting as I noticed in the first multi-block print where the orange infiltrated the background. Had it not also contaminated the actual flower,I would have preferred it to the attempt at “perfection”. Perfection, whatever that is, is becoming more monotonous to me.

Conceptualisation of Thoughts:

This is still in its infancy – I have concentrated on learning the techniques so far. However, I am being encouraged to attack this more confidently by my tutor. I have begun to formulate an idea to take forward. this is being explored in my sketchbook. I need to consider symbolism, the message and the image itself and I am now excited to push this further.

Demonstration of Creativity

Imagination:

My main learning process so far has been from life – trying to attain proportion, accuracy, perspective etc. All are invaluable aspects and skills, however, I feel at the expense of my intuition, imagination and creativity. The exploration of my embryonic conceptual idea is going to push this forward and I am feeling more confident that I can explore more deeply into my own feelings.

I enjoy experimenting with different media and effects and I think this will help me with bringing out my imagination and creativity. I feel that I can often see the unusual in the ordinary and trying to reproduce this vision is what is going to aid me with fulfilling this criteria.

Context

This is a skill in itself. I am now more questioning, observant and critical when researching and viewing other artists’ work. I look deeper, not just at the technical aspects, but for what is being said and why. I am more intrigued with the ambiguous and expressive. I would rather return to such works many times and still come away with questions as well as answers. I feel art should make the viewer work to fully appreciate it. That is a tall order to give myself, I realise.

 

Project 7: Multi-block Linoprint

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.

Multi-block Linocut Image 1 Compositional planning A4 sketchbook

Multi-block Linocut Image 1
Compositional planning A4 sketchbook

Multi-block Linocut Image 1 Colour planning A4 sketchbook

Multi-block Linocut Image 1
Colour planning A4 sketchbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”.

Multi-block Linoprint. Print 2 for method 2 of registering

Multi-block Linoprint. Print 2 for method 2 of registering

 

Summary

  • 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.