Tumbling Blocks Woodcut

I made this block back in my studio after the course run by Jonathan Ashworth, at The London Print Studio.

I really enjoyed the cutting part, but I have to say I find the print process more challenging. I seem to get ink in all the wrong places. I have not yet made a two colour version of this block. I may cut some more wood away and do some more prints.

I have used the block with various colours and right now I love the block itself, I have inked in the places where the wood has been cut away, the other colours are  the remains of past imprints.

Tumbling Blocks Woodcut Block

I have still not properly mastered the skill required to make a good print, there are lots of ways of pressing the paper onto the block, probably the best is by using a professional press but they are expensive. There are lots of smaller cheaper presses on the market or available for ad hoc use at various print studios.

 

The options for independent studios is to use a hard rubber roller, a barren, or the back of a spoon. These all require a certain amount of time, the spoon method takes the longest. I have discovered by watching  helpful videos on You Tube, that it is possible to lift the paper, One end at a time, to scrutinise the progress of the print, so you can go back over any inadequately pressed areas.

These prints below are not in any particular order apart from the first, which I made before cutting lines across some faces of the block.

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First Print
woodcut print
Here I didn’t pay close enough attention to how I was preparing the block and got ink where it shouldn’t have been. Also I failed to adequately press the paper in the lower right corner, hence the missing edge.
woodcut print
Here too I failed to press the paper down adequately, Of course once you’ve pulled the paper off the block, it is impossible to place it down again accurately enough to make up for mistakes.

First Woodcut Blocks and Prints

I recently attended a woodcut and print workshop at the London Print Studio taught by Jonathan Ashworth. It was a great day, Jonathan is a super teacher – wish it had lasted longer! The woodcutting takes some time and skill and then there’s all the printing to be done.

We began by simply making different kinds of marks using the various tools on a small block, just to see what it was like. Then we each made a block to our own design. This is my first block, after I had printed from it several times.

The woodcut block after it has been printed from.

This is the first print I made whilst at the workshop, a two colour print, the vertical lines are on the back of the same block. I printed the dull pink first from the front of the block and then later the blue using the back of the block.

First print of Four Walled Polygons

Heres a print I made later at home, just one colour. At first I found it quite difficult to make the print even, it was so easy at the workshop as we used a large professional press. At home I only have a hard rubber or a barren. It takes practice but I have definitely improved.

Single colour prints

I made this two colour print at home, making a mistake with the registration, so its slightly wrong both horizontally and vertically. So much to learn!

Woodcut – a beginning

I have long admired many practitioners of woodcut, woodblock and Lino cut printing, I’ve thought for a long time that if I tried it, I could get really obsessed with it.

In the last few months I have attended three print-making workshops. The first was at the Tate Modern, taught by the Illustrator Lizzy Stewart  www.abouttoday.co.uk. I enjoyed it immensely.

Lizzy suggested we each bring a piece of text or a poem which might inspire us to make illustrations of that text, mostly using simple mono-print techniques, using just black ink and metal or glass plates.

I took Robin Roberstson’s poem “At Roane Head” to work from and made this. It was to be one of four illustrations in a long thin book but I did not have time to finish it. I must do so one day.

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I have also taken part in a woodcut ad print workshop with Jonathan Ashworth at the London Print Studio in Maida Vale.

I loved cutting the wood plate, really tried hard to create an intricate and accurate double image, to be printed in two colours.

It took longer than the time available but I did make some interesting images and have made several more prints at home since then. Jonathan is an excellent teacher.

This is actually a test piece, trying out the tool for the first time to see what marks I could make. It was then printed in blue in one direction and then pink in the other producing an interesting range of imagery.1stwc

I have lots more prints in various stages of refinement and in various colours, to be continued . . . .

Chicago

Chicago
A pigeon, with excellent taste, fascinated by the guide’s description of Anthony Calder’s Flamingo, standing outside a Mies Van der Rohe building

For four days I wandered this amazing city, my emotional state switching back and forth from heightened anxiety to awe and wonderment.

The suburbs are reputedly very scary places, the maps marked with every reported serious violent crime would put one off from visiting alone. However I didn’t look at those maps, I just booked an AirB&B and took my chances.

