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Making a Reduction Lino Print

There are many ways to add colour to a lino print, such as chine colle, jigsaw linoprint, or using multiple plates for example. I am drawn to the reduction printing process however, which I find particularly absorbing due to the methodical nature of the technique, and the problem-solving aspect to it.

One problem, that of registering the prints accurately, can be easily solved with Ternes Burton registration pins. The print needs accurate registration so that each layer lines up to create the desired image. I map out a plan on the desk of where the lino will sit, then tape two Ternes Burton registration pins to the desk. Before going anywhere near my printing inks I place each piece of paper face down in the correct position and affix the tabs to the paper so that I will be held in exactly the same position each time I print.

Using more than one colour means that I need to plan the colour scheme carefully before beginning. I often use Photoshop to try out colours on my early sketches or proofs so that I can see how the colours will eventually work together. After that it is a case of deciding which colours to print first. As a rule it will be the lightest colours and the areas of the lino which are going to be easiest to remove after printing the first layer.

The next stage of carving takes some careful thought so that exactly the right areas of lino are removed and nothing else. I will usually mark the lino clearly with a sharpie at this stage.

The second layer of printing is when the Ternes Burton pins become very useful, helping me to accurately position the first printed layer over the second.

As you can see, it’s a lengthy process. Once you are aware of this technique you become attuned to notice the different layers of colour in other artists’ prints and really appreciate the time and effort spent.

Hints and tips for learning the reduction printing method;

Plan carefully. You need to learn to think in reverse and this can take some time to get used to. We are more accustomed to creating colour effects by adding media to the page, such as in a painting. With reduction lino we remove the lino to reveal colour we have already printed… quite a brain-teaser when you think about it!

Start simple. You don’t need a really complicated image to get good effects with this technique, so begin simple, with just two colours until you perfect the technique.

Always print more copies of the first layer than you think you will need. It’s repetitive but you will be less worried when the odd print misaligns or goes wrong later on.

Invest in a pair of Ternes Burton registration pins and accompanying tabs – it makes life so much easier!

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For the Love of Hosho Select

I discovered the paper Hosho Select in the Hove art shop well known to us locals as “Lawrences”.  They have a display of the Awagami papers there, and you can see the surface quality, transparency and colour of each paper before buying.  

For the uninitiated, Awagami Papers are made in Tokushima, Japan and are produced by hand using natural and renewable plant resources. It’s an impressive fact that the Fujimori family who run the Awagami Factory have been making paper for 6 generations. You can read more about them here; https://awagami.com

I was drawn to the particular paper named “Hosho Select” and have been using it ever since.  The back of the paper is slightly textured and reveals its fibrous nature, but run your fingertips over the printing surface of the paper you feel the most amazing sensation as if brushing against silk.  It is this extreme smoothness that makes it such a good printing paper – not a fraction of its surface is going to miss the plate.

I have experimented with other papers from the Agwami range and I must admit all of them are beautiful in their own unique ways.  Hosho Select remains my favourite. It has a particular thickness with makes it just right for printing with a barren as I do.  Thicker papers require more elbow-grease than I am capable of to get a good print!  The gentle off-white tone is perfect for me too, as the colour palette I create with my inks is very specific and a coloured paper could throw the design completely.

Finally, the fact that each sheet has been made by hand on the other side of the world is an inspiring thought.  I feel connected to makers and creators even though far away, and this connection is empowering in itself.

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The Making of “Winter Hedgerow”

Now that “Winter Hedgerow” is completed and hanging in Chalk Gallery, I would like to share a little more of my working process which I have documented in photographs over the last year or so.

The wind-blasted hedgerows that line stretches of the A27 first caught my attention two years ago.  I had been driving to my studio in Worthing listening to the radio and finding a state of gentle awareness that so often arrives once the children are packed off to school, and I have the space and time to draw and print.  I admit that I dislike cars, and traffic, despite driving one and being part of the traffic…  The naked trees struck me as so vulnerable amidst the pollution, noise and speed.  They also seemed to say ‘winter” in a way that was so irrevocable. These sketches were my first emotional response.

I knew the subject matter did not lend itself to lino print in that there are a predominance of tangles and textures, rather than clearly defined shapes. However I am a lino printer, and I could not resist tackling it in my favourite medium all the same.  I decided to approach the lines as expressive rivers of energy rather than attempting to depict every single twig.  I felt I could still capture the cave-like dense nature of the hedgerow, and its nakedness, with the bold lines which result from my style of carving. I draw in pencil and felt-tip pen with little concern for neatness.  It feels as if I am carving an idea out of the page as I work, and I will layer up, change colour, and scribble over until the design is clear and confident to me.

Then begins the process of tracing, transferring, sometimes re-drawing and finally carving.  The lines take on a personality of their own during this process which is one of the aspects of lino printing that strongly appeals to me.  The medium and process start to dictate and tell the hedgerow how to look.  It is never an option to create a ‘accurate” copy of reality so the artist is presented with a problem to solve instead – how shall I do this? 

I use only three pfiel lino cutting tools; a large and small gouge, and one v shaped.  Again, I like restriction.  It forces me to problem-solve, and I find this is where creativity is at it’s richest.

The background needed to be a ‘rainbow roll’ in order to capture the atmospheric effects of a landscape; sky gently fading to white, and the green of the fields de-saturating to grey as they move towards the horizon.  Creating the right palette of tones blending evenly across the roller is almost as time-consuming as the carving process!

The first print was created and I initially called it “Winter on the A27” because that particular spot was still so important to me.

I had trudged up and down the hard shoulder photographing the hedgerow from different angles and had quite a collection of images stored on my computer, so I decided to develop the project.  I also felt it needed to exist in a large format to have the impact I had felt when photographing it.  Two more prints were designed; a companion piece of the same size, and a larger 30x40cm piece.

I continued to carve and print through the winter months of early 2021 finally bringing the series to a completion in March.

The last step will be to sign, edition and frames these prints ready for their new home in the Chalk Gallery, Lewes, which opens again on 15th April. 

It’s been a long project.  But it’s been worth it.