More Butterfly Prints

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First off, I completed the second of the ‘framed butterflies’ prints, with chine colle butterfly leaves. Looking back at the blue print, I have decided to present the image with just two layers rather than three as the registration really was too far off. Partly for this reason, and partly because I loved how vibrant this picture was after the second layer, I have decided to do the same for this print. Some of the marks on the picture frames here were made with a soldering iron, and I think it has worked really well. If I were to rework it, I would make the clearing cuts on the large frame all in the same direction so as not to detract from the butterflies. The collage pieces didn’t quite match up with the cut marks, but I didn’t think that this mattered in the subject context.

Overall, given the technical difficulty of the prints, I was really happy with the final prints, and I feel that the design is strong. I was pleased that I have also been able to demonstrate a variety of cutting marks and use of the soldering iron.

Across the four prints, I wanted to demonstrate a narrative of butterfly collecting, so decided to use the other two prints to firstly portray the insects in among meadow flowers, as I usually enjoy seeing them; and secondly caught in a jar before mounting. I made a quick cut using a softcut alternative to lino in order to try out a design idea, and experimented with chine colle. I had done some preliminary work in my sketchbook on the best material to use for the collage, and ended up working with the same as for the print above. I also thought this helped keeping the four prints loosely together.

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I printed quite a few versions of these test prints, altering the shape of the chine colle pieces, but somehow I felt it wasn’t really working as I had hoped. I thought back to a page of overlapping butterflies in my sketchbook, and placed butterfly silhouettes on the plate in offset positions, overlapping the printed ones. I originally used solid silhouettes, then repeated the exercise with crudely cut lacy versions. This was much more appealling, and I felt it interesting enough to incorporate into the final work.

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I made a few composition sketches of how this idea could sit within a monoprint of a meadow. I made a few test monoprints, starting with a number of different flowers and the grasses painted. This was simpliflied to the most consistently successful marks only, which depicted poppies. The grass also looked really messy, and was replaced by collage wide strips of handmade green tissue paper. The collaged butterflies in blue also became confluent, and I cut these from a single sheet of tissue paper with a scalpel. I’m not sure if this can still be considered as chine colle, but I have also used monoprint in the final piece.

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Next, I worked on how the linocut butterflies would look, a made one with all cut marks, and one with a large proportion of marks made with a pyrography tool. The entire lower half of the wings on the red butterfly were marked in this way with a mixture of different toolheads. This was my favorite of the two, and I felt the veiny marks were particularly successful.

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I made a cut of three butterflies to use on the final print, and tried to leave some clearing marks around the insects inked to convey movement. I planned the exact composition before cutting by printing individual butterflies onto tracing paper laid over the cut shapes.

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The light has unfortunately caught the iridescent cutting in this photo, but you get the impression of how the final print looks. 2014-06-28 18.36.02

For the last print of butterflies in a jar, I decided to combine a lino print of a jar with a monoprint of the butterflies. I thought that this would help to portray the hard solid glass jar with the delicate flitting insects within. I thought that backdrawing would be the most appropriate way of doing this, as the lines needed to be strong in order to sit harmoniously with the linocut print. I had considered using partially sheer chine colle over the monoprint to mimic light catching the jar, partially obscuring the contents, but decided that this was not necessary. I had two attempts at cutting the jar, using a sketch in my sketchbook of a Kilner jar as a reference. I also practiced the backdrawing using various colours in a rainbow rolled fashion. I initially used contrasting colours, and then worked with various shades of blue. I thought that this worked well in creating the illusion of light and shade on the jar. I played with different thicknesses of ink on the plate until I arrived at the optimum shading on the print.

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Of all four prints, this was the simplest in terms of execution, but I think the end result is strong. I am happy that the characteristics of the subject have been portrayed in the way I intended in my selection of printing technique, marks and tones.

 

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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.

Project 14 – Chine colle and Linocuts

I experimented with various papers and glues in combination with my elephant linocut. For the glue, I tried using diluted PVA painted on glass thinly and transferred onto the pieces before applying to the lino. I found this made the paper rather wet and fragile to handle. Nori rice paste with a little water used in a similar fashion was more successful as it was less wet. I also experimented with display mount spray glue and Pritt stick. The spray tended to dry quickly as I was preparing the plate, and gave less evenly distributed glue on small pieces than the other glues. Pritt stick was the easiest to use as it could be dabbed on thinly and stayed sticky throughout the process. With all techniques I found that it was necessary to use tweezers to handle the papers, and they tended to curl as they were glued and transferred. It was tricky getting the piece to glue completely flatly in areas of negative space in the relief print.  I think I swore quite a bit during this project, and at times thought that it would be easier to prepare the ground with collage pieces , and print once the pieces were glued in place. The problem would however be in the registration which would likely be tricky.

