Project 8: Reduction method linocutting

Project 8: Reduction method linocutting

I started the reduction linocut project by gathering as many information as I could on the process, as it looked quite confusing to me in the first place.

The image I chose to depict comes from a quick sketch I did some time ago, when I used some cucumber under my eyes. Other than being an appealing image to me, there was a certain connection with the concept of taking care of myself. Self love is something that constitutes a big focus for me lately and art is therapeutic in that sense.

So I started transferring my design onto the lino and when the image was already there, I decided that I wanted some leaves and flowers around the girl’s image, because she is not only caring for herself, but she is also connecting with nature. So I improvised some plants and flowers in the bottom of the image and few leaves in the background.

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A marker and a pen have been used to trace the drawing onto the lino

I started to cut the areas I wanted to be white as a first step and run a 5 copies print in light green.

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I was very confused at first about the way I should proceed, but somehow since I printed that first colour on paper everything became clear in my mind and very logical.

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So I proceeded with cutting and printing a light skin tone, a darker one on top, then dark red and finally dark green.

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Image on the 4th layer
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Final image

I originally planned on a last layer in black, but decided it was not necessary and could have actually spoiled the colour balance. The dark green came out in fact much darker than expected, as a result of the colours overlapping, so I thought I didn’t need anything darker than that in my picture.

I used water based inks and even though they produced an interesting texture which I guess wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise, they were difficult to handle as they got dry pretty fast. Also the fact that I printed by hand made a big difference in the result, combined with the inks low quality.

Overall I am satisfied with the outcome, as it was my first reduction lino and I am pleased with the fact that the colours are exactly where I wanted them to be, even though I realise that there are a lot of little details that could have contributed to make the image look a lot different than what it is.

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Project 7: Multi-block linoprint

Project 7: Multi-block linoprint

This project was about making a linocut using three different blocks, to obtain print in a variety of colours.

I choose my subject trying to keep it simple and I sketched the silhouette of a gargoyle. I used a square format of roughly 10×10 cm, trying to make sure the blocks were perfectly the same size.

I transferred the image onto the first block with some carbon paper and I started to cut only the areas I wanted to leave as the colour of the paper.

I did the rest of the work in a studio, using a little press to print the first block and then transferring that image onto the second block, by keeping the paper trapped in the roller.
Once obtained the guide on the second block, I then cut the same areas as the first one and some additional areas where I wanted my second colour to go.
I repeated the process of transferring the image one last time and cut away from the last block all the areas previously cut and the areas where my third colour was supposed to be.

After this quite confusing process, where I felt a lot of imagination was needed to picture what the final image would have looked like, I had a go at printing.
I left one side of the paper longer so that it would have easily been trapped in the roller making my registration more precise. I also used a sheet where I marked the position of the plate.
I thought the first print was loaded with too much ink and also in some areas there where too many of the carving marks, especially from the last darkest layer, which I found confusing for the overall image.

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So I washed the last plate and inked it with a smaller roller trying to catch only the parts I actually meant to print.
I took a second print, minding not to exaggerate with the ink and then took a third one without re-inking.

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Scan 1

None of the prints turned out to be perfectly registered, but the progress done from the first to the last is pretty obvious.
Looking at the outcome I think that the image I prefer is actually the faint and last one, especially for the way that blue soft layer turned out to be.

Looking at the work by Edward and Richard Bawden I was noticing in particular:

  • the extremely complex composition;
  • the extended use of areas where the colour of the paper is visible;
  • a great amount of details;
  • suggesting the depth in the composition by alternating fuller and bolder areas of colour to finer detailed ones;
  • planning the composition in every detail must have been part of their process;
    the registration is absolutely perfect;
  • Sometimes the plates seem to be inked with two colours at a time, maybe using a brush or palette knife other than the roller, because you can see them softly blending rather than overlapping;
  • the carved areas must have been very deep, because they look very smooth, without the typical linocut marks that sometimes can be a bit distracting (or maybe they were using masks to obtain a cleaner effect).
Project 6 Single colour linocut

Project 6 Single colour linocut

The research of a subject for this project felt a little difficult to me, not fully knowing how to deal with linocut I was unsure of what kind of image could have the right impact once finished.
After sketching some ideas I decided to go for a picture of a mask, typical from my city Naples, called Pulcinella.

