All posts by Julian Swindell

Retired academic, amateur artist, sailor

Confident women prints, and an Etsy store at last.

I have been working on a series of prints called Confident Women. So often images of women have either demurely downcast eyes, or a raised heavenward gaze. I want my girls to just be looking at the world as it is. The two below are the best so far, a blue lino cut and a red wood cut.

I have also finally got around to setting up an Etsy shop to try and shift some of these prints that are piling up. It is called JEGSart and you can find it here

You can even buy these two prints there…


Narwhal print process

This was an interesting print in many ways. I only started printing a year ago, so each one is a whole new experience for me. This is a woodblock print, cut into blanks of lime wood I bought in Cumbria. The initial inspiration came from a beautiful photograph of a narwhal in the Geographical Magazine. This lead to a bit of research and a lot of sketching.

Using these sketches, I came up with a basic composition of two whales. Initially I had another tail and a tusk in it, but that looked too cluttered.

Before cutting a block, I spent a week sailing in the Canaries, where we had a wonderful sighting of pilot whales, which gave me thoughts on light on the animals.

I wanted to emphasise the underwater look, and that reminded me of a painting I produced a couple of years ago, based on Natasha Brookes’ short film of swimming in frozen lakes in Snowdonia.

Putting all of these together gave me the basis for the print. The background printed from one block first, using a grade colour to try to give a feeling of deep water below a sunlit surface. The image shows the first layer printed above the inked block.

Each whale was then printed from a separate block, so I could vary the density of colour, to heighten the overlap.

One feature of the Snowdonian swimming painting I liked was the hint of schools of fish. Rather than cutting another block, I cut a paper stencil and rolled ink through it onto a blank lime wood block and then pulled a print from that. This smudged the fish a bit, which was probably a good thing.

Putting all of this together gave me the final print, which I have stamped in an edition of eight.

Life class, clothed figure.

Just a sitting, clothed figure this week. I did two full figure drawings and two sketch book portraits. I am really poor at portraits so want to concentrate on them. I’ve just ordered a book on drawing the human head.

These full figures are largely in contè crayon, which I really like. You can get very subtle effects and really dense darks.

These two portraits are in Derwent Graphik pen. I haven’t liked it before, but it really came into its own here. It isn’t waterproof, which is where I have come badly unstuck before, using it as a base for watercolour. A real mess.

Ballpoint pen, an underrated medium

I love sketching with ballpoint pens. To be precise, it has to be a Bic Biro, nothing else works as well in my experience. They aren’t perfect. They can blob and clog up, and the lines and densely shaded areas can have a rather nasty shine. But nothing matches the way it feels when you draw rapidly on good paper. The drag of the point is just about perfect. Textures can be built up through rapid scribbles and crosshatchings. I rediscovered it on my tall ship sailing week in the Canaries last week, where I used it for sketching on the boat, in cafes and on the beach. All I needed were a book and a biro.

Back ashore at a life class this week, I used a bigger sketchbook, but the same biro to do some textured studies .


I do like biro.

Dry point engraving

This is new. My first drypoint engraving. Scratched on a thin piece of perspex I took from a cheap picture frame. Nothing complete here, it was just an experiment. Laid the plastic over a sketch of one of my woodcut prints and scratched away with the point of a compass. Rubbed in some ink and wiped the surface with some kitchen paper. Then pressed some wet Japanese paper into it with the back of spoon. I hadn’t expected anything to transfer, so I’m pleased with what did.

I am hopeful that Father Christmas might be delivering me a small etching press in a couple of weeks, so I will wait until then before further experiments.