Love Lace Videos – Douglas McManus

I found this video via a ‘share’ on Facebook by a fellow textiles student. In this particular video, an ink that dries in such away that it can hold it’s own 3D structure is screen printed onto water soluble fabric. The print is heat cured with a heat gun and the dissolvable fabric gently washed away. A fantastic application of printing to textiles, actually making the fabric itself rather than surface design. Douglas has spent 6 months researching materials to get this right but it’s something to bear in mind and build on.

The video by the curators on this web page is also very good. It runs through all aspects of presenting art and design work in the exhibition, and struck me how much a piece can be affected by the way in which it is viewed.

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Multicolour Linocut – Project 7

I used this watercolour sketch as inspiration for my multicolour linocut design. I chose it for it’s simplicity in colour palette, and thought it would be interesting to have the main forms as white cut areas and making the negative space more detailed. I had originally used this sketch as the basis for a cut card design I made for my husband, with appliqued torn asian paper and ric-rac.

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In my first development sketch, I started to think about how I could use the pink and yellow in the negative space in order to support the block whilst printing, and giving a more even print. This is when I thought of using the border as a literal frame for the piece, adding texture and movement to the design in a woodgrain pattern. The green contrasting in tone and colour helps the warmer colours and white of the flowers stand out in the composition.

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I initially printed the series on bright white cartridge paper, and found that the broad cut area on the green keyblock was difficult to keep clear from ink. Registration was a huge problem as I stupidly tried to apply the blocks directly without using a registration marker, forgetting that when I printed the proof this method was fine as the keyblock marking the edges of the design was printed first rather than last. My cutting was also not an exact match between blocks, meaning that perfect registration was impossible to achieve. I had initially planned to use this as a practice design and do a larger more polished design for assessment. Unfortunately I got so involved in trying to get the technique and inking right, I have run out of time.

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With some of my rejected prints, I made a small collage and printed the keyblock on top. Unfortunately the registration was not as good as I had hoped (after all that practising too!) but I like the resulting effect and could see scope for design development from it. My urge to use it at the basis of a textile piece has had to be quashed!

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This was my final version set after cutting some more from the keyblock and printing on off-white hot pressed Saunders Waterford instead of the bright white paper. The cream does not really show well here, but I was concerned about the cream not working as well as bright white with the design. My fears were unfounded and I felt it worked well.

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I then experimented with other colour combinations, and wanted to try using more tonal contrast between the three colours, but in complementary colours. The pink was mixed with pale blue to a hard candy cool pink. The cream hot pressed paper as before works well to make the colours appear even cooler. It totally changes the character of the print, and I feel it has a sophistication lacking in the original.

 

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At the end of printing sessions I have started to make monoprints with left over ink, both on loose leaf and in a hardbacked sketchbook I have bought. Here are this sessions offerings that I may or may not draw into.

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In further multicolour linocuts, I would like to experiment more with printing on different papers, although as I mentioned before I have had problems sourcing materials for this. Having read about Claude Flight, I would also be interested in trying to abandon the keyblock at the design stage, and incorporated varying pressures of printing and inking within the design. I think I am rather short of the technical ability to achieve that yet though! It also has reminded me of japanese printmaking, where a single block may be inked in two different colours. I have read that Picasso printed in dark tones and overlayed these with white ink. I have started exploring this by masked monoprinting opaque white over wet coloured linocut prints with interesting effects.

Grosvenor School of Art Linocuts of the 1920-30’s

Whilst researching the history of linocutting as an artform, I have been particularly interested in work by artists Claude Flight, Cyril Power, Sybil Andrews and Lill Tschudi. Claude Flight joined Grosvenor school in 1926 as a tutor, just one year after the college was co-founded by Cyril Power. Power in turn had a long standing artistic partnership with the Canadian Sybil Andrews.

Linocutting was a new medium at the time of the great war, and was starting to gain popularity as part of the Vorticist movement. This was a reaction against the sweeping lines and dynamism of Italian Futurism, striving instead for the hard mechanistic stillness at the eye of a storm (vortex). Linocut was well suited to this ideal as it allows clean large areas and hard edged precision cutting without the interference of a grain, giving the print a mechanised feel.

The first popular cuts, however, were produced by the Grosvenor School of Artists who combined the hard-edged pure abstraction of vorticism with the speed and movement of futurism. Claude Flight was the author of two sentinel books on linocuts “Linocuts: A Handbook of Linoleum Cut Colour Printing” 1927, and “The Art and Craft of Linocutting and Printing” 1934. The lack of history in this particular medium left no tradition of a historical style or subject, allowing Flight to lay out his own manifesto. He felt that a linocut print should look like a linocut, the design should be not too large or complicated, and most revolutionary was his recommendation to abandon a keyblock that would traditionally hold a multicolour print design together. He wanted to make linocut printing part of daily life. His first book included a section on printing textiles, and he had an interior decor business with Edith Lawrence. Lill Tschudi printed her designs on fabric and made them into cushion covers. It strikes me that this idea of incorporating design into everyday life has a lot in common with William Morris.

