Monday, 4 April 2022

The Making of 'Staying Local' for TAE22

This year I have been a volunteer blogger for Twitter Art Exhibit (TAE), writing about other artists and their work whenever I've had the time. So I know the 2022 exhibition and charity sale of original artwork is coming up fast! All work is donated by artists from across the globe, for a great cause. In 2022, that's the Encephalitis Society - and the exhibition takes place in York on 25 June, and then online. 

In other years I've submitted a linocut. I usually experiment, as all works are one-offs, so need to be monoprints, in printmaking terms. For me it always feels like a great opportunity to try something new. So this year, I decided to create a hand-coloured etching, based on some of the very local sketches I have been doing during lockdowns in Manchester. 'Staying Local' is an etching with watercolour spot colour. 

'Staying Local' by Carolyn Murphy

Decision between options

First I created the etching plate, working with acid at Prospect Studio in Rossendale. Then I experimented with the plate, adding watercolour to varying degrees. After a few tests, it came down to a decision between two and I chose the one above (on the left here). I preferred the more minimalistic spot colour to bring the natural environment to the fore in a very urban setting.

Other local sketches took me as far as the end of the street or to different angles on the shared garden or 'croft' behind us. This is the scene 'Staying Local' is based on - but with fewer Autumn leaves.

An Autumn view

I hope 'Staying Local' proves popular and raising much-needed funds in June. It's always a pleasure to take part. If you want to know more about Twitter Art Exhibit, their website link is here.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Becoming a Middlesex University MA student

As of January 2022, I'm a student again! I hadn't really expected that, at this stage in my life, but it feels just right and I am absolutely loving it! To be precise, I'm a part-time student on the Middlesex University MA Fine Art Printmaking programme, which runs from January 2022 until December 2023. He's a picture of me at the Hendon campus, on my 'first day', when I went to pick up my student ID and look around.

Carolyn on campus at Hendon

Every Fine Art and Fine Art Printmaking student gets a space in the MA studio in the Grove building, nearby. Although I'm splitting my time between Manchester and London, I was keen to 'move in', so took a number of new monotypes down to Hendon for the studio wall. 

I'm planning to add more work bit by bit. In the last month, I've printed at the printmaking workshop on campus, as well as at home and at Hot Bed Press in Salford. The train journeys mean transporting work is a little tricky, but I now have a plan chest drawer in Hendon, so that's a start!

We have a great group of students on the programme and our first exhibition is coming up fast - opening on 14 April. Details are on my website news page about the (re)FLEX exhibition in Hoxton.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Behind the Scenes on 'September Evening'

For this year's 20:20 print exchange I decided to capture a familiar and favourite view. It's one I've seen a lot of during recent lockdowns and on a warm, summer evening, it's hard to beat. Nothing exotic - it's the view to the west from our own backyard in Manchester. Our own little space, haven and outside space. From here we have watched the bats and the International Space Station fly over regularly. The shared garden behind has mature trees, hedgehog residents and an insect hotel, amongst other things.

I've included below some reference photos I took - both day and evening to guide me:

One of the trickiest challenges was how to take the image over the edges of the paper and register consistently. Thank you to printmakers on Facebook's Linocut Friends site for suggestions and tips! I finally went for face down registration - using a basic template. 

I then started by testing gradation colours, to explore how best to create a good illusion of twilight. After deciding on a composition and what to include and leave out, I finalised the design and transferred it to the lino in pencil. The cutting was fairly intricate - especially the section with the leaves. You can see some work in progress shots here:

Trying alternative colours

Starting to cut the lino plate

The tree section starts to emerge

Initial cutting completed

From here I proofed the plate in the my chosen colour way, removed and refined elements to clean up the image. Once I was happy with a proof image, it was time to print the full 20:20 edition of 25 for Prospect Printmakers submissions.

First rough proof

Later proof

One of the challenges I spotted late was that printing right to the edges means you can't peg prints up, which is my normal route. Maybe I finally need to look at flat drying racks after all! In the meantime, I have all the edition drying on the studio floor. And the gorgeous studio cat is temporarily banned! This is how the edition developed:

The gradation - printed from a plain lino block

Printing the edition

The finished linocut edition - drying on the floor

The plate and the image together

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Making 'Crosby Beach' linocut

This linocut started a while ago with a visit to Crosby Beach to see Antony Gormley's 'Another Place' sculpture installation, 100 cast iron figures over more than a mile of beach, all staring out to sea. It has an eerie feel, with some figures half submerged in the water, or in the sandy beach itself, some covered in seaweed and barnacles, one even wearing a Liverpool football shirt!

The figures are all life-size and moulded from Sir Antony Gormley's own body. They look out to sea, where the flow of oil tankers and container ships come in to the Port of Liverpool, nearby.  

