Project 1.1: Natural Landscape

The task

Choose a natural landscape. Follow the basic design process. Use whatever print method, inks and paper you think will suit your image

Overview and assessment

I decided to use a part of the River Cam just down the road from my house for this project, starting with a winter scene that echoed Dutch watercolour landscapes. East Anglia having a very similar flat type of landscape where the interest in winter is in moody skies and skeletal trees.

This project went through a number of stages – leading to far more possibilities and ideas than I have been able to explore yet. Particularly in relation to what I am aiming to achieve in landscape prints: the ‘picturesque’, ‘beauty and sublime’ or a social and political critique of attitudes to the environment and peri-urban sprawl with all its litter and badly cut trees. for some of my thoughts on this in photography see my  blog for OCA Landscape Photography course)

The quick sketches pointed to a few of the possibilities for composition that could be refined later. The potential for cropping into different scenes was almost endless, but also needed redrawing to make the composition dynamic. It is at this preliminary stage of decided what to sketch and why that I need to start thinking about the sort of effect I aiming for – something ‘picturesque’ and ‘pleasing’ in conventional Rule of Thirds and vanishing point terms. Or something more dynamic that plays with perspective – or even emphasises the messiness of the ‘natural’ scene. For this project I went rather conventionally with the former. I think that I did almost capture enough information for the image I finally produced. But I should have paid more attention to textures on the path, direction of shadows and the aerial perspective on the ripples and reflections in the water. These are a bit messy in my final print.

The separation of line and tonal sketches was very useful in terms of pointing to different types of treatment of the image. At this particular time of year it is too cold for me to do much colour work. Although if I am lucky enough not to be working on the few warmer days then quick watercolour sketches are possible (see below from earlier paintings I had done). Unfortunately this year I could not take time off when weather was good. In general I find photographs more useful for colour because it is easy for me to carry a camera whenever I go for a walk, to capture interesting light and cloud formations. As long as I bear in mind that photos do not necessarily reproduce ‘reality’ – both perspective and colours are altered by the photographic process. Maybe I should have added some video, particularly close-ups of the water.

I initially produced a series of etchings of the willows for this project, focusing in on a small section of my sketches. To contrast more painterly softground and sugar etch techniques with the harder more formal type of line from hard-ground etching that I used for Project 1.2. Urban Landscapes . But found it difficult to produce colour etchings of the urban environment to qualify as a contrasting pair of images. At the same time the monochrome landscape etchings were not interesting enough. These colour etchings of the willows (see details in my post on Etching) became instead part of my preparation and colour experiments for the monoprints in Assignment 1 Willows.  

For this project I developed instead a second landscape using a much broader scene at a workshop on Lithography. There were no multi-colour possibilities in the time-frame of the workshop – it would need multiple plates and I cannot develop these at home). But the monochrome image enabled me to experiment with mark-making  through the very responsive lithographic drawing process in a way that really reflected one of my original visions for the scene. This now contrasts with the much sharper artificial lines of the hard-ground etch. Contrasting also the expansiveness of the size of the landscape with the much smaller and more enclosed claustrophobic feel of the city.

Overall I find this image successful in portraying the feel of the landscape – its softness and expanse. Although parts of it are a bit messy (see my marked up assessment of a print from my sketchbook  below). There are a range of subtly different tonal contrast versions of the prints that I was able to produce through slightly varying the inking that alter the mood depending on how dark the distant part is inked.

My landscapes for both Project 1.1 and 1.2 could be developed further as a set of contrasting images through:

  1. Looking at lithography styles and techniques for urban landscapes to produce a matching lithograph.
  2. The lithography image itself can produce multiple crops that could be further developed. I can also colour them with other media like watercolour, crayon and/or pastel as Degas did with his monoprints (still to do).
  3. I have started looking at drypoint – both monochrome and colour – crops of prints of the lithograph that did not come out well for technical reasons (see below).  I cannot take this forward yet because drypoint on plexiglass gives me RSI if I overdo it when I have a lot of computer work to do. I need to experiment a lot with Drypoint on paper to produce something striking. But if I have time I want to explore this further with different crops and alternative natural and urban landscapes – including colour images and contrasting techniques on zinc, plexiglass and paper – as I prepare for assessment. Based on the mixed media exploration I can do on and some earlier drypoint comparisons I did for Printmaking 1 (For details of work so far and some ideas to take further see my post on Drypoint).

Process of developing the image

I decided to use a part of the River Cam just down the road from my house for this project – it is somewhere I go nearly every day and see in many different weathers and seasons. It was a part of the river that I had drawn and painted earlier as part of an OCA Watercolour course and also some of the projects and assignments in Printmaking 1 (See Landscape Portfolio). But there are always endless possibilities of both views, and different ways of interpreting the scene in different print media.

