Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Printing the first colour of my Macmillan linocut commission

I bought 2 pieces of A1 lino (just in case) and when it arrived it filled the studio with a strong smell of fresh linseed. I had to clear the space entirely to spread it on the big table. It took up most of the table, but was difficult to work on there. Eventually I’d reorganised the spotlights and set up on a different table, easier to move around. It was clear I'd be standing all the time to cut this plate!
The pristine A1 lino from Hawthorn
I started by lightly sanding the whole surface. Then I redrew the image onto A1 tracing paper, tweaking elements, based on learning from the prototype stage. I then transferred the image to the lino to reverse it and marked this up with the permanent Sharpie pen.  This took longer than I thought.
The image reversed and transferred
Finally I started cutting the first colour (to leave the white of the paper), the kento marks and the 'gutter', which allows a margin around the image. By chance I bumped into Lucy May Schofield at Hot Bed Press, so was able to double check how to carve the kento marks! As I suspected the edges have to be vertical. The cutting all took MUCH longer than I expected too! So I deferred printing colour 1 from Friday to Monday to give myself more time.

On Friday I went in to Hot Bed Press anyway. I needed to test a few things, using the real A1 lino plate (even though it wasn’t yet ready to print). Lesson 1: A1 lino doesn’t fit in my car! Fortunately I was able to swap cars with my husband.

I placed the A1 lino on the Polymetaal press, the largest etching press at Hot Bed Press. I put a large piece of Canaletto 300gsm paper into the kento marks. Lesson 2: the paper and lino together were too wide for the press. I spent over an hour cutting down the paper. I decided to start creating 12 original linocut prints in the hope of getting sufficient good ones at the end of this risky process. Somehow 10 seemed too much added pressure on a first-time giant reduction!
After I’d cut the beautiful smooth paper, I learnt another useful lesson. Lesson 3: the trimmed paper is bigger than the A1 folder. Thank heavens Karen Joyce was kind enough to lend me her folder to keep the paper safe and clean!

Over the weekend I eventually finished the cutting stage – with piles of lino pieces in the studio and rogue lino bits gradually spreading all around the house. On Monday, I returned to Hot Bed Press and set about the mammoth task.
Still cutting!
Printing went well. I had intended to take a first proof on newsprint. However the newsprint was too small for the plate, so I did my best to proof onto 2 pieces – not ideal.
Overall things went pretty well on Monday. Positive lessons: I had mixed just enough very light grey ink to complete the 12  prints (a bit close for comfort though!) and I managed to print all 12 just before Hot Bed Press closed. Conditions were icy, but I managed to work up some warmth eventually through the physical effort of rolling so much ink, transferring the huge plate to and fro, printing and moving the prints on the drying racks for storage.

Printing on the Polymetaal at Hot Bed Press

Colour 1 - a very light grey - on the drying racks
I was also delighted to find that I could, with care, place the paper onto the plate using the registration marks on my own. It was a 1 person job! At 5pm I was shattered and went home for a rest. I’ll be back on Wednesday to print colour 2. In the meantime, today I’ve cut the lino plate further, to remove lino from areas I want the very light grey to be visible. There’s no turning back – bit by bit the lino reduces with each colour of the process. Fingers crossed for a positive day on Wednesday. I’ll be wearing my hat as well as my thermals next time!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Prototyping – getting ready to create a giant linocut

I had put forward a detailed proposal for a large linocut to go on the walls of the Macmillan Support Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital. On 16 January I learnt that the Macmillan project team, working on the new extension building work, had approved my artwork. It was finally all systems go!
I also now had a deadline! I started the next day on a quarter-size prototype to prove many of the technical challenges. I spoke to other printmakers for advice and input on printing big. I also planned out the full project.

