Thursday, 15 September 2011

Final evaluation

I wanted to become a printer and now I feel I have made a start. It has taken me two years to finish the course and looking back to when I started it my life was completely different. I then slipped a disc in my back necessitating two months off work, I was made redundant and had to find a new job, which meant commuting to London again but throughout it all I kept printing.

I felt my initial tutor was unhelpful and only seemed to answer my queeries with one line e mails so I changed tutors and have been very lucky with Niki who takes a lot of trouble reviewing my work and provides comprehensive feeback that I have found invaluable.

Because Printing is technical it has been quite hard teaching myself from the written materials rather than having access to a print studio with a tutor to show me how to do it, this has made me inventive in coming up with solutions and I am very independant as a result. I'd like to compare my work with other peoples work though and maybe I will get a chance at some point. The experience of being in a group would have been a bonus and would've made the course richer. But I have a day job so it's a question of what is possible. I may book myself onto a residential course in some aspect of printing at some point.

I have found it difficult to track down the work of contempory printers other than on the internet although I have managed to get to about three print exhibitions. The work on display always seems to be a bit conventional for my tastes as I definitely like painterly prints and painterly printers have been hard to find. The Bankside Gallery near the Tate has become a favourite gallery and is home to the Painter Print Makers Society. I am the only printmaker in our local art society and I think I need to join a printmakes group if I can find one that will have me.

But the positives far out way the negatives and I am so glad to have been able to find a new way of articulating my creative ideas and one that presents so many fasci nating alternatives and oppportunities to explore.

I am pleased that this course has made me serious about printing. I'm interested to see how my printing influences my watercolours when I start painting again because I have not really done any watercolours for the past two years.

My biggest regret is that I haven't related my work to the work of well know printers and when I do printmaking at the higher level as I progress towards my degree this is something I must address.

I do all my printing in a shed down the garden which has not been ideal and I crave a proper studio with a press and drying racks etc etc. I will now pack up my shed for the winter and contemplate my next move.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Evaluation of Project 15

The inspiration for this series of four prints came from the German War Cemetery at Langemark and the sculptures of four faceless soldiers who stand vigil on the edge of the plot looking in. I each of my final prints I have tried to capture a different aspect of the original place.
In print One I tried to capture the sense of longing for home that the dead will never see again and the restlessness of spirit this caused in me.
In print Two I wanted to explore the decorative possibilities of the image. Even sculptures at cemeteries have decorative possibilities.
In print Three I wanted to show the hewn and crafted quality of the sculptures and how the act of their creation provides a continuity with the past.
In print Four I have hinted at the dark side of a small plot of land in Belgium, containing the bodies of 40,000 men and the sinister 'faceless' quality of the sculptures.
I feel my most successful print is Print Three because it largely achieves the objectives I set out with albeit via a less successful prior series of prints. I truly love the fact that you can see how I have stuck two blocks of wood together to make one block that isn't quite square and doesn't quite fit the A3 box it has been put in. I feel a bit like that myself sometimes. I like the way the grain goes in a different direction for each half of the block and the way the surface of the wood has torn where I have gouged accross the grain. I sometimes think there's a craftsman in me trying to get out rather than an artist, perhaps that's why I have been drawn to printing which in some ways is a bit of both.
Apart from the quality of carving in Print Three it is quite a clean print with some good technique used to effect. The different printing processes ie. momoprinting with stencils and wood cut relief compliment each other so where there is texture from the mono printing there is solid colour from the relief print which creates a satisfactory balance between lose and solid.
The colour scheme works but could be more adventurous as I have used these sorts of colours in other works.
I am least happy with Print Two because I have only partially resolved the dilema between texture and form that I wanted to get nearer to solving at the outset. Of the three versions of this print I like the one above best because it has a colour scheme that is at once bright but seems to reflect the vigourous gestural mark making and backdrawing, It is a vigourous print, perhaps at odds with the sombre mood of the original setting which may be another reason why I like it the least.
Print One is the most interesting and unexpected with it's simple white on black statement. I don't think I could've taken this any further in any direction. I like the battered and weathered look of the printing contained in the outline of the figures which was something I strived for at the outset. I like battered, worn, weathered things in general; again they speak of the passage of time and provide a link with the past. I find this continuity /> 
I'm afraid to confess that print Four was like going through the motions a bit. I could've been more adventurous with colour and the chine colle and the collagraph but I stuck to the things I knew would work, mainly because I am running out of time to get this course assessed in the November assessment and thereby get back on track.
Looking at the series of prints as a whole I think they hang together as a body of work mainly because the underlying design is so simple. Also they are all A3 which helps. Even in Print Four you can see that it is generated from the earlier print so there is a connection.
I have used every printing technique covered in the course except multi block releif printing. This was a hard project and I take satisfaction in finishing it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Project 14- Chine Colle

I decided to use the original single colour lino cut I did of Brompton Cemetery earlier in the course as the basis of my chine colle print series. I realised at the outset that the solid block of colour in the background would detract from the effect I wanted to get so I striated it with a lino chisel to get a hatched effect.

