Monday, 16 April 2018

A Greetings Card Journey

My new range of digitally printed reproductions of my original linocuts launched in December 2017. I introduced just six initially, to sell alongside our Printmaking Exhibition in Chorlton's World Peace CafĂ©. They have sold well - especially the bees! - and I'm now thinking of introducing some more designs. My cards retail at £2.50 (plus p&p) through Love From The Artist, they are a UK not-for-profit organisation supporting artists. To buy my cards online, please click here to go to their website.

Original six cards in the range
I've been playing with design ideas for a new set of cards - for Christmas and big occasions, like birthdays. I'm planning to have these finalised by July. Not all of these will make the grade, but I'm having fun exploring what works. These designs are all monoprints. Let me know what you think!

Possible new designs drying in the studio

I'll also be adding some cards supporting Macmillan, based on the huge linocut commission I I have just created. All profits from cards based on the 'Serenity' print will go 100% to Macmillan. They will be available from the opening of the expanded Macmillan Information and Support Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital in a few months. These are the early proofs. I'll update and share information when the cards are ready and available to buy.

First proofs of Macmillan cards based on 'Serenity' linocut by Carolyn Murphy

I'm delighted to finally have cards to sell alongside my original prints. A big thank you to the small team at Love From The Artist for all their hard work. There are lots of great cards on their website, so it's well worth a good browse!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Pennines and the Halo!

On Saturday 21 April 2018 a new exhibition of artworks by Prospect Printmakers will open at The Whitaker Art Gallery and Museum in Rawtenstall, Rossendale. It's inspired by the Pennines, the theme that unites the work of almost 20 artists in a range of printmaking techniques.

My new linocut 'Halo' was created for this exhibition and will be displayed alongside one piece of work from each of the Prospect Studios printmakers involved.

There's an Opening on Saturday 21 April 2 - 4pm at the Whitaker. All are very welcome. Full details are on the website of the Whitaker. I hope you can make it to the Opening or to the Exhibition itself, which runs until 17 June. Our small exhibition runs alongside Liam Spencer's new exhibition 'Home & Away' in the main gallery space of the Whitaker.

I've outlined below some of the behind the scenes story of the making of this particular piece.

'Halo' refers to Haslingden Halo, an 18m diameter steel structure, sited on an exposed spot above the town, to mark the regeneration of East Lancashire. I hadn't visited it before working on this Pennine theme, but was interested in the juxtaposition of this large industrial-looking art sculpture and the barren moorland landscape. The Halo is lit at night too, giving it an other-worldly floating look.

The day I visited, I'd planned to make a number of sketches. It turned out to be in early March, during the snowy period and it was icy cold, windy and threatening to rain or snow any moment! I ended up walking the site and viewing the structure from all sides and taking reference images, before dashing for the car. I loved the shadows, the contrasts, the light. These are some of the photos I took:

Haslingden Halo with its shadows

The Halo looking alien in its landscape

Fantastic light and shade

Threatening weather
It was really in an exposed spot and I wanted to capture some of that sense of a big Pennine landscape. I decided to create the image from 3 lino plates, so that I could come back to the image and explore different colour ways. I cut the image from traditional lino 21 cm x 21 cm.

This is my first proof of the print:
First rough proof
From here, I made some changes to the colours and also cleaned up each plate further, cutting away stray marks. I was aiming for a more dramatic final image to reflect the light and shade, the storm clouds brewing and the warmth in the landscape.

I don't have images of every stage, but you can see that I've introduced a red/brown bracken colour and darkened the clouds. This is the print after printing just the first plate:

Printing plate 1

I have ended up with a small edition, which will be for sale at the Exhibition and later (unframed) on my website. I was printing this at the same time as drying my Macmillan giant linocuts and starting to work on new designs for my greetings cards. I'm definitely short of drying space!

Need more drying rack space!

My Twitter Art Exhibition (TAE18) Postcard

Last year I entered the Twitter Art Exhibition for the first time and loved it. I couldn't resist taking part again this year for TAE18. My work 'Strumble Head' (16 x 12 cm) went all the way to Canberra in Australia to find a new home and it raised 48 AUS$ for Pegusus as a result.
'Strumble Head' by Carolyn Murphy for TAE18
The Twitter Art Exhibition manages to create a great sense of community with artists all around the world and every year there's a fabulous cause. It works like this... Each artist contributes one original signed postcard-sized piece of work. An exhibition is created and all work is sold at a fixed price per card to raise money for a great charity.

Last year the sale was in Stratford-upon-Avon and it raised £18,000 for children's charity Molly Olly's Wishes. This year the exhibition was in Canberra and on Saturday 7 April the charity sale took place, followed by an online sale, all to raise money for Pegasus Riding for the Disabled, this year's  fantastic local charity. Original works are currently still available to buy on the Pegasus RDA website.

