Christmas preparations – Cards completed

These are the first impressions of the linocut.

Lino printing
Lino printing

The left one was printed by placing the linocut face down in the paint, then printing with hand pressure, while the  right hand one had the paint rolled onto the block then printed, again using hand pressure.  I just pressed a little harder for the card standing up at the back!  I like the softer ones but not all the elements of the design came out clearly, and I think such a simple design need clarity.  Pressing harder did the trick, but I  tried the book press to speed things up a bit.

This was decidedly messier for me, though not for the printing process, as the book press is too heavy to move and the room it is in is not set up for painting.  However, the furniture survived unscathed, and despite covering my hands and the (covered) table I was working on in paint, I achieved 10 good prints of my design.

I was in two minds about the addition of gold paint, so I tried it out on one of my trial prints.  I liked the effect of a thin gold line round each halo and then gilded “Noel” as well.  The card looks more finished, less of an experiment.

Christmas Card
Christmas Card – 2016

If I was doing this again, I would make the image smaller as I think a border round it would look better.  Maybe the lino print itself would benefit from the smaller size – it’s a very simple design, after all.

More Christmas preparations

Linocut done!
Linocut done!

Well, I managed to excavate the design with only one small injury!  I don’t remember things going so well in my youth.  The “lino” was softer and more willing to be carved than the real lino we used just after the War – maybe I have more patience now, too.  The first edges are a bit ragged, but I soon discovered how to get clearer ones, even managing most of the tight angles.  It was good fun to do and I am already wondering what else I can do with my new found skill.

The kit we have provided red and yellow paint but I wanted to print in dark green.  Jackson’s Catalogue arrived fortuitously (as a free gift with another magazine), and there I found just what I wanted.  but I must say a word about the Catalogue itself.  It’s a very impressive publication. Not only was there a comprehensive range of artist’s materials,  but each section was headed with an interesting and informative essay about the material concerned and each material was accompanied by a short description of when it would be most useful.  In fact,  I spent a pleasant and useful afternoon (when I should have been painting) reading the catalogue, and didn’t exhaust its fascination.  I never thought I would eulogise a catalogue!

Trial printing
Trial printing

I tried two ways of printing my linocut – in the first case, I rolled the paint out into a suitable shape on the marble block I have, pressed the lino onto the paint, and then onto the paper; while in the second attempt, I rolled the paint onto the roller, then onto the linocut, then onto the paper.  The results were quite different, though both were patchy in printing.  I do own a book press, so I am thinking of using that to gain more colour.  I hope to show you the finished result next week.

The Liverymen 03 – layout

The dresser is Martin’s, so it seemed appropriate to place it behind him, and it will be a good place to stand various objects relating to their interests.    All the objects had to have significance, but they also needed to create a pleasing composition.  Somehow I had to find a place for Martin’s collections of antique wineglasses, wine bottles, and Victorian books,  for Brian’s fishing tackle, love of opera and yacht racing, for their shared interest in wine, and the Livery Company, for the Company itself, and for my own connection with it.  Well, it’s a big canvas!

The liverymen
The liverymen

After I had roughed in the boys in their robes, I made a tentative layout in pencil, putting smaller things on the shelves. Brian is holding his fishing rod with his wellies beside him, the Silver Cup of the winner of the National Championship for the Yeomen Class which Brian and his friend won three times in the eighties, a silver rose (“Der RosenKavelier”, his favourite opera).  Martin’s collections grace the shelves behind him, while the pile of books, and bottle of claret they are sharing demonstrate interests they have in common.  I needed something light and fairly big behind Martin’s arm to give tonal and visual variety so I included a watercolour I had done of St James’ Garlickhyde. This beautiful Wren Church is where I accompany my husband, also a Liveryman, to the Winter and Summer Services of the Company. Behind Brian is a painting of his yacht “Fanatic” in full cry, and a chair representing the period when the company was founded.

Reasonably satisfied with this layout, I washed the canvas in a warm burnt sienna to remove the glare of white canvas.

The Gates of Chester 04

This is the Newgate, not the latest of the modern gates, but definitely Twentieth Century.  I always call it the Pepper Gate, for it stands at the end of Pepper Street, and a very fine and imposing gate it is, too, worthy of the ancient Walls.  It stand adjacent to the Wolfgate shown in the first three blogs of this series, though this image in taken from the other side of the Walls.

