Diary 2004

Thursday, December 22

Update - The print below and 4 others are currently exhibited at the RCA gallery in Conwy. The 2 new prints featured below 'Y canol distaw, llonydd' (The silent, still centre) and 'Gaddo Eira' (promising snow) will be added to the Welsh landscapes gallery very soon.

I'm mentally planning for a new series of prints which I hope to start sketching out over the Christmas break. Not having a print 'on the go' is strangely disconcerting.

The basis for the new work will be a stretch of coastline a few miles long, south of Caernarfon, between Dinas Dinlle and Trefor. Quite simply - it's a low undulating cliff, only a few feet high in places. It's strange how you can know somewhere for years yet not recognise its magic. At first glance it looks like a rather boring, low eroding cliff, but what made me look again ...and again, and now makes it visually exciting, is the stark contrast between the cliff and the steep sided mountains to the south and west - the way the ground rises so quickly from sea-level to above 2,000'. In certain areas, the landscape of the Llŷn Peninsula has a very distinctive atmosphere, difficult to describe - it feels a bit like stepping back in time.

First stage is to take a walk with my camera and sketchbook. A fall of snow on the hills would be the icing on the cake.



Saturday and Sunday, 13th and 14th November

The print is charging on at a pace ...
Hope to print the final black tonight and all done with a week to spare for the handing-in date for the RCA Christmas exhibition.



Thursday, 11th November

I've wanted to tackle a snowy landscape for some time and coming across Ivan Bilibin's work again, in particular RUSSIAN VILLAGE Line Graphic (1902) triggered a drawing of Afon Caseg flowing between snow covered boulders.

The background of small, scrubby trees will be a challenge - they look so soft to the eye, it may be a matter of scratching rather than cutting the lino to convey the texture as the print develops.

It felt 'dangerous' taking away so much lino on the first cut but the snow dictated it. It seems to have turned out OK, but it's pretty much impossible to know, only to feel at this early stage.




Tuesday, 2nd November

Printed the final black .... then another colour.

Although complete with the three colours (2 greens and black), there was something niggling me about this print and after dithering for far too long, I simply had to bite the bullet and go with my instinct to overprint the sky in a moody blue.

The green sky 'worked' in one sense, in that it gave the print continuity of colour throughout, but it didn't give the impression of being snow laden. The blue sky ties in better with the snowy ridge and tonally sets off the mountain in the background more successfully.





Sunday, 31st October

The print dryer is up and running.

A simple rope wire and peg construction, spanning the length of the studio. A bit fiddly drilling the pegs and threading them on the the wire but the result is well worth the effort.






Wednesday, 27th October

Prepared the lino for the final black cut, quite a lot of
re-drawing to do but it's well worth taking time at every stage to evaluate the work done so far. It's inevitable that during the process, the original drawing will have changed here and there, so it's important to let those changes impact as the work progresses. This is particularly obvious in the bottom right hand corner. The last cut will be to remove all the areas not drawn in black.

This has been a really enjoyable piece to produce. Becasue it's more of an interpretation than a representation of the landscape, it feels like there's more freedom to experiment both in terms of the drawing and the cutting.

As with every print, there are moments when I spot an area cut away where maybe it shouldn't have been, or where it could have been done differently. All part of the constant learning curve.




two colours printed, black to go



Tuesday, 26th October

Good progress being made on the current print, the second green printed so just the final black to go. In some ways using just 3 colours is far more difficult than 4 or 5. It's hard to simplify and think 'flat' whilst still trying to retain some elements of the form of the landscape.

Aside from the printmaking, the studio is currently undergoing a thorough 'spring' clean. Painting the walls a softer warmer colour, revamping and creating new storage and designing a raised drying system for the prints - very Heath Robinson!




Thursday, 14th October

Half an hour's drawing over breakfast, makes dreary cereal much more palatable!. The bottom right hand corner is starting to take shape but a little way to go yet - I don't want to transfer the drawing to the lino until I'm 100% ...well, 99% happy. After the last print, which was quite realistic, it's difficult to let go of what I know things look like and to focus on pattern and shape instead.






