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.

boy sketch

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.

boy print 1

Boy print 2


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.

mono boy 1

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.

mono boy 2


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.

mono boy 3

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.

mono boy 5

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.


Paul Klee – Making Visible

This weekend we also visited this wonderful exhibition at the Tate Modern. Having studied Klee’s colour work and visited the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican during my last OCA module, it was a great follow-on in my education of this inspiring movement. The first thing that struck me was the size of the majority of the works on show. We have been living with large scale prints of Klee’s work at home for more than a decade, and it was disorientating at first to realise how small they were in life. The exhibition was extensive, covering all periods of his life and work, from his beginnings in Nazi Germany, forced relocation to Switzerland, conscription to fight in the war and later illness and premature death from systemic sclerosis. It also, of course gave a broad coverage of work done and classes taught whilst part of the Bauhaus foundation.

This was perhaps the most technical exhibition I have ever visited, with most of my reflections and notes being about use of mixed media and many, many sketchbook ideas. My partner entered the exhibition very fond of Klee’s work, but as a non-artist was somewhat fatigued by the scale of the exhibition, with a huge number of pieces exploring colour and media in abstract compositions.

I was inspired by the use of ink, watercolour and oils together, and the different ways in which each medium was employed. His early work mainly consisted of abstract watercolour compositions exploring how tonal shifts and contrasting or complementary colours can sit together with dynamic effect. His later watercolour works included a number of paintings of built up layers of the same colour watercolour which I felt could be replicated in the form of a reduction linocut. There was evident humour in some of his works, and I particularly enjoyed a series of paintings of an aquarium, with fish depicted with big bulging eyes.

One area of special interest in terms of printmaking practice were his monoprints. He produced a huge number of backdrawn monoprints, to which watercolour was applied. These varied in subject, but his marks in conjunction with the crackled line achieved by backdrawing and loose application of colour created hugely atmospheric, and engaging images. Some of these painting were then cut apart and collaged before overpainting, allowing alteration of the composition and adding an extra layer of complexity to the final piece.

His work takes on a more sculptural feel in places, with use of collage and varying methods of priming and preparation that had interesting effects on the painting. He used a variety of base materials throughout the exhibition – paper, cardboard, plywood, burlap, calico. One of my favourite pieces was ‘Bewitched-Petrified’ 1934, watercolour on plywood. It looked like the plywood had been scratched into before painting to create strong lines of shading. Another interesting and inspiring painting was ‘Structural II’, 1924. Chalk-primed canvas was painted with gouache and watercolour in blocks of colour, and cream tempura, red tempura, and black ink lines were overdrawn, using varying levels of contrast between line and base colour throughout. The tempura is not quite opaque, and the resulting painting is a densely rich patchwork. Similar line designs are explored in his ‘Rhythms’ series in 1927, using techniques including scratching through a semi-translucent layer of pale oil paint. This method of scratching drawing through wet paint is employed again in “Walpurgis night’ 1935, in which the mark making was reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting.

There are many other areas of exploration in his work, including a room of pointillist pieces, which, to be honest I was no so keen on, and another series that looked very much like abstract precursors to Keith Haring’s work. He was truly an artist ahead of his time who pushed his materials to the limits throughout his life.

Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol

This weekend, I visited this exhibition at Zandra Rhodes’ Fashion and Textiles Museum in London. The exhibition is accompanied by the book “Textile Design: Artist Textiles 1940-1976” by Geoff Rayner et al (Antique Collectors Ltd, 2012).

The exhibition begins by presenting collaborations between artists such as Matisse and Henry Moore and textiles companies in the 1940’s as part of a strategy to revive the struggling post-war British textile industry and appeal to an American market. At the same time, companies in America were collaborating with fashionable artists such as Salvador Dali to bring modern art to the masses. This work follows on nicely from William Morris’ ideal in bringing new art and design into people’s homes. These collaborations as a commercial venture reminded me very much of some of the modern ‘capsule collections’ we see on the high street, branded by high-end catwalk couture designers; or the work of artists such as Rob Ryan or the design house ‘People Will Always Need Plates’ who have worked with Clothkits in designing their clothing. This carried on into the 1960’s, and the exhibition presents many examples of work commissioned from Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. I felt that a lot of the designs seemed very dated, and I guess that this is a consequence of the aim to be commercially fashionable. A good example of this is Joan Miro’s ‘Dancing People’ designed for Fuller Fabrics in New York 1956, which is very anchored in it’s time. Others may, of course, disagree with my assessment.


In the 1950’s, companies including Heal’s and Edinburgh Weavers employed artists to design for them, or translated work by well known artists into printed woven textiles. An example I particularly enjoyed was ‘Whithorn’ by William Scott (Edinburgh Weavers) which was used widely in the interiors of Altnagelvin Hospital in Northern Ireland. I liked the contrast between fine marks and broad strokes, a primitive design in earthy colours with a large repeat. Although I liked the sample, I felt that it would be very austere and overbearing in any quantity. It seemed a heavyweight choice for a hospital setting, where today’s interiors use calming, clean and usually pale tones.





