The first layer of my planned leafy art nouveau woodcut is fully cut and prints quite well, although I am not sure of final colours at all.
I am planning an over lying layer of a leafy girl to compliment, but she is just in the planning stage. I want her to have a thick, plaited pig tail which will echo the least shapes. I was really struggling with this until I noticed a girl working in the cafe had a perfect pig tail, so I tried copying it, and have just about worked out how they work.
My linocut of Bessie Ellen setting sail was a dismal failure. Poor colours and the fine detail became way too blobby. So it will all be recycled, using the backs for test prints. I’ve started something new, using plywood for the first layer. Swirling art nouveau leaves as a background. The foreground might be a pretty girl, but I haven’t started on her yet. I’ve bought some oil based inks to try, to see if they give me a clearer image.
This is not expected to be a high quality print. I don’t know how to use the tools, nor how to achieve any desired effect. The only way to learn is to try. So I turned to one of my favourite paintings, Manet’s Olympia, and tried to copy her as a woodcut. Great fun to cut, but very hard to envisage the final result. Trying to copy a painting is probably not a good start. You can’t produce varied hues or subtle tones. The cut block initially gives a very false idea of the print. The block had white, cut wood, red uncut wood and black drawing. The print is stark black and white, with no intermediate tone. I think for the next one I need to start with a monochrome drawing. But you learn as you go on.
The best print was on thin Japanese paper. The Somerset paper was again a disappointment. So many printers swear by it. I must be doing something wrong.
This is an unfamiliar medium for me, so I am practicing with a familiar image. We went to Intaglio Printworks in Southwark on Wednesday. Paradise for a print maker. Amongst many bits and pieces, I bought three sheets of Japanese plywood for woodcuts. This cuts beautifully with my Pfeil lino tools, but it is so different. Grain to cope with, plus splinters. I painted the wood with red ink to start, to highlight the cuts. Then started work on a copy of my copy of Manet’s portrait of Berthe Morisot, one of the world’s greatest paintings in my belief. Had to photograph it and reverse it first.
Looks good as a red carving. Then I inked it with water based ink and printed it first on textured Somerset print paper. Really bad, I just threw them away. Then on some Japanese paper, which was much better but still too thin for my liking.
Then I tried the oil based ink which I also bought. It is so different from the water based. Much thicker and stickier. After a lot of working I printed another proof on Japanese paper, which was better, and finally onto a spare sheet of Zirkal paper which was missed from an earlier run and that was at last something worth while. I think the block still needs some work, especially around her mouth, but that is for later. Cleaning up the ink is not a lot of fun.
I’m still immersed in printing. I’ve wanted to try woodcut for sometime but couldn’t think how to start. As usual, the best way is to just get on with it. This is a block of lime wood I’ve had for over a year, waiting for inspiration. I’ve sketched the head of a peregrine falcon onto it. Now I’m trying to see how to carve out the white to leave a printable surface. All will be revealed when it is inked up, but that is some way off