Dorset Art Weeks

We currently have Dorset Arts Weeks underway locally, and I have been getting to as many exhibitions and speaking to as many artists as I can. I am aiming to put on my own exhibition in 2015 and have looking particularly at how work is displayed, marketed and priced. In my journeys I have also picked up a lot of practical printing tips from printmakers such as Liz Somerville, who produces large hand painted linoprints with a final print layer over the top. We had a long chat about creating depth in landscapes, and her influences which include Eastern European woodcuts. I also got advice on landscapes and creating depth from oil painter Caz Scott, as this is something I struggle with. I have met and had specific advice on collagraphs and monoprints from Sarah Ross-Thompson, Genevieve Lavers, and Robin Moorcroft.  One huge thing that I think will improve my work greatly is seeing how monoprinting techniques can be used in inking up a plate, be it a collagraph or lino cut. I will definitely keep this all in mind when reworking my representational collagraph.

As part of art weeks, Hugh Dunford Wood has opened his home for an exhibition including other big names such as Karina Gill, who is often seen in the pages of Craft magazine. Hugh trained at Ruskin School of Art in the 1970’s, was artist in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Globe Theatre, and has exhibited internationally. He currently has a number of strings to his artistic bow, painting portraits, producing home furnishings from linocuts including cushions and wallpapers, and most excitingly for me – collages including linocut prints. He calls these prints Collino prints. These are prints on scraps of various papers, combined with ink rolled directly onto the base paper, and some lino prints directly onto the base paper. There is a narrative element to the images, but rather than a linear storyline, they represent more of a poem, a moment. I haven’t reproduced an example here, so as to avoid any copyright problems, but I have provided a link to his work above.

I am thinking of incorporating the idea of collino prints into my butterfly theme for my final project.

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Butterfly Collecting

I decided to develop the sketch of a butterfly collection in frames for my final prints. The first major decision was to divide the design in two halves. I did this mainly for reasons of scale, in order to enable more detail in the frames and insects. I wanted to produce linocuts using an A4 sized piece of lino placed within an A3 frame. My initial working drawings were drawn in pen, and coloured as I tested colour ideas on the side of the paper.

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It seems that the bast way to achieve these designs is by reduction linocut combined with chine colle. In the blue design, the collage will be used in the negative areas between the frames; and in the red design, selected butterfly wings will be collaged in blue. I wanted at least one of the designs to be in blues as one of the prominent species of butterfly in Dorset is the Chalkhill Blue. In the second print, I again wanted to suggest the Chalkhill blue with the collage, and the warmer palette was chosen to contrast with the first design. In my sketchbook I did more work on colour, and how to prepare the tissue paper for collage. I also did a small test linocut to see how much detail I could achieve in the design. I used a soldering iron to make the marks on the moth wings in the centre. The cutting tool is in the photo for scale. I have set myself a huge technical challenge for these prints!

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This is the blue print after the second print layer. You will notice that the image is reversed. I did this as I was already giving myself a lot to think about, and the design would work equally well in mirror form. I was initially very disappointed with the registration, but think I am being hard on myself. The problem was with a combination of a frayed and uneven lino edge, the decal of the paper and my decision to use a jig of mountboard L-shapes in one corner for the lino and paper. There was room for error in both the block and the paper. I am also having a few issues with ink. I’m not sure if it is the temperature in my studio, or the use of prussian blue, but the ink is rather stiff and giving patchier results. This is not helped by using Somerset Satin 300g rather than the lighter and smoother Japanese Simli papers I prefer for lino.

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These are separate proof prints of the 2nd and 3rd layers combined, and the 3rd layer on it’s own. I would like to print a few copies of the final layer either combined with a monoprint, or painted by hand.

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This is one of the prints with the final layer. Of all the version I printed, all of them were misregistered. This is the best of the bunch. Again, I was initially upset that it hadn’t turned out exactly as hoped, but the more I look at it I don’t mind this. The butterflies almost look like they are fluttering and about to take off. I have embraced the misregistering and made a few more prints with deliberate movement with some interesting results. I have left one print without the third layer.

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Themed Sketchbook for Final Project

The brief for the final project is to produce a series of four prints, of at least A3 size including the borders, based on a theme. I have chosen butterflies, inspired by my local area. I have a hut on Portland Bill close to a butterfly and moth conservation area, and we are getting to the time of year when my eyes will be constantly on the lookout as I walk. A friend has also given me a collection of ephemera used by an entomologist in the 1950s, together with a couple of beautiful lunar moths.

As a starting point, my preferred approach is to start with a themed sketchbook. I start by researching the work of other artists, and general sketches based loosely around the theme before formulating my ideas into more of a plan. A few pages of my little book are dedicated to Warhol, Hirst, Escher and Whistler. Damien Hirst is well known for using butterflies in a number of works, and he has also collaborated with Alexander McQueen on a redesign of his skull scarves as anniversary limited editions. I won’t go too much into the details of my research here, as I have already written in my sketchbook, and don’t want to duplicate work. I have also looked at vintage cocktail trays, which were decorated with real butterfly wings arranged under glass.

Having looked at lots of images of tessellated butterflies by Hirst and Escher, I started arranging diecut butterflies on coloured paper. I tried a less rigid design using colours from a Hirst piece.

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The waste paper was looking just as interesting as the butterfly shapes, which led to this page arranged with tissue paper. It has started to look like a woven fabric – a design that I may wish to develop in another module.

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A church in the nearby village of Moreton has etched glass windows by Whistler. One is a memorial to a war pilot, and has butterflies prominent in the design.  This is a sketch of detail from that window.

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Having drawn this negative image in pencil, I then drew a positive pencil image, and a number of other sketches in various media.

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I took inspiration from various sources including the aforementioned collection, stamps and grocers collectors cards.

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Thinking more about butterfly collecting, I made this sketch.

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Amongst the grocers cards, I found a picture of a ‘map’ butterfly. I had an idea incorporating the map of the fields where my hut is situated. It is quite often that you see artworks with butterflies cut from maps. Perhaps an unusual paper for chine colle or a base paper?

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This page was thinking more about chine colle possibilities. It is a pleasing looking page in itself, with echoes back to Warhol.

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I saw a blouse with a heavily patterned design of overlapping butterflies that inspired this page.

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There are lots of ideas here that could take me in a number of different directions.