Monday, 27 February 2012

And Another Lino Project!

Another Lino project - though probably the last for a little while, as there are so many bookbinding projects clamouring for my attention!
This is something I tried at home, a few days after I got home from Mijas (see the various posts all about that here: !)

I wanted to see if I could make nice prints, using the equipment I already have to hand.

I started with a photo from a magazine story...  I loved the dancer's feet and the reflections in the studio floor, as if she was dancing on water.   I made a tracing-sketch of this.
I transferred the tracing to a piece of my soft lino and cut it out with my lino cutters.  This photo shows the plate inked up, after making my first test print.
The card surround is to help me line up my paper when printing, so I can get the print straight and in the middle of the sheet.
I have five colours of water-based printing inks, in tubes - white, black, crimson-red, ultramarine and silver.  I decided to print with a pink colour, mixed from my red and white.  Here's my glass inking sheet (it was once a kitchen chopping board - about a zillion years ago, before I realised how useful it could be in my craft room!) 
I found that nice little roller at the local art shop, in their "reduced" basket.  It was originally quite expensive, so I was really pleased to pick it up very cheaply.  The other roller I have came with my "Letterpress" set, for my die-cutter.  It's really not very good - a bit rubbish in fact.  This roller is okay - I like it, "it'll do" as they say!
Of course, when choosing the printing colour, I didn't really think about how tricky it is to photograph pinks... ah well!
The first test - printed into my sketchbook.  I printed this like a stamp - just laying the plate on top and pressing hard.  I wanted to see what it came out like.
My first "proper" print.  The paper was laid on top, using my registration guide.  I burnished the back of the paper with my favourite bone folder.  It came out okay in places, but more work needed.
This is the second attempt at burnishing on the back of the paper.  It came out better, but not brilliant.
I had a sheet of Murano art paper, in a sort of rosy-beige marled finish.  So, I thought it would be good to try printing on this.  I really like the effect of the beige paper showing through where I cut the lino.  Because the ink is quite pale, it gives a great contrast. 
The printing is still a bit soggy though...  
I had an idea.  I already have a "letterpress" kit for my die-cutting machine, which prints quite nicely.  I wondered if I could come up with a combination of base-plates, which would allow me to put the linocut plate and paper through the machine, as if it was a tiny printing press. 
The die-cutter doesn't have any facility to alter the distance between the rollers; the only way to increase or decrease pressure, is to use different thicknesses of base-plates, with little card shims in between, if a tiny adjustment is needed.  And, if the lino plate was too thick, it could break my machine!
After a bit of messing around and experimenting, I did manage to make some prints.
The first attempt.  Not sure about this. I think the ink had dried a bit by this point, which made it less smooth. 
You can see the "dent" round the bottom edge of the print though, from where it went through the "press". 

The second effort, which isn't bad actually.  It has printed a bit more evenly.  It's not so easy to see these prints, because I chose pink as my print colour!
A second try with the rose-beige paper.  This one did come out quite nicely.  I think I could do something more with this "printing press" idea.  At least I could make small prints in this way, until I can get a "proper" press!

I think that, on the whole, this was quite a successful experiment.  One or two of the prints I made are really not bad.  I may have another try soon.  I may also get some sort of medium to mix with the inks, to see if I can stop them drying out so fast and making the prints patchy.  Or else, I will try dampened paper. I'll maybe buy some other ink colours too, if I can get small tubes - no point buying large amounts at this stage.  Not until I have some more skills built up!  

It's all experimenting and learning - it'll do me good!  

Sunday, 26 February 2012

When Life gives you Spanish Lemons - Give Some Away!

Sooooo, hello all Blog Friends!  I posted this last Sunday, about my printmaking adventure at Cascada Studio, in Spain.  And, I promised to give away one of my edition of "Spanish Lemons" prints:

Spanish Lemons - an edition of six Lino Reduction Prints

All you had to do, was leave me a comment after you had read the post (or I suppose without reading it, but the comments all suggest that the commenters at least looked at the pictures!).

I said I would draw a random comment as the Winner....  There were 16 comments (plus one from me, but that doesn't count of course).  Sooo, I have used to draw a winner....  a number between 1 and 16....

* * *

The Winner of a Spanish Lemons print iiiiiissss  (loooong pause, just like on telly - are you bored yet?)

.... (hee hee...)

* * *

Number 3! 

Which is....  Pam Smallcomb of Yoborobo - Yay! 

Pam said this:

"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"

Well, guess what Pam?  You did win and your print will be swooping its way across the Atlantic, all the way to Maryland, just for You! 

I'm quite excited about that... especially as Pam did a giveaway of her own and is sending the prize to one of my friends in UK!!

