I thought I’d talk a bit about how one of my prints is made, from start to finish…

This is one of my latest prints called Blue Table Porto, which is about a lovely café I visited in the spring.

blue table porto_e

For those who know my work, I started the diary-of-a-printmaker project when I was offered a fellowship at the Royal Academy of Art Schools in London, as a print fellow, back in 2016. This series of prints is about places and memories and anecdotal humour, a little bit like making postcards to send home…

carving porto table first block_e

So, how do I make a print from a place? First of all hanging out in beautiful cafés always helps (!)… though I’ve also made my fair share of prints about working at the vets and walking around in gummy suburban cities and the hilarity of communal changing rooms. All these situations have a unique sense of energy, and leave a strong impression on the mind.

porto cafe photo_e

These impressions are full of visual narratives, even though there may be scanty factual details. Sometimes it’s as if the images are from a dream-bank because the stuff that’s there is pared down but the sensation of being there remains.

porto cafe black_e

So sometimes I take photos, other times I draw directly onto the lino from memory, and then go home and think about what it is that it felt like to be in that moment of time, surrounded by that space. What was the most enduring sensation? For this café in Porto, the pale blue expanse of weather-beaten table-top plus a skylight bringing light into a dark cave of a room, plus the battered Turkish carpet were the most significant for me. The feeling I wanted to convey was of being engrossed in drawing and being marooned in a sea of carpet, the table as a raft.

blue table porto the two blocks side by side

After one colour is printed, I transfer the still-fresh ink onto a second block and start to plan what I want to make. In this case, I wanted the carpet to be full of swirls and detail and the light to be the focal point. I knew that one block had to be pale blue. The drawing on the second block was partly copied from the drawing on the first block. It’s hard to explain what or how I carve the second colour in factual terms, but I think of removing every area in terms of the process of revealing the first colour, allowing the first colour (plus any areas which were already carved away and which would be white) to shine on its own.

colour trial prooof sheet for porto table_e

Then comes colour trial proof printing time… I try out different colour combinations and try to maintain a sense of rigour to the experiments, making notes of ink recipes and how much ink is on the slab in order to achieve my preferred effects. I’m always using the same brand of ink: Sakura Oil based Relief inks, because I love the way I can wipe the ink off the block and apply thin layers in places to achieve a graded look. I write notes to myself about what I’d like to differently on the next print.

printing slab for porto table_e

So, taking the proof above, I decided to start editioning but with the addition of orange to the red mix, in order to move away a bit from the candy colours that the pure red and blue were creating.

editioning blue table porto _e

The red still appeared red, but was mixed 50% with orange in the centre, and cut with green on the edges. When I put the blue layer on top, I was very happy with how the edges of the print appear to recede into darkness, a kind of black has formed from the combination of red/ orange/ green and blue on the sides.

blue table porto_e

The magic of ink is maybe why I keep making prints…

 

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