These are the two most successful prints in the series. The first is using gold coloured tissue paper on Somerset Satin, and the second is torn pieces of handmade rag papers with pieces of gold leaf in them onto Rives paper. I initially tried using collage in a more precise way to pick out various areas of the print, but the results were disappointing. In particular the marks in the fabric on the elephants back were lost if a dark tone was used beneath them. There are problem areas in the bottom print where the torn edges of the chine colle were tricky to print on without patchy results. Despite this, due  to the textural nature of the handmade paper and gold pieces, I think the overall print is successful. I also like the burnt sienna ink with the colour of the Rives paper and the gold pieces.

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Next I experimented more with varieties of papers to collage into the print including candy wrappers, foil, newsprint, sheet music, tissue and gold metallic leaf. The metal leaf was a nightmare to use as it tended to fall apart on handling after it was glued. If I did manage to get it onto the inked plate, it tended to stick more efficiently to the ink than to the paper, leaving unprinted blank patches on the print and a messy block to clean up. I tried to combat this by first gluing the leaf to red tissue paper and allowing it to dry, but this did not stop a similar thing from occuring again as the metal adhered to the ink.

There is a balance to be struck between how patterned the collaged pieces are compared to the detail of the print, and I am not sure if in some examples below the background is too prominent and distracting. It may be worth exploring knocking back the details as I would do in my sketch book by washing the papers with a thin white acrylic before using them. The thickness of the paper is also very important as there can be a slight halo effect around the colle pieces. For the prints incorporating candy wrappers and foil, I spent a long time experimenting with various colour combinations, and was influenced a fair amount by Matisse and his ‘Snail’ cut-out. His work has been on my mind as his exhibition at the Tate Modern is on this spring.

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Combination Prints – Running Boy

 

 

For the next set of prints, I used another sketch from my India sketchbook. Bearing in mind that I had felt I needed to leave more space for the monoprint to play its part in the overall print design, I kept the lino cut very simple.

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The initial print worked nicely as it was, but I decided to cut more of the boys’ clothes away to allow space for more detail on the monoprint. I inked the plate quite heavily for these prints in order to show the cutting marks in the negative space. I have been looking at the prints of Holly Meade, and love the energy around her characters created by the cutting lines. The boy in my sketch was full of excitement, and running unbounded, which I wanted to convey in the prints.

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My initial print was painted with a brush, and the clothing was drawn into with a cocktail stick. The colours were influenced by the warm light of India, with a suitable contrasting violet. I chose to have the monoprint extend the frame, to represent the uncontainable energy of the child. The halo around the figure was reminiscent of the Ready Brek adverts of my youth, but the brush marks have the unfortunate effect of looking more like fire.

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As the sketch was made in a block printing village, I thought it would be interesting to see how block printing onto the plate as a background to the figure would work. I reversed the colours which seems to have worked well. I used the violet ink quite thickly to ensure a clear print from block to glass. This meant that the pattern was distorted in places, but I thought this was a success with the cutting marks over the top. It is a little messy at the edges but the registration is good.

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I then used the same block in a different way, using it as a tool for manipulating ink rolled directed onto the plate. I wanted to explore extending marks beyond the plate again, but I wish that I had been more careful about maintaining a horizontal upper border. The marks to the right are really nice, but the wayward upper line is a distraction which ruins it for me.

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In this final print, I looked again at extending borders in a more extreme way, by setting the print in a much larger monoprint. I back drew the monoprint on a plate inked in violet, ochre and terracotta, and overprinted in violet. I kept the backdrawing sketch loose in character, and linked the forms in a pattern repeat that revealed more interesting shapes and relationships. It looks like a time-lapse of the boy running, and the lino print in violet over the terracotta makes the lines appear looser and more energetic.

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I am a little concerned that although I have demonstrated some good ideas and my registration is competent, all my prints are more of a sketch quality than a final polished print. Time as always is against me, and my deadline has gone out of the window. I actually completed these prints two months ago, but have struggled with recording everything formally. I have deferred to the November assessment, but it is still a struggle to keep momentum going.

Project 13 – Elephant prints

My next set of combination monoprint and lino prints were based on a sketch from my India trip of an elephant at the Amber Fort.

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I worked in the same way as suggested in the linocut project by planning my cutting on a piece of black paper with white Inktense pencil and white Neocolor II pastels. I thought that the motif would be stronger if the seating and man on top were omitted. The borders were patterned taking inspiration from the designed painted on the elephants themselves. I then traced and transferred the image in reverse to the lino for cutting.

