Printmaking 1: Part 3
Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints
Project 8: Reduction method linocutting
Title: “Come Live with me and be my love”
The inspiration for the title of this project came from the first line of the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love”, (Marlowe, 1564, Cited in Barber, 2007: 169). In the poem a young shepherd professes his love for his sweetheart and asks her to come to live with him, setting out a romantic vision of their future lives together.
I wanted to link this theme to my father’s thoughts in the latter years of his life when he lived alone following the eventual loss of his two partners, often reflecting on his feelings for his loves.
In the last few months of his life, two nesting pigeons set up home on his balcony and raised several sets of chicks. My dad loved the pigeons as he was virtually housebound and during this time he had a direct view of the nest from his chair and watched them with great fondness over the months. Together we could observe how devoted they were to the chicks, taking turns to forage for food and to guard the nest.
We were able to directly observe their habits, which was both an unusual privilege and an opportunity for us to share happy times together in the final months of his life. I wanted to use the pigeon motif to develop the love theme, using text quoted from Christpher Marlowe’s poem to represent my fathers dreams and reminiscences of his earlier life.
Pigeons are intelligent birds who mate for life, sharing the rearing of their offsprinbetween them. They are commonly seen as symbols of peace ( the dove) and within some religious traditions, are associated with the reincarnation. ( 21 Amazing facts about pigeons, http://www.pigeoncontrolresource centre.org/hamlet/amazing-pigeon-facts.html#war_hero
I was keen to explore the creative possibilities of using pigeons in my own reduction print, having admired the detailed and expressive prints of the artist Mark Hearld. Of particular interest was a print called “Pigeons in the Park” which shows two pigeons facing each other directly with the detail of the park and a passer-by walking a dog in the background. The composition works very well, with the background elements helping to create a sense of depth and perspective in the work. The use of strongly contrasting red ink for the details of the birds’ eyes and feet I’d particularly striking against the neutral black, white and pale yellow used for the rest of the print (Hearld, M, 2012:42).
I was particularly interested in how the artist represented the plumage of his courting birds, striking a perfect balance with the amount of detail he used in the prints without confusing the overall picture. The artist manages to convey perfectly the relationship between the birds by positioning them facing each other. As a newcomer to printing, I wanted an opportunity to add detailed cutting into to my own work and to try to explore the challenges of balancing detail with overall visual appeal.
For my own print, I decided to use a similar approach to composition, placing the birds facing each other to suggest a nesting pair. For the background elements of the print I wanted to try to reproduce the scene from my father’s balcony, with the distant hills and sky beyond and the balcony in the mid ground, running across the picture plane and dividing it into thirds, with the birds located mainly in the lower two thirds, and the background sky and hills in the upper third.
To observe the detail of pigeon plumage, I visited my local art gallery and museum which has a large natural history section and sketched a number of pigeon exhibits in close detail. I also visited my local park in an effort to observe the birds in motion. However, they were scared off by passing dogs and this became a bit of a futile exercise. In the end, I relied on my museum sketches to observe the plumage at close quarters.
My chosen colour choices for the print we’re white, yellow, grey, aubergine and black, influenced by a magnificent aubergine coloured pigeon in the museum which I decided would make an interesting colour choice for the plumage and the head of the large male The feet, beaks and rings around the eyes of the birds, which were to be printed yellow and this was the first to be printed.
I was very keen to include the text within my print, picking up the first line of the Marlowe poem. I used the computer to generate my script which I then used for the print. The text was carved out at the top and bottom of the Lino to be left white in the finished work. I intended to try to capture some light on the eye of both birds and removed Lino here, unfortunately over -cutting the centre of the eye of the smaller bird , making it impossible to later print a darker colour in the centre of the eye of the smaller bird. This was disappointing as it was impossible to correct later unless colour was added by hand.
I made a decision to add black back in manually at a later stage as I felt the lack of the black centre of the eye greatly reduced the effect I wanted with the print.
I also later regretted the way in which the sky was cut away to remain white using such coarse cutting tools and felt that I should have left more areas to be printed in the grey colour later. Too much white in the sky did not work well in the print.
The next colours to be printed were the grey of the background aubergine of the plumage and the head of the larger male bird and a line to create an inner border around the picture frame. This is a device which I had also observed in the work of the artist, Mark Hearld, where I particularly liked his collages, the Brown Hare and the Mountain Hare, created as a pair, and each featuring a separately created border framing the prints and linking the two prints to strengthen the pairing. The placing of the hares facing each other adds a very pleasing visual symmetry to the pair. The use of differing colours in both prints picks up the seasonal changes between Autumn and winter, something which I experimented with in my own pigeon print. Hearld, M. 2012: 90-91).
A mixed grey used for the some plumage, sky and part of the distant hills. Finally aubergine was used for the head of the large pigeon, feathers and a border.
Black ink was used to overprint a number of the prints to give more definition to the text, leaving the inner aubergine border but printing the balcony struts, outlines around the birds and the larger bird’s eye black. And to compare how black outlines worked for this subject.
For one print, white was used where black had been used above to creat the impression of a winters scene and to help to balance the White of the sky which I felt was too dominating in the previous prints.
Critical Assessment of Final Prints
Selection of final prints
What Worked Well
• I was quite pleased with the registration of the various layers throughout the process. I think that use of the cardboard jig helped greatly with registration, something which I would recreate in the appropriate size for future prints.
• The composition placing the birds in the centre of the picture plane is working well and their symmetry adds to the visual appeal of the print.
• The plumage on both birds worked surprisingly well, with the detail of the feathers striking a good balance between creating a realistic view of the birds but not over-dominating the overall picture.
• The horizontal and vertical struts of the balcony provide good contrast to the softness of the birds’ plumage and help to divide up the picture plan in a visually pleasing way.
• I felt the colour choices seem to be working, with the black final print layer working well. I think the addition of the black ink as a final layer strengthens the work.
What did not work well
• The use of white for the sky dominates the print, although this effect is diminished by printing a final layer in either black or white. I think this problem has arisen from the large gorge used to remove Lino for the sky. I should have kept more Lino uncut to improve the colour balance in the sky.
• The eye of the smaller email bird is spoiled by the excessive removal of lino resulting inwhite where black should have been. I think this is such a big problem. I will add this in by hand after the assignment has been assessed.
• The cutting of the text needs much more practice. I really liked the concept and would like to add in more elements of interest in this area in future work.
• My choice of paper was not ideal, with slight crinkling of the paper by the final print. Achieving adequate coverage of the paper by the black ink was difficult and I wondered whether this might also be sure to the paper I selected.
21 Amazing facts about pigeons, (2009) Available at: http://www.pigeoncontrolresource centre.org/hamlet/amazing-pigeon-facts.html#war_hero (Accessed: August 2016).
Barber, L. (2007) Penguin Poems for Life. Edited by Barber Laura. 1st edn. London: Penguin Group.
Hearld, M. and Martin, S. (2012a) : Mark Hearld’s Workbook . 1st edn. London, New York: Merrell .
Hearld, M. and Martin, S. (2012b) Mark Hearld’s Workbook. London, New York: Merrell