Category Archives: Art

Introduction to Letterpress

I spent yesterday at a wonderfully enjoyable workshop – Introduction to Letterpress –  run by Sat Kalsi at the Leicester Print Workshop. The day itself was very well organised and expertly run. Sat is a great teacher: knowledgeable, helpful and always encouraging. But she must have been exhausted by the end of the day.

We began with an introduction of how to set metal type using a composing stick. Sat had set out a number of type cases of different sizes, from 18pt to 36pt. I gravitated to an 18pt case as I had come prepared with some longish texts. I’d asked my wife and daughter for some texts that they might like set in addition to the Donne poem I was taking, The Sun Rising. Maggie chose Shakespeare‘s Sonnet 116 while Vick gave me some favourite extracts and poems.

It was obvious that I needed to choose the shortest piece to set and so began on the sonnet. Sat looked at the poem and recommended that I count the number of e’s and a’s in it to see if there was enough in the tray – there wasn’t, so she fetched me another tray, 18pt Garamond.

The composing stick has a sliding end which is set to the maximum length needed for the whole text, in multiples of 6pt, and is left there for the whole page. So, I first set the longest line of the sonnet, the line beginning ‘Whose worth’s unknown…’. This took a long time. The type was set out in an ‘Improved Double Case‘ (though a few of my letters were in slightly different places), so each letter was a matter of hunt and pick using the layout sheet provided. Unfortunately, a lot of the letters had been previously replaced in the wrong slots so I had to check each letter as I took it out.

It turned out I needed a 36pt line length. I wasn’t going to reset that line again so placed a spacer underneath it and began on the first line.

When one of us had enough lines ready to take off the stick, Sat showed us how to remove the lines from the stick and slide them onto the galley tray (a metal tray with raised edges). I did this in sets of four lines. The composing stick got incredibly heavy. It is held, resting on the left arm with the thumb of the left hand holding the last placed type in place. Since all the type is cast in lead, you can imagine what a six inch by 2 inch lump of lead feels like resting on your hand and arm all day long!

Type set in galley

This is a shot of the first eight lines of the sonnet in the galley tray. Each line has spacers at the end so that the letters are held quite tight and magnets (very powerful magnets – they take quite some effort to shift).

After the lines are taken off the composing stick onto the press, a proof is taken to check for mistakes. Sat rolled out some black ink (the same as for linocuts and other relief printing work) and showed us how to roll it onto the type. The whole galley tray is then taken to the Galley Press (a simple roller on guides) and a proof taken. Any mistakes then have to be corrected. This was not easy for someone with my clumsy fingers – I could have done with a pair of tweezers but I guess they aren’t used as they’d damage the lead type. Luckily, as my tray had so many letters in the wrong place, I’d been closely checking my work as I went along so only had about four mistakes in the whole text, e.g.:

letterpress proof

By the time I’d set the whole poem, my back was killing me. Standing up, leaning over a desk all day is not fun. I’d got used to hunting out the letters so was able to sit down towards the end, but was still very sore.

Sat hunted out a nice gothic-style face, 18pt Light English Text, for me to use on the title for the poem and I set that and proofed it.

Setting such a longish text took me a long time. Others on the workshop set more sensible length texts and were able to do more than one. A couple of people moved on to setting wooden type to make sizeable posters. Another woman had brought some paper onto which she had painted a few colours and printed onto that – it looked great.

After checking the proof, I transferred the text to a chase – a heavy metal frame which takes your text block and uses quoins and other furniture to lock it into place in a much more stable way than with the magnets in the galley tray. I then used this on the Britannia Press to print onto stock paper:

Sonnet 116

This is my second-best printing. The best one went to Maggie.

