Thursday, 5 December 2013

Learning Lithography: Colour Day 2

Back at EP, early if not bright! The last thing I did yesterday was chemically clean and regrind my stone obliterating my lovely drawing! Wondering how I'm going to add more layers to a drawing that no longer exists.

The answer - Acetate transfers! First I lay a sheet of acetate over one of yesterday's prints, marking the registration points with tape. Then the acetate is taped down to the worktop with sellotape and tape. I roll out some printing ink and apply it to the acetate, completely covering the image.

Now the exciting bit - selectively wiping away the ink to reveal the parts of the image which will be left, and using rags, cotton buds and white spirit to add textures to the remaining ink. It's just like making a monotype! Using a colour related to the print helps me see how it will look when printed up.

The acetate is then laid ink side down on the clean stone - neatly reversing the image for printing - and passed through the press. When peeled away the inky image has been transferred to the stone and is ready for processing.

After taking a proof, I decide to make some additions with tuche crayon to bring out the foreground textures and build up the cloud structure.

I take another proof using the Fabriano paper to check that the image is good enough for the second layer of my litho print!

Looks fine to me!

I chose to roll out a graduated slab of blue printing ink to give a subtle variation in the colour, darker in the sky.

I roll up the stone, register the first of yesterday's prints on the stone and pass it through the press.

Now I have my first two colour stone lithograph - a view of Pumori from Tukla Col in the Khumbu Himalaya.

There is just enough time left to experiment with a third layer of colour. I'd like to bring out the warm colour of the rock in the foreground. Again I need to erase most of today's image and add some more tuche crayon to the drawing.

After processing and proofing, I roll up the stone, register one of today's two colour prints and pass it through the press again.

This gives me my three colour stone lithograph. I decide to keep the rest of the edition as two colours.

Feeling very pleased with the weekend's results. Can't wait to go back and make some more work using these techniques.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Learning Lithography: Colour Day 1

Saturday morning and I'm back at Edinburgh Printmakers for the second weekend of my Stone Litho adventure - this time with the emphasis on colour.

Alastair begins by announcing that we won't be using the same techniques as last time - cue slight panic as I have been planning how to approach this weekend on the basis of what I learnt last time!

'Maniere-noire' is today's challenge. First, I mask out the image area with sellotape and masking tape and prime it with thinned black ink. Usually it is then rolled up with process black - a very sticky ink. - to create a solid flat area. 

I choose to leave some of the 'atmospheric' effects achieved in the priming process. After applying a 3 drop etch, I leave the stone to rest for half an hour. It is then ready to draw into.

Any hard abrasive materials can be used for drawing into the ink - blade, pumice stick, sandpaper, wire wool, carborundum. 

I choose to use a razor blade to create lines and softer scraped areas.

After protecting the drawing with rosin and talc, I etch most of it with a fairly strong 11 drop gum mixture. On the more delicate sky area, a 3 drop etch is enough.

After half an hour, the ink is removed with white spirit, leaving a greasy film on the stone. I prime and roll up the stone again with black ink and a second etch is applied to further stabilise the image.

Before printing I clean off the ink again and roll it up with my chosen printing ink - a good deep blue - and put it through the press.

Now I can see the results of my labours today - and I am very pleased with this first stage. The 'maniere-noire' technique suits the way I like to work. It has aspects of both etching, in the line - and monotype, in the process of working into a block of ink.

Tomorrow we'll be adding more layers of colour. An exciting prospect!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Edinburgh revisited - Day 2 Printing the stone

After  a very good night's sleep - it's tiring, all this intense concentration - I'm raring to get this stone printed!

Before starting, I rolled up the stone with roll-up black so that I could see how the washes were looking and make any necessary adjustments to the tone. Areas can be lightened or erased using different strengths of gum arabic and nitric acid. This is called 'etching'. Heavy areas can also be scraped away with a razor blade before etching. Once happy with the image, I cleaned off the black ink and got ready to print.

