Tag Archives: relief printing

Yes? No? Maybe?

28 Mar

rubbing

I did an initial cut on a square of soft vinyl a couple of days ago, dividing the piece into 9 small squares and now I need to get an idea of whether they’re okay, which ones need more cutting, which to discard. I could ink it up and put it through a press but that’s messy and time consuming so I put a sheet of tissue paper over it and rubbed it with the graphite stick in the photo, like people did with brass rubbings back in the 1970s. That’s enough information for me to decide which to carry on with. Two of the nine will be dumped straight away. One is simply the wrong shape for the square format and the other is too abstracted and I need to give it a rethink. So onto the next stage, most of them need a little bit more cutting, a bit of tidying up.

They’re all based on drawings I did in the field (literally) over the past few weeks of Bronze Age and Neolithic stone monuments across South Wales.

Up The Workers (with added cat)!

24 Feb

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I have a permanent exhibition at The Workers Gallery in Ynyshir where I am one of the gallery artists. Started by Gayle Rogers and Chris Williams just over a year ago, The Workers has developed into a major cultural force in The Rhondda Valley. Originally the village library, Gayle and Chris took it over after it was closed down due to massive government cutbacks that have blighted so many deprived areas.

The stages of a block print: cutting, inking first colour, inking second colour, final print

The stages of a block print: cutting, inking colour 1, inking colour 2, final print

As well as a warm and welcoming place to visit, The Workers provides studio and workshop space for artists Gayle and Chris, has a main gallery space hosting an excellent programme of contemporary art, and another exhibition space for its gallery artists. At the moment, I am exhibiting a suite of eight block prints, inspired by a visit to Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial in the snow a few winters ago. There will be a major new exhibition of work by the gallery artists opening in mid-March – more news on that to come.

Printing the first colour on the antique Columbian Press at Swansea Print Workshop

Printing the first colour on the antique Columbian Press at Swansea Print Workshop

I’ve used vinyl ‘soft cut’ blocks from Intaglio Printmaker in London and their litho / relief ink. The prints are two-colour reduction relief prints: I cut away the areas to be left white and printed a mid grey, then cut away the areas to be left grey and printed black. This is often called the ‘suicide’ method by printmakers because it destroys the block and there’s no turning back!

cat and cut

Here’s my cat, Sparta Puss, ‘helping’ with the cutting. A dangerous business, she has no concept of ‘Elfin Safety!

Grow Up, Step Up

21 Jul

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I’ve been working on a series of tiny reduction relief prints and last week I printed the first colour. Today I began cutting the second colour from the blocks. This is called the reduction or ‘suicide’ method as you systematically destroy the block leaving no room for error. I was chatting to an experienced etcher today who said he found the reduction method too terrifying. I guess I may be a masochist! It’s a risky business as I don’t work from detailed designs, I do a rough initial drawing straight onto the block and then cut instinctively so I won’t know if it works out until I print the next colour. The temptation is to cut away too much; you can always cut away a bit more once you’ve done a proof print, but you can’t add anything back.

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The imagery has been inspired by a visit I made to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial a couple of winters ago. It’s not a slavish copy but an interpretation of what I saw and how I felt about it. My inspiration was strengthened this evening when Husb and I went to the cinema to see ‘Woman In Gold‘, an extraordinary and moving film. My generation grew up with parents and grandparents who had been involved in massive world wars and the aftermath hung over our childhoods. As that generation of elders that fought World War 2 is dying out, there is a terrifying rise of xenophobia across Europe and the responsibility of remembering the horrors of industrial scale murder falls onto the shoulders of we Baby Boomers. We’ve had a privileged existence and now it’s time to grow up, step up and do the right thing. We stand on the shoulders of giants, we mustn’t forget what they fought and suffered for.

 

Ready For The First Cut

10 Apr

ready cuts

I’ve been preparing a stack of vinyl blocks ready for cutting. I’ve drawn on them, firstly in graphite then in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens. Each block will be printed in 4 stages; the first stage is to start cutting away the areas that will be white on the final print. Then I’ll cut the areas that will be a light grey, then the areas to be dark grey and the final cut will leave the areas to be printed in black. This is called the ‘suicide’ or reduction method as it progressively cuts away at the block until there is very little of it left. There’s no margin for error. It’ll be a lot of work to print an edition from all 12 blocks. It’s going to take a while.