I'll be in touch Pam, to get your address.

* * *

Thank you to all who entered my giveaway - and particularly, thank you for your really nice comments!

I'm off to write another blog post now.... bye!  

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!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Three Photo Albums for Tudor Rose

So, besides writing blog posts about my trip to Cascada Studio in Mijas, what have I been doing?  Of course, there's always housework and laundry...  but I have been busy in my own studio since my return. 

I am scheduled to teach a workshop day at Tudor Rose on 5th May.  This time, we'll be making Photograph Albums, using a traditional screw-post or cord binding.  I had to make some display samples, which are now finished and were delivered to the shop before lunch-time today. 

A photo album or scrapbook, covered with silver cardstock and pink felt.  This has silver and white cardstock pages.  The felt cover is embellished with glitter (Stickles) and the book is bound with a double ribbon tie, with a pink tassel embellishment.

A small photo album, which holds one 6 x 4.5" photo per page.  It has a front cover of 100% cotton bookcloth, with a William Morris Irises design print. The cover edges are trimmed with a cotton bookcloth, in a fabric called "Oakshot" - woven with yellow threads one way and deep red the other.   The back cover and linings are of Canford paper, in "Ocean" blue.  The pages inside are in matching Canford card.  The binding is made with two brass screw-posts.

Lastly, I made a large photograph album.  I has covers of cotton bookcloth, with a Beatrix Potter illustrations design, printed in blue.  The edges of the covers are in a beautiful powder blue dupion silk fabric, with a nice frayed edge detail.  The covers are lined with cornflower blue Murano art paper.  The pages are of Canford card, in a pale blue colour.  Each page will hold one or two 6 x 4.5" photos.
The binding is made with a stiff organza woven ribbon, in white. 

The books are displayed in the shop and will soon have a very nice label to draw attention to the course. Hopefully, the samples will catch peoples' eyes and encourage a few sign-ups for our workshop day! 

If you happen to live in the area (near Bedford) and would like to come along, go here for more details:  Tudor Rose Workshop

And, in case you missed any (and are interested!), here is the list of my Andalucian posts to date:

I plan another post soon, about the process of creating my Spanish Lemons print edition.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Andalucian Adventure - The Valentines Day Edition!

While I was in Mijas, working with Mariann at Cascada Studio, we all made a couple of small "learning" pieces.  These we printed onto nice, folded printmaking paper, to make Valentine Cards. 

This is what I did:
Working on the design of my first print.  The areas I wanted to keep are shaded in red pen.

Starting to cut the first plate...
First print. 
Mariann inks up the little plate, for an experiment.
The middle was inked in purple, after rolling red ink over the whole plate.

By this point, I had decided I didn't like the large expanse of flat background, so I cut out the heart, to make a shaped plate for printing.  We all agreed that the red/purple experiment didn't look right.  In the end, I decided to print the design in the purple that we'd used for the middle.
This is what the final version was like.  I don't have the card handy though - DH has it just now!

And I also made a second card, for a certain Boy, who always expects to have one of his own!
A little "guitar", all inked up for a test print.
Testing the plate.
The finished card!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Andalucian Adventure Part 3 - Three Days in the Studio

This is the third part of my Andalucian story: Part One is here and Part Two is here,  but this is what happened after my Monday Holiday!

* * *
I had signed up for two Linocut courses at Cascada Studio.  The first was the weekend "Basic Linocut" course - which turned into a Lino Reduction weekend!  Then I was supposed to be doing a Lino Reduction course, from Tuesday to Thursday. 

So, I went back to the studio on Tuesday morning, with a slightly different agenda to what I'd originally envisaged. 

On Sunday, Nina and Kit had needed to complete their work, so they used the press to produce their prints, while I worked on the cutting of my lino reduction plate and a second small print also. 

On Tuesday I wanted to complete the first reduction edition that I'd started over the weekend, so I could start on the next print that I had planned. 

I thought that there would only be me and Mariann in the studio, as the other two students who had signed up, hadn't been able to come after all.  So it was a nice surprise to find another student there also;  Milagros is a local artist, who makes etchings.  She had come in for the morning, to try lino printing.
Milagros making a Valentine

Milagros worked in the studio for two mornings and produced some great little lino prints.  I really enjoyed having her company, as well as Mariann's. 

Meanwhile, I was back at work on my "Reflection" print. 
This was the result of my printing at the end of Sunday afternoon.  I had printed the first two colours - light grey and dark grey (which meant that the white, light grey and dark grey areas were all there), so I just needed to complete the cutting and printing for the final colour - black. 

There wasn't a great deal of cutting left to do, as the dark grey was just for definition and shadows on the guitar and the man's clothes.  However, it would make the print look finished. 

