“Coastal workshop” drawings and prints

Last weekend I participated in a workshop led by the artist and printmaker Fiona Fouhy. We worked on the beach and cliffs around Botany Bay, between Margate and Broadstairs in Kent, UK

Here is a selection of the pictures I made during the workshop.

This a drawing done using a piece of white chalk from the cliffs, plus some work-in-progress pictures.

Sketchers on the shore, Kent chalk on black paper, A3

Here is a drawing of the white cliffs, done in white cliff chalk.

White cliffs near Margate, Kent Chalk on black paper, A3

We made some monoprints, using a portable printing press, perched outdoors on the cliff top at Botany Bay.

Back in the garden, we made more monoprints, this time using colour. Here is my series called “The grass will grow over your cities”.

A long time ago I first heard this expression in an exhibition in Berlin. “Over your cities the grass will grow”is the title of a 2010 documentary film by Sophie Fiennes about the artist Anselm Keifer. At the end of the film the artist says “Over your cities grass will grow”.

According to Daniel K Brown (http://cargocollective.com/danielkbrown/Over-Your-Cities-Grass-Will-Grow) “He is paraphrasing line 34:13 from the Book of Isaiah: “Thistles will take over, covering the castles, / fortresses conquered by weeds and thornbushes””.

My St James’ Bible has it as “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and thistles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be a habitation of jackals, a court for ostriches.” This is by way of a description of the “day of the Lord’s vengeance”.

My late father, the plant biochemist Prof. Don H Northcote, had a more positive view. He looked at paving stones and saw the plants growing in the cracks. “The plants will win in the end,” he asserted. I think he meant that as a good thing.

Experiments on a journey

Here is another experiment with printed backgrounds. My first experiment was this drawing at Monument.

I thought the background was a bit bright, so I chose more muted colours for the next attempt.

Here are the cardboard cutouts I used for making the relief prints. I used a small square sketchbook made by “PrintUrchin” and pre-printed the pages using relief printing ink, diluted with extender and water so it wasn’t too bright (learning from last time). It still came out quite bright. Those printing inks are heavily pigmented.

I printed the pages first, then took the sketchbook with me on my journey, and made sketches on top of the prints.

Here are some of the sketches. They are done on the train, hence the rather shaky lines. It’s amazing how the printing, done in advance, seems to fit the subject.

Here is the octagonal building at Pocra Quay, drawn while on a walk round Aberdeen waiting for the ferry.

Octagonal building at Pocra Quay, Aberdeen, 25th June 2021, printed background, 20th June 2021.

This octagonal building was a Navigation Control Centre, operating up until 1966. It was built in around 1797-8, according to the leaflet from the Aberdeen Heritage trail. I sketched it from the shelter of the doorway to the “Silver Herring” restaurant, on a cold, windy and rainy day.

Grain silos at North Allerton, 25th June 2021

This is a really fun technique. I shall use it again.

Monument EC3, on a hot day

Le Pain Quotidien at Monument was open on Sunday. I found a table in the shade and sketched.

Back at home I added tone and an experimental print background. What do you think?

Drawing: waterproof ink and watercolour Neutral Tint.

Print: Plate made from cut cardboard. Printed using Schmincke relief ink: “Aqua Linodruck #19210 permanent yellow”. Printed directly into the sketchbook.

Lake District woodcut

I made a woodcut of a valley in the Lake District in the moonlight. The hills on the skyline, right of centre, are the Langdale Pikes.

Langdale Pikes, Lake District, print from woodcut, image size 12″ x 9″

This was was made at the request of a friend, who has a house in the valley. Their house is one of those small rectangles you see, centre left, under the shadow of the hill.

Here is work in progress on the woodcut. Click to enlarge the picture.

The wood is Japanese plywood, 12″ x 9″. The ink is Schmincke Aqua Linoldruck relief printing ink, ivory black. It can be cleaned off with water. The seal is a hand-carved stone seal made my friend and mentor in Japan, who also supplied the special red seal ink, and instructions for its use.

I used “Masa small sheets” Agawami Japanese paper from Intaglio Printmaker. This is thin enough to use for hand-printing but strong enough not to tear when you pull it off the woodcut. It is pure white and very even, which seemed to be apt for the moonlit scene. One side is shiny-smooth and the other is more textured. I printed on the shiny side.

Here is another print, with a crescent moon:

And here is an outtake, a mistake, which I rather like:

New Year 2021

Happy New Year!

My New Year card for 2021 shows a telephone kiosk.

