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!

To see more of my work, please check out my website: www.carolynmurphy.co.uk where you will also find an online Shop with currently available work. Thanks!

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