It was on a Friday afternoon in September when travelling to Norfolk that an e-mail from the Herbert Art Gallery popped into my inbox advertising a linocut print workshop with local artist Adie Blundell. After a brief call to Mum to see if she wanted to come too, and once my 3G connection allowed me to, we were all booked in. I had been really looking forward to going as Adie's style of art work is fabulous and also very different to anything that I've done before.
The title of the workshop was ' 'A Cauldron of Bats, a Clowder of Cats and a Murder of Crows' and I spent day 14 of inktober (oh yes, I'm doing it again, and it's great - all pictures are appearing on my instagram feed if you fancy a gander - link should be on the contact page) busily drawing different folklore and mythological based images ranging from Aztec designs to Totem Poles and hares in my sketchbook. I was actually a little bit prepared.
We were first to arrive. Adie was very welcoming; as were all of the team, and slowly the group collected together. Adie had taken along a few of his linocut cuts (the actual lino rather than the prints) and they looked fabulous (there is a link on his website which you should be able to get to by clicking on his name in the first paragraph) and so tactile. I did a lot of touching! We were given hints and tips and guidance, my favourite being using a drill on the lino to create circles for pattern/textures. I will most definitely be playing with Dave's drill to do this soon!
Then it was our turn. I sat down with my sketchbook, looked at my images and decided I didn't like any of them. Finally after a bit of faffing and realising I couldn't do a horse skull as a monoprint, I decided on a totem pole. I was determined to try something new and was resisting the lure of another bird print. First part drawn OK, second part kept looking like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets ( a totem pole eagle is a different style to my normal birds so I thought this was OK to try). Then an idea dawned on me. We were in a museum and art gallery and I knew where I could find an eagle. Just outside the door actually on a display. It was a little too high to get a good shot with my ipad camera, and then a very helpful man reminded me about the gallery downstairs where they keep some of the things not on display..... including a collection of taxidermy birds.
I returned with images of a Black Kite, a Peregrine Falcon and an Owl. I decided to embrace the bird. Within about 15 minutes I had my design. Totem Pole sacked. Black Kite here we go. One of the lovely ladies used the photocopier to shrink my sketchbook image as we were working on lino just larger than half A5 size. I traced, transferred the image and I was away.
I have put the images into a gallery again at the bottom of the page. The sunshine through the window made the room warm, and this seemed to help the lino become quite 'buttery' to cut, which was great. The huge windows also meant there was great light to start off with when cutting initially too, and great to see contrasts in the cutting and lino. I tried the technique of drawing on in pencil everything I wanted to keep as a relief (black) and cutting the rest away. Usually, as I have mainly done reduction prints, I have a more staged approach. The cut continued to develop from the more basic drawing I had done as my idea. The time absolutely flew by, and I definitely found my 'cutting zone'. The studio had a lovely vibe in it with everyone working away, Adie popping by from time to time as he was checking everyone was OK and giving advice. I had taken along my lovely pfeil cutters and a piece of non-slip matting too which really helped.
We had to stop for lunch as both mum and I suddenly realised just how hungry we were and also my concentration started to wane a smidge.
Re-fulled, it was on to the final cuts before inking up. We were printing with oil based inks, and Adie taught us how to use a mixer to create printing ink from oil paints. I also tried out archive paper too, first printing on dry paper and then secondly printing onto wet paper to see how it changed how the paper 'took' the print. We used a wooden spoon as a brayer to transfer the print - I had forgotten my trusty metal spoon! I only managed three prints due to time running out and trying out the different paper too. I will be printing some more at home, I have an idea to play with some colours with the background. I think I will also stick to water based inks as I can't stand the smell of white spirit, which is need to clean up the oil based inks.
Five hours after we began, it was all over, and it seemed to go so fast. It was lovely to spend the time with my mum (even if we were concentrating so much on cutting we didn't actually talk to each other that much apart from the odd break here and there) and also to work with new people and see another professional artist's work, and get to work with them. I have learnt some new things and got some new ideas to try, and, even though I have Embraced the Bird again, I have done it in a different way. I like birds. Sometimes you just have to stick with what makes your heart smile.
Here we go...
The ramblings of a linocut printmaker.... and other artistic adventures!