Choose a natural landscape. Follow the basic design process. Use whatever print method, inks and paper you think will suit your image
Natural landscapes check and log
• Consider the different stages you went through during your preparatory studies and how relevant, or unsuitable, the process was in forming the design for your final print.
• In what ways were you able to capture the character of the scene? Did you find you had gathered enough preparatory work to help with your final image?
• Describe your decision-making when selecting and composing your design and printmaking method.
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 had photographed many times (see below) but wanted to explore different ways of interpreting the scene in different print media.
I began by making three quick sketches of the same scene from different perspectives.
I then did longer line and tonal studies.
I finally decided on a closer crop just of the trees and their reflection to focus in on a 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. But the composition was not yet right.
This last sketch reminded me of a moody square format painting watercolour I had done for an OCA watercolour course. So I decided to base my print on that 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.
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.
I also looked at other printmakers I liked, particularly:
- Iona Howarth who uses carborundum and drypoint.
- Degas with his moody monoprints
- Impressionists like Pissarro
- Etchings of Sydney Lee
- Woodcuts of Anselme Kiefer
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. And look at how to combine etching with other techniques I had used before.
Etching: my first 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 print itself was a bit insipid, so I increased the contrast in the plate through adding some drypoint. When printed on white paper, this gave much more interesting contrast. 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. This plate required quite a lot of work, but I wanted to see how it could be used in combination with other methods to produce a variety of effects.
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, again as the basis for varying mood and effect through combination with other techniques to enhance the misty Japanese style.
Refining the ideas: inspiration from painting and photography
I started looking for inspiration in my earlier drawings and watercolour paintings – ideas for different moods and colours.
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.
Developing the prints