First job was mixing a nice deep blue, one of the colours which evoke the mountain world for me. Next, rolling out the ink so that it will cover the stone but not clagg up the subtleties of the washes! Aiming for a nice quiet hiss from the roller, rather than a sticky slurp!

Then begins the process of inking up the image. The stone is rolled up with three coats of ink before it is passed through the press for the first time, using newsprint (a cheap, thin paper) for the first proof.

This process is repeated twice, gradually building up the ink on the stone until it gives a good depth of colour on the proof. You can see the transition from pale to more intense colour in the photograph. Three proofs on newsprint and the first proof on Fabriano Rosaspina, bottom right.

It is also possible to adjust the image while on the press. Once satisfied with the proof, it's time to edition the print. This is a detail showing the Aiguille - I adjusted the shape of the tower on top slightly before continuing with the editioning. 

Now the stone only needs one roll up for each print. A nice smooth editioning paper - Fabriano Rosaspina - is just the thing for my edition. I'm using both white and the softer colour, ivory to give two different 'feels' to the image.

The final image - this one on white, giving a good impression of the cold light of the snowfields.

Now I'm looking forward to next weekend at Edinburgh Printmakers for the second litho course - this time on using colour - can't wait!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Edinburgh revisited - Day 1 Drawing the stone

At the beginning of November I spent another two days working in the studio at Edinburgh Printmakers. I wanted to consolidate what I had learned on the weekend course by drawing a new stone and producing another lithograph - this time working more independently. Alastair was still on hand to offer advice though!

This time I worked on a larger stone (A2) which needed grinding with a levigator and carborundum, a coarse grit, to remove the previous image - another new skill under my belt! It can be quite heavy going at first and quite tricky until you get in the swing of it.

A quick check that the stone surface was completely flat, then it was time to get to work on that inviting surface. Again I used the tuche crayons and washes to make an image of the Aiguille du Midi on the Mont Blanc massif.

The washes took a while to dry, even with the help of a fan heater.

Time for a quick cup of tea, then back to work processing the stone - coating it with gum arabic to preserve the white areas and then removing the tuche. It's quite worrying as you see all your drawing disappearing!

However, the tuche is very greasy and leaves its residue in the stone. Priming it with a little black ink magically restores the drawing as it sticks to the greasy areas and is easily washed away from the areas protected by the gum.  

And that was it for the day! Time flies when you're having fun!

Back tomorrow to print it!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Pastures New!

Spent a brilliant weekend at Edinburgh Printmakers recently, learning Stone Lithography with Alastair Clark. Have always wanted to try this technique as it is supposed to be a very responsive medium - and so it is.

The stone in question is limestone - my favourite rock - so it was bound to be 'sympatico' as far as I was concerned!

This was the first image from my first drawing on the stone - a view of the Cuillin from Sligachan, Isle of Skye.

Some more work on the stone, including some tuche washes which needed to dry overnight.

Some more drawing and adjusting on Sunday and this was the second state of the image.

I'm off to Edinburgh again next week to spend some time in the studio, adjusting the image again and making a new stone. Can't wait!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Working in the Mountains Again

Arrived in the Val di Fiemme on Thursday 15 August. Very hot and sunny in the valley. Up to the Col Lusia on Saturday with lots of moody clouds over the mountains,- just the way I like it! The Pala di San Martino in one direction, the Rosengarten in the other - wonderful!

Made my first drawing - the view of the Pala from above Col Lusia. Cloud obscuring half of it by the end!

Back up again yesterday, Wednesday, and this time cloudless with a few clouds developing to cast lovely shadows as the afternoon progressed. Result - my first watercolour of the trip.

Took a couple of hours or so with some lovely comments from a family from Udine. The daughter is a budding photographer!

The Rosengarten will have to wait for next visit - just not enough time to do this magnificent group justice!

The drawings were made on 17 and 21 August. Apologies for the delayed posting - I couldn't get the server to upload photographs!

