Spain, and Bulls


Spain and bulls

Wanted to go back to the Spanish theme, and include some reference to bulls- I know it’s a bit of a tourist cliché, but I wanted to include the vibrant reds and yellows that you see on touristy stuff (and blacks- though I don’t have black ink..) I was also remembering the big black cut-out bulls that dominate the countryside- perhaps because of their being cut-out, they always put me in mind of masked monotypes.

Started by looking up artists who have celebrated Spanishness in some way- Picasso and Miro and did some sketches, copying their images of bulls. Also looked up the internet for the cut-out ones, and found they are available as bumper stickers, t-shirts and everything. There was a cut-out conveniently provided on the internet too, which I must admit tempted the lazy part of me for a moment… Then realised it would be stupid to take something mass-produced and turn into a monoprint.. (I am resolutely  not going down the “irony” route here…)

Played around with some shapes and did a plan for a print using a bull shape in the background of Miro’s “La terre laboree”, planning to use red, black (or as near as I could get), white reserved, and yellow overpainted.

Miro bull

But kept going back to the Picasso etchings, which were amazing, so full of life and movement.  There were two that I liked- one showing a defeated bull about to be killed by the matador, the other showing a victorious bull rearing up. I sketched these and tried to turn them into more solid shapes than the light-of-touch etchings.


Using the defeated bull picture,  I made masks and did two contrasting pictures. I was more ambitious with the mask this time, using small cut-out shapes, as my plan was to mask the printed page, not the glass.

Version 1: White bull, black shadow and yellow overpainted sun. “Espana” written down the side as backdrawing. It’s not supposed to look like a smooth tourist poster – the writing is more like spray painted graffiti, of the kind we saw often in Northern Spain, thought usually for Basque separatism. And the bull is a defeated one. (Although it is a bit ambiguous now- looking like it might also be about to charge.)



Version 2

Black bull on red. I placed the mask onto the printed page with a bit of misalignment created so as to have some white highlights. The red is more solid this time and the shape of the bull is more direct, iconic, dramatic. I decided to leave it, and like the ambiguity of the image.

black bull

The registration on this one still went wrong though, as one of the small shapes moved during printing.



I painted a glass plate with a dark grey mixture, and left it overnight to dry. Then I set the two bulls, the victorious and defeated, against each other as a backdrawn print. I like the soft effect- it’s rather reminiscent of the charcoal cave paintings in places like Lascaux,  or spray paint graffiti. I was tempted to add text again, as backdrawing lends itself to that, but couldn’t decide what to add. Captioning is difficult: saying something that’s obvious is pointless, and titling can reduce the potency of an image. Again, I could just put “espana” which could be politically apt. Or “Victor”, placed centrally on the page, begging the question of what victory amounts to.  The defeated bull image is one I am attracted to, with the idea of dignity in defeat.



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