I’d like to thank Sat for all the help she gave me during the workshop. It was a fantastic day and I’m very pleased with the amount I learned and with the printed results.

iPad squares

I’ve been playing with ArtRage on the iPad, trying to get used to how the different tools work. There are LOTS of them. I tried doing something similar to the Kandinsky squares that I painted in class with Rod (see previous post). I tried a couple of times while on holiday in Scotland the last two weeks (it was soooo wet, I had lots of free time) but wasn’t happy with the results. This time worked better. It is even less like Kandinsky than my previous acrylic efforts and, believe it or not, took much longer, but I enjoyed the process. I wanted a restricted palette but there seemed no way to do this in the ArtRage toolset, so, in my first square, I loaded a limited set of colours and then used the colour picker to select the colour I wanted at any particular time. At the end, I erased those colours from the square and picked unblended colours from the other squares.


I’m going to have to do a lot more playing with the tools and features of those tools in ArtRage before I can produce decent paintings but it should be fun trying them all out.

Two collagraphs

I have been working on a set of collagraphs, recently. When I attended the Leicester Print Workshop ‘Introduction to Print’ evening class (see here for next class), my attempt at a collagraph was rather a disaster.

We worked on mountboard card. Nichola showed us how to make dark lines by scoring into the card (using craft knifes) and how to add texture by removing the top section of the mountboard to expose the slightly fluffy card below (middle grade shading), adding carborundum (heavy shading) or just adding PVA glue (light shading, near white-out).

My attempt was to try and create a shaded version of a photograph of my daughter sitting on a bench in Sherwood Forest. I got the lines pretty much in the right place and some of the shading looked ok but the image overall was, frankly, crap. That’s why I didn’t post about that class. The medium did not lend itself to representation imaging — not at my level of expertise, anyway.

I was determined to learn more about what I could do with collagraphs. I had the excellent book, Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking by Brenda Hartill & Richard Clarke (one of the brilliant Printmaking Handbook series from A & C Black) and wanted to try all the techniques described.

I had bought a stack of offcut mountboard from Ferrers Frames, picked out five that arranged pretty well on an A3 sheet, and thought about what to do. I originally started with the idea of a series based on landscapes from our recent trip to NZ and did pretty much keep to that theme. I also tried several techniques. One plate had most of it lifted out and filled with polyfiller which I sculpted and tried to make into landscape-y shapes. With another, I took a photograph of windswept trees, laid it over the plate and cut through photograph and plate: it was interesting when bits of the photograph fell away as I was cutting so I could not use it as a guide any more. Another plate had bits of corrugated card (from an Amazon delivery — something we have plenty of), ripped paper and cotton threads glued to it. One long one, I cut on the coarse side of the mountboard to retain that texture. A fifth and final piece was simply built from geometric shapes. I added texture to the images using some fine sand since I’d been unable to get any carborundum (it cost more for the shipping than for the grit itself).

I varnished all the plates and they were ready only a day before I was due to go into the workshop (I planned to go in on a Wednesday as the workshop is open late so I would be sure to have enough time to get at least one print looking right).

I inked the plates up, laid them out on a piece of newsprint to which I had transferred the plate locations and printed onto a sheet of proof paper. It was a complete mess. I had not removed anywhere near enough ink and passing it through the rollers squeezed ink all over the paper. I was able to run a second sheet through and get a complete image without any re-inking. But I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I got on with a second print that I’d made — see below — and worked on that through until the early afternoon when I had that one right.

Then, even though I was knackered, I decided to have one last go at the 5-plate print again. I spent more time inking and wiping down this time. And it paid off. The print was much better. Still not brilliant, though. The top left plate was too dark so that the lines did not show — I ought to have wiped the surface down much more but had only put one coat of varnish on because of the thin lines and I think the ink had seeped into the plate. The corrugated card had made a nice shape but the carved polyfiller was a bit naff. The geometric shapes plate was okay but the vertical water flow one did not really work though I liked the texture of the reverse surface. Not a good set of plates but I learned a lot from making them.

collagraph 1: trials

I had made another, completely different, plate on the day before going in to the workshop. I just had in mind the image of a crow standing on a desert floor with a huge sun in the background. I couldn’t find an image of a bird I liked but did find one of a bird flying away from the camera. I created this one differently as well. I painted the mountboard with a couple of coats of acrylic gesso to provide a nicely toothed surface then used a drypoint needle to scratch the sun and outline of the bird into the plate. I liked the rough way the needle scratched into the surface: not making a clean line but a jagged, coarse one. I laid down some sand and glue into the image for more texture.