The beach was busy with dog walkers and tourists on the day I visited. As the tide comes in, some of the figures are full submerged. I wanted to capture this strange place, on the edge of an industrial heartland, in a new linocut. 'Another Place' was a regeneration project, and has been hugely popular, bringing visitors to the area. It's a difficult place to capture because of the emptiness! I chose a composition with multiple figures and the reflections in the pools on the beach, and included the ships and a few people to bring a sense of space and try to capture the feel of Crosby Beach. 

Here are some images of the linocut in development. I used a gradation and was keen to capture the textures and shadows on the figures and in the sand.

Planning and cutting the 4 plates

A gradation from sand to sky

Early stage proof, printing plate 2

More cutting, revisions and a later stage proof

A final proof

Starting to print the edition in my studio

'Crosby Beach' is not yet available, so this will give you an idea of a project that is coming soon.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Grayson Perry's Art Club exhibition

Grayson Perry's Art Club exhibition eventually opened, after various lockdown delays, at Manchester Art Gallery - and it was great to get along last weekend. 

The exhibition runs until 31 October 2021. It was far larger than I'd anticipated, so I'd like to return to spend more time taking it all in, especially as the individual stories were beautifully captured alongside each work. I found it moving to read about so many artists' experiences during the pandemic and it really captured the power of art to heal and help, as well as to capture ideas and moments.

Here are a few photos - the quality is not great, but they will act as a good reminder of some of my favourite works, well the ones I was able to capture anyway!

Paul Green's small wire sculptures 'Lockdown Birds' 

Alex Robinson's clay figurines 'ComputerWorld'

Singh Twins' 'NHS v Covid-19: Fighting on Two Fronts'

Raqib Shaw's birchwood panel 'Ode to the country without a post office'

Grayson Perry's 'Tea Towel'

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Playing with Chine Colle

Some days are just made for playing! On Sunday 25 July I spent the day at Prospect Studio and explored lino and chine colle, something I'd been wanting to do for a while. I decided to pick an old 20:20 plate, which had been part of a 'Meandering' - a stylised image of the Aberdyfi estuary in mid Wales, as the basis for some trials. 

Chine colle is a technique used to add colour to a print by the addition of stuck on tissue paper, as the name suggests in French.

Chine colle tissue with overlays

I used a range of materials, with different finishes and thicknesses - from wrapping paper to coloured cellophane, newsprint selected for its colour - and of course the more traditional tissue paper, whether coloured or hand-painted using watered down acrylic paint. I used Japanese nori paste as the glue and applied this very thinly using a piece of card.

Japanese nori paste

Experiment with torn shapes and colours from newspaper print with overlays

Coloured cellophane and hand-painted tissue added too

Wrapping paper too

Torn shapes extending beyond the plate

Overlays and limited colour palette

I learnt a lot about what I liked and disliked and about the performance of the materials. Main points were:

  • Nori paste works really well
  • I like the contrast between lino ink and the abstract shapes
  • Flat works better than scrunched up chine colle
  • Less is more!
  • Layers work well adding unexpected overlay effects
  • I like the extension beyond the plate edges
  • The torn edges are attractive in their own right
  • I'm enjoying the white spaces

This is a technique I'm planning to come back to, so it's great to begin a journey of discovery.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Colour mixing and monoprinting

Following on from the introductory 'Find Your Joy' online painting course, run by Louise Fletcher, which I completed in June, I have been pondering on how to draw out some learning and apply it to my printmaking. 

I have always mixed my own colours from ink tubes, buying only a limited colour palette. Today I tend to buy Intaglio oil-based relief ink - and use white, black, poppy red, ultramarine, golden yellow and burnt umber, as well as extender. So I decided to try one of the exercises from the course and mix as many colours as possible from a small palette. I did this on scrap strips of Canaletto 300 gsm paper. On each strip I focused on 2 colours plus black and white. I've ended up with some amazing reference strips - like the ones in the photo, to remind me of the myriad colours I can mix with these.

Colour mixing reference strip - one of many!

As part of the process I also decided to use the mixed colours to create a series of experimental monoprints, using a perspex plate, mini rollers, printing onto damp Fabriano unico paper. 

Here are just some of the images I created. They were 'rolled' directly onto the plate from my imagination and were all intended as semi-abstracted landscapes. In some I tested out the addition of texture by scratching into the ink on the plate.

I worked quickly and focussed on the process more than an outcome. I was particularly keen on the harmony of the colours and the tonal variations I could achieve within a minimal colour palette. I was also happy with the varied textures and the suggestions of stone walls, foliage and movement within the landscape I was able to make using a mix of tool, from card to a chopstick!

These monoprint experiments were a powerful reminder of the importance of exploration and embracing the unexpected - going with flow of printmaking.