Prints on a Theme: Meditation, with Leaf

Gold Leaf

Yes, did I mention that I finally got gold leaf to stick?

One of my finds in Bucharest was a little alley way of art shops. There I found different colours of leaf, and, finally, glue to stick it on with. So I went back to complete the “Meditation” print.

I have now been able to decorate it with silver, gold, copper and bronze coloured leaf. Of them all, I think the bronze is the most effective, as it relates to the bronze bowl Buddhist monks carry, and creates the most realistic colour for falling leaves.

So here it is, at last. Here, the leaf has a much different message to the one it conveys in the Belle du Jour print, where it is tawdry, peeling, and ironic. Here it is delicate and sincere, on soft mulberry paper. Worth the wait!

Here is a silver one, with the hallowed gluestuff.


Prints on a Theme: Combination Lino- and Mono-prints- Backdrawing: Belle du Jour

Prints on a Theme: Combination Lino- and Mono-prints- Backdrawing.

Kitty Cougar becomes Belle du Jour

Belle du Jour is the development of one of the earlier Kitty Cougar Prints.

I decided when I came back from Bucharest and reviewed the pictures, to combine the linoprints with monoprinted (backdrawn ) outlines to add more definition to them. I had had to concede that I didn’t have the equipment or the skills to produce the kind of shiny prints that I had wanted, and so the relief outlines just weren’t there, and something else was needed. I had been sketching with graphite sticks during my holiday, and liked the lines and shadows they made. So I chose a steely blue grey mixture for the lines, and used drawing tools with different degrees of sharpness.

This is one of my favourites. It’s on tissue paper and the colours are rich and shiny; the addition of the backdrawing creates an etched effect.

This one is only backdrawn once, pressing lightly for a more delicate outline and cleaner look.

Here, the texture of the original print has created quite different effects and it seems to have movement.   The backdrawing looks like charcoal.

Here, on what had been a very bland print on cartridge paper, the backdrawing and finger-pressing has given a very grainy, smudged image with a much more three-dimensional effect.

I like a lot of these. But I finally went with the newspaper printed one to develop.

I first used an H-pencil to make outlines, sketchy lines, backdrawing on the dark grey ink. Later, having been pleased with the shadows made by being heavier handed with the ink on images, I made shadows using by fingers, this time on a lighter blue mixture. I like how these smudgy effects create some unity with the newsprint underneath, while the lines stand out over the type.

To summarise,  Belle du Jour is glossy, printed on a double page of The London Review of Books which is then inked over in white. Not the Daily Mirror. Too trashy! I’ll be honest, I originally printed it on newspaper because I was short of anything else big enough, but it was the one I liked best, and which set me thinking about a richer, more layered set of references to everyday objects and street art. It’s not exactly aligned with the newspaper type, which was another accident, but one which fits. The ink is thick and shiny, and the paper is shiny, and it has, appropriately, a centrefold. It’s a seductive pose, and the colours are garish, with gold leaf suggesting an icon. She is faceless, only her body is thrust forward. The picture is loud and larger than the others I’ve done, and has monoprinted outlines giving the otherwise flat shapes some depth. She’s on offer. I want to suggest an upper-class tart, hence the title, Belle du Jour, from the book by an academic who leads a double life as a call-girl. The rattiness of the paper, its folds, the peeling gold leaf also suggests it’s been used: I wanted to get an effect like a tattered street poster, but in a good neighbourhood. The monoprinted script on the side is handwritten in style, like graffiti or a marker pen, and might have given a phone number … or a review.

Prints on a theme: The Vamp: Combination Lino- and Monoprints

Prints on a theme: The Vamp: Combination Lino- and Monoprints

While making the linoprints, I was often struck by how attractive the actual linocut block looked, so made some monoprints from it as I was going along.