I managed to get a really good colour mix with this image, printed it and, again, had the ink run. This time from the bird where I again had too much sand embedded so that it was impossible to remove enough ink. I scrubbed the plate clean of ink, re-inked all the areas around the bird and asked Nichola how I might ink the bird to avoid making another mess. We looked at the plate and it seemed, even after all the cleaning that there was a lot of ink left so I ran the plate through. This image printed well but I didn’t like the colours.

I spent a long time on the third inking, trying to get the colours to blend and work together. I also rubbed the bird down quite a lot, even using cotton buds to remove ink from in the sand. I was very nervous wen lifting the paper but it turned out pretty good. All the hard work had paid off. Not perfect, but encouraging.

collagraph 2: flight

Overall, I was very pleased with the day, especially with the bird image. I may just have another go at collagraphs!

Playing on the iPad

For the last week or so, I’ve been working out an idea for a print using five collagraph plates arranged on an A3 size sheet of paper. Each collagraph will be abstract but based on shapes and colours from some of the thousands of photographs we took in New Zealand. Each plate is formed from a mountboard offcut so they’re different sized rectangles mainly (I bought a couple of bags of these offcuts from a framing shop in the Ferrers Centre (Ferrers Frames). I’ve been experimenting on scraps with cutting shapes, filling holes with plaster filler and pushing shapes into them, sealing with spray varnish etc. The whole thing will likely be a complete mess but I hope it’ll let me set a number of lessons into one print. Look out Leicester Print Workshop when I’m done: pity the technician on duty when I come in to try and make this work 🙂

Anyway, the reason for this print is that I wanted to try out an idea for one of the vertical strips of mountboard: a sort of waterfall effect. So, I’ve been scribbling on the iPad using ASketch and InspirePro (just discovered that Cmd-Shift-S on OS X takes a screenshot and sticks it into Evernote).

In ASketch, I drew the vertical shape and then sketched in the rock shapes. It is great the way the lines interact, bleeding from one into the other. Gives some great effects (which you’ll get a better idea of from the website than from my scribbles).


(The squiggle on the right was Vick’s contribution.)

Then, in InspirePro, I had a go at adding some colours to the sketch (by saving the ASketch to the photo album then using that as the canvas in InspirePro). Using a dry-ish brush and quite dark colours, I got an idea of what I want to achieve. InspirePro allowed me to upload the pics to Flickr.


It’ll be a long time sketching on the iPad and trying to realise the sketches in prints, before I know what will and won’t work, but I do love the learning process.

Not quite Kandinsky

This has been a long time coming. My last session at Sycamore Road with Rod was an abstract affair. He had a printout from a web page showing a Kandinsky painting:

Kandinsky Farbstudie

I had a crack at it, drawing up the squares first then trying to match the colours Kandinsky used and blended. I used only the three primary colours with black and white. When I was finished, both Rod and I decided that the square that looked best was the one I didn’t copy (bottom row, second from right).


I really want to try this again but using only my own feel for the colour to see what happens. Interesting to see if I can repeat the effect of the ‘good square’ and if I can come up with a composition that works across the whole canvas.

Another thought. With acrylics, I can work the squares in stages. Fill each square with the background colour, let it dry, then start the concentric circles. It won’t allow any serendipitous bleed to and from the background but will be interesting to see how integrated the image remains as the circles add their own dynamism and start playing off against each other.

