For this project, I had already made up my mind to use a scene from my recent tip to China. During a school trip to Yangshuo, one of the leisure activities was a visit to the light show, a spectacular event designed by the creator of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. My favourite part was the scene with rafts and fishermen which was lit with red lights, and all the time I was watching this I was thinking, “This is a lino print!” While I was there, I tried sketching it as a two-colour print, in red and black on a white background. It was hard to make the figures clear. When I came to this project involving three colours, I thought the addition of yellow would solve the problem.
The final colour sketch was this one.
I used tracing paper and drew the three layers.
Printing the first layer in yellow, I wasn’t sure how many copies I should make so went for 12. This was when I started to realise how much space this needed and had to improvise a washing line in the kitchen to hang the prints up, which was directly between the door and the fridge, so everyone had to duck under it all the time. That was there for more than a week until I got back to do the red layer the next weekend.
Meanwhile I cut the next block, and made the mistake of printing from the yellow block rather than from a print, so cut it the wrong way round. Poor reading of instructions!
Doing the red layer, I realised I should probably have done more copies to allow for the ones that moved or otherwise went off. I don’t follow the directions in the course folder, which said to lay the block onto the paper ink-side down and then turn it over. I found this resulted in moving as I turned it over, so instead I ruled on another sheet of paper where the block and the paper should sit, and followed that as a guideline. Also, the course folder makes it sound as if the three layers can be done one after the other. I don’t know it’s just here in Hong Kong, with the humidity, but I’m finding each layer needs about a week to dry.
Finally the black layer- this has taken a month- and the registration isn’t too bad- not perfect but that’s ok. The colours are not subtle- straight from the tubes!- but they match my sketch. The final black layer I tried to do a bit thinner, so the red would still shine through. The ink was thick and sticky so came out a bit speckled, which is good. I started to realise that pulling the paper off the print also leaves a mark if you linger for a moment!
The drying time is a problem. I just tested one of the black layers and accidentally smudged it with my finger- and it was one of the well-registered ones! Doh!!
All in all, I’m not sure that this image warranted over a month’s work and waiting time. Perhaps the colours are a little too unsubtle. They remind me of comic books. I could try again with less of a contrast- without the black anyway.
The image is somewhat photo-realistic, but comes out quite flat I think. Although I used the “natural” shape of knifecuts in the water reflections, I don’t know if it’s a good use of the printing technique after all. But it had to be done, or it would have stuck in my head…!
I made a total of 11 prints, numbered them, kept out the three best ones, and gave the next best to people who had been in Yangshuo. I was amazed at heir reaction- they loved the prints- so that was very gratifying!
I started playing around with ideas for a linocut card design.
In the end, I decided to do a simple two-coloured block card, one that had been a very quick squiggle on my sketch book, and I wanted to preserve that look of a quick line drawing.
I’m varying the colours and paper, but this is the first “classic” colour combination.
I now have a movable drying rack made out of a clothes rail on wheels to hang them on to dry.
I like this much better than the boatman as it’s more of a graphic design: simpler and more linear and unapologetically flat.