It’s amazing what inspires ideas

Today I was flattening and tearing up boxes for recycling.  Being too lazy to move from my seat in the sun to go and find a Stanley knife to help carve up some of the larger sections I just set to with my hands.

Then I noticed the multiple layers of alternating flat and corrugated cardboard that made up one of the boxes.

A stretch for some people I’m sure, but the layers made me think of mountains – linocut mountains.

Interesting, but I’m not working on mountains currently, I’m working on a wine and cheese still-life – which isn’t coming together as I’d hoped – but I have a new idea now.  This has unblocked a sticking point I’ve been thinking about.

So back to my planning, and evolving the concept.

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Wine & cheese linocut: Stage 2

I took masses of photos of red wine in a glass from various angles, with and without shadows.  It was refilled once or twice as I needed lubrication from time to time.

I chose the angles that appealed for my still life composition; drew, scanned, resized and printed my template outline.  This gave me sets of blanks to trial different fillings.

As this design will be cut from lino I’m limited in the detail I can achieve and, as my followers may know by now, I love simplified stylization anyway.

These are the best of the bunch and I’ve chosen my preferred one, so time to move on to the next stage – cheese.

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Wine & cheese linocut: Stage 1

I’ve been drawing for days, 20-30 minutes each day, in preparation for my next print project.  I’ve started with a wine glass and have discovered that I lean to the right – how uncannily similar they all are!

Is that because I’m left-handed?

I took a glass (yes, filled with red wine!), photographed it and traced the outline to help with the proportions.  Then I tried a few more freehand.

Not significantly better.

So how do others draw glasses and are their proportions and shaping better than mine?

I turned to the internet.

These looser, more sketchy, images caught my eye.

Determined to draw a glass that looked like it might actually stand I drew one side, traced and reversed it for the other.  I then marked alongside the angles for the rim, wine line, and base.

Taking note of some other internet images I filled in the detail.

A week on from my start point I’m making progress.  This now needs to be translated into something that can be cut into lino.

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Exploring charcoal

I’ve played with charcoal once or twice in the past, never really got to grips with it but interested all the same.  So I joined a short 3 hour introductory class.

Some fun exercises to get used to the different types of charcoal – willow, compressed and pencil – as well as kneadable and Mars erasers.  I’ve always been a big fan of tortillons/blending stumps when drawing, so that item instantly became my best friend.

Standing, using willow charcoal, we rotated from the shoulder allowing a more flowing swinging action, before rubbing back with erasers, paper towel, fingers and blending stumps.

Now you see why we practiced circles.  I allowed myself 15 minutes to portray a sphere with a light source, so it’s not really finished and the shadow isn’t great.  Smudging was inevitable as we were unable to use any fixative.

Still life – Seed pod

The brief given was to create a mid-tone background, fill the whole A4 page, indicate a light source and complete the shadow.
I stuck to my ‘One & Twenty’ constraints to avoid agonising over details and not getting an overall view of the subject completed (one minute to examine the piece and twenty minutes drawing it).  I’ve found this to be an excellent system which works for me.

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The whitest of white

A day of paper-making this week produced some pristine white A4 sheets ready for printing on in a couple of weeks.

Using scraps of recycled cotton rag paper from off-cuts of old prints the result was 20 sheets, smooth on one side, textural on the other – giving me a choice of print outcomes for my upcoming project.

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Printing the new plate

Further to my last post, where I started creating my new collagraph plate (without the large cut away areas), once the Mod Podge solution dried I slashed into the plate surface, glued on some thin cardboard shapes and added some gel medium pressed with a patterned fabric.  The plate was then sealed with 4 layers of Shellac.

Above: before and after Shellac.

The Shellac was interesting as it soaked into my finely cut lines, swelling the cardboard and so further defining the areas.  This is particularly evident on the right hand side of the right image, top and bottom corners where the lines appear thickened.

The carborundum sat well within the Mod Podge but, once dry, it seemed to have sunk to the bottom of the solution and the surface wasn’t really as rough as I’d hoped.

Once the Shellac was brushed over the plate as well I wasn’t sure if I’d get any texture in these areas on my prints at all.  It was a case of fingers crossed and just give it a go.

Trial 1:

I started with the light-weight Chinese cotton as I need two more prints to complete my (very bright, lairy) series of lining sheets for the book.

OK, not bad but I was correct that I’ve lost any texture I was aiming for from the carborundum.

Coverage isn’t bad for a first print but I need to push the ink into the areas surrounding the high points so I get better outline definition.

The honeycomb effect from the fabric pressed into gel medium has come out well, as have the ‘Shellac swelled’ slashes.

Trial 2:

Great coverage.  Thank heavens these coloured prints are done.

Now to the front and back inside linings, in a heavier-weight paper.  My last post showed great results using damp 250gsm BFK Reeves paper.  However, I’m a great fan of Stonehenge, although I know many printmakers aren’t.  It’s less flexible than BFK Reeves but has a super smooth surface that I like.

Inner lining 1:

Bone black ink + 50% extender on 250gsm damp ivory Stonehenge. 

Wow, now that is gorgeous.  Beautiful definition, thrilled with the result.  As you can see, there is a difference in the  image between this print and the previous two.  That’s because this (and the next print) are on smaller pieces of paper.

Inner lining 2:

Bone black ink + 50% extender on 250gsm damp ivory Stonehenge. 

On this one I removed more of the background ink and lightly brushed telephone book paper across the entire surface.  This has crisped the image and (yes!) brought out some of the carborundum texture in my piped lines.

And a full image just for me:

Bone black ink + 50% extender on 250gsm damp ivory Stonehenge.

Great result.  Printing for this project is now complete and in a week or so, when the oil based inks are nicely cured, I’ll start book assembly.

A final note: Always remember that fifth ‘P’ – perseverance.  It doesn’t only relate to print-making you know.

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Printing collagraphs: The next stage

In my last post I talked about the necessity of understanding the type of paper you’re using to print on, depending on the print method.  So, seeing as I still need a few prints on lightweight paper, and I’m using a collagraph method I’ve a new plate underway.

I’m avoiding deep cut away sections and instead have mixed carborundum with Modge Podge (a thick PVA type sealer/glue) and piped it onto a mountboard surface, thus creating high points – the opposite of my previous plates.

Whilst waiting for this to dry, which will probably take most of the day due to the thickness of the solution, I’ve printed my previous plates on soaked and blotted BFK Reeves paper.  I’m determined to see if my detective work (previous post) has paid off and I’ll get perfect prints.

Nope, not yet.  However compared to my previous red print on Chinese cotton there is more ink pick-up on this one.

I’m obviously rubbing away too much ink from the surface, which is also dragging some ink out of the cutouts, reducing the amount that can be printed.

So for the next ones I left more ink on the plate, with the thought that if there was too much transfer to the paper I could carefully and lightly blot them with tissue paper.

Well just look at that.  Two smaller prints with fantastic printed imagery!  Love the linework where each plate abuts the next (sometimes white, sometimes black), the tarlatan imprint on medium is well-defined, the punched circles are bold and definite, and those cutouts are magnificent.

Now that’s what was in my head!!  Front, back and spine of book completed.
New plate for inner lining pages yet to finish.

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