Starting to cut the plate

The finished prototype
By choosing to use a reduction process for the A1 linocut, I’d added to the risks. It made sense for a short edition and reduces the amount of cutting and the volume of lino. It just adds to the tension.
The aim of the prototyping process was therefore to prove as many things as possible, before tackling the challenges of A1 itself. This included:
·         The minimum number of layers of colour & times through the press I’d need
·         The registration system, based on Japanese woodblock’s ‘kento marks’
·         The composition and design
·         The value of sanding the lino, as well as the quality of lino itself
·         The colours and contrasts in tone
·         If I could get smooth gradations of ink
·         The clouds...
·         Spot printing of the balloons, by hand
·         Drying times – allowing for ‘tonking’ with tissue
·         Whether Hot Bed Press’s largest etching press would do the job – on lino

The prototype is now finished and has turned out well. Phew! I’ve now started on the BIG one.
I’ve included images of the process, as layers of colour build up.

Colour 1

Colour 2

Colour 3

Spot colour

3 colours and spot colours

Removing the rest of the top section of lino after colour 3 & spot colours

Colour 4

Colour 5

Reduction is known as linocut’s ‘suicide’ process because after printing each colour, you cut more of the plate away, before printing a new colour. If something goes wrong - at any stage, even the final colour - you can end up with no successful print, or with half the planned edition. No pressure! Fingers crossed.
My main points of learning so far:
·         It takes a long while to cut the gutter, even at A3!
·         I only had A4 tracing paper to reverse the image - so had to buy A1 tracing paper fast
·         I needed more space for the image margin
·         The amount of ink needed is more than you think
·         Small rollers for spot colour worked well by hand – but not through the press
·         Some tweaks were needed to the composition and a few less successful details but overall the  image could be created with 5 layers and spot colours
·         Sanding the plate worked best
·         Staedtler Lumocolor permanent pen is not permanent with oil based ink!
·         Add more patterning and use mark making more as the scale increase
·         The etching press delivered
·         Kento registration worked well – the A1 version will have sharper edges
·         Multiple rollers work well with gradations, so no need for huge & heavy rollers

There are still plenty of challenges in moving to a bigger scale… Not least of which is transportation. Will the lino and prints fit in my car? I’ve bought A1 art folders to help. Will I need to trim down the 70 x 100 cm paper to fit it through the largest etching press in Salford? Can I manoeuvre the lino and paper on the press on my own?
I'll be blogging every few days as I set about creating the giant linocut.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

My biggest ever linocut – and it’s for Macmillan!

Macmillan’s Support Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester is expanding and the new bigger and better space will open this Spring. There will be great new facilities – and a large linocut on the wall, my first commission and the largest linocut I’ve ever produced. I’m very proud, and still quite nervous, as I’m in the process of creating this special piece of artwork.
How did this come about? Well, it’s a long story and one that I’m only just ready to share.
It began in April 2015, when I returned from a fabulous birthday trip. I’d spent a week with my husband in a cottage in Aberdovey, on the coast of mid Wales. I’d also fitted in a weekend linocut workshop with Ian Philips and I came home on a high, to find a letter waiting for me. I’d been called back following a mammogram. I was confident all would be fine.
Everything moved quickly. I soon learnt that all was not well. I had ‘DCIS’, which was “good news” as it’s not life threatening, but also bad news, as all my options involved major surgery. On May 8 2015 I had a mastectomy and reconstruction at Wythenshawe Hospital and expected to be well and back at work 6-8 weeks later, and busy getting back to normal. However I’m still on a journey of recovery and I can thank Macmillan (and many others) for helping me feel more like myself at last, as well as setting me on a new path with my printmaking.
A year after the surgery I learnt of the Macmillan Support Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital and decided to drop in. I was struggling and knew it. That’s when I met Debbie Smith, the Centre Manager and learnt about the support on offer to everyone affected by cancer.
In August 2016 I left my demanding job, as I was still in physical pain and really conflicted. I needed to focus on my recovery, from yoga to walking, listening to my body. In the same month we lost my mother-in-law to her short and difficult battle with cancer.

