Assignment 1 Willows

Assignment Task

For this assignment pick a fresh landscape, natural or urban, figurative or abstract.
Using your favourite print medium execute a set of three colour prints, each using a minimum of three colours.
Each print must be different but connected in some way. For instance it might be the same scene at different times of the day, in different weather conditions or observed from three different viewpoints.

Overall assessment

Choice of printmaking method

In earlier projects in Part 1 Landscape, and also in Printmaking 1 I had used different types of monoprint, soft foam and foam board, linocut, chine colle and collagraph. For this assignment I wanted to look at the very different mark-making and textural possibilities of etching and lithography, to make best use of two courses at Curwen Print Study Centre:

  • Etching (hard ground, soft ground and aquatint) with David Borrington
  • 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.

First Sketches

As both the techniques were new to me, I needed a simple but expressive image. I decided to develop further the sketches of a particular group of trees from my sketches for Project 1.1. I went back and did a more detailed sketch. I liked the moody February scene with skeletal branches and plant stalks in the foreground, and turbulent water. In this sketch you can see the ripples left by a passing rowing boat. The clouds in the sky are windy with patches of light shining through and reflecting in pools on the water.

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.

As earlier I had not experimented with etching, I thought I would use this project to explore those techniques in an etching class with David Borrington at Curwen Gallery. This class came a bit soon in terms of my thinking through the image – I had mainly prepared urban sketches. The plates we were using were square which limited me a little. But the exploration of etching was useful to look at different markmaking, inking and colour combinations. These could be developed further through combining with Drypoint and/or monoprint. But probably better to first learn more about etching and redo the series with more expressive marks.

Square sketches crops

Etchings: my first exploratory plates

Version 1: Soft ground

The first plate I made was soft ground enabling dynamic pencil lines. I actually liked the colour of the back of the drawing as it had taken off the soft ground from the plate, giving me an idea for further development.The first print itself was a bit insipid, so I increased the contrast in the plate through adding some drypoint marks to the etching plate. When printed on white paper, this gave much more interesting contrast. I then did a series of line prints in different colours. The interest in this picture is really in the contrast between the light in the background field, the moodiness of the sky that I was able to enhance through inking method, and the black gnarled trees. I could develop this more through use of a second drypoint overlay.

Version 2: Sugar lift

The second plate was my first experiment with sugar lift. This has a much more sketchy Japanese feel. I could possibly have enhanced the contrast through using drypoint, but I did not want to sharpen the lines on the plate. I decided to leave the plate as it was, but I could develop this more through use of other layers, for example a softfoam background and possibly a drypoint overlay.

Treescape sugar etch

A number of spoiled prints had some quite interesting textural effects that I could possibly use later in the course.

Preparation for lithography

Refining the ideas: inspiration from my own painting

I started looking for inspiration in my earlier drawings and watercolour paintings – ideas for different moods and colours.

I searched my past photos and took some more detailed photos of areas I wanted more detail to understand. Although it was now summer, these did provide a useful basis for further sketches in my sketchbook.

I had also been making textural ‘tree’ experiments with tissue paper used for wiping up the ink off plates from my other prints – a recycling measure. But also produced some interesting random ideas for mood, colour and composition.

Refining the idea: Inspiration from other artists and printmakers

Kurt Jackson I looked back at paintings  that had inspired me in Project 1.1 for further 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.

Piet Mondrian Trees Google I really like the dynamic line of his charcoal drawings, and the stylisation of the oil painting development.

Egon Schiele Trees Google The skeletal trees with thinned leaves sandwiched between the pale paint shapes are really haunting, as are the end of year dark blood colours on the autumn tree landscapes.

Katarzyna Cyganic  does very delicate black and white linocut with bold compositions of trees and reflections in water.

Google search on Printmaking Trees

I also researched different lithography styles and pasted these in my sketchbook – Copyright issues mean they are not posted here.

Source Lithography History !! insert full ref.

Having ascertained the rough plate size around A3, one stone plate and two photolith plates, I worked on a number of possible designs in my sketchbook. 

Lithography process

See post on lithography techniques

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