In general, the Grosvenor Group prints illustrated the accelerated pace of modern life with generic figures, anonymity and repeated dizzying patterns to convey movement. Figures are elastically warped with violent dynamism, and complimentary colours are used  to enliven the design. Blocks were usually limited to three or four per print, but these seemingly simple prints were made complex wth skilled handpressing, varying pressure over the design to achieve shading and translucent layering of colours to widen the palette.

The best example in my view of the movement in these prints is “The Merry-Go-Round” 1929-30 by Cyril Power. The repeated swirling lines in opposite directions create zig-zagging twisting movement, and the use of contrasting colours exaggerates the effect. The figures are almost part of the machine and abstracted, flexing with the rotation of the ride. The varying pressure on the thin Asian paper has created a contrast between the foreground and background, making the concentrated ink in the centre appear to be being flung out more thinly in a centrifugal pattern.

"The Merry-Go-Round" Cyril Power, 1929-30

“The Merry-Go-Round” Cyril Power, 1929-30

Another print that caught my eye is also by Cyril Power, “Air Raid” 1935. The patriotic red, white and blue colours intermingle and become muddied when overlayed with each other and grey tones. Chaotic swirls and violent, rough mark making bring the image to horrifying life, the red becoming splatters of blood and fire in the trail of the planes.

"Air Raid" Cyril Power, 1935

“Air Raid” Cyril Power, 1935

References:

Ackley, Clifford S. “British Prints from the Machine Age: Rhythms of Modern Life 1914-1939” Thames and Hudson 2008

 

 

Single Colour Linocut, Huts – Project 6

I have recently bought a beach hut on Portland Bill, a place I have enjoyed visiting since I was a child. Over the past decade I have visited the bill regularl and taken many photographs, pariculalry of the huts and fishing boats. I made this linocut based on a few sketches in my sketchbook. As you can see I made an embarrassing school-girl error that I had mocked when reading the course material initially. I didn’t even notice until the thing was printed! I have learned this lesson the hard way and hope I never do it again! All is not lost as I thought I could cut out the offending section and make a small correction relief block to either print separately or insert into the block.

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I went through the same process of drawing out the design on black paper, and drew several versions until I was happy with the design for the sky. I printed the block directly onto a second block to mark out the reverse image for cutting. As you can see, I made a few minor adjustments in the design and mark making, which I felt worked much better.

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For these cuts, I experimented using a lino substitute with a smoother rubber texture. The cutting is slightly easier without any tendency to crumble and no need to warm, but it is easier for tool slippage and accidental cuts to occur. When it comes to printing, I much prefer it to hessian backed traditional lino as it is easier to wash and dry properly. The prints are made on hot pressed Saunders Waterford paper.

I spent hours printing an editioned run, but still frustratingly failing to get that elusive perfect print. I seem to be using more ink than the artists I saw at Bovey Tracy recently, but my prints still appear patchy in places. I am thinking that practice makes perfect, but at times I have struggled with the repeated failures.

I would like to move forward by developing and cutting larger compositions, and explore different papers more. I have orders a discovery pack of papers as suggested by my tutor, but have had problems with the delivery meaning that I have had to wait a long time and may need to look elsewhere. I wuld also be interesting to see how my designs work when varying the colour of the paper and/or the ink used.

 

Single Colour Linocut, Tree Fern – Project 6

I started this linocut inspired by some of the marks that I had made in the previous exercise. I particularly liked the more experimental and unpredictable marks made by rocking the curved blade, which to me looked like fern leaves. In my sketchbook I had made some sketches of palm trees and architecture in the Algarve, and we have a large tree fern in our garden as inspiration.

I initially worked directly from the sketches to make some markmaking studies in backdrawn monoprint, and a small test linocut.

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From here I made a composition sketch in pencil and played with the idea of incorporating patterns from the architecture as a border. In chalk and using A5 format, I felt that the composition was too crowded and didn’t really work. The chalk lines were too broad, and for that reason I switched to Neocolor II watersoluble crayon in white on black paper for further sketches. I explored using contrasting leaf textures and getting the balance right. I found these sketches too busy, and instead I included a smaller fern with a less fussy unfurling leaf design. I filled lost areas with overlapping rocking lines and hoped that the similarity of the two tree trunks held the composition together.

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I am not sure how happy I am with the final print, although I am getting better at getting a clean print. I find I struggle with larger uncut areas being sparsely inked no matter how many times I rub firmly over the reverse using a large wooden spool similar to a wooden spoon in weight and size.

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