Print 1. Project 7: Research Point

Look at the work of Edward Bawden, and his son, contemporary printmaker Richard Bawden.  Take a close look at how they have worked with multiple blocks.  What can you learn from them?

Edward Bawden (1903-1989)

The first time I came across Edward Bawden was in Printmaking for Beginners by Jane Stobart.  I was impressed with this bold single colour lino print.

EBawden1He shows an excellent eye for the ratio of positive and negative space, interesting subject matter and an engaging composition.  I noted in particular:

  1. thin accurate line work – shields and helmets
  2. fine detail to add texture and depth – knights arms and legs
  3. solid uncarved sections – foreground & some sky
  4. feature subject detail – horses cloaks
  5. open spaces – background around feature subjects (horses)P6-final-H
  6. Corner work – minimal or no cutting of the lino corners (stops the roller dipping into a cut edge and accidentally transferring ink)

I used his lino cut as a start point for my shells print.  Although I’ve depicted a very different topic I consciously included the 6 points above.

A few Edward Bawden multiblock prints with close-up sections:

The Pagoda, Kew Gardens.  1963

The Pagoda, Kew Gardens. 1963

Nine London Monuments – The Horse Guards. 1966

Liverpool Street Station. 1960

Liverpool Street Station. 1960

Edward Bawden was a prolific artist and designer, not only a printmaker but also an illustrator, watercolourist and etcher/engraver.
The three lino prints above are different to other artists work I’ve reviewed in that they are not ‘solid’ prints.  This is evident from the close-up sections I’ve placed next to the images, particularly in the first two prints.

How has this speckling, or fading ink, been done?  My view is that some has been achieved by using rollers with minimal ink, ie: almost ghost printing when the roller has already had the majority of ink removed.  In the first print you can see the roller direction in the background.  The ink seems quite dry and sparse and has not smoothly covered the paper (Note: I’ve spent all my efforts trying to avoid this).  This has enabled Bawden to build up layers creating a very dimensional appearance.  Adding to that effect is the detailed line work and perspective drawing of the pagoda itself.  Those lines are VERY fine.  How on earth has the lino withstood this amount of detailed cutting?  In the close-up view you can also see the fading out of the orange underside of the lower roof and partial shadows on the archways.  I think the orange has been very carefully roller printed but the archway shadows may have been painted in by hand later.  Very hard to say.

Some of the same effects can be seen on The Horse Guards print and the close-up shows a light smattering of colour within the higher rooftop.  How on earth has this been done?  I’ve just been reading about applying caustic soda to lino surface to ‘eat’ away some of the top layer.  Looking at the relevant print samples using this technique I see it is possible to get a more organic speckly effect.  I wonder whether he employed a similar method so he could achieve these less precise and more random light markings, or perhaps they are done with the tiniest amount of residual ink on a roller.

The third print Liverpool Street Station is there firstly because I love it, but mainly to show shadowing effects, both sunlight and shade.  I’m enjoying examining linocut works and trying to work out how many print layers there are because it’s surprising how many different colours you think you see when in fact it is the combination of a few and the clever placement that creates the complex effects.

Tales of Troy and GreeceThis book cover linocut image is more what I expect from lino printing: solid, fairly simplistic but very effective imagery, with even colour throughout the relevant print sections.

So from Edward Bawden I’ve learned that lino printing doesn’t always have to be solid, something I learned during the earlier monoprinting exercises but didn’t consider relevant for lino printing.  His works shown here aren’t huge, all less than 30cm, and he achieves a high degree of detail and very thin line work.  From what I’ve read, that seems easier to do with woodcutting.  Perhaps his lino was a very different type to what we use today as I’m sure crumbling would occur with the lino I use.  It’s worth considering that as he was a professional illustrator and a painter some of his effects may have been created by brush after the lino print was made.  I see that some of his other works are marked ‘lithograph after linocut’ so he is mixing techniques to get the outcomes he wants – a bit like Margaret Preston did.  Many of her linocuts/woodcuts are hand-painted later.

Richard Bawden (1936-)

Edward’s son, Richard, studied painting, printmaking and graphic design and he works mainly with lino, etching and watercolour.  His work often depicts everyday items, things around himself such as room settings, birds, cats, plants and scenic settings.  His lines are crisp, the colours fresh and appealing, the subject matter generally uncontroversial and simplified.

Left: Blue Cat.  Right: Cormorant

Left: Blue Cat. Right: Cormorant

The above prints show two-colour combinations to great effect.  Colour-mixing

In Cormorant in particular there is good colour mix on the lower plumage indicating a low colour pigment ratio to extender medium, creating a translucency whereby the yellow affects the black ink, producing a deep green.

Here you can see where I achieved a similar result using the same colours as in Cormorant.

Blue-Cat-close-upIn my view, what makes Blue Cat work is the strength of the colours matched with the fine cut-away detail.  When looked at close-up it becomes evident that Richard has cut away an edging in the negative space within and around the leafy plant.  As the plant is densely printed this cutting has forced the image to the foreground.  The strength of the plant print against the lighter fine lines of the background causes it to ‘pop’ and stand forward framing the cat, which is definitely further back in the composition.  Very clever.  So far my lino images have been flat with no serious attempt at dimension and depth.


Left: Cat Mint & Irises. Right: Kites at Aldeburgh

On the left we see another two colour print and, again, the artist has cut away a small outline surrounding much of the black foliage where it sits atop the blue sections.  The blue has less substance, is quieter and recedes, with even less intensity where it sits behind the vase of flowers.  The strength, detail and very obvious shadow effect in black, along with the placement of the vase (low in the composition), all help towards forming a realism in the print – a sense of depth.

Kites at Aldeburgh shows us more colour – olive-green, black, blue and orange.  Where the olive-green has been printed over the blue it forms a deeper green, essentially indicating shadow.  I believe the orange has been hand painted in after the print layers have been pulled.  These tiny highlights finish the image off by bringing focal interest and drawing the eye to the higher sections, clearly outside the room.  Once more, some very fine line work.  I just don’t know how lino can be cut into such detail.



In Fireside Richard has drawn on subject matter that is personal to himself.  An article in the UK newspaper The Telegraph states, in part: A picture of a cat by his father hangs over the fireplace. A portrait of his father as a young man is echoed by the pose of the man in the armchair. His cats frolic on the carpet.

Am I right in thinking there are 4 colour layers in this print – blue/black, grey/blue, yellow and orange/russet?  I think that’s it.  The complexity of this image, and others he has created along similar lines, is astounding: the fine cutting, the colour planning for the overlays and the amount of image detail included (look at the carpet pattern alone!).

I’ve found all his works to have an underlying linear feel to them, an order and structure rather than a free-flow.  In fact, quite a planned and ‘arranged’ feel to their compositions and outcomes.

Father and son, both very talented and both with their own individual style.


Edward Bawden:
Jane Stobart, Printmaking for Beginners, Published by A & C Black, London reprinted 2011, Page 24. ISBN 978-0-7136-7463-7

Richard Bawden:
Cat Mint & Irises
Blue Cat
Kites at Aldeburgh


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
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One Response to Print 1. Project 7: Research Point

  1. Pingback: Print 1. Perspective in printing | TactualTextiles

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