Ink and Light
I’ve been advertising my own Christmas cards here (around 200 sold though, very chuffed to think my pictures have made their way through letter boxes all over the country) for weeks so I can’t really fob my readers off with them again. But what better way than to celebrate some holiness than bringing together some light, printing and Gothic goodness. A few weeks ago I had an epic drawing session at York Minster and left so inspired that I couldn’t wait to make work from my drawings. I’d been building (excuse the pun) up the courage to bring my love of architecture and monoprinting together, and the cathedral’s breathtaking cascades of light over stone seemed ideal for the ‘reduction’ method -wiping away inks to let the sharp whites of the paper show through.
My first print is a large one based on a view through a side aisle. I haven’t reproduced it, but simply worked freehand from the sketchbook in front of me, on a larger plate, when then creates a reversed image. This was quite long and fiddly to make, as is often the case when you psych yourself up about something ambitious. I wanted earthy but unrealistic colours and so mixed up this fairly punchy ochre as a first layer. One of the most exciting things about monoprinting is that you only get one shot -and that you can’t predict how colours will print, side alongside each other, and most tantalisingly, sit on top of each other. So it was with a fair amount of nerves that I mixed a dirty blue for the next layers, crossing my fingers that when overlapped they would not make a snot green. The second print was fiddly, I thinned the ink with a plate oil to make it more workable and translucent with a roller, and carefully cut a stencil to define the bright areas against the shadowed foreground. I even warmed the plate slightly to remove the roller marks and make sure the layer was consistent. I love the suspense of lining up one set of hours’ work over another set of hours’ work, crossing your fingers as you hope that they register, and holding your breath as you commit, lower the blankets and run it through the press. Thankfully this time it worked. As I learn more about prints, I realise the fewer steps an artist makes the better, unfortunately its a lesson of ruining many good prints by over-working or mis-registering them. I took a gamble, and decided to run this through one more time, with some finer details in stronger blue. Every layer is hard to line up, as the residue from the previous layers disappear. But it worked, and I was very happy (and, importantly, decided to stop). As I often whine, I have little confidence in using colour, but was really pleased with how the soft blue knocked out the strength of the ochre, creating a contrast but also adding density to the shadowed foreground.
After a large, carefully-made piece I wanted to reward myself with an alternative exploration of my theme. At the next printing session, I put aside my sketchbook, denying myself any reference material, and took out a tiny plate, smaller than shown on screen. I sat and thought for a while, reflecting on my impressions of the minster, my initial reaction to the light and space. With a few inks, I started smearing traces of the minster in my head upon the metal. Memories and imagination mixed. The results became not so much York but a reaction to Gothic architecture on a wider scale, drawing on many other cathedrals I’ve visited and been in awe at over the years. Some are clearly an aisle, a clearstory, an arch. Some became more abstract, drawing on reflections so that the church spaces almost become pools, this last one even starts to look like a wateryVenetian scene. It was satifying to put aside my drawings and tap into a different part of my brain, and while doing so put my trust in a wonderful medium, that felt much more intuitaive than the last time I tried working from memory.
Merry Christmas all! With many good wishes for all that 2012 brings, and as ever, thank you for following! Joanna x x