Printmakers = geeks. It’s true 😀

Tea And Welshcakes

29 Mar

Hunza Elder Woman copy

I’m taking part in a ‘Museum Experience’ at Swansea Museum, beginning on March 31st and carrying through to May 17th. It’s called ‘PROCESS’, because it focuses on the processes that artists use to create their work. More than an exhibition of work on walls, ‘PROCESS’ also showcases sketchbooks, tools and materials to foster an understanding of how artists create art.

There’s an opening at Swansea Museum with tea and Welshcakes in a family-friendly event on Easter Sunday afternoon (April the 5th) from 2-4pm to launch it. You’re very welcome to join us in this fabulous Victorian museum, a proper cabinet of curiosities and there’s an art-trail for children to do as well.

The show, with other members of the 15 Hundred Lives collective, covers painting, drawing, printmaking, collage and electronic media, and there’s also a programme of interactive arts events throughout March, April and May.

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My part of the show features some of my block (relief) prints – lino, wood and foamboard. These portrait heads are based on photos and drawings I did during a visit to Pakistan and they’re incised into offcuts of Foamex signwriters board. It’s a fairly hard PVC foamboard that’s great for cutting very fine lines, much finer than you can get with lino or softwood. It’s the first time I’ve exhibited these portraits as a group. If you’re in the area, it would be lovely to see you.

A Bit Of Columbian

3 Mar

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I was down at Swansea Print Workshop earlier and took some time to scribble the lovely old Columbian printing press. Dating from quite early in Queen Victoria’s reign (1855) this beauty is still in use, even though it’s a little bit wobbly and idiosyncratic. It’s quite complex and I’m right out of my comfort zone, I’m a people person, I draw people. Machinery is really alien so it’s good practice to spend some time trying to get it right. I used a Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen size M into my A5 Tate Gallery sketchbook. I haven’t done any relief (block) printing for quite a while and I’ve been fancying using some of my stash of vinyl blocks – I have a few ideas, I just need to get cutting then I can use this lovely, lovely press again.

Luscious Leftovers

27 Feb

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Had a full day at Swansea Print Workshop running a session on making miniature prints, to encourage artists to enter the Leftovers IV print exchange organised by the fabulous Wingtip Press in Boise, Idaho, USA. We’ve been saving our scraps of leftover papers – gorgeous, luscious printmaking papers. I demonstrated two techniques: block (relief) printing using offcuts of signwriter’s foam board. The other technique, drypoint intaglio printing with paper drypoint plates – so cheap and easy to use and so much quicker than copperplate etching. Here are some artists getting down and dirty in the print studio. In the foreground is the most complicated cutting tool we use for these two techniques – a four inch screw with some masking tape wrapped around it :).

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Here are some of the drypoint prints done today………

………. and some artists even managed to do an edition to enter for Leftovers IV. Result!

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Block Block Block

17 Nov

 

Someone asked me about the difference in the final prints made by blocks in different materials so here are three I did earlier :). This top one is hacked from a piece of plywood. It’s very rough and choppy because the wood splinters when you attack it with the cutting tools and it also tends to split along the grain. Solid areas also show the grain when they’re inked up so it’s hard to get a solid black. Some expert printmakers, however, scratch the surface of the wood instead of cutting and gouging. This gives a very refined and delicate tonal quality – here’s a link to an accomplished Chinese printmaker, Xiang Sl, who does amazing huge portraits in this technique.

The next block print is one I did with PVC foamboard, used by signwriters. In Britain, it’s called Foamex. Signwriters usually give away their offcuts, so it’s free and recycled. Bargain. It doesn’t like being cut and blunts tools after a couple of gouges, but it loves being incised with the point of a nail or screw, the tip of a screwdriver or even a ballpoint pen, pressed hard. The solid white areas in this print are cut with conventional cutting tools, the fine lines incised with the point of a 4inch screw held against a steel rule and the dots were made with a crosshead screwdriver jabbed into the surface. It gets rid of a lot of stress. It gives very good blacks and you can do very fine linear detail, much more so than with softwood or lino.

Finally, here’s a reduction print in lino. I find it’s the easiest of the three to cut and the tools love it – they take ages to blunt. It’s great for getting lovely flowing lines, it’s like drawing with blades and you can be very free when you’re cutting into it, especially if you warm it gently before you start. Hhowever, you can’t get the very fine detail possible with PVC foamboard, because it squishes slightly in the printing press and finely cut lines can close up under the pressure.

Phew – that’s very geeky 😀

ps block printing is also known as relief printing.

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