Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I'm a newly-wed!



Excuse the lack of posting lately - I have had other fish to fry. Fiona and I tied the knot last week. We're both 'second timers' and our lovely kids were there to help make it a fantastic day in gorgeous weather! Honeymoon's planned for later, in Agistri, Greece. (Just the two of us, this time ;)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Outside Prets, Oxford Street, London


Too busy right now with getting married in two days time for this lunchtime sketching business, so 'here's one I prepared earlier'. From my 'Sketched in the City' blog/archive which I am gradually migrating onto this blog for simplicity's sake. A young man listens to his iPod watching the world go by outside Prets in Oxford Street, London. I quite liked the recessive blue and white figures against a bolder foreground figure painted with the addition of black Indian ink. Black ink & Quink ink plus white Conté pencil on recycled sketchpad.

Friday, June 18, 2010

King’s Road Post Box, Herne Bay, Kent UK

Close to my home is this very old post box, which looked fetching in the bright sunshine. Keen to try out my new Winsor and Newton Cotman Pocket Plus, a tiny but well-designed paint palette with 12 half-pans that  is smaller than my hand when boxed. I am pleased with the half-pans and skating a dryish brush across the rough surface paper lends a nice, sun-filled texture to the tarmac. The pack sadly lacks a Payne's Grey, so my grey comes from a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber. Watercolour on 300gsm rough paper.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Printmaking: Drypoint Crow

The Drypoint plate
My first ‘Drypoint’ print, ‘Crow’. The soft-edged nature of drypoint was, I thought, ideal for a broody, dark image of a crow. Drypoints are similar to engraving without quite as many stages and fortunately, without the need for chemicals. In a nutshell, they derive their soft pencil-effect nature from the burred egde that results from inscribing a metal plate. Imagine a ploughed field, the furrow is made from the spoil of the cut groove which is thrown up over the edge of the line. A much softer (than etching) effect results, depending on the plate material. Plastic sheet, coated/laminated card and other surfaces with an impermeable surface can also be used. This is an ideal printmaking method for experimenting and mixing with other methods. I used the reverse of a recycled printer's (zinc) plate. You can draw directly onto this surface with a soft pencil/trace or dive right in (which is how I like it). Using a standard needle with a wooden barrel, lines are etched into the plate and can be seen if the plate is angled to the light. It's not really possible unless you're an expert to see if the plate's ready until a first artist's proof is made. This I did and realised that I had been too tentative in my mark-making - the lines were too faint so weren't picking up the ink. So I washed off the (oil-based) ink with a citrus cleaner and went back to the 'scratching'. After further and bolder mark-making, I applied a new layer of ink. This is done by applying a small amount of ink with a piece of scap card directly to the plate and wiping it over the whole area untill it is covered. Taking a special type of cloth called 'scrim', which is a starchy net-like cloth, like an large open-weave linen, this is rolled up into a tight ball in the palm of the hand and wiped softly and repeatedly across the plate until the unwanted ink is removed and the ink inside the burred marks is more visible. As you can see from the background tone in 'Crow', some ink is left on the non-etched areas rather than have a stark white, (i.e completely wiped clean) area. This imbues the image with a richer texture. In a process similar to dark-tone Monoprints (see my previous 'Brown trout' post), the plate can also be wiped purely to achieve artistic effects, such as the clouds here and the crow's shoulder/beak/eye highlights. 'Whiteneing' is also useful here (basically a chalk dust) as it cuts through any greasy ink and is handy for bolder highlighting. At this point, remove inky protective gloves in readiness for clean paper-handling. 

Paper-soaking and pressing
Depending on the quality and weight of paper to be printed on, you will need to soak your substrate in order for the ink to be fully drawn into the grooves to pick up the ink that the drypoint needle has made. Heavy, thick papers need more time than an average-quality cartridge. My standard cartridge paper was soaked for just a few minutes. Once soaked, lift out the sheet until drips cease and place between some sheets of blotting paper until the surface sheen is gone. Laying the plate face-up on the printing press bed on a sheet of scrap newsprint, the 'receiving' sheet that you will print on is laid carefully (and once only) over the top. Cover with printing felt and press, depending on press type (roller/book-binding/nipping, etc). Drypoint plates will deliver up to a dozen prints before the burred edges wear down from the process. In this sense, they don't live up to the longevity of an etched plate, but what a fantastic printing medium without the need for chemicals (apart from oil, that is ;) Ideal then for short print runs, (limited editions) which'll add value and collectibilty to your prints, of course!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fountain, Trafalgar Square, London

