During the pandemic, I spotted the inspiring story of the Manchester argus butterfly. This large heath butterfly had lived on the peatlands of Manchester until around 1850, but with industrialisation came the loss of its habitat. The Manchester argus became extinct in the Manchester area. You can read all about it in this BBC story from May 2020.
I decided to base a new linocut design on the butterfly, creating a stylised image to complement my popular 'Hard at Work' Manchester bee linocut, designed in 2015. Both are hand cut from three plates of lino 25cm x 25cm in size.
|'Welcome Home' original linocut by Carolyn Murphy
I started by sketching the rare butterfly from a range of available photos on the internet. Then I experimented with colourways and the structure of the design. I wanted the green of 'Welcome Home' to balance and complement the golden yellow of the bees artwork. After a few tests, I settled on the colour and the tones of the new design. I must stress that it is inspired by the Manchester argus - I did not set out to create the linocut as a true to life study.
|Initial rough sketches
Below you can see the development stages, from cutting the plates, to inking the lino plates and early colour tests. I hope it helps to bring to life how this original multi-plate linocut is made. It was printed in my home studio using a Hawthorn press, onto Canaletto 300gsm off-white paper and is a limited edition of 50.
|Cutting the plates & exploring colours
|Printing the second colour
|An early exploration of colours
|Comparing tones - 'Welcome Home' final colour later became darker
I hope you enjoy looking at the story of the return of the Manchester argus to the Greater Manchester wetlands and let's hope it is settling in nicely to its old home after a gap of 150 years. I do like a happy ending!
To learn more about my work, please check out my website www.carolynmurphy.co.uk where you'll find my gallery online shop and links to social media.