Caliban linocut

The artist in residence at Leicester Print Workshop, Laine Tomkinson, is working on a project around Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She asked members of LPW to contribute images printed from 6″x4″ linocuts. After dithering about whether someone at my level of expertise ought to contribute, I eventually took a piece of lino home to work on.

I had a number of thoughts about the tempest itself and then about the feast but, on reading through the play, was struck by the stage direction at the beginning of II.2: [Enter CALIBAN, with a burden of wood. A noise of thunder heard].

My study of Shakespeare at school predated the arrival of feminist, post-colonial, psychoanalytic, etc reading of texts. But I’d read a lot of such analyses since and decided to produce a more sympathetic image of Caliban than would normally issue from a straight reading of the play.

Caliban lives on an island on which Prospero, a European intellectual, and his daughter, Miranda, are marooned. Prospero promptly enslaves Caliban, forcing him to do his bidding using his ‘magical’ powers, torturing him if he disobeys. Most of this is explicitly stated, though with the explanation that such treatment is justified because Caliban is a savage (read, non-European).

I wanted to make an image that made this slavery explicit. I drew some ideas on the iPad using ArtRage (my main art program on the iPad now) based on images found on the internet and out of books. Since the final image would be b&w, I loaded ArtRage with a black canvas and drew using a white pen. I exported this image, printed it as 6×4 and then traced the image onto the linocut using Tracedown White. After a couple of proofing prints, I found the right pressure on the hydraulic press and left the block with Laine to work with.

I also printed one fair copy for myself on nice paper:


The cut has a few problems — the lines on the face are too fine to reproduce easily. The pressure has to be just right. And the mouth did not work properly — bit too big. But not too bad for my third or fourth linocut.

I’m thinking of placing this in the Surface Gallery Postcard Show next year, if I can think of two more images to produce. We’ll see if anyone thinks it is worth £15 🙂

Posted on December 11, 2011, in Art and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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