I sketched out a black mask with its typical white hat and tried to simulate what the finished linocut could have looked like by drawing the image with a white pastel on black paper.

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Then I reproduced the drawing on the lino with some carbon paper and started to cut.

I wanted the mask to stand out from a plain white background so I decided to cut off the excess lino rather than working it with the tools.

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Coming to the printing phase, after proofing the lino with some soft pastel, the result wasn’t as I expected. I realised that while I was quite satisfied with the way the hat looks, I didn’t like the effect of the mask. It was actually very difficult to represent something which is completely black, without contour lines, just by guessing where the highlights would have been. I could’t draw this subject from life so I had to imagine where the light was describing the volumes. Also being not that accustomed to lino tools yet, the highlighted areas didn’t have the fluidity I wanted them to have and they ended up looking pretty flat.

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I thought of reworking the plate to make a better print, but cutting off more areas than I already did would have definitely get things worse, so I decided to leave it that way and learn from my mistakes.

Project 2: Positive and negative masked mono prints

Project 2: Positive and negative masked mono prints

The design I chose for this exercise has been modified from a picture of a real fox. I sketched some images first and then copied the fox onto light newsprint, before proceeding with carefully cutting it out.

 

I then mixed the ink and I rolled it onto the glass plate, trying to obtain an even coloured layer. I placed the mask onto the plate and then printed off on simple cartridge paper. I was really pleased as my first attempt came out quite clear, even though I used water based inks, the process was quick enough to produce an interesting result.

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I took a second impression from the plate, which is really faded, and then I removed the mask to take a third impression, also very confused.

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After that, I started working with the positive image cut out from the mask, this time with a dark colour. I inked the plate, placed the cut out onto it and printed off. A very interesting effect was produced by the contrast between the dark background and the light silhouette, as it looked exactly as a fox that has just been spotted in the middle of the night.

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I was not careful enough in printing the bottom of the image, so the second impression lifted more ink from that area.

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But the most interesting result of all was obtained by printing a third time, after the cut out silhouette was removed. The figure is here defined by a blurred edge which I find really interesting.

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I worked at this exercise with a second subject and obtaining the masks from tracing paper, rather than newsprint. When printing off the first time, from the negative mask, I realised straight away that it was a little too rich in small details, despite the simple design.

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Also the ink felt weak, maybe because of the light colour chosen, so the second print was taken straight after lifting off the mask. The result is actually more interesting than the first one, but there are some imperfections due to the mask being creased under pressure.

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Using tracing paper seemed to me a wonderful idea until I realised it got all curled up, didn’t really stick to the ink and also was too thick for the purpose. However, I kept going with the positive mask: the first print turned out to be very bad, as I couldn’t get any detail.

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The ink looked again to weak for a second impression, so I jumped to print after lifting off the silhouette and that is where I got the best result. The details are quite defined and at the same time the blurry appearance matches with the subject.

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I had a second go using the same masks but trying to use acrylics instead of printing inks. Unfortunately it didn’t work at all. The colour dried up in no time leaving just a faint impression of the image and the masks kept curling up, making the process quite difficult and messy.

I was quite frustrated by those experiments, but I definitely learned a lot from all the mistakes I made and discovered new interesting effects and textures.

Research point

I think Matisse’s Blue Nudes power lies in the ability of the artist depicting the subject in few sinuous lines. During the process I realised how difficult was to simplify an image and make it recognisable. I kept it simple by choosing to represent the subjects from a side view, but Matisse’s point of views keep the images vibrant and with a sense of tridimensionality.

Assignment Five: Seven days

Assignment Five: Seven days

Part one: Pre – work

I begun working on the fifth and final assignment by brainstorming on the theme given, Seven days. The first ideas where in connection with the names of the days of the week, in particular with planets and deities of the ancient greek/roman heritage. To expand the possibilities, I searched the net. In this way I found several connections regarding the number seven and wrote down the ones that interested me.

