I haven’t printed for a while, so decided to have a go at creating a print from one of the sketches I did out on the Bass Rock.
I redrew the selected part of the sketch, adding a bit here and there. Then transferred this in reverse to a lime wood block and started carving a basic key block drawing. I’ve had this lime for years and wanted to use it. Lovely to work in, but a tendency for unintended bits to chip out.
I took a couple of proofs onto cartridge paper, and coloured it up to get an idea of the finished work. I decided to cut out the hatched shading. Not sure now that was the best idea.
I cut two more blocks for head and pebble colours and shading. I used lino simply because I didn’t have any more lime. I’ve proofed the three blocks onto Somerset paper. Quite pleased with the outcome, but the are several tweaks to the carving needed before I do a final edition. I think I’ll run off about 10.
I spent a wonderful week in June on the above mentioned course, with about 20 other artists. We were based in Dunbar in East Lothian and spent each day drawing and painting out in the open at St Abbs Head, Dunbar Castle, Seacliffe and best of all out on the Bass Rock. Sitting surrounded by thousands of gannets was a once in a lifetime experience. My drawings were OK but some of the art produced by the others was astonishing, especially when you realise it was all painted out in the open, sometimes in the pouring rain, and on the Bass, pouring bird poo. I’ll try and show some of the other artists’ work in the next entry. We spent one morning visiting John Busby’s studio, which was another high point. I bought one of his small paintings.
I’ve gone through a period of drawing birds in coloured pencil, after seeing some wonderful work by Jessica Lennox at Slimbridge. It’s a curious medium. Slow but meticulous. You can work on colours by endless layering, but it can be hard to get really intense colour. These are all based on my own photographs. I haven’t found it a good medium for drawing from life. These are all roughly A4 size.
We had a wonderful model in Stroud last week, who held a difficult sitting pose over three hours. I was pleased with the way she came on, drawn entirely in pencil, but at the end, I had clearly squeezed her legs in, spoiling the proportions,and gave her a rather sour expression, which was quite unjust.
So I took her home and set to work. First, added a strip of matching paper at top and bottom so I could correct her legs and complete her head. Then I reworked nearly the entire drawing, until I was generally happy with her look. That is one of the joys of pencil and graphite. If you use good quality pencils and paper, you can rub out and rework endlessly. It actually seems to improve the drawing, giving it a deeper overall look. I thought that the studio cushions looked a bit like rocks, so went to town on them, and she quickly became Andromeda, sitting on the rocks at the edge of the sea.
But this Andromeda isn’t the poor sacrificial girl in Burne Jones painting that I copied a few months ago. She was forced to wait in chains to be claimed by Perseus, if he won, or be eaten by the dragon if he lost. My girl has got shot of chains, and Perseus, and is thinking what she plans to do next. I think she may suggest to the dragon that he goes and has a frank discussion with her parents as to why exactly they had changed up their daughter on the beach.
Sometimes I doodle just by dotting with a fine tip fiber pen. Usually with inconsequential results, but sometimes it works well. This cormorant was drawn from memory after a visit to a lake. The dotting allows you to correct it as you go along. The red seals just set it off.
This shark was more considered, based on a couple of photographs. I used a grey pen for the water, which worked better than I had hoped for. This was a birthday card for a fishing son.
I haven’t done much printing recently, despite building a new hydraulic jack press, but I have done some. First, this year’s Christmas card, a lino print of a festive tufted duck. The red was dabbed onto the print with a stencil.
Then I went to a Dry point engraving workshop, run by Beth Jenkins at Ardington School Of Crafts. The engraving itself, based on a photo I took last summer, didn’t look all that special, but when I rollered on coloured inks over the intaglio engraving, the whole thing suddenly came to life. More a monotype than an engraving.
Each time I go out drawing birds I produce anything up to four sheets of drawings or paintings. The question was what on earth to do with them. I already have a plan chest full of work which I have to edit down, i.e. clear out and burn, at regular intervals. So I decided to work at a fixed size page, 12in by 9in, and bind the finished work into sewn books. I’ve completed the first one, with about 24 pages and an old woodblock print on the cover.
I used the coptic stitch binding that I learned a few months ago. It’s a bit loose, but it makes a nice coffee table book, and at least it is easy to look at the pictures, which are well protected.