I had planned to use copper and gold foil together with some delicate Indian tissue paper with strands of fibre embodied in it. I wanted to get a highly decorative and visually rich effect and yet not lose the compositional strength of the original photo and lino print. I wondered if the tissue paper I was using was too subtle.

I started by mono printing a pale blue on eight sheets of paper using a stencil cut the same size as the lino block. I varied the marks I made so that some went in the same direction as the striations on the lino block and some went in the other direction. I was very much aware of the problems I had had with the background in my original Reduction Method print of the iron shackle where I had used a cross hatched effect for the background and it had been too busy and had failed. I resolved to make the marks more more 'whippy' and random. On some I rollered a flat colour onto the plate without textural mark making. I used three different varieties of cartridge paper and the last of my expensive BFK Rives paper.

For the over print I started by using a bright warm red but as I progressed with the series I greyed it down using blue so the colours changed throughout the series. I had no idea what I was going to do with the foil or bits of paper and I hoped that would become clear as I evolved the series.

I had already worked out from my working drawings that using the copper and gold foil was extraordinary fiddly and difficult to get a satisfying effect with. I found that using ordinary kitchen foil, which was thicker and screwing it up and then unscrewing it was more effective. I also found that the use of distressed kitchen foil became focused on the cross in the foreground and the overprinting of blue/green greys onto it was particularly pleasing.

I used the Indian tissue paper randomly and to no effect and stopped using it in favour of orange tissue paper which gave some really interesting mid tones where it crossed areas of the paper that had not been printed on. I tried to make the application of the orange tissue paper match the shadows but the shapes I had to cut out were so complexed that I simplified the shapes and created an almost abstract effect that broadly corresponded with the shadows. By this time I had used up all my eight prints and yet I felt I was really getting somewhere so I started another series which I initially mono printed as before.

I had run out of expensive paper by this time and resorted to good quality cartridge paper for all of the final series as I could discern no advantage to using expensive paper although I did feel that one of my earlier promising prints had suffered by being printed on cheap thin cartridge paper.

In my second series I wanted to explore the use of the orange tissue paper to support the shadows in the original composition but I also wanted to explore the use of kitchen foil on the nearest cross. Fairly early on I found that the tin foil worked best if it was cut exactly to the shape of the cross rather than as an abstract effect and I began to wonder if my Indian tissue paper might've worked if it had supported a compositional element in the print rather than just being used in an abstract way.

I tried various shapes using the orange tissue paper until I was getting the sort of half and half abstract/figurative effect I was looking for. In the final print I used the tin foil cross, the semi abstract orange tissue paper shadows and also I cut out the exact shape of the furthest cross in Indian tissue paper to see if it worked that way. I peeled the paper away from the block with eager anticipation and revealed probably my most successful print to date.


Half of what I wanted to do I had planned in advance and half evolved as both series went on. This working method allowed me to respond to what arose rather than being bound by preconceptions and I welcomed this freedom.

The brief was to produce a series of four prints incorporating chine colle techniques in different colour schemes, on different papers incorporating metal foil, thin papers and other materials and I have met these requirements.

I wanted to produce prints that were highly decorative and visually rich but which supported the compositional strength of the original lino cut. I think the combination of the silver foil with the light blue ink has the sort of opulent, far eastern feel and richness I was looking for and the overprinting of a darker tone on the nearer cross adds a further dimension that speaks of the intricacy of the original stonemason's work and the the delicate tracery of his carving. There is an overall sense of fine, expensive craftwork in some areas.

The Indian tissue paper in the final print enhances the exotic atmosphere and the suspended fibres add interest upon closer examination without detracting from the compositional strength of the piece as a whole. Where the orange tissue paper has been used to create subtle mid tones it is more abstract but never loses the connection with the shadows and thus works within the figurativeness of the image. However I love the tension between abstract and figurative in this part of the work.

I am pleased with the final print. This is one of the rare occasions on this course when a print or series of prints has met my expectations.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Some printmakers I have found

I've been thinking about my final series of prints and looking around for work of other printers that I like. Here are some:

They are.... Headstone by Jai Llewllyn(etching )Winter scene by Ros Morley (etching and chine colle) The Hotel Room by Phil Cosgrove (monprint) Red Brow and Shadows by Glynis Porter (woodcut and lino cut).

Friday, 5 August 2011

A brief history of wood block printing

I've taken most of this information from various articles on Wikipedia so it's not an accademicly referenced essay, merely a quick whistlestop tour for my own benefit.

The rolling of cylinder seals onto clay tablets began in Mesopotania c3000BC but woodblock printing with a strong buddhist connection, on cloth and paper, appears to have come from China in the 3rd or 2nd centuries BC. The earliest woodblock printed fragments of silk, depicting images of flowers, date from before AD220.

