Drawing: ‘Shrink’ figures

Inspired by a couple of blogs I follow, both owners being amazing at drawing, a couple of weeks ago I bought a book on figure drawing.

It’s unusual for me to follow a blog based around the talent of a person able to depict the most amazing renditions of figures and not feel daunted.  But for once I feel inspired.  I see these bloggers sketching people they see on the train (and making up stories about them! Love it), catching their kids and families and even bringing iconic TV and film figures to life.

OK, so what they do is beyond me, but on occasion they post about their own uncertainties, their own creative journeys and expectations.  It reminds me that everyone is human and I need to accept that I’ll be working to my own capacity and , hopefully, I can be satisfied with that.

So, starting on page one of my new ‘best friend’ book I got out some drawing materials and continued with my one & twenty drawing routine (one minute to look and think about what is in front of me and twenty minutes to draw).  The idea, at this initial stage, is to just do something and not to agonise over it.  In other words, I need to shove my personality into a dark box out of sight!

The foreword to this section reads (in part):
The fear of drawing people incorrectly can be inhibiting … Quickly drawing miniature figures relieves the pressure to achieve something grand.

Got it.  Understood.  I took a box of kids crayons.  I mean, really, how well can you draw with them?  Touch the paper and they instantly blunt into a fat misshapen blob.  Guaranteed not to get a good result – just what I’m after!You enjoying having a good laugh?  Yeah, me too!!  But it’s a fun start.  Gosh I’m rubbish at this but who actually cares?

Looking carefully at my ‘blobs’ I see that on quite a few the proportions aren’t actually too bad (except the guy with the conical head perhaps!).

There’s a bit of life, some movement (even if I’m sure my limbs don’t necessarily bend in those positions) and I can distinguish ‘body parts’.

A quick trip to the gym and I was back at it.  Thought I’d show some of the exercises I did.

Well, what can I say?  Thank heavens this section is entitled “Shrink”!!
On to page 2.
Hope I’ve brought a smile to your face today, because I’m grinning from ear to ear.

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Linear Containment: Book assembled

For anyone following my Linear Containment theme over the last 6 months or so (which evolved from earlier prints in 2017) it might seem I would never get my work into some sort of final project, but you would be wrong.  My artist book has now been assembled.

A short recap:

I started with a set of monoprints in January.

I continued with collagraphs for front, back and spine:

Using various new collagraph plates I created a range of brightly coloured lining pages.

Then continued with the collagraph plates, changing colour, I created the inside front and back lining pages.

As soon as all pages were lined and all folding completed, I put the book together using woven pamphlet stitch and bookbinding linen thread.

The front cover was attached to the spine using ‘antique’ style split pins, whilst the back was stitched to the spine with a plain running stitch.

The concertina spine, being very robust (BFK 250gsm paper, bookbinding tape and lining sheet) held its shape extremely well as I wove, keeping an even tension both vertically and horizontally.  There’s quite a knack to this and I’ve created a good system for adjusting as I go to ensure each section remains evenly spaced.

So that’s it, in one piece.  Those dazzling lining prints don’t look so bad now, do they?  Is it finished?  Not quite.  The front and back covers will be varnished to enhance both the printing ink colours and the rigidity.

And my brightly coloured lining pages need filling with content (what’s an artist book without masses of content, layers of meaning, visual stimulation and personal expression?).  Lino prints I think, in the theme of Linear Containment of course.

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Lino: Silhouette Trees

I may veer off to the side sometimes but I always return to unfinished projects.

A year ago I played with two similar linocuts, positive and negative images, but only got as far as a plain black print of each.  See July 9 2017 and July 16 2017 for my first trials.

Ever since I’ve had the urge to make more prints in my tree series and to print in more than one colour.  I haven’t yet cut more lino to add to the range but this week I reprinted one of the images with colour, and using an assortment of my handmade papers.

Left – 100% recycled mountboard paper, smooth side. Right – 60% mountboard & 40% pulped orange peel paper, smooth(ish) side.

Left – 100% strelitzia paper, smooth side. Right – 80% banana pulp + 20% orange peel paper, rough textured side.

Inks: Blue 50% opacity, green (blue/yellow mix) 80% opacity.

The papers have created quite different outcomes as each absorb some of the colour, especially the blue on the darker sheets because of its semi-transparency.

The top right print with 40% orange peel has broken up the ink application due to the small pieces of peel and it’s interesting that the green in this print should be more vibrant than on the pristine white sheet.  Perhaps there is enough orange colour from the peel to lighten the green, but I’m not sure.


I will return to this again but for now even though I thought I was done with my obsession with ‘Linear Containment’ it persists and I have a  nagging in my head to create further pieces.  

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Wine and cheese linocut: Final stage

How to focus a mind in turmoil……

Loving this project but my brain has been well over-stimulated and darting in multiple directions, even though nothing much has yet made it onto the blog.

I drew some cheese.

Nice, but is this what I want for a linocut?  I’ve got the stylization that I’m looking for but still have a nagging doubt, so I stopped at this point while reconsidering.

Walked the dog, mulled over the layered corrugated cardboard, which is still pinned to my board, and the possibility of patterning and colour mixing – essentially building some layers and depth, like the cardboard, only I want mine to show through and create new colourways.

I mixed a range of swatches.

Then briefly thought about a composition with more than one glass.

Huh, not bad for a 3 second sketch as I walked past my ever-open visual diary, but do I still detect a slight leaning in the stems?

Leaning stems?  Maybe that’s the way to go.  It’s certainly the way my hand continually goes.

I abandoned my choice of glass from my post of 2nd May and went back to my 50 or so drawings of wine glasses.

Based on my most free-flowing design to date, I drew another (leaning) glass and put aside the cheese aspect.  Lino was cut and a proof print taken.

And, yes, I love the lean!

Some patterning.  Perhaps a hint of ‘wallpaper’?
I designed something geometric in contrast to the curves of the glass.  Lino was cut and a proof taken.  Lino was photocopied and masks cut.

Using my colour swatches as a guide, I started printing.

Yellow, overlaid with deep blue.  Oops, even though the blue was mixed with equal amounts of translucent medium it’s still drowned out the full strength yellow.  However, if you can actually see the resulting green from the mix, it’s a great colour.

Deep blue, overlaid with yellow.  Without cleaning the main plate I rolled yellow over the remaining blue ink, creating this vibrant green.  This was then printed over the initial geometric plate which was inked in blue.  Getting more interesting but a lot of ‘interference’ from the cut away sections of the base blue plate.

Deep blue, overlaid with yellow.  Becoming even more green.  Love the colour, slight misalignment (the bane of every multi-plate linocut when using an etching press), and the blue is too prominent.

Rubine red, overlaid with deep grey.  Lovely colour scheme.  Super happy with this final print.

I printed on several different types of paper and found some picked up the ink so well I was able to get a very solid outcome, while others gave a softer more speckled effect.  I like both.

In addition, my masks were just photocopied images where I cut out the shapes I wanted to print.  I got much smarter as I went and finally avoided unwanted interference with the background pattern.  However, each photocopy paper mask quickly became ink-logged and tiny amounts leaked through onto the print when the press pressure was applied.  On the final print you can see this slight faint red marking across the solid grey.  I don’t mind it at all.

And finally, a couple of plain prints with the thought that sometimes less is more.

And, you know what?  After all that, I like the very first black and white print best.  The grey with the deep red pattern isn’t bad either.

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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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