Newgate in pastel
Newgate in pastel

It is painted in pastel on sandy coloured velour paper.   I love the feel of pastel on velour, very luxurious, and good edges so easy to achieve.  (“Good edges” are those that are right for the job!) Most of my pastels are from “Unison”, but all the labels are gone so I can’t tell you the numbers of the colours and tones.   But you can see I have used a very restricted palette, brightening the red-brown of the sandstone, blueing the greens and greening the blues to get the complimentaries working.

It is a chunky building with clean lines and neat roofs.  The little garden is a useful foil for the mass of sandstone.  I wanted to keep it simple, so I didn’t break up the surface with mortar lines or detailed decorative elements.  Working mainly with the side of the pastel, I mixed the browns, tans, and reds on the paper.  Equally, the garden is only sketched in – it never ceased to amaze and delight me that so much can be indicated with so few marks.  If, like me, you’ve fallen in love with the illusion of paint, you will know what I mean.

Christmas preparations again

 

The first drawing
The first drawing

This is the drawing that all the previous interpretations have been derived from.  You can see how the circles and curving lines make a heart shape, hence the protective impression of the “stained glass” window.

In her travels, Rachel had picked up a lino-cut kit so our thought was to make a print of this design for the few cards we needed.  Now I haven’t done lino-cut work since I was at school, so this was not going to be as easy as just saying “I’ll do a lino-cut”.  I can see some cut fingers ahead.

The first decision was whether to remove the background, or the figures. We had already decided to make a one colour print.   I didn’t fancy trialforegroundtrialbackgroundthe idea of trying to register a two colour print at my first attempt in I don’t know how many years.   I copied the design and inked in the alternatives – and I liked them both.  We thought that dark green would be a good “Christmas” colour – I was never going to do a black Christmas card – with some gold embellishment hand done after printing.  Perhaps stippling the gold moving out from the Christ Child’s head would look effective for little effort (I haven’t stippled for years, either).  Gold on colour would show up better than on white.  Or maybe I will just edge the halos and the two inward curves with a gold line (easier!) – in which case the printed figures are the best option.  And this was going to be a simple exercise!

So, I must try stippling to see if the gold I have will work that way, find a suitable dark green paint/ink and make the lino printing block of my design.  This may take a week or two.  I hope I manage to do it all in time for this Christmas!

Christmas preparations

Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child

Over the years since my daughter, Rachel, was born, I have always included a mock stained glass window among the Christmas decorations.  The first window was  small, just enough room for the Virgin and her Child, but moving house meant I needed a new design for a bigger window.

The first one was a straightforward representation of the Holy Family, but it was only made of paper and soon disintegrated.  I wanted something a little more sophisticated, more mature, less Victorian.  I was doodling design ideas, looking for something pleasing to the eye, using circles to indicate the haloed heads and sweeping lines for the robes,  when I suddenly realised that I had my design.

The Holy Family
The Holy Family

Careful arrangement of the “glazing bars” created the star, and there it was.    This time I made the frame and those glazing bars out of heavy card and the window is still with us, coming out every Christmas.  The sunlight coming through the “glass”  throws beautiful patterns on the carpet, and the house light illuminates the design for the outside world after dark.

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A few years ago, I was asked to paint a picture for a themed exhibition celebrating any special day,  I chose December 25th and used my window design as inspiration.  The picture took over as I painted and instead of the protective impression of the original design, I found myself painting a great burst of light emanating from the Child, The Light of the World.

Christus natus est
Christus natus est

Then Rachel took the design and explored it in her embroidery world, – blog.virtuosewadventures.co.uk.  Again an different ambience appeared, a sense of quietude,strength, and purpose  – this was all getting very interesting!

Now I need to introduce another strand in our Christmas preparations – Christmas cards.  For some years now Rachel and I have been using our work as designs for these cards, she with embroidery – and myself with paint.  These two interpretations were among the first – others have included a Christmas Tree angel and a chorus of angels.  This year we have nearly enough from past years to send to our friends this year but are short of a dozen or so.  I’ll tell you what we did next week!

Alford in the snow – third stage

Alford in the Snow 03
Alford in the Snow 03
Alford - after some thought!
Alford – after some thought!

When I really looked at my source, I discovered that my original drawing had wandered.  This happens when I am working exuberantly  with a palette knife as the photo on the left shows.

Now I have quietened a bit, and am working more thoughtfully with a brush, I have seen the error of my ways.  (I do paint carefully with a palette knife sometimes – promise!)

The wall and railings on the left were at the wrong angle, so that the road was too wide, and focus was lost thereby. The same was true of the wall and hedge on the right!  Oh, Steve!  Concentrate, girl!  But see what those simple changes have wrought, for the composition of the painting is greatly improved, the atmosphere more friendly, the whole painting welcomes you in.