In Europe woodblock printing developed several centiries later than Asia. It is unclear if Egyptian printing of cloth was learned from China or elsewhere or developed separately but by the 9th and 10th centuries Arabic Egypt was printing muslim prayers. Europe adopted woodblock printing from the Muslim world initially for printing decorative designs on fabric.

It seems that the development of moveable type in China in the 11th century, initially using type baked in clay and metal moveable type invented in Korea in the 13th century, led to woodblock printing of text being discontinued in Islamic Central Asia.In India woodblock was always mainly used for printing decorative textiles.

In Japan woodblock printing of Buddhist texts dates from 764AD to 770AD and moveable type was only introduced from Korea in the 1500's so there is a body of work and a strong tradition of woodblock printing in Japan.

As a method of reproducing text, wood block printing was overtaken by moveable type and printing presses, although in 15th century Europe illustrated woodblock books were printed as a cheaper alternative to moveable type.

The greatest artist of the northern Renaissance, Albrecht Durer (1471 to 1528) revolutionised the potential of the medium with his wood cuts such as The Four Horsemen (shown).

It is also worth mentioning that woodblock printing of French wall paper became famous at the end of the 18th century.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Project 13 - Combination mono and linoprint

Self Appraisal - Having now completed this project I have four contrasting prints on different papers which I have selected from the total of ten printed. My original idea was to take the words from a song 'And every leaf that falls becomes the quiet earth' and produce a poster to illustrate this. The idea came from my visit to the Langemark cemetery for German soldiers killed in World War One which is designed to embody the very germanic idea of death being part of the cycle of life as leaves and bodies fall to the forest floor to feed the growth of new trees and vegetation.

I wanted to use a lose monoprint for the background 'forest' then overlay a series of flat lino prints employing the reduction method to portray falling leaves and soldiers. I succeeded in producing prints that did this and I succeeded in meeting the requirements of the project but as usual I am far from happy with the results:

Print One - This is one of the prints using the reduction method but one of the first I did before I started reducing the sky line with each block. In my notes you will see that I had a lot of trouble with the lettering and had to change my idea from crisp black lettering to a more weathered lettering because the block kept moving if I rollered it too much. The lettering in this print is probably the best of any, the background is a strong orange and the coverage of the ink from the blocks is fairly even and consistent. The balance between the monoprint and lino is cohesive. My big criticism though is the dimpling of the last black lino print which comes from over inking. I found it impossible to get a flat black when printing onto three previous layers of dried ink.

Print Two - This is the best of the reduction lino prints. I applied the orange to the bottom of the mono print using a roller and so the orange of the falling soldiers is a flat colour of even consistency. The top 'tree' section is less bold than the other similar print from this series and whilst the lettering is slightly too faded in appearance it seems to work with the background. The last black printed layer is more consistent but still not completely flat.

Print Three - This is the print with the bright green background with what was supposed to be a diluted gold overprint. The lettering and the green work well and the marks of the mono print have a pleasing 'liquid' feel about them. However the green seems too strong to me and overpowers the gold. There are some interesting textural effects where the monoprint shows through the gold over print.

Print Four - This is my favourite of all four, the green and violet mono print background is quite an edgy combination of colours and the back drawing has given it a very interesting textural effect which works well with the weathered lettering. The dark green overprint whilst not complete in coverage, is flat and un dimpled. The approach to this print was much more spontaneous than the laboured process of continually reducing the block, taking prints and waiting for the ink to dry before doing it again.

I think Print Four has more of the qualities you would expect a combined mono and lino print to have.

This was a difficult project for me, I feel I was probably a little too ambitious in what I wanted to do especially with the lettering which I thought would be so simple. I over complicated the print with the overlaying of four reduced lino blocks. however the images I have produced are thought provoking and attract attention. The best bit for me is the design of the skyline using the negative shapes of leaves in the two reduction prints.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Response to Tutors Notes on Assignment 4

I read my tutor's notes on the collagraph assignment several times because there were several things in them I found thought provoking. The assigment was a difficult one for me because I enjoyed it emmensely but failed to produce any work that looked like 'a proper print'. Nichola mentioned my 'painterly style of printing' and I think that is a good way of describing quite a lot of my work.

Maybe my idea of what 'a proper print' is needs to broaden?

I looked at the work she sugested: 'Fissure' by Karl Weshke and 'Composition' by John Wells, also 'Harbour' by Alexander Mackenzie (all detailed here) and I had a sudden insight into a different kind of printing, maybe abstract or semi abstract, maybe using texture and colour in an expressive and free way and I suddenly felt very excited about using the techniques I have explored to date in such a way.

I am currently doing the combined mono print and lino cut module of Assignment 5 and will then do a Chine colle module but in the final module I am encouraged to explore all the techiniques covered in this course to produce a series of prints. I think this would be a good opportunity to let rip!

The prints Nichola suggested I look at also reminded me of work by Robert Motherwell and Peter Lanyon (detailed here) and I will immerse myself in more of the same as preparation for my final work.