Between drawing and painting

A few months ago I experimented with my first monoprints, (ambitiously!) out in the open on Richmond riverside. I enjoyed the process I’ve been doing more here and there, and have found it great for expressing the bits of London I love in a different manner. Here’s a couple done from the (windy!) balcony of the Tate Modern, overlooking the church spires on the north bank of the City. And one done of the view of Blackfriars Bridge (worked from the same original drawing I used for my linocut).

This term I’ve also taken a class in life drawing, something I normally get bored of, but this time made exciting by monoprinting. It’s a messy process, even in a calm and quiet studio, but utterly absorbing as you wipe ink, twist rags, use the end of a paintbrush for sharp lines, pad gently at the surface to extract textures.

Most of the techniques were developed by Degas over a century ago, and often used as a base for drawings which were worked over to become (more famously) his pastel pieces. Although when put together the set can look a little gloomy, it’s inspiring to reflect on Degas’s words ‘If I had to live my life again, I would work only in black and white‘. Odd, for someone known as an exquisite colourist. But he’s right, there’s something very liberating about discarding colour and living only for form and light and shade, in making bold, graphic gestures, and working quickly and decisively. The ink dries out after an hour, so you have to be fast. As ever with printing, it’s a nervous game putting your trust in the plate and paper, never knowing how it’s going to turn out until as its pressed, hidden from view. But unlike other intaglio printing (etching, aquatint…) you don’t get to make more prints, you have to grit your teeth and jump. With the method you can get a (almost) second shot, in re-working the plate on the ghost image that is left, but no two are ever the same. And given that I’m an impatient and indecisive creature, that suits me very well.

p.s. In other news, I hope to be opening an online shop within the next couple of weeks. It will sell both original artworks and a selection of limited-edition prints. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking prospect, and hard to work out what might take people’s fancy (artists are always the worst judges of their own work!), so I’d be grateful to any of you regular readers and subscribers for thoughts on what might go down well!  Many thanks all…

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