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. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Making 'Welcome Home', my Manchester argus butterfly linocut

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

Early ideas

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 colour 1

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 where you'll find my gallery online shop and links to social media.

Monday, 8 March 2021

My Fifth Year in the Twitter Art Exhibition -

Twitter Art Exhibit asks artists worldwide to donate postcard-sized handmade original artwork so that "through art, we can change the world". It's a fantastic idea and has caught the imagination of many artists. Each year funds from the charity sale go to support a great cause. This year it's The Leukaemia and Intensive Chemotherapy fund and the sale is on Saturday July 3rd 2021 at Cheltenham race course. This is my fifth year, but the Twitter Art Exhibition has been going longer. 

#TAE21 linocut 'Hebden'

I haven't yet go to the opening night charity sale - but may do this year! They've been held in Stratford-on Avon, Canberra, Edinburgh, Myrtle Beach in previous years, so this one is not too far away, if we are allowed to travel! After the first night sale, in previous years, work has been sold at the exhibition and then online.

Why do I take part each year? I think it's a mix of things. Firstly, I love the concept - making a difference through art. So far the website notes that TAE has raised $104,000 for 10 great charities.

My first submission in 2017 'Sticky Feet'

Secondly, it's the sense of community. Around a thousand artists from all over the world contribute work and come together on Twitter to support each other too. 

Finally, I love to see all the amazing work that is shared - and enjoy seeing my own work on this online stage. It's become part of the pattern of my year and I often use it to experiment and play. My 2019 postcard was selected as a Board's Choice, which was wonderful.


I'm proud that all my postcards have sold for a great cause. It would be lovely to know where in the world they are now! Other postcards below. Do get in touch if you have one on your wall!

To learn more about my work, please check out my website where you'll find my gallery, online shop and links to my social media.