Those points corrected, I added more colour and texture to the tall trees, making them less dense at the same time, brightened the twiggy hedges, and added some snow, that had been melting too fast.  The shadows cast on the snowy lane brighten the atmosphere – just the day for a good, brisk walk.  I feel altogether happier about progress and have reached that happy stage of refining the detail – and I am pleased with the finished painting.

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Alford in the Snow.

 

SAA postcard partners

The SAA (Society for All Artists) are running a challenge, which is great fun, called “Postcard Partners” .  The idea is that two artists share a postcard and paint half each.  It’s the sort of thing that friends can do,  and since the winners of the prizes are picked at random, it doesn’t matter if you have any talent or none!

My painting group thought we would “have a go!”  Not that any of us thought we would win a prize, we did it for fun.  We were painting in watercolour at the time so most of this set of entries are in that medium, but I think we may try again, later in the term, now we have experience, maybe in different media.   The halves can be divided in any way suitable, straight, wavy, background and foreground, etc.  We were rather conservative this time but that may change when we try again.

So, here are our efforts.  Some of the group have been painting for years, and some are beginners, and at this scale it is hard to tell the difference!

SAA Postcard Partners
SAA Postcard Partners

My thanks to Judy, Jill, Benedetta, Julie, Harry, Ann, Margaret, Lorna, Pam, and Frieda, for an enjoyable afternoon.  The surface of the postcards supplied by the SAA was truly excellent, though you can make your own as long as they are the right size. My friends achieved some subtle effects, blending delicate washes on elephants, turbaned sages, Venetian scenes,  seascapes, pussycats and flowers; yet it also responded well to more precise work as in the party food and the landscape; it took line and wash very well, vide the enchanting pigeon at the top;  but pride of place must to the mixed media view of Venice (the dark one in the left hand corner).  Well done, everyone!

The Gates of Chester – third stage

I’ve drawn much more with the wax crayons characterising the stonework, suggesting the undergrowth behind the tree and finishing the wrought iron gates.  I added Viridian to the tree both as paint and as crayon together with some brown and black.  I also intensified the colour washes on the wall but I was working in electric light, and may have been too enthusiastic.  The colours seem to be working better now.

Wolfgate 03
Wolfgate 03

I think I like the effect of the crayon, but the curvy tree trunk needs attention and something – but what? – needs to be done to join the “Brusho” part to the rest of the picture.  I seem to have painted myself into a corner.  Time to sleep on it, maybe.

I returned to my source photograph.  I have missed out the grass edge at the front of the picture, thinking that yet another horizontal line right across the picture is unhelpful.  But there is the ghost of neatly cut grass at the extreme right hand side of the flower border which might break up the horizontal I do have, at least suggesting why we have that edge.  Maybe a little more “Brusho”to take the yellow and purples over the line in places?

Wolfgate Complete
Wolfgate Complete

It doesn’t look very different, but I have straightened the wavy trunk, extended the roots to imply some continuity with the pansies in front, and added more “Brusho” yellow, lemon this time to  suggest distance,to the upper edge of that section.

This is as far as I want to take it in this picture, but I do like the different effect the wax crayon makes.  Contrary to my prejudiced expectations, the crayon has given a delicacy and airiness to the finished picture.  I shall certainly try this combination on media again!

 

The Liverymen 02 – dressing the canvas

The liverymen
The liverymen

The actual scene didn’t exist – it was all in the mind – so it was going to be a composition of two men and a heap of objects somehow arranged to tell a story. It must tell of my two protagonists and their interests, and of the Livery, its age, customs and purpose. And I wanted a happy picture, too.

Martin and Brian entered into the spirit of things, furnishing me with details and photos of their interest and enthusiasms, and with the official photos of them in their robes of Office. One showed them standing together, facing the camera, their hands lightly clasped in front of them. That worked in the immediacy of a photo. But a more formal portrait would require a bit of variety. Another photo showed Martin seated sideways and turning to face the camera. Using this as a start, and echoing the pose of the left hand figure on “The Ambassadors”, I drew in Martin holding, not a dagger, but the traditional nosegay in one hand and resting his other hand on the dresser, thereby giving myself immense anguish – and of that, more later.

Thanks to Holbein, I had my two figures of good size posed on the canvas. Now I needed the story to unfold. They have a common interest in wine so we meet them sharing a convivial bottle of claret – doubtless Brian is telling a fishy story or two and Martin doesn’t believe a word of it!