The second lino block

Some of these were painted onto the lino block, some used backdrawing. I used tissue paper for all of them because it was delicate enough to pick up details, even of the cut marks painted over. Here are two examples. Painting directly onto the lino allowed me to create three-dimensional effects to contrast with the flat colours of the original lino prints. I used three colours on the bikini to suggest light and shade, and was able to round out the body shapes with shadows and contours. The inked cut lines in the background now suggest a soft surface, and imply a different orientation of the body, as if she’s lying down.  The second print here is lifted off as a ghost print then backdrawn over a second inking of the lino, in red. This one does not aim at three-dimensional effects, but combines flat colours, patchy and distressed, with line.




Prints on a Theme: The Vamp: Kitty Cougar Linocut

Kitty Cougar: Lino cut

This was unfinished work from before the trip to Bucharest, so this is a bit of a recap before going on to discuss how this print eventually developed.

This was a departure into a different style, because the figure has a very different character. This is a burlesque dancer whom I sketched at life drawing. I’ve already used one of my sketches in a jigsaw lino print, and this is another pose that I found interesting. It’s a complete contrast to the introspective feel of “Meditation”, or the quietness of “Enchantment”. It could suggest movement, like “The Hunter”, but this is a still position, rather bold and provocative, not to say risqué.

In my earlier jigsaw print, I used brash unnatural colours, experimenting with green and blue for the skin, and reduced it to simple flat colour blocks. These colours were probably inspired by prints by Philip Sutton. I felt that the green skin and pink hair emphasised the commodification of the female body, and also gave the image something of the gaiety theatre air of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

I had in mind something similar for this one, and wanted to arrive at something that would reference a promotional poster.  I also envisaged applying gold leaf to the background to make it both gaudy and ironically iconic. I was envisaging white skin- printed, not the white of paper, as I wanted it to be a positive shape, a thick viscous look if possible. The bikini in a garish colour- emerald green. Gloves in black.  A yellow background, which I would then apply gold leaf to, like a religious icon, to reinforce the boldness of the pose.

I had in mind here lino prints by Gary Hume. When I saw these at the Hong Kong Art Fair I was impressed, first of all, by their sheer scale. That I can’t aspire too, obviously. The other aspect of them that I would somehow like to emulate is their – I’m not sure what to call it- thickness, plasticity.  Their sheen. They have no need for outlines, as the layers of ink create edges in relief. The ink is built up in layers, it seems. In order to try to do something similar, the only ways I can think of using are:

  1. Using my oil based inks, which seem to be shinier and more viscous, and
  2. Layering colours one over the other, as in a reduction print
  3. Using a less absorbent paper, perhaps with a sheen.

I decided to use the biggest size lino I have, which is A3, and which would be harder to handle, printing by hand.

My problem at the time was lack of suitable paper of a size to print on. I had to scratch around for anything  that might do.

Now I’m just going to show the different versions of “Kitty Cougar” in order to talk about  the different finishes that arise from using different papers at the linocut stage.

I printed this in oil-based inks, and used the following papers- white tissue, coloured tissue, newspaper, wrapping paper and cartridge paper.

Printed on dark blue wrapping paperThis worked quite well, with the ink sitting on top of the paper and preserving its sheen.  There’s a lot of texture in the ink though- not a smooth finish at all- due to that resistant surface. The ink shows the suction marks where the paper was pulled from the plate- I’m not sure if there’s a name for these kinds of marks, but there needs to be…! I’m sure in professional printmaking terms, these are to be avoided like the plague, but I have a certain liking for them- they do serve to draw attention to the medium, pinpoint the relationship between print and surface, and yell out “This is an artificial construct” but I’d be worried about submitting it for assessment as it would probably be judged as inept, and I can’t in all honesty say it was a planned effect. I like the colours though- it’s garish- the yellow is battling against the blue in strength of hue, as well as showing its viscosity/ tenacity.