More to come!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Back to the Mountains

I'm pleased to be heading back to the mountains again tomorrow - the Italian Dolomites and later, the French Alps with perhaps a little diversion in between, to the Julian Alps or climbing in Croatia, depending on the weather. I look forward to sharing some of my drawings with you!

Before I go here are some of the monotypes I've been making inspired by my visit to Herculaneum in April. This one is a version of the 'seahorse' fresco which also inspired the etching I posted last time. Interesting to see the effects on the image of using a different printmaking technique.

Monotype really lends itself to re-creating the character of these ancient wall paintings. Here are a few examples. What do you think?


 It would be interesting to have your comments on my work - and very encouraging if you were able to 'like' me on Facebook!


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Italian Inspiration

Since returning from Scotland I've been  down at Northern Print making some work inspired by my visit to Herculaneum in the south of Italy.This is the first piece which will be part of the annual 20:20 exhibition, the joint fundraising project run by Northern Print and Hotbed Press in Salford.It is a small etching with aquatint. The image is 12cm x 12cm on paper 20cm square.
This is my photograph of the fragment of fresco which inspired it.
Making an etching involves several processes. Top left, the  reversed image is traced on to the zinc plate which is covered with a soft wax ground. It is then placed in nitric acid which bites into the plate where the wax has been removed by the tracing. Top right, the resulting line etching.Bottom left, aquatint is used to add tone to the plate. This is the first proof printed with black ink.Bottom right, the colour proof using two colours.Centre, the finished zinc plate.
The edition of 25 prints - all numbered, titled and signed - made by inking up and wiping the finished plate - 25 times!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

A Short Trip to the West Coast


It may seem difficult to believe after the wonderful weather of the last week or two, but a month ago in Torridan, this was the only drawing I managed to make in over a week.

Liathach stood proud against the grey, lowering skies for one morning before the rain and gales swept in from the Atlantic.

With cloud down to Loch level each morning and midges galore, we eventually headed for Rannoch Moor.

A lovely sunny evening there gave way to a well clagged-in morning - so back to Northumberland through torrential rain storms - and plans for another trip in the Autumn!

Friday, 14 June 2013

A Mountain of Rubbish!

When Lakpa Sherpa and the Adventure14Peaks team set off for Everest with the Joint Indo-Nepal Army Expedition, they  also took with them a special team of ten Sherpas. Their job was do a big clean-up of the route between the South Col and Camp 2.

Everest is the Sherpas' mountain and is sacred to them. A Puja ceremony is always held at Base Camp for the blessing of the expedition. Offerings made to the Gods and juniper is burnt for good fortune for the sherpas and climbers.

On this year's trip, the sherpas collected and carried out 4000kg (4 metric tonnes) of rubbish, all collected on the route from the South Col to Camp 2. This is what it looks like!

Lakpa and some of the clean-up team surveying the 'mountain' of rubbish!

An excellent achievement and a job well done!

Namche is the main Sherpa village in the Khumbu and home of the famous Bazaar. Here is Lakpa, back in the village after his successful summit, with the traditional welcoming garland of marigolds and good luck scarf given to all travellers in Nepal.

And he doesn't look in the least bit tired!!

Everest Update

Back in April, you may remember, our Sherpa, Lakpa and his team from were setting off with the Joint Indo-Nepal Army expedition to climb Everest. In early May, after acclimatisation climbs as high as Camp 3, the weather closed in with snow and high winds, preventing any early summit attempts. By mid May, more settled weather was forecast and the team were able to set off. Here they are on the way up with their last camp clearly visible below on the rocky area.

Early on 19th May, on a fine, clear morning, the team makes their way on the final stage of their climb to the top of the world. What a fantastic photograph!

Lakpa celebrates the summit. For the second year running, the weather is perfect!

The view from the top - magnificent!

Makes me think of Joe Simpson's evocative description of 'the beckoning silence of great height'

We are incredibly lucky to have such an accomplished guide as Lakpa looking after us on our trips to the Himalaya.