Bit by bit, I tried new things and met new people. With Macmillan I walked at Quarry Bank Mill, tried Zumba and took a mindfulness course. I sobbed my way through much of the excellent HOPE course, as part of our small group. I had great support from a regular counsellor, thanks to Macmillan. Over almost a year (and alongside other specialist support), she helped me come to terms with my body and find some oomph and joy again.
I only started to return to my printmaking during the HOPE course, as I set myself new goals. Months later Debbie Smith asked me if I would create a linocut for the new Centre – a real commission. The building work is underway. The project team approved the commission and I’m working to a deadline of 21 March to deliver a piece of artwork that is really important to me. Yes, it’s the biggest one I’ve ever done, and it’s my first commission, however it’s more. For me it’s a linocut that represents hope and a new path. Hopefully it will connect with other Macmillan clients and it’s an opportunity to raise funds for Macmillan too. I’m nervous as it’s outside my comfort zone and I hope to do justice to Macmillan and all the faith and support they have shown to me. I’m excited to be working on such a challenging and positive piece of work.
As there are lots of unknowns in working on something so large, I decided to start by creating a quarter sized prototype of the linocut, to prove the process. The A3 image is almost finished.

I’ve decided to share the development of the big one on this blog. The A1 lino itself has arrived and it’s huge. I’m planning on tracking its journey from here to the framed original linocut print on the Macmillan Centre wall (fingers well and truly crossed!). There’ll be regular posts – please check back for updates!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Chorlton Printmaking Exhibition

On Sunday 18 February from 5-7pm, fellow printmaker Cate Gibson and I will be at our Chorlton Printmaking Exhibition to have a chat and share some refreshments.We'd like to invite you to join us at our 'Meet the Artists' event. All the details are below.

The exhibition is in Chorlton, Manchester, at the World Peace Café in the Buddhist Centre on High Lane. It's on until 28 February at the times the café is open: Thursdays to Sundays 11-4.

At the event, you'll be able to enjoy the exhibition at a relaxed time when the café is closed to the public. You can view the original artwork on the walls, with many linocuts on display, as well as other printmaking work. You'll also find greetings cards and new work in the browsers, just for the event. All work is for sale.

A big thank you to Janet Higgins, for the opportunity to exhibit here. We were delighted to take up the space, when someone dropped out at the last minute. Janet and Phil were also a huge help as we set up the exhibition last year.

Back on 1 December we held a preview night - you can see photos from the evening here, thanks to Phil Portus, who captured the evening. Thanks Phil!

The printmaking exhibition features linocuts, etchings and collagraphs by Carolyn Murphy and Cate Gibson, both based in the South Manchester area. We hope you can join us on the 18th. Everyone is very welcome!

Monday, 16 October 2017

A new 20:20 linocut all ready to go!

How quickly another year comes round! It's not long until the deadline for submitting work to this year's 20:20 print exchange, organised by Hot Bed Press. I've just finished my multi-plate linocut 'Into the Woods' edition of 25, which will be one of a set of prints from Prospect Studios.

'Into the Woods' original linocut by Carolyn Murphy
This original print is based on a sketch of Welsh woodlands, which I did a few years ago. I loved the mix of rock and undergrowth, light and shadows.
Over 500 artists from more than 40 print studios across the UK and beyond are expected to take part again this year, with work touring and on display on-line.

7th Warrington Contemporary Open Art Exhibition

I went along last week to check out Warrington Museum and Art Gallery's 2017 Contemporary Open art exhibition, which runs until Saturday 28 October, as part of Warrington Arts Festival.
It's an exciting and well presented exhibition in a fabulous space on the 2nd floor - and it provides a great contrast to the predominantly traditional works on the level below.

Warrington Contemporary Open 2017

Shot from the exhibition opening night
My monoprint 'Hidden Depths' was one of around 40 works by local and regional artists selected by the panel and it was great to see artwork by other printmakers so well represented.
'Hidden Depths' on the gallery wall

Work by Cate Gibson

Work by Kaye Wilson (foreground)
I particularly loved the printmaking work on display by Cate Gibson, Kaye Wilson and Tracy Hill. Tracy's work below won the main award.

Award-winning work by Tracy Hill
I'd highly recommend a visit, if you're in the area.

Monday, 25 September 2017

In the Warrington Contemporary Open Exhibition

My original monoprint 'Hidden Depths' will be part of this year's Warrington Contemporary Open art exhibition, opening on Friday 29 September and running until Saturday 28 October at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.

I hope you get the chance to pop along to see contemporary work selected by the judges from artists from Warrington and the surrounding areas. It's part of Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival 2017.