Saturday, January 10, 2009

Relief printing

linoprint 4 x 5.5

I've been investigating relief prints or lino prints lately. I love the graphic look of them and wanted to experiment myself. I haven't done anything resembling printing for many many many years so I thought I'd give myself a refresher course and try a small print.

Of course, living on this island sometimes makes accessing materials difficult, but I did come up with the basics and have sent off my mailorder for more things today. Because it is a refresher course to me, I thought it may be new to others too and I will try to share my process here.

I first spent some time reviewing some videos at Wonder How on relief or block printing that we very useful in outlining the steps to take in creating a piece as well as sharing some tips for success.

The next decision was what design to use. It would have to be something that could translate easily into simple lines and shapes. I then remembered an old piece that I painted on wood many years ago, a sort of stylized fish and ocean and thought I'd see if I could create that as a simple line drawing and reduce it to fit the lino block that I had bought(4 x 5 1/2).

I outlined the size of the block on paper and used it to enclose the drawing of the fish. This was the final drawing.

I transferred the drawing to the lino, then went over it with a fine marker to make sure the lines stayed put. The piece is reversed now and will reverse again when printed.

I then used a carving tool to cut away the areas of the lino that would not receive ink. The decision around what to leave blank and what to carve I found a bit tricky and needed to do a few thumbnail sketches before I was brave enough to make the first cut. No going back then! The block cut like butter and I became absorbed in it, burning supper in the process....

Then came the fun part - making the first print! I used a spare sheet of glass as a palette and water-soluble block print inks for the print. I had a small brayer which was the perfect fit for the block, so I spent some time getting it coated with the right amount of ink. Too little and it would be patchy, too much and it would blur into the cut lines.

I made sure that the block was coated well with ink in all directions then plopped it onto a sketchbook page for an initial proof. I need a baren to be able to really make the ink adhere to the paper well, but as that's not available here and on order, I had to make do with the back of a wooden spoon. I've since found a rubberized grout float that I've 'borrowed' which should do the job nicely til my baren arrives.

I peeked to make sure the ink was doing as it should, then peeled it off the block and let it dry. The results are in the first image of this post. I played around and mixed some additional pigment to alter the blue and for a little more practice, then printed them on Somerset printing paper that I have. The pieces seem to be richer on the Somerset paper than on the plain paper and are obviously more absorbent.

I'll try them on a few other supports and practice a bit more. I have one more small lino block to play with and need to research another design for it. I quite enjoyed the process again and can see all sorts of possibilities for print use. Once I receive my materials I will have more scope with tools as this piece is carved with just one v cutter, making it a little clumsy at times, especially on the curves.

Friday, January 09, 2009


9 x 12 watercolour

This is a quick portrait of a friend's daughter which was painted mostly while I was on the phone with my friend. I had sketched the portrait last night then thoguht I'd see if I could get that special colouring that only redheads have.

I haven't finished the hand yet and will. The hair needs a little deepening in places but the rest will stay as it is. I don't think I was quite strong enough in the shadows of the sun across her face, as I was wary of going too deep and making it look harsh.

I'm starting to like watercolours again for portraits and just bought a big pad of watercolour paper, so I'm obliged to continue. Or that's my excuse anyway!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Marsh at twilight

Marsh at Twilight
9 x 12 oils

On my drive to and from work, I watch the skies and the water and the landscape, creating paintings in my head but knowing that they may only stay in my head as I won't have time to do everything that I want.

With some snow on the ground when I drive home in the evening, it gives a glow to the fields against the darkened trees that border them and tonight I saw the dying edge of the sun sinking behind the trees. The bright gold was like a slit in the sky, sitting on the treetops against the darkness and I so wanted to capture it.

A small stream winding through the marsh remained open, its movement preventing freezing and reflecting a glimmer of the sunset. I stopped the car and looked at the scene, trying to memorize it, then came home and took out my paints. Here is the result.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Alla prima portrait

Self portrait
oils 7 x 9

I'm trying hard to loosen up my oil painting and act on instinct instead of overthinking things. So I worked on this piece for about 2 hours and think I have a likeness there, but the hand needs some work. The position of the fingers was complex and I sort of glossed over it. I also need to work on brightening the skin tones. I want to replicate the translucent skin, but not overwork it. To do that now, I may have to wait til the first layers dry for a day or two before adding more paint.

I'll go back and tweak some more. The eye colour isn't right yet. My eyes are blue but not quite that blue. I find one of the most difficult things for me in oil portraits is getting the eye colour correct. I need to do a series of colour swatches for different coloured eyes to see what mixes I can come up with. These ones need to be greyer to tone them down I think.

I do need to look around and invest in a good book on colour and oils. Any recommendations?


yupo, watercolour 7 x 10

My mind is still working around elements of water and a series around that is part of my 2009 plan. I have looked at different forms of water, such as fog, snow and ice as, being winter here, there seems to be lots of it and will be for awhile. There are also creatures that live in or are dependent on water which also interest me.

I have been experimenting with different mediums and supports that I haven't used for awhile and in this piece I used Yupo. This support is a plastic sheet that doesn't absorb water so the paint sits on top until it dries. It can be washed away down to brilliant white again or different effects can be obtained through adding other things to the sheet. In this piece I tried some crumpled plastic film, removing it after the paint had dried, or nearly dried.

The effects left on the surface remind me of ice crystals or the look of ice under your feet when you stand on a deep frozen pond or lake. I'll do some more experimenting with this technique and see if it goes anywhere. I want to see how much I can layer it without it disintegrating the underlayer or muddying the paint too much. It seems from what I've read, you either love or hate yupo!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sketches from a coffee shop

Sketches from a coffee shop

Graphite Moleskine 8 x 5

I sketch quite a bit and most if for my own enjoyment and doesn't often see the light of day through other's eyes. I love to sit in coffee shops and people watch. Expressions, gestures and capturing movement are fascinating to me. I flit from face to face and see how much detail I can get into a sketch before the person moves or before they notice I am sketching them.

I often find people will use the same movement over and over even if you think they are moving around a lot. I get the gesture in place first, then add details as the movement is repeated. If they move out of range, I can often use a similar gesture in someone else to complete the sketch.

This is the end of a sketchbook that I carry in my bag daily. Its also a kraft covered holder for receipts, gift cards and grocery lists. The pages are a little smeared by now but that adds to the charm.

Its now time to break out a new sketchbook or perhaps make one myself. I've been looking into creating a sketchbook for some time, but haven't acted on it. It doesn't look too complicated so I just may try my hand and see what I can come up with.