As it happened, I was perfectly safe  in the area known as Grand Boulevard down in the south towards the end of the Green Line train, 47th street station.

The first person I met when I got off the train after my flight from London was a white policeman in his car with his partner. He said ‘ Lady, what are you doing here?’ You have to imagine the incredulous tone of his voice and the weight of the stone falling into my stomach.

I explained that I was staying a few days at an Air B&B, he said  ‘we’ll follow you till you get inside the door, don’t go out at night, don’t use the train, get an Uber cab to come right to your door”.  With fear and some confusion, I trundled down the road with my shiny new wheeled suitcase, to the house, knowing I was being watched (an odd feeling in itself). I accessed the apartment and drank a large gin and tonic – duty free from Gatwick Airport.

And so I began my four days with such a burden of fear, it plagued my sleep and became my constant companion, even downtown in the “Loop”, where the main tourist areas are located.

I contacted a good friend who travels alone to far more unsettling places, she gave me excellent advice and suggested that I needed to follow some simple rules and relax, enjoy the city.

I loved Chicago, I have no regrets whatsoever about having been there, stayed there, explored everywhere I wanted to go. I talked to a lot of local people, on the trains, in the streets, in the shops, made a great new friend. Since my return home, I now know that this summer the rate of violent crime has soared.

I have no answers to the problem of escalating violence but the way its being dealt with currently is obviously not working. It is a disgrace that in this large wealthy city not all its citizens enjoy the quality of life they deserve. Racial segregation and the housing “projects” of an earlier era have caused misery to many lives. Gun crime is rife,  many lives could be saved by a ban on guns.

I was inspired to go to Chicago by a lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum given by a young Chicagoan Timothy Long who told the incredible history of the pioneers, entrepreneurs and downright scallywags who created such a vibrant and extraordinarily forward-looking culture.

It was all about trade, exploration, determination and guts. The discovery of the water routes from the north east coast, through the Great Lakes to the southern end of Lake Michigan, thence the relatively short overland distance to one of the tributaries to the Mississippi and on downward to the South, opened up trades routes of great importance.

But the real key was the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal allowing shipping from the Great Lakes through Chicago to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The population grew exponentially from 350 to 4000 in just 7 years.

And instead of low rise wooden buildings, the majority of which  burnt down in the great fire in 1871, the city is now the finest example of city planning and inspired building design and techniques. Indeed it is considered to be the birthplace of the skyscraper.

Photographs do not do justice to the exhilarating city but here are some attempts to capture an essence.

If you get the chance to go – go, do not be frightened of by a couple of white policemen in a squad car. One of them kindly gave me his personal email address, perhaps I should write and tell him that i’m fine and that I loved his city. He said “don’t leave without eating a Chicago deep pan pizza”,  and that was yet another piece of advice of theirs that I did not follow!

 

 

Pembrokeshire

Recently I spent a week in South Wales, St David’s Cathedral is a very special place, I last visited more than 30 years ago in the pouring rain, it looks gorgeous in sunlight, though the deep purple of the stone stands out so much better in rain.

St David's Cathedral


St David's CathedralSt David’s Cathedral

St David's Cathedral
Tombstones leaning against the perimeter wall
St David's Cathedral
Stained glass window

 

 

The Sun at last

Our boat trip lasted about 12 hours and during that time the sky was pretty much clouded over but during our trip back to Longyearbyen harbour the sun finally appeared. The sky turned blue and so of course did the water. The ocean was calm and smooth as silk, I’ve heard that expression before but this time it really moved like silk and was very reflective. I tried to focus on the birds following above us but it seemed impossible, as an amateur, to get the focus right as the birds flew unexpectedly close.

I’m pretty sure the generous shots of whisky provided by our delightful guide Stein only helped my technique. He was kind enough to say that our trip was the most convivial he had guided this year.

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Stein from the MS Langǿysund, watching out for Polar bears, sadly we didn’t get to see one.
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A bright blue line appeared along the coast, I caught it on camera so it can’t have just been an affect of the whisky.

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A Minke whale flashed its white back at us a we sailed past

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