Welcome to my new Substack
...and I start with a chilling tale of near disaster.
Hello, hello, is this thing on?
If you are reading this it means I have managed to set up my Substack (hurrah), and if you have received this in your inbox it means I have successfully migrated my mailing list (faintly astonished hurrah).
I think that Substack will offer a friendlier environment for both of us, with readers able to react and comment. To me it will feel less like I’m standing on Hyde Park Corner and shouting at passers by, unless of course you all remain silent, which will be very unnerving. You are of course free to unsubscribe if you don’t like the new format, but I very much hope you won’t want to.
In celebration of this more open and intimate interaction between writer and reader, I’m going to expose myself in this first issue. No not like THAT – that might come later with a paid subscription. (It most certainly won’t). What I mean is I’m going to share with you how a print went horribly, sickeningly wrong. It is however a heartening tale of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, otherwise I probably still wouldn’t tell you.
If you are a newsletter subscriber or follow me on social media you might recall my ‘Bluebell Woods’ reduction linoprint. But you will have seen only the carefully curated stages and the finished print. You didn’t see the bit with me crying.
I wanted to depict bright bluebells in the sunlight and slightly darker bluebells in shadow. This, by the way, relates to this publication’s name, ‘Dapple Scrumping’. The term was coined by a Twitter pal, Frank, describing how I attempt to capture shadows and sunlight in woodland scenes. I love it; it doesn’t really mean anything but on the other hand I knew exactly what he meant. Anyway I cunningly printed a first layer of green, wiping away the areas that should be bright. The idea was that when I overprinted with a translucent violet blue for the bluebells, it would be clear and bright on the unprinted white paper and slightly darker where it was printed over green. I even posted a video of printing the violet on social media. Look how bright and fresh it is! Oh hubris….
All looked good and so I carried on carving away the bluebells from the linoblock. These would now be left as the intended mix of bright and dark flowers on the print while I carried on printing more layers of green and brown around them. The next day I went to check on how my prints were drying and found…… the blue ink had weirdly sunk into the paper as it dried. The sunlit areas were still the intended colour but the rest was……GREY. Dark dull grey.
What could I do, apart from hyperventilate and cry a bit? I couldn’t print the bluebells again as I had already carved them away. This was a reduction print (as nearly all my prints are) so there was no returning to a previous stage. The entire edition was a write off.
Pulling myself together and knowing I had nothing to lose, I decided to try applying ink directly to the paper. Using a poupée (a wodge of cloth used to apply ink to small areas of a block) would be too gungy. I remembered I still had a stencil brush from when I decorated the walls of our first house back in the 1980s, the decade when interior décor was all about paint effects, the past being a foreign country. I used it to stipple ink onto the print. Of course, being an idiot, I didn’t think to mask the edges so ruined the first print by getting ink on the white border. I was more careful with the rest of the edition. This was a VERY steep learning curve.
It worked. I was back on track. Subsequent layers were printed the conventional way from the block and the resulting print was a best seller. In fact I have had to remove stock from my online shop so that I still have a few for York Open Studios and Printfest next month.
I won’t be able to do it again though, at least not without buying a new stencil brush. This is what happened as I was stippling the last in the edition. I literally could not have done one more print. Not bad for a 37 year old brush though.
Well I have rambled enough. All being well I will be back in a few weeks with more printmaking tales and news of what I am getting up to in April. I am doing a couple of in-person events and it would be lovely to meet you there. (Information is on the Events page of my website).
I hope you have enjoyed this and will want to keep reading.
See you again next time.
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