I have selected an image from the top of the Empire state building, taken early last year. This is stuck down onto mount board and a loose sheet of acetate is attached above it along one edge so that it can be moved like a page above the image. This page becomes the main reference source for translating the design from the image to the block. I use acetate pens on the page and flip over the design and draw from the reversed image onto the block. A relief print always flips when printed. I decide on the composition and dimensions of the print and then cut a piece of lino to the correct size. In this case I have scaled up by 50% on each dimension. So 1 inch on the image = 1.5 inches on the block.
Because I use floor lino, lino that is sturdy enough to cope with the amount of pressings that are going to be made, the surface needs to be sanded down and made completely smooth. I use 220 grade sandpaper normally but- be careful not to over sand one area more than another.
Now that I have decided on the shape: I grid up both the acetate and the block appropriately. The acetate becomes the flip over page that I am going to use to refer to for drawing onto the block. I have used yellow grid on this so that I can see the image through it quite clearly but as I progress with the drawing I will use different pens for different layers. The initial line I have made is the skyline. I use a separate block for this. I have drawn the skyline mark onto the large lino and cut a line with my smallest v gouge. I have cut a smaller piece of lino that I will use for just the blue sky, as I want this printed first with no chance of blemishes, and this piece is cut to the same size for the skyline to fit.
To ensure that I have both pieces of lino cut in the same place I have to off-set the image onto the new piece by printing from a wet print off of the main block. So the image is reversed and then reversed again so that it is in the same position. When cutting the skyline block I gradually make the mark one millimetre larger than the other block so that when I start overprinting with the main block it will cover the edge and not leave a white gap.
I cut the two blocks but make sure there is an overlap when I print the main block on top of the skyline print. Simply I make sure the skyline block is slightly undercut.
I cut my paper, in this instance it is Canaletto Liscio 160gsm, to the right size and enough for the whole edition. The drawback with a reduction print is you do have to print the complete edition from the start. So make sure you have enough paper for edition and mistakes.
My registration is simply a single piece of paper the same size as the paper I am printing onto and this is put underneath the block, printing paper is lined up on top. Make sure your registration marks are very accurate because if they are 1mm off then potentially you will lose any 1mm lines. The registration is only as accurate as you use it.
My first colour is always the skyline. This is rolled out and rolled onto the block. The method I use is to decide the extremities of the colour and mix these up. Then place them on the slab with a small gap between. Roll your roller gently along the length of the ink gradually moving the roller from side to side. This will create a blend. It is important that the roller circumference is as big as you can get it. You roll the ink in only up and down direction. You want to keep the blend intact. I have printed a total of 11 prints which should give me an edition of 8. I have used a Beever Hydraulic Press.
I now have no need to use the skyline block so will now concentrate on the main block.
I never use the white of the paper in my prints so I have mixed an off white colour to print with. Because there is quite a large surface area to be printed I make sure there is enough ink for all 11 prints. Using the registration sheet I place the main block and print onto the previous printed skylines. If you look closely you can see the subtle overlap. You can add some cobalt drier to your ink if you would like it to accelerate the drying times too.
After printing my first layer I now refer to my initial acetate and photo and carefully plot out where I want that colour (the one I have just printed) to stay. Once I have marked the relevant parts on the acetate I can then flip it over and mark out carefully on my gridded lino those very same marks. Once completed I cut these out with the tools. I have now decided- that is where I want that colour to stay on the print.
I now make decisions about the next layer to be printed on top of the previous layers, leaving the parts cut away as the previous layers colour. please notice that the next colour in this design is a light grey. Printed exactly the same way as before, using the registration sheet. As I go through the stages of colour and cut- I write on the registration plate: the colour I have done and the corresponding date. At the end of the print I will in effect have a diary showing the making of the work.
I now decide where I want to keep the light grey and mark the acetate indicating the parts I want to cut away from the block. Once I have cut them away I decide on the next colour and today a slightly darker grey is printed exactly on top.
I now mark out on the block, from the acetate, the areas I want to keep as the mid grey and cut this away. I have decided to now print a mid/dark blue grey on top. Looking at the current print you can see how the initial cream/ white area I printed has been subdued to look just like white. The next colour I print could be black and then I will work back into this with more lighter colours.
I have marked and cut out where the blue grey stays and printed my sixth layer, black. Hopefully you are beginning to see the picture, pun intended. Now I will work back into the black with lighter colours that will create a textural effect where the black comes through the new layer on top.
I have marked where I want the black to stay and cut it out of the block. I will be printing black again at another stage further down the line so not every black detail has been selected at this point. I am now starting to print light colours on top. The reason for this is that the way in which the darker colour comes through affects the new layer and creates a more textural quality, it also changes the colour that I am printing. This latest colour is an ochre but as you can see: once it is printed on the image it no longer remains the same colour. I have enhanced this change by tonking the surface of the wet print with newsprint to lift a further amount of the wet ink off enabling more of the black to come through. Increasing the textural quality. Now the colour on the image is a more green/ochre. I have to remember now that the next stage of the print is to cut away the resulting colour on the print and NOT the colour I inked up.
Here is the latest colour. I have cut away where the tonked green ochre is to stay and now mixed up a turquoise. This 8th colour was mixed using cling filmed saved ink from previous prints. Beginning to take shape and now working more with colour than the original image.
If you ever have excess ink, place it in some cling film and wrap up, save it for another session.
The dark blue/ turquoise has been cut away from the block and an off magenta placed on top. This is then toned so that it darkens due to the previous layer. I do like how this shiny maroon works against the blue. I'll decide now where I want to keep this colour. Next time round I'll be printing a light grey.
Here it is: the 10th colour- light grey. The image is beginning to have more definition now.
So now I have put another two colours onto the print. A pale blue, which I intend to be for the river section and a black that will finish the building on the right hand side. Now the texture is starting to build on the surface and a industrial feel is beginning to evolve. Still not sure how many colours to go.
After cutting away the blue I have now printed up the 13th colour, orange. Still no finish line in sight but the block is now losing quite a lot of definition. See the close up image of detail and notice how the slight misregister helps to lift the layers apart enhancing the 3d feel.
14th colour, a green grey,and each time a new layer is put on- it changes the feel for the whole image. Maybe 5 or 6 colours to go. Edition is likely to be about 7. One of the final prints has been donated to an auction for Wenlo, a riding for the disabled charity. Another will be entered for an exhibition in October. So the deadline is looming!
Now getting down to the business end so to speak. Cut away the 14th colour and dropped a cyan on top. Some very nice colour combinations beginning to form. This colour is to emphasise shadow in places. Another light tonked colour for the distance a bright red and black and green still to happen.
Three colours now added after I have cut away where I want the cyan to stay. Red, green and light grey in the background. The Green and grey have been toned to allow a slight darkening and textural quality to come through. I feel another few colours still to happen. I have printed three at the same time as they only appear in a small amount and not overlapping. The process allows itself to be manipulated with more than one colour. With the deadline looming I felt this was an appropriate action.
Almost there now. Have now put on a tonked white to drop the image back a little to reinforce a little bit of spacial depth. Now considering the final black. With so many layers the edge of the colours now show as fine lines and creates an excited line.
STAGE 19- FINAL
Here is the final print all finished just have to edition it now.
Cut away small areas of white and printed last layer of black on top. Full edition size is only 8. One of the prints is in the Cank St gallery open exhibition 2015, Leicester, and the first one of the edition has been donated to Wenlo, a riding for the disabled charity, for their auction at the 25th year celebration ball in November.