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After thinking of possibilities to illustrate the various themes, I was still intrigued by the two initial ideas, so I started making thumbnails.

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For the connection between days/planets, I thought of a character who is visiting a planet per day, absurdly going through a series of consequences given by the various atmospheres he encounters on each of them.
For the theme days/deities, I thought of a character behaving everyday like the gods and goddess of the ancient times. Particularly I thought to adapt modern actions to the ancient gods features and characteristics.
At this point I made a little survey involving some of my friends and relatives: what would have been more interesting between the two options?

Pretty much everyone preferred the one planet a day – option, so I carried on that path.

Now was the time to write a brief, the idea was still very vague and I needed directions:

Brief : Seven days up in space

Summary : to illustrate a children’s book, for early readers (aged 5-7 years), entitled Seven days up in space.
The story must be summed up in 7 main illustrations regarding a character spending one day on each planet connected to the days of the week, and experiencing the consequences of the various atmospheric conditions.
Four additional illustrations are required, two opening and two closing the story.
The book wants to educate a child to appreciate his/her life as it is and to enjoy the pleasures and the bad sides of discovery, that gives precious opportunities, teaching us lessons that will always be part of our path.

Story : The text on which we would like the illustrations to be based on is the following. The spaces indicate the rhythm of the story, where the pages turn.

It was a lazy day for Ivan.
He spent the whole day wondering what to do.
The programs on TV where the same as always and he didn’t even fancy going out to play with his friends.
Suddenly he had a brilliant idea.
“I will go for a week holiday!” he thought, excited.
He took his helmet and his rocket-boots and he left, to explore space.
It was Monday when he stopped on the Moon. He spent the whole day jumping and floating but when he didn’t find any cheese, he got bored and flew away.
He arrived on Mars on Tuesday. He was sure he would have met new and interesting looking friends.
Fortunately he brought along his space goggles, because all he found there was a storm of reddish dust.
On Wednesday he headed to Mercury. They told him it was the best spot from where he could admire the sun and enjoy its warm wind…maybe a little too warm!
Thursday was the day for Jupiter. Unfortunately it was quite foggy over there.
So he travelled to Venus on Friday and the weather was so hot there that he melted under some weirdly green clouds.
To recover from the heat he decided to go to Saturn on Saturday. He heard that an amazing ice rink was surrounding the planet. And here he was, skating all day long.
But ops! He felt a little frozen after that. “ I am going to sunbathe now”, he thought on Sunday, travelling to the Sun.
After a while he realised he was just getting burned. “I forgot the lotion!”, he exclaimed sadly. He decided to go home then, back on planet Earth. After all, he started to miss that place…
And there he was. Seven days was gone and the journey had its ups and downs. “You appreciate what you have only when you miss it”, he said to himself smiling.

Format: The book will be composed of 24 pages in total, 22 illustrated plus 2 free pages opening and closing the book. the first page will be blank and the last one will be featuring the words ‘The end’. The final reproduction size will be on a square format of 8 inches by 8. You can work at a smaller (minimum of 4’’x4’’) or bigger proportional size.

Text: As a general guidance, the text will be positioned on the left pages, meaning the illustrations have to be centred on the right side, with few details on the left.

Colour restrictions: The illustrations have to be in full colours.

Part two: Working on the brief

Having my brief ready and a draft of an idea, I started the hard work.
First thing was thumb – nailing all the pages to se how the story worked (the text, which I had to write by myself, was actually adjusted on the way, the final version being the one used in the brief).

 

I quickly sketched the images, this time in a bigger version and considering left and right page as a continuos flow.

At this point I started painting. I worked in a smaller square format (5’’ 1/4’ x 5’’ 1/4’) so that I could adapt both left and right page in an A4 sheet. In this way was a lot easier to work, considering that I don’t have much space and also considering an easier scanning and posting process.

