"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Creating Characters: The Anxious Young Man

I am currently working on a rather complicated set of prints and hopefully an accompanying box. There is a sort of narrative to the prints and a main character. It is many years since I created characters and never before in lino. So it is an interesting challenge.

It made me think about what creating a character means. As soon as you make a drawing of something there comes along with it a potential for life, a  potential for character. Who is this, what sort of outlook do they have on life?  What is their story? My character, my anxious young man, existed in a different visual medium before. I am just taking him and giving him more life, rounding him out a bit. I suppose it’s rather like a novelist working with a real historical figure.

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Lino cut 1

He has a companion too.. a dog. Dogs too have lots of personality, emotions and reactions. These two have just 8 encounters in this project. Some good some bad. How will they react to each situation and to each other?.

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Lino cut 2

I also feel this curious responsibility because I am putting them in these situations. As I work with them an affection grows, to their weaknesses and shortcomings particularly. In the case of this young man I have, rather than created him, adopted him, but the responsibility is no less. In fact when I first saw him I thought he really needed a break.. so I am going to give him one..after a few setbacks of course, as is often the case in a good story.

They may well encounter a few of these as well.

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Lino cut 3

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Initial rough sketches.

Keep tuned for more of this project and and its origins.:)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

“August Midnight”

As I said in the last post I have been attending a 7 session book binding course which sadly has just ended. There have been many trials and many many more errors. It is a slow and methodical process but small successes keep me going.

This little concertina book was made to see how a three level concertina form might work, reasons for using three layers and the technical problems involved.
It’s based around the evocative Thomas Hardy poem “August Midnight” which I mentioned before on the blog back in 2011in my Fly-Bee-night print post here.

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The poem mentions 4 insects that visit Hardy’s room at night while he is writing. “A longlegs, a moth and a dumbledore”  and “a sleepy fly that rubs its hands”.
I played around with various formats and ways of doing this, but up against time rather than make prints of the insects I decided to use cut paper shapes which utilises the three layers. Things can get lost in the valley folds of concertinas sometimes so I reversed it with the insects emerging from the peaks, and designed it to lie flat rather than stand. Now the insects can have their wings open. Also the symmetry in both the poem and the insects lends itself to this form.

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The three levels needed to be to some extent visible and also support the layer above. So the base level is a hand printed lino of night sky on thick card, the second level Hardy’s handwriting printed on quite robust translucent paper and the top layer, the insects, made from soft Japanese paper which is also slightly translucent and very delicate just like his little companions. On the reverse is the night sky again but a darker print. The hard covers are covered with soft mat black slightly textured Japanese paper, the insect wings cut from printed Japanese paper are set in a recess in the cover.

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Covers and layers

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The reverse of the book

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It is designed to be lit. Night shadows of wings and legs.

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It was tricky to make, if you are just 1mm off nothing folds correctly. There were issues with getting the right paper, some papers cockling with the paste, some too thin, some too thick.  I made and remade it three times.

Below is that big pile of trials and errors and my initial design notes written on the train on a scrap of paper. I love working on the train, few distractions and just a pen and a piece of paper.

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Again a big thanks to Sue Doggett our excellent tutor for help and advice.
This book was a side project while working on a much bigger project which will take a month or so to complete… more of that to come.
I am beginning to see how I can fulfil my long held desire to print and bind my own books.. at last!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Bird Cherry Update

Back in 2015 I started experimenting with prints based around the Bird Cherry tree in the garden. I intended to make one print for each month to chart the changes. It was more a way of experimenting with techniques than actually producing a thing, and as with many projects, this one got overtaken by other work.

These are the first few proofs for possible January and February images. They are all based around one twig of this thorny little tree which I am not so keen on but the birds (yes, the clue is in the name) do love…and so do the bees, so it has to stay.

Currently I am trying to improve my bookbinding skills and am attending a short course with the excellent Sue Doggett at City Lit. Knowing we were going to be looking at Japanese stab binding on Monday galvanised me into picking up this almost forgotten project. Going back to the prints made me realise how much my understanding of printmaking has improved but there was no time to remake the prints, just to finish the last 3 months..oh and the cover and the endpapers and the text .. etc etc.

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The full set of Bird Cherry prints, all printed on Japanese paper. The print size is  20 cm x 10 cm.

They are mostly collagraphs with the odd lino and woodcut thrown in. They are printed on Japanese paper, trimmed and tipped in. My printing is still rather erratic so this seemed to be the best way to get a decent set.

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Tipped in prints and a text page.

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Text, endpaper and January print. The text is also printed on Japanese paper, for its lovely translucent quality.

The image pages are French folded Japanese paper, so bound on the unfolded edge and the end papers were made from a spare plate I had made as a background for another project.