Again, from last year's 'Sketched in the City' archive. Drawn on a very cold February day, just about warm enough to draw without fingers numbing. Black charcoal pencil and white Conté pencil on grey sketchbook backing board.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Triumph motorbike


From last year's 'Sketched in the City' blog archive, a lovely Triumph motorbike which I sketched down a seedy London side street, off Denmark Place. Charcoal pencil on brown sketchbook.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'The Ripple Watchers' final print

With the extra detail (fish scales, etc) now added, the illusion of two images is perhaps now biased towards the fish, but the overall effect I think is interesting. Note the sparse use of the second redution colour, black - the pupils and eyebrows only, remain on the faces. The rest of their face details was scraped away to nothing. It's hard to ruin a linocut in the name of your art, but this was an excercise in reduction linoprints. Next time I will be making a far bigger edition run. Perhaps then destroying my lino wont seem so drastic!

Reduction linoprint stage 2 'The Ripple Watchers'

Following on from a previous post, I had made half a dozen orange prints of 'The Ripple Watchers' and last night continued the 'reduction print' process by carving away the same lino for the 2nd (last) colour. Black is the second colour and using a piece of tracing paper over the orange print, I drew roughly the areas which were to be black. Not a big job as there was in fact, very little. Notably the men's eye pupils and the fish's scales. Everything else in the 'suicide' process of a reduction linocut, gets cut away for good. That means for sure that there will be no extra 'limited edition' runs of this one! There is no going back to the first stage of a reduction linocut as it's all been destroyed in the process of the art. This adds extra pressure on the artist to get each stage right (as there's no seperate lino/colour layer to re-do if it's not right) but also extra value in terms of uniqueness, as the print run can never be repeated. Picasso was very fond of the 'reduction linocut' idea, but I'm sure it wasn't just because it added value to the price of the limited edition.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Stanley Monoprint


Fresh from my London printing class, I was filled with enthusiasm for the monotype print. Whilst my fiancée Fiona held him, I drew our puppy (a Parson's Jack Russell Terrier' or 'PRT') directly onto a piece of paper laid over a mirror (the mirror's not significant, but it's a nice flat piece of something non-absorbent that ink sticks to, like a piece of perspex/metal plate). But the result I think is charming, like a swiftly-executed charcoal drawing, the finer detail was iscribed with a pencil and the broader background strokes made with a wide piece of card. See my previous posts if you need to catch up on Monotype techniques. The lovely thing about monotypes is that they have a gorgeous, soft edge, at least if they are drawn like I did on the reverse of the paper using a hard versus soft-edged implement. This looks like it was drawn in charcoal.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Fish-shaped shoal (white ink)


Or perhaps a 'fish-shaped hole'? Well, it's fish-shaped in the negative at least ;) This painting would make for a great linocut, particularly as no fish overlap, so I will put it in my 'to do' folder, behind some other creative tasks. If it were a linocut, a central, radial gradation of the white, perhaps to blue, would be very effective. Perhaps on a shiny silver paper too, it will be fun to experiment. I hope to get round to the linocut as a limited edition run for my August show at The Horsebridge in Whitstable. Winsor & Newton white ink with paintbrush on square black Daler-Rowney sketch pad.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Onto a Big One


The following is my short story-writing entry (very short at only 150 words) in the current Sage 'Salmon Tales' fiction-writing competition. The drawing isn't judged (or included even), but I had already posted this sketch earlier and now you can appreciate it in its intended context. I'll let you know if I win a salmon rod. Any comments or other support is welcome! Thanks!
The pool looks particularly tricky to cover. I straddle a rocky channel and back-cast to avoid the overhanging trees. The line sweeps sweetly round behind me. I wait. A hiss as the line pulls tight, then nothing. A boulder, surely. A huge bow-wave surges towards the rocks I'm standing across. A giant salmon emerges, thrashing its way through the shallow pass. The line snags, then snaps with a hiss. I panic. As the beast appears below me I drop onto its back, gripping its dorsal fin, clamping its body with my legs. We descend into the dark pool. Freezing darkness, green and white flashes of light all around. The salmon bucks and bolts as I snatch gulps of air. We beach on a shallow bank. Exhausted, I loosen my grip on him. He looks me in the eye for a moment then slips away into the dark water.