Sunday, 19 February 2012

Andalucian Adventure - Spanish Lemons

I spent a week in Andalucia, Spain, at a village called Mijas, which is in the hills above the Costa del Sol, between Malaga and Marbella. 

I went there to attend two printmaking courses, with a great print artist, Mariann Johansen-Ellis, at Cascada Studio.

I have already posted all about my stay, the two courses and something about the prints I made.  This post is the story of how a Linocut Reduction Print Edition is made, using my Spanish Lemons prints as the Demonstration Models!

This is my own story, about how I made my linocut.  If you would like to see a great video, which explains in more (and professional) detail, how a Lino Reduction Print Edition is made, visit Mariann's blog, where you will find this video, along with a selection of others, which cover many printmaking topics.

Spanish Lemons - From Lemon Tree to Prints

It started with a photograph of a lovely little Lemon Tree, which was growing outside one of the houses in the Pueblo:

I turned it into a sketch first of all.  The sketch was coloured, to pick out the main colours and shading of the image.  Using this - with Mariann's help - I decided there should be five colours in my print (or four actually, since I didn't print the white - it was made by leaving blank, unprinted paper).  The colours would be yellow, light green, brown and dark green.

Colour No. 1 - Yellow (and white!)

The image was transferred to the lino plate.  The first thing I had to do, was carve away all areas of the print, which should remain white (ie. plain, unprinted paper).   The picture here shows that process part-way through.  If you look closely, you can see some areas where the lino is partly cut away - see the little shreds of lino sticking up, between the top lemon and the leaf?

A test print, in a brown coloured ink, to check the progress of the cutting, also to look for any already-cut areas, where a bit more work was needed.

Mariann suggested that it would add extra interest to the print, if I cut the two smaller leaves behind the first lemon as skeleton leaves. 
I couldn't decide which of two yellow shades would look best for the finished print.  It's quite difficult really, choosing the colours to use.  Often, I would suggest something, but Mariann's experience told her that this would not work - she would suggest an alternative.  I am glad I listened to her, because I'm sure I would have made some sad mistakes otherwise. 

The colours are printed over the top of one or more previous layers of ink.  This means that the previous colour will have some influence over the appearance of the ink that is printed on top. 

Also, when you look at any colour in isolation, it will appear quite different to how it is when it's placed alongside one or more other colours (the best way to get a true colour representation, is to look at a colour against a white background, in natural daylight - but we rarely see colours like this day-to-day, or in a piece of artwork).

We decided to print half the edition with the lighter yellow (a "lemon yellow") and the other half with the stronger yellow colour.  After all, the point of my being there, doing the course, was to learn - so this print was a learning exercise for me (and boy, did I learn a lot - including how much more I could learn, if I continue with lino printing!).

At the end of the day, I had ten sheets of prints on the drying rack, with the white areas defined and the yellow layer printed. 

Colour No. 2 - Light Green

Stage 2 was to print the Light Green colour, over the top of the yellow that I had already printed.  The same lino plate is used - this is why it's called "Lino Reduction", as you are using the same plate for every colour, removing areas of lino as you go, then printing over the ink that you have already placed on your paper.   This means that you will only use the plate for one edition (set of prints), as you will have cut away most of it by the time you are finished.

I like reduction prints, because I feel that the layering of colours, one over the other, gives a wholeness and cohesiveness to the print - it is quite a different feel to a multi-coloured, multi-block print, where each colour has its own separate block and each colour (or most colours) is printed onto the plain, white paper.
In order to keep the yellow lemons and a few highlights for leaves, I had to cut away all areas of the plate where I wanted to leave the yellow (or not print over with green).  You can see in the photo, that I cut away the lemons, plus the edges of some leaves.  A few small areas of the lemons remain, as I wanted the light green to provide some shading and shape.  

Note that the cuts on the lemons follow their shape contours.  Mariann explained that this is very important - any lines that are printed onto the lemons, should appear natural and enhance the shape of the lemons.  To cut away the yellow areas of lino with vertical or diagonal cuts, would leave very strange marks on the print, which would no longer look like round fruits. 

It's difficult - almost impossible really - to cut away every single little area on the lino plate.  Also - as I found out as I got further into the print and had cut away more and more - it is difficult to roll ink over a plate, where there are no raised parts, to support the roller.  You end up with ink in the cut-away parts and some of this will inevitably transfer to the paper when it is put through the press. 
Stage 2 - the light green printing. 

Colour No.3 - Brown

So now I had a set of prints that were white, yellow and light green.  I wanted to add some brown, to give definition to the tree stems and some of the leaves.  However, I didn't want to lose the light green highlights on my leaves.  So I cut away more of the plate, removing all areas that should remain light green. 
The brown layer, showing both the lighter and deeper yellows.  

You can see that the lemons have light green areas, defining their edges and their shape. I did not want to overprint any of this with brown ink and - as I said already - it is almost impossible to remove every little bit of lino - especially as I was now cutting away all of the lemons, merging those areas into the background - see the photo of the plate above. 

Mariann's solution was simple and elegant really - cut shapes from tissue, which could be placed over the lemons on the plate, before laying the paper on top.  Any brown ink would then be printed onto the tissue, which was peeled away, leaving nice, clean yellow-and-green lemons underneath! 

Colour No. 4 - Dark Green

The final layer of colour to be added to the prints, would be a dark green.   This was the most tricky layer, as all the dark green would show - none of it would be covered by any more ink - meaning it was important to print it well.  Also, the final green would affect all the other colours in the prints, altering the viewer's perception of the whole artwork.  It was important to choose the right shade of green.
Here are all ten sheets of prints, drying on the table.  On the left, at the front, is a mis-aligned print, where I accidentally printed the light green layer with the page turned through 180 degreens (upside down).  I decided to carry on printing anyway, as it would make a good "practise print" and Mariann said I might even get something interesting from it, which I could use in some way later on.  These are all printed up to the brown layer of ink.  They need the dark green layer, to finish them. 