I produced a total of eleven illustrations, seven of them being at the core of the book. I used watercolours, gouache, indian ink, fine liners and pastels.

I then digitise them and inserted the text.

Pag1-2Pag3-4Pag5-6Pag7-8Pag9-10Pag11-12Pag13-14Pag15-16Pag17-18Pag19-20Pag21-22

As a final stage I created a cover and then printed the images out to produce a mock up in a smaller version, to see how everything would have worked.

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Unfortunately, even though I love bookbinding and I have some skills, the lack of tools made it really hard to produce a well made mock up. The quality of the print is quite poor (I also had some issue with printing at the same size from different documents!) and the glueing process was quite messy, yet I think the outcome serves its aim of showing how the story is visually working.

I really enjoyed this work and I am proud of the outcome, even if I can spot some technical mistakes. I am obviously not a writer, so I tried to keep things simple, but I am really satisfied with my illustrations. Particularly, I think the best one is the one I have done for the last page, and which required advice from my relatives and friends once again.
I was in fact carrying on with a first version of it, when I realise how stuck it was. I didn’t like it.

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The scene looked really empty and boring. It really needed a twist.

So I stopped and sketched more alternative versions, thinking I had to change point of view, which is the same for the whole story.

I made a small survey and asked for advice. Thanks particularly to my brother’s suggestions, I came up with the final version.

The character is standing in front of his home door, he just came back from his journey. The sky is fusing with the door, meaning that he will always carry that experience with him. His simple expression is pure happiness for two reasons: on one side he is now appreciating what life is offering him and on the other hand he enjoyed the journey, even though not perfect.
The perspective is aerial and slanted which I think creates so much dynamism to make me imagine how everything is moving and also make the viewer literally fall in the image.

Seeing my result made me realise how much the other illustrations are more static, but how much those mistakes where necessary to that process that definitely lead me to learn.

Exercise: Educational strip

Exercise: Educational strip

What’s happening to my body? It is all going mad!
This is the title of an educational leaflet for which we are asked to produce an illustrated strip by this exercise.
I started by researching on puberty, reading some articles and watching some videos, which revealed to be very useful specially to understand what language to use to communicate with an early teenager or even pre- teen, in the best way.
My first idea was to compare puberty to a caterpillar metamorphosis, so I also researched a little on this process. I used thumbnails to explore hypothetical frames, but I was not satisfied so I passed onto a more simple idea of showing the effects of puberty on the body. I chose to work on a female perspective and I sketched some frames in thumbnails. I really wanted the effects to pop out of the frame, using it to focus on the parts of the body involved in the transformation, but I thought it was looking quite boring, specially thinking of what my audience would have been.
So another idea came, to use the body as a frame. I thought of five steps in the development of the female body through puberty. It is a succession of images connected between each other – like those paper garlands everyone has cut in their childhood – following the growth of this young girl to her adulthood. I shaped the bodies in a simple way, describing some of the aspects of puberty on each of them.
I used watercolours and fine liner to complete the piece.
The original idea was to create a leaflet shaped as the body, so that the text would be contained in the image.

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But then I tried working on the finished image in digital, quickly mocking up a simple little brochure. I imagined it accordion-folded in five pages, the first one being in the front. I wrote a brief text for each phase, trying to be playful and to introduce the issue in an easy and relaxed way.

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I also tried to cut the image just like a paper garland and even though it is quite funny and interesting (for example could be very nice to draw the back of the bodies as well), I thought it would be quite hard to insert a text, as the space is not really much and would be disturbing a smooth reading of the images.

I am very satisfied with the outcome, particularly for the nature of the idea. I think the problem is presented in a way that would attract the attention of the audience for which it is intended.
I am also quite satisfied with the technical outcome, even though I felt the outlines a little to heavy marked. I had a few problems with the printing, has the image of the brochure came out cut on one side and the definition of the image was very poor. Was also a quite bad idea to colour the edges of the garland in black, it was much better with the light background or none. I enjoyed the experimenting though, it was very useful to understand how the imagine actually worked.