Wednesday, 27 March 2013

My practice – part 5

 3rd block after overnight etch has been cleaned off with water.

3rd block before printing.

 Here's the proof.

Again, I have scanned in the 3rd block proof into the computer and overlayed it onto the previous 2 blocks in photoshop. This enables me to play around with colour, transparency, editing the blocks and preparing new ones. I have decided that the 'pink' sky block needs some more white  space, so I am going to etch away more of the 'sky'. Also, I will cut 2 more blocks and etch more water marks, as I want a really textured and complex layered effect.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

My practice – part 4

 Here is the second block after an overnight etch.

Something I forgot to mention earlier is how I remove the thick stopout from the block. I use a cleaning chemical called greenwash and a scrubbing brush. Alternatively, you can use white spirit. It takes several goes to get rid of the stopout, and eventually I resort to scrapping the last stubborn islands off with a stanley knife blade.

The cleaned second block.

 Here's a close up of some of the texture.

And here is the second block proof.

I have scanned in both proofs and manipulated then in photoshop to give me some idea of how they interact with each other, how they look etc. This helps me decide if I want to edit the blocks themselves in some way, maybe cut parts away or re-etch parts. Also I can use this to help me plan the next block. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

My practice – part 3

Here is the block after its overnight etch...

... and cleaned off. Notice how much of the stopout has been eaten away by the caustic etch. For me, one of the pleasures of this process is the way that the end result is partly out of my control.

A closer look at the cleaned block. The next stage is to proof it, and see what will print.

Proofing in black means you get to see clearly what marks you have.

Here's the inked up block.

And here is the first proof. So, from this I can start to plan the other blocks in more detail.

For instance, I am pleased with the broken edge where the buildings and river meet, but I may need to reinforce this separation later. I can also visualise how the river might begin to look if I layer 3 or 4 blocks with similar marks.

With the first one in mind, I can begin to paint stopout onto the second block. This one only has sky and water, with no architecture in it. I have roughly traced and drawn where the buildings are on the key block, so I see where the painted marks need to be.

Monday, 18 March 2013

My practice - part 2

Now for the caustic soda etch. The solution is very corrosive so it is important to wear protective gloves and goggles when mixing and applying. The caustic soda crystals and wallpaper paste can be bought at any hard wear shop. When you mix the solution, use a plastic container, not a metal one and try to be in a well ventilated room or even outside. I stir the solution with a wooden stick and use a nylon brush to apply it to the block. The etch recipe is:

Put 250 ml of water in the plastic container
Carefully add 3 tablespoons of caustic soda
Stir with the wooden stick/spoon until dissolved (this gives off a nasty fume, so be aware)
Add 1 tablespoon of wallpaper paste and carefully stir until absorbed into the mixture

Top left picture: Water/soda mix. Top right: It is useful to have a second plastic container with water to put your stick and brush in. Bottom: The solution eventually becomes gloopy after the wallpaper paste is added and mixed in (this takes about 4 – 5 mins).

Brush the paste onto the lino.

The first application sits on the surface and takes time to absorb into the areas of the block it can reach through the stop-out. After 1 hour, I re-apply a second coating of paste.

Again, after another hour, I apply a third coating. The paste is now sitting thickly on the surface of the block.

After 3 to 4 hours, it looks like this. The yellowing of the block indicates the caustic etch is working. Now at this point (depending on what effect you want) you can wash off the caustic etch with water and a scrubbier, using gloves. The option here is to see how deep the bite is, and perhaps repeat the whole process by reapplying a freshly mixed caustic solution.

Here is the cleaned block, drying on a hotplate.

Here is a close up after the first etch. I decide to do a second etch, re-mix some fresh caustic and repeat the application again. This time I will leave the caustic paste on overnight. 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

My practice - part 1

I have decided that it is high time that I demonstrated my etched lino technique, so here it is. My work often splits into two sections: a computer stage and a hands-on stage. I will only be explaining the second stage in this demo. Ok, so I have decided to re-do an older image (Historia, pictured above) and scale it up from its original size of 30 x 30cm to 60 x 60cm.

The original print had several layers created by overlaying several blocks of lino, so I have started by cutting three blocks at 60 x 60cm. I may need more blocks eventually, but I can cut those later. I use lino bought from an art shop which can be delivered in a large roll, so I can cut the sizes I want from it.

I am going to start with the "keyplate" which is the potential final layer to be added to the print. It is a London skyline. I have photocopied a printout from a manipulated photograph I have taken, and then transferred the photocopy onto the lino. Remember to reverse the image onto the plate so that when you print it is the right way around.

Once transferred, I have begun by cutting into the lino, using traditional linocut tools. I decided at this stage to cut the sky away, but using horizontal cuts only, just in case I want to use the marks that the cut-away part of the block gives me later on. It is just an option, which I may or may not use.

Here is the block with the sky cut away and an application of thick stopout where the cityscape meets the Thames.

I have painted this line to protect the lino beneath from the caustic soda etch that I will apply later. I want the "edge" where the city meets the water to be more ragged and not a cut mark.

I have then applied more thick stopout to the block with a stiff scrubbing brush to give me a textural mark. From experience, about 40 to 50% of this stopout will be eaten away by the caustic etch, so what you see, ain't necessarily what you get!

Sunday, 3 March 2013


90 x 71cm etched and cut lino. Second in my ruined abbey series...