This was another one I liked. The transparent yellow background couldn’t hide the newsprint, so it has a back story and another layer of pattern. I like the contingent fact of it having a centre-fold too, and, like the wrapping paper above, it has a texture of its own from folds and creases. The paper is shiny so the sheen I wanted is there. It is a smoother finish than the wrapping paper- no suction marks this time- well stuck!

This next one is on plain cartridge paper. It has a less smooth print and no sheen because of the surface of the paper, and I’m altogether less keen on it. It has a lack of definition.

This one, above, is one tissue paper. I printed some on white and some on yellow tissue paper. They have a good sheen on them, and some wrinkles- they look both delicate and brittle.

Finally, a ghost print on red tissue. Since the tissue paper is so sensitive, it can pick up the remnants on the printing plate, including the texture that is created by lifting off a previous print, here on the skin tones. This is a less brash image and I like the contrasting tones on the flesh itself as well as how they contrast with the flatness of the clothes.

Enchantment Version 2

Version 2: Softcut Block A4

I sketched the same scene onto softcut, rather than risk cutting the first one and regretting it- I wanted to try approaching it with more open space, leaving outlines in relief. This would leave more potential for introducing colour in various ways, such as through monoprinting, or chine colle.

This is it with a bit of scratching into the ink.

Chine Colle

I went a bit silly with the tissue paper at first, layering it in strips in the open space, the area where the narrative takes place and which was meant to evoke a magical feeling. The strips of tissue work ok, but they create areas of relief themselves which stop the ink going on smoothly where they end, so the result is messy. I’ve already been through this kind of over-complicated approach to using tissue paper in my experiments with the Gauguin still life, and my conclusion there was that less is more, something I seem to have forgotten momentarily…

So I went back to just using one colour of tissue that would shine through the open area and light it up in a different colour.

At the same time, I was wondering about adding text. I wanted something simple, suggesting a fairy tale, but not actually telling anything, so came up with “Once in a pool of light”. Having no verb, it doesn’t say anything about anything happening, nor does it mention any people: just the circumstances, with the rest left to be told by the picture. I felt it added a dreamy, timeless atmosphere, so added it at the bottom, in simple handwriting in a fine line, as if written with a pen.

I only have primary colours of tissue paper here, so chose to print it in yellow, to emphasize brightness and sun, and in blue, to echo the cool moonlight feel of the previous print. The tissue is delicate enough to pick up the writing clearly, and also creates interesting texture on its own, additional ripples on the water, and cracks in the colour where it has wrinkled. It looks like the cover of an old leather-bound book. This is simple but I like it.

I also have a selection of coloured tracing paper, one of which is silver, so I printed on that too. It has no wrinkles, being a firm paper, and it has the advantage that the colour, and hence the mood, can be changed by varying the colour of paper placed behind it. It’s also shiny, so changes according to the light source.

Here are some variations using different colours behind the print.

It was actually here that I first thought of combining the tissue paper and the tracing paper. This picture uses the same combination as the Facebook print- white ink on blue tissue, overlaid with rainbow-rolled (white – pale blue) ink on clear tracing paper. The wateriness of the colours and the depths suggested by the layers seem to suit the subject matter.

Lino- and mono-print

This version is a plain print in a single colour printed firstly on Chinese calligraphy paper and then on plain drawing paper. After the inking, the colours were added by brushing colour onto the plate. This has come out rather insipid. Perhaps it’s the water-based inks- they dry quickly in the heat.

Linoprint with inking

This version is on mulberry paper, very soft and absorbent. The colours have been added by painting on drawing inks with a brush. I diluted them so that they wouldn’t jar too much with the linocut. This is probably my favourite one of them all. It, again, has the look of a quite faded old comic book or children’s story book, and so fits the retro boy’s-own-adventure feel I was after. The absorbency of the paper creates a much softer  and more even finish than the dry brushed inks in the versions above, and so the atmosphere is gentler as a result.

