Another new technique for me. I went to a one day workshop at Ardington School of Craft run by Beth Jenkins on the American technique of white line woodblock printing. It was intended to be a simplified form of Japanese woodblock, requiring just one block for the whole image, using watercolour and gouache as the print medium. It is really also closely related to mosaic and stained glass techniques.
Each area of colour is outlined by a gouged groove, the white lines, and then the area flooded with watercolour and the image transferred to thin paper by hand burnishing. Only a small area can be done at one time, so the paper and block need to be kept in register the whole time. Only one print at a time can be produced, and all will be different in colour. You can have indefinite print runs.
My first block, based on a photo I took off razor bills at St Abbs Head. The block itself is beautiful at the end.
I’m working on a second print in my studio. A roosting kittiwake I sketched at Dunbar. Still working out the best colour scheme.
This has been months in the making and I don’t know if it has been worth it. Last summer I caught a glimpse of a landscape as I drove through Wiltshire. A single bent tree on a horizon of ploughed fields, with sun lit masses of cloud either side. I must have seen it for less than two seconds, but I have been trying to recreate it ever since. Final layer of colour on it today, but I am unconvinced. I may tackle it again one day.
My wife had made some albums using an open backed spine bookbinding technique that I liked. It allows the book to open absolutely flat. I’ve made a sketchbook on the same format, using a variety of Japanese papers that I had. I’m not sure how well they will work in a sketchbook, but only trying will tell. I’ve used two lino prints as cover papers. I’m pleased with the result, but yet to try it out.
I’m enjoying the lino printing. One thing I find hard is that it is slow. You need to take more time than I naturally do.
I thought my dancing nude would look better with no background at all, a la Eric Gill (an artist whose work is a problem to me. I think it is wonderful, but I find him abhorrent personally. Always a difficulty.)
I think she does look much better this way. Good thing as there is no going back when you have carved the block. This is on a light, Italian printing paper.
Then I thought I would try a second colour.
I like this too, on thin Japanese paper. The burnt sienna is just rolled onto a cut out bit of soft cut lino and hand positioned.
The problem isI will soon have a house full of prints.
Had a second go at a lino cut. I have looked at some videos on the web, which are of mixed use. One had a very good idea of gluing the lino to a plywood blank. This makes it much more stable and easy to use.
I worked on a series of sketches for something a bit more more original this time, working on my usual plan that if you don’t know what to draw, a naked woman usually works. After several sketches I came up with a dancing girl, whose geometry I quite liked. This had to be traced and transferred in reverse to the block for cutting. I have got the lines too thick in this case. I went for a simple white outline for this attempt, which minimises the cutting.
I have run off a number of prints on some strange, thin Japanese paper I have had kicking around for a long time.
Can you spot the block amongst the prints?
Very hard to get a consistent ink coverage. I like the ones where the body is slightly faded. This seemed to happen if I rubbed down the body with my fingers and the background with a hard spoon.
I have just managed to get a bit of time to slosh some ink over my Japanese papers. What I am learning is that the ink needs to be very dilute and wet. It needs to move and thin. The added drawing on the ink is also crucial. The first image has just the initial pen and ink scribble, followed by the wet sloshing. I think it is a bit undefined. The second seemed even more amorphous, until I drew over it with soluble crayon. Suddenly I could see her sitting there, looking sideways at me.
I haven’t drawn or painted much for the summer, but starting to get the urge again. I bought a pack of thin Japanese papers from our local art shop. People rave about Japanese paper, but I have never used it, so thought it was time I tried .It is very thin, semi-translucent, but surprisingly strong. It is very absorbent. I tried using dip pen with acrylic inks, followed by washes of ink and soluble crayon, doing a series of naked ladies. I really liked it. The paper imparts a granulated finish to the washes which you have to peer closely at to see. That lets you see the line work in turn. I shall do a series more.
I have pinned them up in my studio and will try to do a full series of 10, to use the whole pack of paper. But not for a few days as I have to visit family next week, and go to university reunion (45 years for God’s sake.)