I decided to submit a relief print this year, based on a sketch I'd done a few years ago of Strumble Head lighthouse in Pembrokeshire. I created the image using 3 plates, a mixture of lino and wood for a change.

Below I've included the stages so that you can see the image build up. The first 2 colours are using linocut, whilst the final plate is a woodcut, using Japanese plywood.
Stage 1
Stage 2
The edges were left rough, as I trimmed the image down to the standard size of 16 x 12 cm. I also took a very rough early proof of the woodcut block, to see how that was coming along. This image is below:
Woodcut block work in progress proof
I then went on to continue cutting the wood until I was happy. Once I'd created this one-off piece I packed it carefully and sent it to Australia. I don't know who has bought my postcard - but I do hope they enjoy it and perhaps they'll also like seeing it as it developed.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Completing the big one!

February 2018 will be in my memory forever as 'the huge linocut' and snow. It's not the best combination as Hot Bed Press can be truly icy at times, even when you're wearing 6 layers and a hat!

Fighting through the snow
The good news is that all the prints in the edition are finished and drying. I started with 12 and I think I have between 6 and 8 good ones in the final edition. I won't know for sure until I've checked them carefully and transported them safely home.

The finished A1 linocut
The framed print for the wall of the Macmillan Centre is due to be delivered to them on Wednesday 21st March. I just need to arrange framing and decide on a name for the artwork! It's all on track but the name bit is proving trickier than I thought. News later on this.

The final stages have been gruelling, not just down to the cold. Every time I estimated 'a day' of cutting, the plate seemed to grow. In total 'the big one' has taken 80.5 hours of cutting and printing. The cutting stage after the spot colours took 10.5 hours before I could print colour 4. Strangely enough, I massively underestimated that!

The final stage of cutting the lino plate
Below you can see the final stages of the process of building up this huge original print:
Printing the 4th colour at Hot Bed Press

After 4 times through the press

Printing the final colour on what's left of the plate

To see a video of the final stage of printing check out this News story on my website.

Jake Kennedy has featured me and the making of the giant Macmillan linocut on his latest blog Probably Prints. Thanks Jake!

Friday, 23 February 2018

Slow Progress on the Mammoth Linocut

The spot colour stage was slow on the quarter-sized prototype, so I guess it was always going to be a challenge for the A1 giant project!

It’s a fiddly job to roll ink precisely into areas and then hand print these on, without the help of a press. I used a small Japanese baren and a metal soup spoon and lots of energy! It was icy cold again at Hot Bed Press, but I got warm eventually with all the effort.
I cut some of the lino there too. Usually I do this at home as it’s more comfortable and warm. I learnt a new trick on Wednesday. Sean suggested warming the chilly lino with an iron (on low) before cutting it. What a great idea! It made all the difference, cutting easily when warmed.
I added the spot colours over 2 days. It took 12 hours in total. Firstly I added the large yellow and smaller green balloons.
The next day, I cut away the areas of the balloons I wanted to keep yellow and green, and printed spot red and blue to make the poppies, the smallest hot air balloon and to add colour to the two larger balloons.
This means that the upper part of the print is pretty much finished. I may add some vertical ribs to the large balloon, once I’ve done a test on the prototype. As a result, I could now jettison half the lino plate, which makes it easier to handle. It looks dramatic – and is a stage I’ve been looking forward to.
The cutting ready for the green / brown next colour is immense. I realised yesterday that I’d still underestimated the task. I cut lino for 4 hours – but still have lots more to do: the details of the canal boat and the impression of the sunflowers in the field.
I can’t print the next colour until this is complete, so I won’t be printing the 4th colour today. It will have to wait until Tuesday now, while I carry on cutting the lino in my home studio. I'm aiming for the final colour to be Thursday. Not long! Overall I’m still on track to hit the 21 March delivery deadline, framed.
I had originally estimated the A1 linocut would take me 80 hours to produce. I’ve logged the cutting and printing times and I’m at 54.5 hours so far with 2 colours to go. Looking forward to a glass of something at the end!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Half Way Point on the Giant Macmillan Linocut

The giant linocut project is already at the half way stage! After another 6 hours of printing today at Hot Bed Press, the prints are drying, having been transformed by the third colour.

Tomorrow I will hand print the spot colours to define the hot air balloons and poppies!

Below you can see the development of the print so far, in images - as the design slowly emerges.

Plain A1 lino in my home studio

Transferrin the design and starting to cut the gutter

Lots of cutting - lino pieces everywhere

Printing colour 1 at Hot Bed Press
Prints drying at Hot Bed Press
Printing colour 2 gradation

Lots of rollers and lots of space to print the colour 2 gradation
To see a video of the second colour stage, please check out this link to my website, as I have not been able to add the video here.

The print at colour 2 - ready to go through the press again
Printing colour 3 at Hot Bed Press
The lino plate, rollers and print - today's workstation!


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!