Etching: not quite Rembrandt

For Maggie’s birthday a month ago, I produced a couple of print works. As a card, I made a linocut of some windswept trees that she loved in New Zealand. And, as a present, an etching copied from one of a morepork cut into bamboo (a technique I’d like to try when I have the time, materials and cutting tools I’m no longer attached to!).

While at Leicester Print Workshop doing the etching, I begged Nicola to help me fix a plate that I’d covered in hard ground but which was very patchy. I stripped the ground from it, cleaned it and Nicola showed me how to apply the ground properly. It still wasn’t properly covered, no matter how much we tried to rub more ground in, so I stripped that back again. While I was washing the plate I realised what I’d been doing wrong (out of sight of Nicola, I must add, or she would have spotted it). To ensure all the Cif was cleaned from the plate after degreasing, I’d wiped the plate with my hands while it was under the running water. Even with the water flowing and my hands scrubbed, I was still putting grease onto the plate – doh!

So, with the plate properly degreased, the ground went on easily and well. Amazing the results you can get when you do a job properly.

Anyway, I’d taken the plate home intending to work on another etching but was side-tracked by gallery work. I only got around to doing the drawing last week. I had looked through an online listing of Rembrandt prints and like one of three cottages, so printed out a reversed copy scaled to A5 size (the size of the plate). This is the original:

3 cottages 1

I figured that using carbon paper to transfer the image would be futile as the hard ground is very dark. However I’d heard about some stuff that did the same job in white and eventually found it on Amazon: Tracedown paper. It did a great job of letting me trace the outline of the image onto the plate with very little pressure, so not damaging the grounds. And it was brilliantly white, so much that I wasn’t sure I’d see where I’d drawn through the grounds – turned out not to be a problem though.

The other goody I’d bagged from Amazon was to help hold the plate still. I’d actually planned on buying this stuff to help with linocut work, so I didn’t need a bench hook (which I thought Maggie might object to my using in the kitchen and which I had found less than wholly useful). It was a non-slip material designed to go under rugs to stop them slipping across polished floors: Non slip safety mat. It proved very useful in working on the etching plate. I was able to use both hands to hold the etching needle for fine control (well, for any control; my hands shiver and twitch on any delicate work) and the plate stayed in place. And, unlike with the bench hook, I could place the work at any angle.

So, I cut the image and really enjoyed doing so. The intricate work was fun, if difficult. Using two hands worked well, only a couple of trembles added unwanted bits to the image. I’m also just noticing how very detailed the image is above. The laser jet copy I used to copy the stroke marks was woefully inadequate. I’m not excusing my woeful technique, only that working from a poor copy exacerbates the problems. Something else to consider next time. I’ll have to have my laptop or iPad next to my workspace in future.

Another gadget I found useful was an illuminated magnifier (bit like this but with a massively heavy baseplate rather than clamp). It was only moderately useful though. I found that it was difficult to get my hands between the glass and the work and shifting my head put stuff out of focus. I’ll probably get used to it but, this time, found it easier to take my glasses off and have my head almost resting on my hands :).

With all that done, I took the plate into LPW last Thursday for printing. Serena was in on that day and she helped me find stuff and get things ready. She was working on some large scale prints celebrating the 25th anniversary of the workshop. I was really chuffed when, later on, Sarah Kirby came in and began printing up one of her linocuts next to me. I loved her work first time I saw it in there and it was great seeing her work and chatting to her. The precision of her linocutting work is really highlighted when you see the piece of lino itself.

So, to the results. I printed only on proof paper using black ink and, for the first impression, wiped back completely. I knew it’d look better with ink left smudged on the plate but wanted one impression with the lines clear.

3 cottages 1

and, with smudges left on:

3 cottages 2

The cottages are indistinct and the foliage lines could be better. Still, not bad for my third etching. I’ll get there.