Having cut away all areas that should remain brown (not many, but definition for the branches, leaf veins, some stems etc), we mixed up a deep green and printed it onto one of the light yellow lemon prints.   We didn't really like this green - it was just too heavy and dark, quite overpowering.  It was clear that I needed a lighter shade of green for the final layer.
Second attempt.  This was a lighter green, but it was still far too heavy.  You can also see where I didn't mask the lemons, to prevent dark green ink being printed onto them - a bit of a mess. 

Mariann lightened up the green again.  This photo shows the brown layer prints - to the right - with all three dark green prints to the left.  I hope it's clear how the darker greens make the lemons look "all wrong" and a bit washed out. 

The final green works far better:
This was a much better green and I printed the remaining prints with this colour; Mariann kept one for a Studio Copy, which left me with six to take home - not bad for a learning exercise! 
"Spanish Lemons" - My finished print. 

I gave one print as a raffle prize, for a charity concert that J. played in last Friday evening.   This leaves me with five prints.  I will give one to my mum, who really liked these, plus one for a wall, somewhere in the house... and a Studio Copy for myself and my portfolio of course.  Obviously, it's a learner's piece, but I still think it might be worthy of a bit of space on a kitchen wall, or some little corner that needs brightening up. I am actually rather proud of my prints - the Spanish Lemons and the other prints that I made in Mijas. 

That still leaves me with a couple of "spares".  I can give them away as presents - how nice!

I will give one away to a Blog Friend - I like that idea.  Would you like a print of Spanish Lemons, hand printed by Lizzie?  I will sign it properly, as part of the edition of 6, pack it carefully, with a backing board to keep it flat and a nice cellophane wrapper.  I will post it to anywhere in the world - wherever my Winner happens to live!

So, if you'd like to win a print, please leave me a comment on this post - I will make a random draw next Sunday evening. 

* * *

If you would like to read all of my Andalucian Adventure posts, here is a list, with links:

Andalucian Adventure: Part 2 - Monday in Mijas  
Andalucian Adventure: Part 3 - Three Days in the Studio
Andalucian Adventure: Part 4 - The Valentines Day Edition

I hope you enjoy the story - don't forget to enter the draw, if you'd like to win a print!


  1. That was very interesting Lizzie - to learn about the process. And your end product was very good. You should be very proud of them.

  2. I should be in bed, but saw you'd blogged and then sat down to read - that was SO interesting Lizzie - wonderful to read the various ups and downs during production - and I'm very impressed with the final piece, it's beautiful!

  3. Oh my gosh, Lizzie! I love Mariann's work, and I would love to take a class with her. Your print turned out beautifully, and I would love a chance to win it. :) xox

  4. that's a great post, lizzie, and I love the print! to have a student that wants to learn is always amazing fun!

  5. i never realised what a complex process this involved. a beautiful detailed print and so well designed. i love the skeleton leaves too, that was a gr8 idea of marianne's. so happy u had a wonderful time,
    jo xxx
    ps next idea for a blogfriends lesson i wonder?

  6. Wow, no I didn't realise that it was such a complex process either. That's real craftsmanship, working through all the steps to produce something which has a "simple" look - I hope you know what I mean! I think it's amazing, and your post has been a fascinating read.

    You asked me about the shapes on my layout - yes, I cut them all with my Slice. Very glad I bought it!

  7. I have loved the Mijas posts. I visited Mijas back in about 1974 when on holiday with my parents. It was such a lovely place and one of those places that I would like to revisit as an adult! When I read your posts I can almost imagine being there again. Your prints are fabulous and I would love to be included in the draw.

  8. I have really enjoyed your Mijas posts...we visited the area a few years ago and it IS beautiful. Your prints have turned out beautifully and I would love to be included in your draw.
    Alison xx

  9. I was going to leave a comment to say how lovely your print was and how interesting to read about the process - and then found out about the chance to win one - hurray! The last time I did lino cutting was at primary school and obviously it was at another level completely - yours looks fabulous :)

  10. Wow,sums it up nicely. This is beautiful. I did a bit of lino printing for my GCSE but never a reduction. It is truly beautiful. Have you ever tried Intaglio printing? I would love a chance to win. Thank you xxx

  11. Thanks Abi, I had a great time. Yes, I have tried some Intaglio printing, though no acid/wax etching yet - that's for another visit to Mijas, I think! - this is what I did do.

  12. Hi Lizzie
    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a lovely comment.
    I have been reading a few of your posts (love your monkees :-D) and really love what you do. I have to say I just love your lemons (thats sounds so wrong!) they are such a lovely fruit I think. I am using lemon shower gel at the moment for my showers and I just love the zingy smell!
    I am also loving your bookbinding, I have a Zutter book binder but I have only ever created one project with it but you have inspired me to get it out and make some more :-D

  13. Wow! Wow, Lizzie! This is awesome - so much beautiful hand work and time consuming art. It's fabulous - you weren't kidding when you said you had lemons on your blog. Your work is just fabulous, beautiful art!

  14. Lizzie, your lino print is just magnificent - I've enjoyed reading the process and it is far more intricate than I have ever imagined!

  15. Thanks for sharing the whole process! I really enjoy lino prints, especially because of all the work that goes into them. I love how the lemons turned out and I would also love to take part in the draw! :)

  16. Your finished print is beautiful Lizzie and it was so interesting to read how you arrived at the end result. I never imagined it was so complicated, having only made a simple one colour print at school.

  17. Lizzie...that looks unbelievably gorgeous and complex at the same time! What an awesome skill to be learning!


I love to read your comments!


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