Inspiration

When I started this project it was early February 2017, just as the very first glimpses of Spring were emerging. I  looked back through my earlier artwork for ideas on different types of mark – making and interpretation at this time of year. Also to clarify how I might do things slightly differently in printmaking.

My vision for the print – as for my own earlier painting – was very much influenced by Dutch landscape paintings, sketches and prints I had seen in the van Boijman’s gallery in Rotterdam on various visits and/or in storage on their website.

View over a Flat Landscape: Jan Josefsz van Goyen (oil on panel 1642) a moody painting of a completely flat landscape with cows, where the top two thirds of the frame is occupied by the grey clouds, but with subtle sunlight breaking through on the horizon line in the far distance.

Landscape with a River Bank : Jan Josefsz van Goyen (oil on panel 1635-1640) a very muted colour painting of the far back of the river with a church – very much like the view over the Cam to Fen Ditton

Flat Landscape with a Broad River: Philips Koninck (oil on canvas c 1648) again very muted colours, dominated by the sky. The sky is now looming overhead with nearer clouds larger and again subtle lighting on the horizon and the river.

Polder Landscape: Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël (watercolour 1828-1903) simple monochrome image of two barges. Here the focus is on the water and some birds in the foreground. The horizon to a featureless sky is in the middle of the frame.

Landscape: Adriaen van Ostade (oil on panel 1639) a summer image with a very dramatic stormy sky with bright patches of light on the ground from breaks in the cloud. The horizon line is again low just above the bottom third of the frame.

Snowy Landscape with fences in the foreground: Charles Donker etching 1988 a misty simple monochrome print with large featureless sky, a row of skeletal trees of different types silhouetted against it and fences lines through the snow.

For more on Dutch landscape painting see: Dutch landscapes.

I also looked at other printmakers who had done landscapes I liked, particularly:

 

Sketches

I began by making three quick sketches of the same scene from different perspectives – following the task instructions. I could have done many more than this. But three were enough to give me a range of possible ideas.

I then did longer line and tonal studies of slightly different views.

I also took photos in February when the scene was generally grey and moody, then again in early Spring at the end of March when there was a much lighter misty feel and some green leaves beginning to show.

Then I looked back through photos I had taken over the years. Photos are important reference material – if taken with artwork in mind and the types of detail required, rather than as landscape photographs per se. Photography makes it possible to get a wide range of weathers and times of day, including those when sketching is not easy eg night-time, when it is very cold, fog (gets too much on my chest). Often the most interesting light is when I am in a hurry on work days, not the days when I plan to go out sketching.

Considering printmaking method

At this stage I also started to think about printmaking method – reviewing some of the prints I had done earlier of other parts of the river. I had experimented with different types of monoprint, soft foam and foam board, chine colle and collagraph.

See Zemni landscapes

I also started (ongoing) Pinterest Boards of:

I also looked at You Tube videos on landscape composition and notan design. I also looked at paintings of Kurt Jackson for ideas about mood, colour and composition. He often uses square formats and I like the semi-abstract nature of his work. I considered things like the positioning of the horizon and verticals – whether these should be at half or thirds way, whether they should be regular or in what way they might vary.

For this project I had originally intended to focus on etching learned in a 3 day workshop covering a range of etching techniques (hard ground, soft ground and aquatint) with David Borrington at Curwen Print Study Centre, comparing different mark-making. But in the end my etched prints were not good enough. Partly because I did not have enough time to fully develop the sketches before the workshop. There was also not enough time to really explore the full range of markmaking – something I hope to do in future.

Instead I worked further on the sketches and developed a very different series of monochrome prints from these at a second workshop:

  • Lithography (stone lithography and photolithography) with Lisa Wilkens

Although I had not done lithography before, this is a medium I really like and want to develop. I wanted to experiment with expressive possibilities of different colour combinations, through inking on one plate, layering plates and/or combining methods with my earlier techniques.

The stone block

Initial Print assessment

River Cam lithograph final assessment
With my assessment of different parts of the image.

When I assessed my first version of the lithograph there were a number of issues – some of which could be corrected:

  • an issue with the press because there was an unevenness of the print in the top right
  • my attempt to do a figure on the left was very clumsy. But it was possible to stop this out.

Some of the other drawing of the shadows on the path, water reflections, shadows in different directions etc were also a bit clumsy – partly because I had not observed and sketched in enough detail in my preparation. These I could not correct, but only crop out as smaller prints.

There were also subtle variations in ink contrast and detail through different emphasis in inking that could to some extent de-emphasise the things I did not like. These can be seen in my sketchbook but do not show well on-line.

My selection of the final corrected print.

 

Alternative crops for further development in Drypoint

When I looked at the final image it was possible also to see a number of alternative crops with different focuses and effects. I would like to develop these further as drypoint – including some coloured Drypoints based on Dutch landscape colours.

It would also be interesting to look at Carborundum.

and to see if I can get more of the watercolour effect of Cezanne through using transparent inks.

 

 

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