I wanted to go in and prepare another plate but the two I still have left are badly marked. The little circle on my images, middle left, is the result of a water stain (as Serena explained to me) caused by letting the plates dry too slowly after degreasing. The two plates I have left are very stained. I may save them for some collagraph work.

That’s it for now. More when I can get time to do more work.

Doodle Wall 3, people

Yesterday afternoon was the third and last of the Surface Gallery ‘Doodle Wall’ events in the Long Gallery of Nottingham Castle. This time we had black panels which made the white pens more useful (and the black pens rather moot). As before, people were initially reluctant to ‘have a go’ but most could be persuaded and, I think, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I divided my time between shoving pens in people’s hands and my camera in their faces. This post will show examples from the latter intrusions. I was fairly obvious about my photography but, since many of these are pictures of participating children (as it is school holidays here), I’ll make it clear that any parent or guardian who wants their child’s images removed need only ask. Indeed, the same applies to anyone who wants their own pic removed.

I’ll post a selection of my favourite images here but all are in a collection up on Flickr, here (the ones from this event start about 65 pics down). They are all sized down but if you’d like a copy of the original, just ask.

This post will be accompanied by one on the SG blog which will contain a selection of shots of the works on the wall.

I arrived a bit late so the wall was already underway, courtesy of the SG artists:

Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists

but then the people started arriving and drawing, all ages and, it seemed, all nationalities (I never realised how popular Nottingham is as a tourist destination):

Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists

Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists

Being artistic doesn’t mean being constrained to one medium. Some of our artists turned out to be pretty good musicians and dancers as well:

Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists Doodle Wall 3, artists

This one, a chinese scroll with blossoming tree, is one of my favourites, so I asked the artist to pose with it for me:

Doodle Wall 3, artists

and this is my favourite photograph, showing the concentration needed to be an artist:

Doodle Wall 3, artists

All photos were taken with fixed shutter speed (100 or 60) and I’ve only done a mass ‘re-tone’ of all of the pictures using Lightroom so apologies if the quality is low on some.

Abstract-ish poppy field

I’ve not done any painting at home for several weeks. I started a self-portrait in the style of Hopper but got scared of continuing after the drawing and blocking worked out fairly well – stupid, but there it is. Then, yesterday, I was reading an article in Turps Banana about Robert Welch‘s paintings (quick interrupt: I don’t believe this; only the second time I’ve referenced specific articles in that magazine and this one, too, is available in pdf form) when the style of his paintings and the discussion in the article brought to me what I can only describe as a visceral urge to execute a specific painting.

I love the bread from the Breadfirst shop in the Ferrers Centre and drive there once or twice a week to get a loaf (not to mention some of their cakes). On the way is a field which, over the last few weeks, has erupted into a lava flow of red flowers running down the hill. I assume they’re poppies but have never stopped (no immediate place to stop and the A453 gets some fast traffic) to see. I’ve always meant to pull over somewhere nearby and take photographs but have never remembered to take my D90 with me: I’ll typically work from photographs.

Anyway, this urge was to paint that field of poppies. Not in any exact way, but more in the style of Welch. It was not that I could see what the painting would look like, but that I could feel how each part of the painting should be executed:  strong ochre yellow upward strokes to indicate the field, single red twirls of solid paint for the poppies and harsh, jagged strokes of green for the hedge.

And that is what I did. I went straight downstairs to the kitchen, put a canvas (first time I’d used canvas instead of paper but this felt to be a canvas type of painting) on the easel, got the paints out and got to it. I wasn’t sure about having a bit of sky at the top so put some wet blue/white horizontally across the top quarter. I figured I could leave some of it or paint it all out. In the end it looked good with just that small bit at the top I thought. I added the small black dots to show the flowers were poppies without being too precise about getting them in the middle. I wanted the painting to veer more to the abstract and to look so. The rest was exactly as I wanted it to be.

