Project 1.1: Natural Landscape

Overview and assessment

For this project I decided to use a part of the River Cam just down the road from my house for this project. I love the the flat landscape in February with its moody skies and skeletal trees.

After considering and experimenting with different media that I developed further in Assignment 1 Willows,  and looking at a range of landscape printmakers, I decided to focus on a monochrome image in stone lithography. As a responsive printmaking medium that would lend itself really well to dynamic mark-making and tonal contrasts suggested by my initial sketches – to contrast with the hard-ground etching I had in mind for Project 1.2 Urban Landscapes. It was also a new medium for me and so would fulfil a course aim of extending my range of printmaking media.

Overall I find this image successful in portraying the feel of the landscape – its softness and expanse. Parts of the print are a bit messy (see my marked up assessment of a print from my sketchbook  below). But even with a monochrome print there were a range of subtly different tonal contrast versions of the prints that I was able to produce. Through slightly varying the inking it is possible to alter the mood depending on how dark the distant part is inked. I think the expansiveness of the format as well as the painterly mark-making contrast well with the much smaller and more enclosed claustrophobic feel of the etching of my urban landscape.

River Cam Lithograph.
River Cam Lithograph.


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. For my earlier work see the River Cam portfolio on my generic art and photography website

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. For more on Dutch landscape painting see: Dutch landscapes on my generic art and photography website

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

I also started (ongoing) Pinterest Boards of:

Developing the image

Although I had drawn, painted and photographed this part of the river before in different seasons, there are always endless possibilities of viewpoint, and different ways of interpreting the scene in different print media. What I had in mind was something inspired by Dutch Watercolour painting.


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 on my iPad 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. I converted these to black and white to see the tonal effects.

Using the sketches and photographs I considered format – should it be the conventional ‘landscape’ format? If so how long? Portrait or square format like many of the paintings of Kurt Jackson. I considered compositional issues 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. I also looked at You Tube videos on landscape composition and notan design. 

Considering printmaking method

As I started then to think about printmaking method I reviewing some of the landscape prints I had done in Printmaking 1, when I had experimented with different types of monoprint, soft foam and foam board, linocut, chine colle and collagraph (See Landscape on my Printmaking archive site). I wanted to try a new medium, but draw on some of the stylistic features I had developed earlier. In this case a soft approach like the monoprints to reflect the softness and tonal variety of the landscape itself, and to contrast with my planned etchings of the urban landscape.

I worked further on the sketches and developed an edition of monochrome prints from these at a print-making workshop:

  • Lithography (stone lithography and photolithography) with Lisa Wilkens

For technical aspects of the stone lithography process and techniques see my post Stone Lithography on this blog.

The final print edition

I decided on the largest stone available and a landscape format that seemed to fit my sketches well.

The inked stone block
The inked stone block

I did a series of proofs on newsprint to properly set the ink in the plate, and then a print on cartridge paper.

River Cam lithograph final assessment
My assessment of the first print in the edition.

When I assessed this 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 best final print from the edition after corrections to the plate had been made.


Alternative crops and further development

With the unsuccessful prints – rather than just throw them away – I experimented with alternative crops with different focuses and effects to explore different compositional possibilities that I might use in future.



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