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The Re-Cut

6 Dec

dragon block 1

During the process of developing my recent commission for Sky Arts TV channel, as part of their Art50 programming, I did a number of test blocks to try out different combinations of wood, sealer, ink and paper to find the combo that worked best. It also gave me a chance to experiment with the carving, trying out different tools and cutting styles. Most of the blocks are disposable, just fragments of experimentation, but I took this one to a fairly finished level and I returned to it again today, doing some re-cutting to sharpen up the lettering and give greater definition to the symbolic eye and barbed wire. I’m thinking of printing it up in black on white with red chine collé.

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

And Breathe!

30 Nov

So, after two and a half months of research, preparation, creative blocks, blood, sweat and a lot of hard work, I finally finished carving my very large block of wood and did the first print. And breathe! The block has been sealed with three coats of shellac and methylated spirits (mixed 50:50) and I am using a Japanese lightweight paper, Hosho, in white for the main print and mulberry papers in red and blue for chine collé. The ink is Caligo / Cranfield’s Safe Wash and I’m taking the print by hand with Japanese barens.

 

I inked up mostly in black with some words picked out in red that I did with a different roller. I also prepared and applied mulberry chine collé. Then Husb lent me a hand to put the Hosho paper onto the block and to rub the back with the Japanese barens.

5 first proof

And here it comes. The first proof. The rest will be revealed in the New Year 😀 This is a commission for the Sky Art 50 programming which is scheduled for March 2019.

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

 

 

Bokashi!

26 Nov

Hiroshige 1

Husb and I spent a few days away in Northern Italy, exploring museums and galleries on a guided tour arranged by New Scientist magazine. We took in a fabulous exhibition, “Beyond The Wave”, of Japanese Ukiyo e printmakers, Hokusai and Hiroshige in Bologna. I was fascinated by their process. To my surprise, the artists themselves didn’t do any printmaking, but just provided the initial simple ink line drawing (which didn’t survive the process). The drawing was transferred to a number of blocks, up to fifteen depending on the amount of colours, and cut by a carver. Finally the blocks were handed over to a printmaker to produce the fabulous full-colour images that we’re used to seeing today. This process reminds me of that used in the production of modern comics, with the artist producing pencil drawings, handing them over to an inker and then to a letterer. Coincidentally, Hokusai and Hiroshige are a great influence on Japanese Manga and Anime.

In my small sketchbook, I made some little studies of the beautiful simple compositions of some of the prints. Most had very sparse detail and the artist’s original line drawings are usually quite basic. The richness of pattern and colour are down to the skills of the printmaker who often used a blending technique called Bokashi which gives beautifully graduated colours. Ukiyo e prints became very fashionable through Japonism and had an enormous influence on later 19th century and 20th century European art and artists including the Impressionists and post-Impressionists and individual artists including Cassatt, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh.

Drawing Blood!

25 Nov

cut 3

I draw lots of things. Today I drew blood! I’m back to reality after our short break to Italy and cracking on with carving my large woodcut (80 x 120 cms), a commission from Sky Arts TV channel. One of the occupational hazards of carving blocks for relief printing is the razor sharp tools that I use. I keep them in good condition with a leather strop and abrasive wax (below).

strop

My attention slipped for a split second, the tool slipped for a split second, and blood spurted out of one of my fingers. Oh well, could be worse. I’ve almost finished carving and it’s my first injury, so I’m not doing too badly.

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

 

 

It’s All A Bit Zen.

13 Nov

cut 1

 

The carving begins! The final drawing has been transferred in reverse onto the MDF block in compressed charcoal. Then I redrew everything with a brush and walnut ink. And now I’m cutting. After all the rush and stress of the past few weeks, it feels a bit Zen to quietly carve into the wood, carefully scribing the lines and curves with nothing but the sound of my breathing to accompany me. It’s very meditative.

 

cut 2

This is a large woodcut commissioned by Sky Arts television channel for ART50. You can read more about what I’m doing here.

 

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

 

 

 

 

Getting On With It

12 Nov

DSC_1843

I’m on the last leg now with “Here Be Dragons”, my commission for Sky Arts, getting my final design transferred into a large sheet of MDF. I’m back in my studio at home, with Helen Finney’s portrait of me looking down as I work.

 

DSC_1846

I transferred it using detail paper, that had a tracing of the design in compressed charcoal. Once that was on the MDF, I went over each line with a good quality squirrel hair brush and home-made walnut ink. Tomorrow, the cutting begins!

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

Still Slogging Away….

10 Nov

final 2a

 

Still slogging away. I have redrawn this yet again and now I think I’m finally happy with the way the textual imagery flows. This is the third version that I have worked up, and I did it lightly in graphite first.

 

final 2b

 

Then I covered it with detail paper (tracing) and copied it through with compressed charcoal, which will help when I turn it over to copy it onto a sheet of wood – it has to be carved in reverse of course. Off to the DIY centre next, to get a sheet of MDF. This is the reality of doing art, reworking and refining and slogging away, not very glamorous, eh?

 

 

 

 

Back To The Drawing Board

7 Nov

Literally, back to the drawing board. I worked up a full scale drawing yesterday, ready to transfer to a block for cutting. But I’m not happy with it. There’s so much text to fit into the space and I think it’s too busy and cramped so today, back to basics, redrawing each word so the text is more abstracted. Tomorrow, I’ll work it up onto another full size sheet of paper and see where that gets me.

reworking a

 

This is a commission for Sky Arts television.

sky-arts art 50 mash up

And Nearer ……

6 Nov

Moving into the final stages of my commission from Sky Arts ART50 now, drawing up the design to full scale before transferring it onto a wood block for cutting …..

final 1 d

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up

 

 

 

 

Getting Nearer

5 Nov

adapted text 1a

I’m getting along with my commission for the Sky Arts ART50 programme, “Here Be Dragons”. I have reworked every single piece of text that will be on the final woodcut, redrawing each word until it forms itself into a visual image that I like. The letters sometimes become so abstracted that it can be difficult to read the final word, but that’s okay, I’m making a piece of art, not an illustration or a piece of design, so I don’t have to worry if something is readable, only that it works as a visual motif. These words will change again when they’re painted onto the surface of the woodblock and yet again when I carve them and print them and use chine collé on them.

Next phase is to work up a full-size drawing onto paper, prior to transferring it onto the woodblock. So getting along nicely…..

 

sky-arts art 50 mash up big

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