Chine Colle: Facebook

Facebook: Four faces

This is a large print, on roughly A1 paper. It is four versions of the self-portrait, as I did before, but I decided to try again and improve the quality of the chine colle finish by using a spray-on glue that could be used with water-based inks. As I said before, the water-based glues were just causing the tissue paper to disintegrate on contact. This is using a spray-on very strong bonding glue that I found in the hardware store- it’s not the mounting spray you get from art shops.

This is meant to be variations on a theme, using the primary colours of red, blue and green with white as a contrast. Each of the versions creates a different interplay between the colours, as well as the textures of the chine colleed print.  I was thinking of Facebook, of the different personas people construct online, each of them more or less artificial, geared to an audience. None of these faces is “realistic”, but makes a statement and forces the eye to look and read the image in different ways. It was also a nice way to experiment with different ways of using chine colle all in one image.


Top left

This is red ink on white papier de soie. I like how the print definition is so clear using this paper, and also like the tight wrinkles created in the non-inked paper. This one is inked in red and wiped, obliterating some of the face. The observer will still be able to “fill in” the missing parts however, so the effect is perhaps of a casual attitude or conscious mystery-making.

Bottom left

Below it is a jarring colour combination which confuses the eye due to the red and the blue being the same tones but contrasting in hue. (The photo is making the red look darker than it really is.) This is red ink on blue papier de soie, so again there are small wrinkles that compete with the fine lines in the inked colour. As mentioned before, the design of this print, portraying my own bleached white hair, confuses one about the positives and negatives already, so here, the eye is not sure what to bring forward and what to send back. This gives out a bold, even aggressive image.

Bottom Right

This one is printed on coloured tracing paper, so is rigid and has no creases. On the other hand, it plays with the eye because of the contrasts of the primary colours, and then has some movement created by the rainbow rolling of the blue and green colours. This has the effect of “changing” the colour of the red background as the eye moves over it, and the result is a very rich glowing colour that seems to have depth and fire to it.

Top right

This one is contrastingly cool. It is the most complex image, one that should have most depth as it has two paper layers. The first is white ink over blue tissue paper, then rainbow rolled white/ pale blue on grey tracing paper. The effect is a bit like an iced pond, as the eye can see down through it to the darker blue below.

The effect of the whole is a bit unsettling, I have to say!

Series of Prints on a Theme: Enchantment Version 1


Version 1

One block, grey lino. A4 block. Printed with oil based inks.

This was going to be two blocks, but once I started, the delicate, perhaps more of a woodcut style, just became irresistible. Actually, I did try out a sketch in coloured crayons, so see how a multicoloured version would look, but decided it would be unsatisfactory. I would just be comparing it with the acrylic, and it would fall short in terms of the colour range and subtlety. So, a single colour print, cut with fine lines. I’ll print it on tissue to pick up all the details. I’m currently keen on the combination of delicate cutting and delicate tissue paper.

Here is the completed print, in dark blue on white tissue. I’m told it suggests moonlight, and that it evokes the sense of a traditional Irish story, the King of Lir, a tale of children turned into swans which ends with a fateful meeting on a lake. Well, I didn’t know this story before, and had already named the print “Enchantment”.

Printed on white papier de soie.

It does evoke moonlight, and that’s because it’s somewhat darker than I had originally planned. I’m torn with this one, whether to cut more or leave it alone.    The trees on the left are very dark, and it’s tempting to put more detail into them, but on the other hand, they’re unimportant, and more detail would just detract from the central image. Another thing I could do is just cut off an area to the left, so that here’s not so much dead dark space- but is that space atmospheric? I like the small cuts, but wonder too if I have after all fallen into the trap of making it a bit too stylised, too patterned, just what I wanted to avoid after looking at Escher’s prints. Yet the bird-shapes in the reflection in the water add to the strangeness too. I don’t know. I’ll come back to it.

This is ti printed on mulberry paper. Also very soft, it has a texture of its own which has added some interest to the dark areas, and it’s softness means it picks up the details really well.