Tuesday, 12th October - NEW PRINT

New drawing started - suddenly, out of the blue, all the thoughts that have been gathering flood out onto the paper in an intense two hour period of scribbling, rubbing out and re-drawing. It sounds a bit affected, but it really is like unlocking the flood-gates. Admittedly the first drawing is a bit ragged, a bit 'stiff' and it'll need a lot of revising but I make copious notes as I draw, so I won't forget the things that need attention.

As I draw, I realise the width needs to expand on the left hand side, the river is squashed and has no room to breathe, the composition is badly balanced, an extra 2 cm's gives the river room to make a final subtle turn back into the frame.

Overall, it needs more rhythm, more movement. I want to try and express what draws me back time and time again to the Welsh landscape but in order to achieve a more illustrative, poetic print, I need to move away from directly representing the landscape on which it is based and communicate more about the passion and the magnetism.


Wednesday, 30th September

Not a 'print night' tonight, but if time allows, I might get a bit of framing done.
...might also scour through my sketchbooks and start scribbling some ideas for the next print. The Christmas exhibition of Small works and Drawings at the Royal Cambrian Academy is already looming on the horizon.

I'm hopeful that I've found a local source of newsprint (to separate one print from the next and stop any offset whilst in storage). A Fish and Chip shop supplier - of course!


Tuesday, 28th September

Well, it's finished.

It's an odd feeling, completing a print - a mixture of relief, joy and loss. A bit of an anti-climax in a way, yet at the same time, all sorts of ideas are flying for the next one.


When the last colour has been done, there's an immediate analysis of how much better it could be, what I'll do next time. I suppose, having been so close to something for a few weeks, it's difficult to look at the finished print objectively. Difficult not to see it as a series of processes and layers of colour. In a couple of days though, I usually feel more comfortable, as I get used to looking at it as a whole, as an artwork. Sometimes I even begin to feel quite pleased that I've achieved and learnt something new.

On the whole, I feel pretty positive about this print, no major disasters and good registration throughout (very few losses) - one or two things I'd do differently if I repeated it. I'd leave more of the deeper grey in the cliffs to set them off against the mid-ground, I'd probably emphasise the waterfall even more by using larger areas of white and the palest grey ...and perhaps the sky could be more 'exciting'.

All that remains to do is find an appropriate title and frame one for an exhibition in Bangor Museum and Art Gallery next month ... and now to start the next one.

sneaky preview of central section of the new print


Friday, 24th September, 2004

There is only one...well, maybe two things in life that compare with the 'rush' I feel when I can instantly see an evening's cutting away at the lino has gone well. Strangely, there's almost a guilt at the level of pleasure it generates.

So, the concern I had on Wednesday that I'd cut too much away for the 4th colour was unfounded - luck or good judgement? ... a bit of both I imagine. I feel I'm really starting to get somewhere with this print, consciously or unconsciously, some of the marks and shapes I'm creating are just as I'd envisaged them.

The deep grey looks a bit dark at the moment but I'm confident when the final black is applied, this will 'soften' the grey a notch or two.

As with all my work, of course there's room for further improvement, more creativity, braver decisions - if there wasn't, there'd be little point carrying on.

One more session of cutting to go, then the final black print.

Fingers crossed.

sneaky preview of central section of the new print


Wednesday, 22nd September, 2004

3 hours cutting last night, lost concentration at one point (listening to the wrong music) but flowing again later. even though I made a mental note not to, I'm a touch concerned I've cut a little too much away, but I'll see, there's always ways around it if I have. ...and it's a bit fussy, a bit too much detail - not enough of me?.


Tuesday, 21st September, 2004

Cutting night. Keeping an eye on the original sketches and photographs so as to try and achieve a balance between 'reality' and creativity.

Try not to copy directly but interpret, focusing on interesting rock shapes and formations. Make sure the river remains the central focal point.


Monday, 20th September 2004

Printed the final 4 prints of the 3rd colour on the new (yet un-named) print of the river that flows from Llyn Ogwen.

2 more colours to go after tonight. Firstly, the deep grey that'll create the shadows between and under the rocks as well as defining the 'bowl' shape of Cwm Idwal, then finally black. Make a mental note not to remove too much lino before this colour and to check the angle of the crags behind the lake.

imposing 'animal' rock



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