It was a little heavy so I added some thin strokes of bright yellow to lift the ochre and add interest to the hedge. Also smeared bits of red into the hedge: I wanted that to look more ‘lived in’. So, this is it:

hedge & poppy field

Am I happy with it? Yes and no. I’m pleased that I was able to execute pretty much what I had in mind. I like the way the poppies float over the field, almost like butterflies: it wasn’t deliberate but the look is right. The hedge is supposed to look cluttered and messy, which it does, but does it look it in the right way. I keep thinking of ways to change it but then think that those ways would also have their own problems. The field, I think, needed more solid paint, less water mixed into it. And maybe each stroke could have been edged with burnt umber to put some more structure in there;. Actually, maybe overlaid it with some thinner upward strokes in solid colour to give an indiction of depth (the solid being more foregrounded and the washed out receding). I think the wash effect of the sky worked ok. It does give a sense of distance in the upper quarter where the ochre has washed into the blue/white.

So, yes, overall I’m pleased with it. Whether I’ll keep it or paint over it remains to be seen. At least with this blog, I get to keep a record of it.

Fruit pastels

At today’s painting class, I finished a pastel work that I started last week. I like the look of pastels and wanted to have one go at it before the classes ended. Rod had a book of stunning watercolours (sorry, have not got the artist’s name) and I found this one, which I drew onto a sheet of purple sugar paper:

Apples and Pears Apples and Pears: drawing

I realise now that I didn’t get the spacing quite right. There’s too big a gap on the right. If I’d noticed, I could have made the pear to the left of the gap bigger. Must pay more attention.

I started by painting in the white/black/grey background and got just half the bottom line of fruit finished last week. I finished the rest this week.

Apples and Pears: final

I’m quite pleased with this. It has turned out okay. I learned stuff about pastels (like, if you want a pure colour like a green leaf or shade, don’t underpaint) and really enjoyed the exercise. I don’t know what it was about using the pastels but it seemed less ‘precious’ than acrylic. Sounds silly now that I write it. I think I need to just crack on and do a lot more painting so I can rid myself of this fear of paint that holds me back (I’ve had a half-finished canvas on the easel for three weeks now: the drawing and underpainting went well so I’m afraid to mess it up :} ).

Will try a quick scribbly abstract next week, I think.

Doodle Wall session 1

As part of the Nottingham Street Art Festival, Surface Gallery arranged a Doodle Wall event in the Long Gallery at Nottingham Castle. Volunteers (me among them), led by Antonietta Sacco, dragooned visitors to the Street Art opening event to add their doodles, scribbles, tags etc to our six panel wall.

I was knocked out by the enthusiasm of people who got involved. There’s obviously a hidden graffiti artist in most people. I spent most of my time shoving pens into people’s hands and persuading them that ‘I can’t draw’ was not going to get them out of it, but I did manage to shoot some photographs as well. I’ve uploaded half of them to Flickr in a Doodle Wall set, but will add a few (ok, a lot) here.

It started like this:

Doodle Wall session 01

then some of the ‘voles’ got going:

Doodle Wall session 01

and then the public joined in:

Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01

Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01

Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01

Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01

with some awesome results:

Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01 Doodle Wall session 01

and it ended up looking like this (well, after Microsoft ICE has finished with it):

Doodle Wall 01

Some wicked talent in Nottingham!

If you’ve been encouraged by this post to doodle some yourself, we’ll be back in the Long Gallery on Thursday 14th of July 1-5pm, Tuesday 26th of July 1-5pm. See you there.


Last week’s print course session was on linocut printing. I really loved doing this. Knowing in advance what we were going to do, I went through my list of photographs and chose a few that had a good amount of contrast. With each of these, I used Lightroom to produce a clean B&W print, which I further modified to produce an image that looked good in what was basically 2-bit. Of those, two seemed to present the best combination of not-too-difficult alongside still-interesting-image. I cropped and printed each as 6×4 (since that was the size we were told the lino would be: btw, one guy on the course asked what lino was: see this fascinating wikipedia article), both normal and reverse.

