The linocut ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’ is really a step back in time for me on many levels. As I’ve spoken about before I love the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney, it has such a rugged beauty & the flora & fauna is integral to the whole region. The Blue Mountains has a strong Art Deco influence in architecture and design & examples of that can found throughout the small villages along the ridges leading all the way to Katoomba & beyond. The area really had its ‘heyday’ in the 1900-1960’s and in particular the 1930’s. This linocut art piece is also grounded in family experiences & an inheritance of sorts.
I guess this artwork had its beginnings with family. Both my family & my husband’s family have been keen visitors to the Blue Mountains for many years. When thinking about the Blue Mountains region I found I had so many stories & photos of that time from my mother-in-law & her family in particular, many of whom still live in the Blue Mountains. From honeymoons to day trips and in fact, it is where my husband & I had our honeymoon. It was also somewhere we took our kids for day trips, holidays & to visit family & friends as well.
The wildflowers of this region are truly spectacular. The waratahs & flannel flowers are two of the iconic Australian wildflowers found here & of course I could not go past the ‘Mountain Devils’ – Lambertia formosa – which I have childhood memories of the seedpods dressed up with tulle on sticks like cupie dolls but there are some more vivid examples of these dolls in this newspaper article! I actually still have a couple of my mother-in-law’s tulle simple versions in an old china cabinet from her ‘nic-nacs’ which I just haven’t been able to part with. So the central panel of this work for me just had to be these three wildflowers.
A lot of research goes into investigating the species of an area, then I always take my own photographs & drawings of each of the species. This helps me to understand the structure of each plant & flower & increases the draftsmanship & design of the piece. There are usually so many I then have plenty to choose for the design.
So a little gallery in of inspirational wildflowers for Blue Mountains Wildflowers.
When my mother in law passed away a few years ago we inherited an old Art Deco style mirror. Looking a little shabby & worse for wear it does however have such an interesting shape. So I started with the mirror’s shape then developed that to create the overall structure of the design. It is then a matter of putting together all the research & developing that into the design. I spend a lot of time drawing, I think it is one of my favourite parts of the process. I have always loved drawing.
I see the linocuts as an extension of that & a way to push my vision & drawing further – the art of creative-art thinking. There is the ‘practical’ aspect of what can actually be carved out of lino but then there is the creative side of shapes & patterns. After I have finished the drawing of the design I then photocopy it several times & start to work on the actual linocut design. I use black felt pens to work on the designs, often photocopying, pasting & then using white out to work on this side of the designing. I guess I am still ‘old school’ in that I love to work with the physicality of paper, pen, pencil & ink but I do sometimes ‘dabble’ with computers & photoshop. I can spend weeks refining the images into exactly what I am happy with in the design & which I am able to produce in the medium.
Then to the carving of the design in lino. I have talked about different type of lino previously but I am pretty settled with the grey Silkcut & even managed to visit their gallery & workshop in Melbourne when I was there last time. I love my new Pfeil linocutting tools as they have made the carving just so much easier reducing the strain on my shoulder. There are actually 12 different blades in my set & I think so far I have only used half of them! Like a painter may use different brushes a Fine Art linocut artist uses their carving tools to create different effect within the surface of the lino. Some use it to create rough textural pieces but mine is a more methodical approach. I see my linocuts as botanical in nature so I try to represent the wildflowers as close to their essence as I can and this includes within the carving to create the images.
An interesting aspect to my work is the ‘uneven’ edges. I do not feel limited by the square or rectangular shapes that lino is usually presented to us from the art shop. I have always sought to move outside these shop bought restrictions. In order to do that I need to carefully cut back the edges. I start by making several strong cuts into the from surface of the lino. I then very carefully split the lino edge I want to remove & fold it towards the hessian back. Then I turn the lino over & cut along the hessian backing with a sharp bladed knife.
Often there can be a rough edge which is not something I want to be on my print. So I carefully remove the rough edges until I have a clean smooth cut. You need to take care especially around pieces with more ‘organic’ lines rather than the straight edges within this particular design.
Then to the printing of the linoblock. I have talked printing previously so here is just a little gallery for ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’
Then the handcolouring. I print with oil-based ink & handcolour with watercolour. I like that I can sue multiple layers & colours within each section to create the overall vibrancy of the wildflowers. You will see on the first ‘handcolour proof’ patches of colour & notes on which colour mixes I used. Although the aim is to paint each one the same you can appreciate that each one is actually individually painted & there are always variations.
Here is a little video from photos about this whole process of creating Blue Mountains Wildlfowers. For those who don’t want to read explanations & learn better through images rather than words, you can now watch it in a little video format.
Well today I tackled the first printing of this new design.
I set up the print studio and rolled out the ink onto the glass plate ready to ink the carved lino block.
You get an impression of how the print will actually look printed from the first roll of the black ink onto the carved lino block.
It is exciting to see the image come up as you may or may not have imagined it. There are always surprises which is nice.
This is a section of the first proof pulled off – you will notice the mirror reversing of the image from block to print. this is always something to be aware of when designing and transferring the design to the lino block – ALWAYS REVERSE THE IMAGE TO CARVE THE BLOCK. This is especially relevant if you are depicting a particular scene or using lettering.
This is the first image if the first proofs of the design. I’m pretty happy with it.
I may do a little deeper carving on the two Banksias on the far edge of the design but I will see how it colours first.
Well I have been steadily working on the linocut carving. Took a break for a day yesterday but back at it today.
Started with the final central waratah that needed carving. I have already carved the outline with a final linocut carving tool to start. I then use a v or u gouge tool to take out the centre of each of the sections outline. The carved out parts create the white spaces of the work which I can then handcolour of I choose to.
I usually always turn the carving upside down or sideways to check the edges of the carving to make sure I have carved nice clean & neat lines so when printed I get a clean finish to the edges of the design. You can see some of the areas that need to be cleaned up if you look closely.
I am not the best at getting exact measurements so I took over an hour to make sure I had the panels in this piece as evenly mirror reversed as possible.
I tend to get a bit freaked out at this point. I measure carefully but lino does not always cut straight up as it, unlike wood, has some flexibility in it. So I took my time and went slowly as possible to carefully cut these lines. I want the panel structure of this design to be as straight and even as possible to get the Deco Art influence and the mirror from that era reflected in the design as closely as possible.
So finally the six lines are carefully finished. This particular design has stepped in panels so I need to cut different lines to create the edge of the work.
I start be cutting a the edge of the work with a sharp blade (Stanley Knife) slicing several times to created a deeper cut. I then VERY carefully crack the rest of the lino. If you have carving up to the edge you need to do this VERY carefully. If you do not take things slowly you are likely to split the lino in the wrong place.
I then turn over the lino block and carefully slit the hessian backing and remove the piece of lino.
This process makes creating the edges easier but tends to leave them a bit rough and they need to be cleaned up.
In my new linocut tools there is a lovely large flat blade which is perfect for running along the edges to clean them up.Did I mention I love my new linocutting tools. Mainly because they are so sharp and easy to use making it much easier on my shoulder for carving. They also help me achieve the image that I am looking for. The tools are simply a way to create the design in the lino, it is the final image that is the artwork. I do not see them any different to using brushes, computers, screens, knives, chisels or anything else an artist may use in order to create the final work of art. This is the set of tools I now have. My family bought them for me for Christmas and they make my life so much easier.
But for making a neat edge you can also use a sharp blade or a stanley knife.
here is the cleaned up edge which means the final print artwork edges will be nice and clean as well.
And FINALLY! The finished lino block ready for printing.