I’ve been invited to take part in a collaboration between artists in Swansea and across the meltwater in North Devon. I’m starting to plan a new piece of work for it, probably an installation in cyanotype if it works out. I’m beginning with some sketching en plein air so today I took a walk up a local hill to do some drawings and photos of some very specific places that will be relevant to the final artwork. I used Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens in sepia, sizes S, F and B and spent just a few minutes on each. I drew into my A5 leatherbound steampunk sketchbook.
When I got back home, I put on some tonal washes with the walnut ink I made this week. It’s great stuff to use, very silky and thick, it flows nicely off the brush. It settles out in the jar so I dipped into the top to do the pale wash and then pushed the brush into the thick sediment to do the darker tones. This is where the final artwork begins. I have to work quickly from now on as it has to be finished for exhibiting in January.
This is the last of the four monotypes I made on one day last week. The effort nearly killed me! I’m not young anymore. Anyway, this is the one I’m least happy with. I think it’s because I thought too much about it and tried to do too much detail. I was much freer with the other 3 monotypes and I think they worked better. It’s useful to know.
The process starts with printing the yellow plate, then overprinting that with the magenta, then finally the cyan, which gives a full colour range because the inks are translucent. The plate and paper are put through the press a second time at each stage to give a second, ‘ghost’, monotype. Some of the Impressionists used to work over their ghost monotypes with oil pastels, notably Degas and Monet, although I generally leave them, I like their ethereal quality.
So today I finally finished the walnut ink I started a couple of weeks ago. A friend gave me 4 fresh walnuts (juglans regia) in their husks. I peeled them and left the husks to stand in a basin of water for about a week and a half. They went very black and mushy. I put the basin, covered with tin foil, into a slow cooker with hot water coming up to half way and left it on the lowest setting overnight, letting it cool completely for another day and night.
Then I strained it through a ‘J’ cloth into a large jar and tested its strength on a bit of cartridge paper. It was quite pale so I boiled it on the stove and reduced it, checking occasionally until it was a decent sepia colour. There wasn’t much to bottle, about a quarter of a tea mug. The recipes I’ve looked at online suggest adding up to 20% surgical spirit (rubbing alcohol) as a preservative, but there’s so little that I think I’ll use it up pretty quickly. I’ll do some drawings with it and leave them in the light until this time next year. If they haven’t faded, I’ll see if I can get hold of a larger amount of husks and make some more.
Reblogging this spoof of political life in Wales. If you haven’t read it before, here’s a chance to catch up. Very funny weekly blog.
The story so far.
Carrying on with the small full-colour monotypes that I did a few days ago. It was hard work being on my feet for hours on end. The lightbox is too high to sit down to work into the plates and I prefer to stand anyway; it’s a physical thing and I think my mark-making is better when I’m standing. Something to do with posture maybe? I’m working in sweeping gestures with rags and scrim (tarlatan) onto the inked perspex plate. I’m trying to get an expressionistic feel to my landscape studies from Pakistan, quite different to the anatomical details of my nudes.
The slides show the first pressing from the yellow plate, the second with magenta overlaid and the final full colour print after the cyan plate has been printed, giving a range of colours from very dark blues, purples and greens to pale pinks, yellows and oranges. You have to know your colour theory to work with this medium. There is more detail about the method on my website here.
I had a marathon monotype session at Swansea Print Workshop yesterday and produced 4 full colour monotypes and 4 ‘ghost’ monotypes which is a record for me. I was corpsed at the end of it though. I drew the yellow and red plates in broad strokes with cotton rags and scrim (tarlatan). On the final, blue, plate I worked with tiny strokes and stabs with the scrim, covering the surface of the ink with tiny, tiny marks. When this was printed over the other two colours, it gave a soft twilight effect.
The slides show the prints taken from, firstly, the yellow plate, then the red overprinted onto the yellow, then the blue printed over the yellow/red. Finally, the ghost is produced by putting the plate through the press a second time to pick up the faint remaining ink, resulting in a ghostly image. I used Caligo ‘Safewash’ oil-based litho/relief inks, which give lovely intense colours with the added advantage of being easily cleaned in warm soapy water. Takes ages off the cleaning process. You can read more about the process here.
I’m working on a series of full colour reduction monotypes at the moment and I spent all day at Swansea Print Workshop, on my feet! I’m exhausted. People don’t realise how tiring art can be. The series is based on small pastel drawings I did when I was in Pakistan earlier this year. This technique uses a perspex plate to make three drawings into ink; the first in Process Yellow, the second in Process Magenta and the third in Process Cyan. They are printed in this order to give a full colour image. The plates are put through the press a second time to give a ‘ghost’ monotype.
I used Caligo relief inks, the water washable ones, onto BFK Rives paper, 250gsm. You can read more about the technique here. Now I’m off to bed :)
I spent a couple of hours at Swansea Print Workshop yesterday and carried on with the series of small monotypes based on impressionistic drawings of the Punjabi landscape I travelled through earlier this year. The originals were drawn with Daler Rowney artist quality soft oil pastels into a Khadi handmade paper sketchbook. It’s important to use the best quality materials otherwise the artwork won’t last.
Someone asked me for advice a while ago; she’d bought a large pastel drawing and had it framed with archival quality materials. It was hung on a dry interior wall out of direct light and nowhere near a radiator but it had faded almost to nothing over the five years she’d had it. It was obvious that the artist had used inferior, probably student quality, pastels and hadn’t used top quality, acid-free paper.
In the interim, the artist had died so there was nothing she could do about it. This monotype is printed onto BFK Rives handmade paper, 250gsm with Caligo litho/relief oil-based inks. It should last a few centuries.
Another hospital visit today, this time taking a relative to the phlebotomy department for blood tests. That’s three relatives in hospital for some reason over the past 2 weeks. Thank goodness for the NHS. This is free apart from the costs of getting there. Of course, we pay through our taxes and national insurance, but it’s when things like this happen that you realise how lucky we are. I had a quick scribble in the waiting room, drawing into my little spotty A6 sketchbook with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S, F and B and a graphite pencil (B).
We had two young relatives visiting this evening so we took them for a curry at the local curry house, The Vojon. Fantastic food there. Had a Handi Lamb Polongwala and garlic rice. mmmmmmm. I did some quick sketching of people nearby in my little A6 spotty sketchbook with a Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen, size S. I forgot to take my glasses so I didn’t get to see the sketch properly until I got home.