Nichola gave us each some basic instruction in lino preparation and cutting, handed out the tools and then left us to it. I picked the simplest of my images but even that proved to take a long time.

I put some carbon paper onto the lino and the reverse image over that and then traced out the lines. I was going to scribble in the areas to be cut out but it took me so long to do the tracing I was running out of time so I just started cutting. Hell, it hurt after a while. I probably wasn’t holding the cutting tools correctly. At least I hope I wasn’t since my thumb was still partially numb three days later!

Most of the class were making multiple prints while I was still cutting so I stopped in the end and just printed what I had. I can see bits where I cut what I shouldn’t and other bits that were left that should have been removed. Still the images look ok.

The photograph I started with was (blurred line through the middle is a telephone wire):

bird in tree

I made three prints. The first in orange, second in black and third in purple. The third looked much like the second so I’ve left it out. The first two were:

linocut: bird in tree: orange print


linocut: bird in tree: black print

I’m really pleased with these. I enjoyed the work, love the type of image produced and am sure that this and monoprinting are the way I’m meant to go. This week is hard ground etching, which I’m less sure of. Still need to decide on images to take along.

One lesson I need to remember is to allow more time for carving, which should be okay since I’ll probably work on the carving at home and only take the lino in when I have a few to print. More important is to properly mark out the cutting areas on the lino. Using carbon paper is not good enough. As I was cutting, my hand was erasing other parts of the tracing. Nichola suggested going over the tracing with permanent ink which I’ll do in future.

Also need to use any photograph only as a starting point. I need to trace the photograph onto paper (or not even that) and then compose the image I want using black pen and brush.

My Cezanne

Rod, my painting teacher, suggested I try a copy of a Cezanne painting to get the feel of placing paint onto the paper and making colour and effect from the profusion of marks rather than trying to exactly reproduce an image. We looked through a book of his and chose this one, Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1885-7.

Cezanne's Mont Sainte Victoire

This is similar to the image Rod had in his book, but looks completely different to the copy on wikimedia:

Maybe the image above had been cleaned while I was working with one tinged with old varnish. Anyway, that was the one I had when I started, and it wasn’t as though I was going to exactly reproduce it 🙂

I started it halfway through 15th June class (after finishing the Hopper copy), laying down a base ochre-ish colour. I then started painting in the tree and branches, which Rod corrected me on (he’d gone out to get our tea/coffee): I ought to have started with the sky. So I painted over the branches, leaving just the trunk and put down the sky, or my impression of Cezanne’s sky.

I wasn’t trying to reproduce his painting mark for mark, just to get the feel of how he painted it. Rod helped again when he showed me how to have two brushes on the go at the same time, mixing the marks of the sky. It felt great. By the end of the lesson, I’d done what I wanted to the sky:

my cezanne

I was quite pleased with it, lots of movement. But the test would come with the fore & middle ground.

I worked on that for most of the next lesson (22nd June), trying to put in place the basic shapes that Cezanne used while getting my own balance. It half worked. I got the general colour balance the way I wanted but not the shaping. The middle ground needed a lot more formal shaping to it to balance the unshaped sky and I couldn’t achieve that. I seem unable to paint a small straight line. I’m sure it is partly me but brushes don’t help. Just thought: maybe what I need to do is lay down the colour of the shape and then get the lines smooth by painting the colours next to it. Don’t know. But the fore & middle grounds do not really work, need more precision.

my cezanne

Btw, I captured this image using the scanner and stitching together the three scanned images: seems to have worked ok, better than using the camera which barrels the lines.

Also just noticed, the shapes in the fields are too large. To show the distance of the middle ground, they need to be smaller. Also the moss on the tree needs to be blended more into the bark, less distinct, while the middle ground shapes need to be more distinct. No, not happy with that. Still, lots of lessons learned.

Strangely, it looks more like the second reproduction of Cezanne’s than the one I was trying to copy. 🙂