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In cutting the fabric drapes, I referred back to the sample blocks I had made in Assignment Two, and felt that hatching with a very fine v-tool gave the impression of a finely woven fabric. I used contour lines to give the fabric shape over the elephants back. I am really please with this design, and has the feeling of an Indian block-printed bedspread, with the animal motif in the centre and a decorative border. The small circles were inspired by embroidered panels, where shisha mirrors are used. I have noticed in the panels, that the placement of the shisha work around a very regimented design, even if they are not evenly placed, such as the difference between the top and bottom corners here. I also think that the freehand loose cuts of the border design work better than if it were all geometrically exact.

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In planning the final combination print, I kept the idea of Indian block-printed bedspreads in mind. They often have a solid colour background edge, with a cracked mud resist or batik resist drops in the centre. I thought about having a contrast between the border and the centre background, as well as selectively masking different areas of the image. I printed many sketch-quality versions of this in Acrylic system 3 on to heavy cartridge paper, and painted various monoprint ideas over them with acrylic inks. I also cut a series of stencils for masking different areas of the image.

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For the palette, I took inspiration from a page in my India sketchbook, where I recorded a number of colours from bourgonvillea cuttings. I had originally thought about printing the fabric over the elephant in a different colour, but found the results detracted from the markmaking and the eye was drawn to this area only, rather than the pattern on the trunk followed by the border as I had planned. I found that keeping it simple and using two colours only worked best. Violet and red together was unsuccessful as each colour completely deadened the other leading to a flat image. Orange-yellow with either violet or crimson worked best, and conveyed the carnival feel of the painted elephants in life. I felt that the sample on the left in the picture above worked well, in reference to the sponged areas contrasting with a solid outer plain border.

For the final print, I opted for crimson with the orange-yellow and tried a number of different techniques. I tried using hole-punch waste paper discs as masks to mimic batik wax resist, but they left slight indentations on the paper. This resulted in the lino print having ghost circles in it, giving the unfortunate effect of a hole-riddled animal! Registration was tricky as it had to be exact, and it was difficult not to leave tentative marks and slight double marks at the edge where the block was initially applied. These were the two most successful prints.The first is a ghost print, taken after the border was masked on a previous print, with a central mask applied for the elephant.

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In this print, the central area was drawn into with a cocktail stick in random scribbles, in an attempt to mimic the sharp lines of cracked mud resist dyeing.

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The problem with both of these is that the monoprinting does not really add anything to the monoprint on it’s own. Conversely, I think the strong contrasts in the original print have more impact. The design is good, but I have not left enough work for the monoprint to do, with all of the detailing already in the linocut.

 

Project 13 – First Combination Monoprints and Linocuts

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The coursebook suggested that we approach this project by exploring colour and combinations that we really enjoy, complementary and contrasting colour schemes. Being winter at the moment, my drives to and from work are often lit by the most fantastical skies, and an artist that, for me, really captures these  incredible light shows is Rikka Ayasaki. I took a couple of paintings by this Japanese trained, Paris based artist and attempted to copy them with gouache in my sketchbook, paying particular attention to the palette. The colours are broadly in two contrasting groups, one orange based and the other turquoise based, with many close complementary colours in the mix. I got used to applying the warmer translucent paints as a ground and sponging the opaque pastels and greens on the top.

I thought I would begin by working with a lino cut that I had made for a previous project, and used the final cut of my sunset reduction method piece. I simplified the palette, and made a few versions of the final print, mixing up different proportions of each colour, and different colour overprints. An example of this is photographed below. I printed with Acrylic and block printing medium, and painted with acrylic paint on it’s own. I decided that the green wan’t strong enough, and that the purple tone would look better as a deep violet. As usual, I kept a few notes on the recipe for each colour I used.

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I rolled out blocks of violet, pale turquoise, and a graduated palette of the other colours on a piece of glass in preparation for making the initial monoprints.

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I started by making painterly monoprints by stippling paint on with a stiff brush, and wiping into it with a silicone tip. I moved on to rolling broader strokes of colour, taking a bolder print, then rolling the colours in to each other for a more blended ghost print. These worked particularly well once the linocut was printed on top. The background monoprint also needed a fair amount of the deep violet to hold the completed combination print together.

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My favourite prints were made by masking part of the inked plate with a torn piece of textured wallpaper that had been rolled lightly with the same colours. This worked with the horizontal cuts on the linoprint to convey the feeling of reflections on the water.

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I find it interesting how different this print feels compared to the original reduction method print. The broader, brighter palette and looser marks of the monoprint have given it energy, rather than the quiet, reflective qualities of the original. Technically, registration was easy here as the placement did not need to be millimetre perfect at the edges to be successful.