New Year, 2021, “Connection”, woodcut 6″ x4″, on Japanese Kozo paper

I am of a generation for whom the telephone kiosk was, at one time in my life, an important feature of communications. You looked for them. You found them. They were either working or not. The inside smelt of old metal, coinage, leaves and urine. The phone was heavy and cold. The thick cord was twisted. You had to have the right coins. Sometimes coins jammed in the slot, or went straight through the mechanism without registering. So if you were experienced, and organised, you had a whole series of coins of different denominations ready to put in, in case the first one didn’t work. If your call was important, or if you needed to write something down, it was helpful to have a friend with you in the telephone kiosk, standing by with the coins, poised to enter them rapidly as the pips went. There was a risk-based calculation about what denomination of coin to enter, and in what order. You might enter small change first, while you worked out if the person you wanted was in, then drop in the big money for the important conversation, so that the pips did not cut you off at a critical point. You might enter a variety of change at the beginning in the hope that some of it would be returned if the call was shorter than you expected. But your money was not always returned.

Connection, Woodcut.

Above all, a telephone kiosk represented hope: the hope of connection. That’s my hope for 2021.

Also in the woodcut I put some people. These might be the three wise men, looking for hope and salvation in a humble building.

I based my woodcut on phone boxes I have encountered recently. It is a K2 phone box, like the one at Lower Marsh, Waterloo. You can tell, because it has six rows of windows.

Here is work in progress:

The background gold colour is, amazingly, watercolour: Daniel Smith Iridescent Gold. The red is Schmincke relief printing ink. The paper came, via friends, from “Paper Nao” in Tokyo. It is kozo paper, I think K-148, and brilliant for hand-printing. It doesn’t crinkle, it takes the colour well, and it’s really strong so it doesn’t tear when you pull it off the plate.

I like phone boxes. They appear in various of my drawings, see for example, these posts:

Some previous New Year Cards are here:

New Year 2018

Here are my greetings for the New Year, sent as cards. They are woodcuts, two plates. The orange/red colour was printed first. The black colour is the Schminke “Aquadruck” black relief ink diluted with extender kindly lent to me by Connie at East London Printmakers. Her extender was from the Caligo range, and was slightly … Continue reading “New Year 2018”

New Year 2019

Happy New Year! I made a woodcut. This is a greetings card, about 7″x5″. It is from two woodblocks, one orange and one blue. Here is work in progress at East London Printmakers: In the background you see the Albion press I used for printing. It is a wonderful cast-iron machine. As well as the … Continue reading “New Year 2019”

Monoprints, the City (2)

I made some more monoprints this week at East London Printmakers.

These were made using the technique demonstrated by Fiona Fouhy, which I learned on a course in September. See this post.

Here are city views.

These are made by a “reduction process”. Each is a unique print (for sale!).

Here are some snapshots from the process.

Here are some “outtakes”: prints produced during the process. All are on cotton rag paper except one which is on newsprint.

Monoprints: the City (1)

I have long admired the work of Fiona Fouhy. Fiona makes monoprints of forests and landscapes, with amazing depth and atmospheric effects. My idea was to try to get those effects in urban landscapes. So when East London Printmakers announced that Fiona would be running a workshop, I signed up immediately. That was in January 2020. The course was in February and was of course postponed. It took place in August. Here is some of my work from that day.

Here is the city.

The City (1), Monoprint

Here’s another attempt. This time I made sloping roofs. I quite like the “snow” effect, representing a view through a dirty window, or pollution in the atmosphere.

The City (2), Monoprint

Here are two prints on newsprint, made as part of the process.

As you see, every print is different, but they are related.

Apart from the out-takes on newsprint, these are all monoprints on Fabriano printing paper, 20x24cm. All are for sale.

Online Life drawing – Andrea

Yesterday I participated in another online life drawing session with London Drawing. The model was Andrea: @andrea.morani_lifemodel on Instagram. Andrea was in his studio in Italy. The 200 or so people drawing him were distributed across the world.

More online Life Drawing sessions:

Online life drawing – Laetitia

Here are some monoprint sketches of Laetitia, a ballerina with the Opera de Paris. This was a life drawing session , 9th May 2020, organised by @londondrawing. 200 people took part, from all over the world.

Iris: monoprints

My neighbour sent me a video of an iris he is cultivating on his balcony. It is a very special iris, a Benton Deirdre. He describes it as “bred by artist and plantsman Sir Cedric Morris in 1945. Rose pink standards and ivory falls with lilac red margins.”

It is special also because it managed to bloom on the windy balcony high up on this tower block. He posted pictures on instagram, and then at my request, sent more pictures which I used as inspiration for a number of pictures. Here are some monoprints I made this morning.