The great thing about working with a professional is that you get to do things correctly and are shown things that suddenly open up a whole bunch of other possibilities. I have done some simple Japanese binding before but never added these very neat little corner pieces.

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or made an internal binding to hold the pages together before the final binding.

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The cover was printed with the same thorny image as the endpapers, thorns are very apt for this tree, and laminated onto thin card, I agonised about the reverse of the cover but the card was dark grey and smooth and looked too dull against the textures and colours of the prints and other papers, so I laminated that too with plain Japanese paper. Much better.

The cover title was set into a recessed rectangle and then everything was punched to make a classic 4 hole stab binding and bound with olive green hemp string I happened to have. NIce!

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book

 Bird Cherry: 12 Calendar Prints of the Bird Cherry: Prunus padus:   25 pages, tipped in hand printed plates, hand printed cover and endpapers. 225 x 290 mm. Hand bound.

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Translucent endpaper.

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Print for April when this little tree is covered in white blossom before the leaves appear.

I had allowed for the binding in the page size so this book opens pretty well. It is one of the drawbacks of this binding that it cannot open entirely flat, but if the pages are big enough and the paper flexible it works OK.

Yes I am pleased.. and relieved to actually get something finalised.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Oak … Book 1

Back in December I made some woodcuts of the Oak trees in the spinney. This is a collection of the woodcuts, very simply printed and bound into a wordless book.
Yes, there are mistakes but it is a bit of an advance. The plates are hand printed, the cover is printed from hand cut type and it’s bound by hand. There are two 6 page sections, 10 images printed on Fabriano 300gsm with red endpapers and it is a satisfying 24cm square.The biggest book I have attempted so far.

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“Oak…Book 1”  24 x 24cms

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Oak, spread.

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Early proofs.

I am calling it “Book 1” as I am hoping that “Oak ..Book 2”  will have some text and be bound a little better!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spinney Trees

This lovely May morning I took a small sketchbook and a pen up to the Spinney to make some quick notes about the tree shapes. Most of the trees have their leaves now so I can identify which is which. I am looking for characteristics of each species which I can use for some prints. They are the trees I see, very possibly not typical of the species, but ones I know and can place along the route..a young beech, the tall alders and a cluster of limes etc.

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Field maple, Larch way up at the top of the canopy and the Limes with my bike :)

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The lovely tall Alders down by the bird hide, Wild cherry, Sycamore with its big drooping leaves.


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Pollarded willow, Poplars in the wind with floating willow seeds blowing everywhere, Elm with bunches of, now browning, seeds which are scattered everywhere.


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A small Beech growing under the Oak canopy, Birch, twisted from the prevailing wind, arching Bramble and a spindly Hawthorn again growing up towards the light under the canopy.

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Ash just coming into leaf with its tipped up branch ends, Blackthorn up on the old railway line


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A5 sketchbook and pen. It’s all you need.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

April Sketchbook: Days 22 to 30

The last week of the April sketchbook, making notes about what I see on my route through the woods.

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22nd April: Some bird notes. A few shapes of birds that I see regularly in the wood.

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23rd April: Leaves from trees. Most trees are getting their leaves now. My tree knowledge is a bit sketchy so it seemed a good idea to make some notes from the leaves I have collected.

24th April: Tree shapes. I am thinking about some prints so a few thumbnails of possible designs. The weather had suddenly turned very cold so it was an opportunity to do some thinking inside rather than freezing outside.

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25th April:  Bugle, wild crab apple and groundsel. There is Bugle on one of the rides through the wood. I love these pretty plants and have the cultivated form in my garden. The hairyfooted flower bees love it!

26th April: Alder. Alnus glutinosa I knew very little about the alder tree before this week.Now I know a lot more now. There is a small grove of very tall and stately trees by the bird hide. Lovely tree.


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27th April: Pendulous sedge. Up in the wood there are clumps of this  growing by the path. They are in flower right now with very attractive nodding heads which scatter yellow pollen.

28th April: Piece of bark with accompanying woodlouse. I brought a piece of wormy bark back to draw. It had a resident woodlouse so I drew that too.

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29th April: a Snail and some moth notes. Busy bank holiday Saturday so a few quick sketches of a large snail and some moths associated with the trees from the Spinney. I really like moths and have a moth trap which is due to come out as soon as it warms up a bit more.

30th April: Beech, an old twig with leaves and a new twig with emerging tiny concertina folded leaves waiting to unfold. I have learnt today that the name for trees retaining their leaves in winter, as the beech does, is called ‘marcescence’. Fascinating. These beech twigs, one very new and one old, with last years twisted dried leaves, are from the same tree.

And that’s it for April!  I have a really busy May coming up, so not planning a daily notebook. But its a good and useful habit. Maybe…

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A4 Sketchbook.. with a convenient 32 pages. Nice to finish a sketchbook for a change !