By far my favourite designs on show were those from the furnishing fabric company Hammer Prints, established in 1954 by sculptor Eduardo Paoluzzi with his wife Freda (textile designer), and the photographer Nigel Henderson with his wife Judith Stephen (anthropologist and sociologist). Judith was also niece of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Wolf, which helped establish them as the artistic definition of the Bloomsbury agenda.  This sample is entitled ‘Newsprint’, and stood out as the only design on show with any element of photographic imagery. From a distance the design takes on the feel of  a rugged landscape, with more details being revealed as you get closer. The lack of colour in their work also set them apart in the exhibition.



During the 1960’s, Picasso collaborated with American companies Bloomcraft Fabrics and American ski-wear company White Stag. ‘Musical Fawn’ for Bloomcraft was a particularly striking piece, and the juxtaposition of the fabric sample in colour and made-up dress in black and white allowed the viewer to appreciate the effect of colour and contrast on a design, and how different a sample can look from the fabric to the dress. The scale of the design and repeat also becomes particularly important and can completely change the feel of the piece. The large bold repeat works to show off the bold, stripped back composition.




Prior to this exhibition, I had not appreciated how much work Andy Warhol had done in textile design. His work had a naivety in both subject and it’s execution that was very appealing. I have seen many examples over the past 30 years of his work being directly copied or inspiring designs for modern apparel, but all of these designs by him in the textile medium were completely new to me.


A section on illustration in textiles was dominated by work by Saul Steinberg, who was commissioned by Piazza Prints in 1950’s America to design fabrics based on his satirical illustrations. I was mesmorised by the effect of the repeat, and how successful the results were. I would love to have a summer skirt from this directional print!



Finally,  a print that caught my eye was this pattern ‘Princess’ by Ben Nicholson, which features a portrait of his then lover Barbara Hepworth. I was interested to see how the repeat works with repeated elements within it and inversion of the main pattern block within the design. Despite the way in which the pattern is constructed, the design still flows in a pleasing fashion across the piece.


Feedback on Assignment 4 and Reflections

I have received feedback from my tutor on my collagraph project, part of it reads as follows:

“Task 2 (Project 12)

You were asked to work towards a series of representational images using the collagraph technique. Some interesting results for this exercise, I can see from your notes that you struggled a little with gaining a particular aesthetic in earlier test prints, but you took the knowledge from producing the test blocks for project 11 and made changes to rectify the lack of tone in your prints. Your referencing of site-specific materials within your collagraph blocks is a particularly nice touch, and your tests of these materials are really very engaging in themselves.

My only comment would be regarding the overall image. I don’t feel that it accurately describes your subject matter, and I found it difficult to ascertain what the image was until I referred to your preparatory work. Collagraph is a technique that takes time to perfect, and with further experimentation and development, I believe your prints will improve, and have the potential to reach the same level as your relief prints.

Feedback on assignment

The work submitted for assignment 4 is overall of a good standard. Your use of different papers and inking techniques (combining dabbing and rolling) is great, and your presentation of your prints is clean and professional. What I would recommend is a bit more work on your representational ability when using collagraph. If you can dedicate a bit of time to working with different types of composition, the description of foreground/background, and the use of multiple colours as apposed to just two, I think this would enable your skill in this area to develop further, and will benefit your submission when it comes to assessment.”

I agree entirely with this, and was concerned that my final image was a bit abstract. I did struggle with subject matter, and possibly fell into the same trap as with my elephant combination print, in that I was making the block do all the work, and didn’t use the inking to it’s full potential to add depth to the image. It’s back to the drawing board for this one, and I will need to comb my photographs and sketchbooks for a new subject that is not such a challenge for me to begin with.

To make some positive progress on this and get inspiration, I have been looking at some other artists collagraphs. One example that I felt worked particularly well and demonstrates the point I was making about making the colour do some of the work is “Bailey #1 (Original Collagraph of Boxer” by Bonnie Murray. In this print, the edges of the subject are quite loosely defined by the block itself, in which the patterned textured areas are used to draw the eye to the details of the portrait. The outline and depth in the portait is achieved by the application of varying tones of colour, using light and shade in a subtle way.

Note: I have included a link to this print image on the artist’s website rather than reproducing it here for copyright reasons.

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.



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.

image image

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.



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.


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.


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.



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


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.



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.

image image

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.



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.


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.


India Themed Sketchbook

A moleskine watercolour sketchbook accompanied me on my recent travels to Jaipur. I spent some time prepping pages before I went, had chance to do a few sketches in the evenings whilst I was away, and have continued to work in it since my return, inspired by the many photographs and samples that I brought home. Here are a selection of pages from the sketchbook. I am finally feeling more confident in my drawing, although the odd mistake is still creeping in (such as the windows on the perspective sketch of the factory floor). I am pleased with the varied techniques and subject matter, from textures and colour to illustration and simply recording blocks from the block factory. I particularly enjoyed using the natural dyes at the woodblock factory to colour a couple of pages. The colours are so rich.

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