Working on the shading for the man's sleeve and hand - inking up part of the plate and using a spoon to print proofs.

Proofing the finished hand shading before printing the final colour.
My completed print.  The final colour looks like black, but in fact it was a very deep blue.  When printed over the dark grey layer, it looks black, but gives a less harsh effect than a true black would do.

By the end of Tuesday, I had finished all the prints of my first Linocut Reduction edition.  However that left me with only two days to design and print my next one!

* * *

On the way home, I took some photographs, to help me with the idea I had for the following day.

There was a lemon tree outside one of the houses on the way back to my apartment.  Mariann had suggested I should choose a Spanish theme for my print - something I wouldn't find at home.  At home in England, other than in a heated conservatory or greenhouse, I'm not likely to find fresh, ripe lemons still on the tree!  Lemons and oranges really mean "Mediterranean" to me and these were lovely ones; so that was what I chose for my print. 

Wednesday and Thursday were hard work, but Mariann was very supportive and helped me to work out what I would do for each colour - white (which is not printed, just cut out of the plate, to leave white areas of paper), lemon yellow, light green, brown and dark green.

I had completed the design, drawing and cutting, then printing of the yellow prints by the end of Wednesday.

This left Thursday to cut and print the other colours, so I arrived at the studio on Thursday morning prepared for a day of hard work!   The day was spent cutting away the areas that were to be kept in the colour just printed (ie. for the lemons to stay yellow, I had to cut away the lino plate where the lemons were etc), then printing the next colour on top, cutting away the areas that should remain light green, then brown, then dark green, before printing the next colour layer.

It was quite a day!  Mariann was great, helping me with colour choices for my print and with proofing the different layers. 

She also made me a fab lunch. Did I mention that she took great care of us while we there and made sure we had lovely lunches?  We all went out for lunch on Sunday - to a great local cafe, where we ate tapas; on Tuesday to Thursday I took a few bits with me, towards our lunch and we shared what Mariann had in the fridge also, then we sat and chatted over coffee and shared the washing up duties. 
But on Thursday, Mariann made the lunch while I was working, sent me back to work once I'd had a bit of a break, then brought me coffee at my desk.  (I think I should live at Cascada Studio, because my "lunchtime chef" doesn't make me salads, with yummy ham, eggs, fish, bread, olives...  I just get sandwiches at home! ) 

Anyway, after lunch, I got down to cutting and printing the final two colours and Mariann gave me a hand with printing the last colour layer.  We were finished at 5:55pm - five minutes before we were due to go out for the evening - and I was so pleased with the results!
"Spanish Lemons" - one of the finished prints!

* * *

And the going out bit?  I was so lucky - there was an exhibition in Marbella, at the Museo del Grabado Espa├▒ol Contempor├íneo, of entries and prizewinners of the National Engraving Competition.  Mariann was going, with two of her friends and she invited me to go too (how lucky am I?!).

This was a temporary exhibition, but we were also able to see the permanent exhibition of printmaking and other art works, by many Spanish artists, including Tapies, Chillido, Miro and Picasso.

I enjoyed it so much - it was the first time I had seen any original work by Miro and I was excited to see how his work was put together. I had only seen it printed as reproductions, in books or magazines, where the depth and character of his work is lost.  You really need to see it "for real", to see that there is much more "there" than you can see in reproductions. 
And it was wonderful to see Picasso's work - there is always so much to learn from Picasso. 

I don't often get the chance to see an exhibition like this, so I really enjoyed wandering around the galleries, seeing the wonderful variety of work on display.   Thank you Mariann, for a fabulous opportunity!

We then went looking for a cafe or restaurant, to have some dinner and ended up at a pizzeria.  For Mariann and her friends, pizza is a treat, as there isn't a real Italian pizzeria/ trattoria in Mijas.  It was a very good meal, with great company - I had the best time and it was a lovely end to my wonderful week!

I slept like a log... then there was plenty of time on Friday morning, to get up and have breakfast, tidy up, pack my stuff and be ready for a lift to the airport (I'm so spoiled, eh? I didn't need to take the bus!!).  Mariann delivered me to the door of the Departures area and very kindly wished me a safe journey home.  

I felt so lucky to have been welcomed so nicely and made to feel special.   All the people that I met during my week in Mijas, were really lovely and friendly people.  Mariann's friends were also welcoming and friendly to me - even though they were friends of Mariann, I wasn't made to feel left out.  I do hope I will go back to Cascada Studio some time soon(ish!) and see Mariann (and some of her lovely friends) again.

Thank you Mariann and All, for a wonderful and memorable week in Mijas!   


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