Work in Progress

*The Leighton

*The Leighton print - completed! (but not titled - read on for details)

Lino printmaking is a fascinating thing for me. As a consequence of having done it for about 30 years, I think I can say that my work is both rewarding and challenging to me. Sometimes.

Developing *The Leighton print provided a number of challenges and a few lessons along the way too. If you've followed the earlier post about this print, you'll know that I was really worked up about doing it. I'd never felt more connected to a subject quite like I was with this one. And I'm still that way about the museum. It was like I'd found a spiritual soulmate within my craft. So it's with some trepidation that I reveal that this was a bit of a struggle from the start.

Putting aside the struggle in supplying materials that caused some frustrating delay, the technical challenges of addressing some of the details made me stop and think - more than once. Then rethink. Some of the questions I posed myself initially included, 'what should be more important, the house or the trees?' That had me printing the house ...and then overprinting (with white) in order to get the right emphasis on the key elements of the design. I think there's about 14 colours here, but I lost count as I became submerged in ironing out imbalances that emerged during this complex piece. I also started the edition with the intention of producing about 15, but some 'didn't make it'. I'm still reviewing the outcome and deciding how many will make the fnal edition. It's heart breaking to put so many weeks and months into something and find yourself short of production expectations. Nonetheless, I'm thankful the foreground evolved into a series of rich colours and delicate cutting patterns that focus the eye on the Leighton home out in the open. It was a good result! The ones that will make to being signed and numbered it will ensure this is a very limited and rare collection.

I hope you enjoy seeing this as much as I enjoyed the outcome. I can't say the journey was an easy one. But I'm glad I didn't give in to temptation and abandon it. Great lessons have been learned and I'm feeling better for staying the course. Sometimes you encounter walls and obstacles with mis-registration hiccups and colour issues. Here's hoping my next journey in lino is wisdom-fueled and guided by more experienced hands and sharp mind.

This print will soon find it's way to the Leighton Centre, where it'll be for sale. I hope it then finds it's way to some happy homes. But hey ...there's a Christmas sale coming up there soon. Check it out!

One last thing mark the completion of this print, I will be offering one original (colour) Lino Lenny Print (but not this one ;) to anyone willing to submit a good title for *The Leighton. Details of winning title will appear in a later post - so don't leave it too late. Answers by email please...

*The Leighton
Lenny Lane 2016 : *The Leighton


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The Lino Question...

During a recent show I met a delightful gentleman who, as well as being a proud collector, was highly knowledgeable about the printmaking world. I really enjoyed his company and the informed questions he put my way. However there was one question that I haven't been able to shake out of my head. 'Where do your ideas come from?' Naturally I replied, 'My head.' I wasn't being flippant or rude. I simply hadn't weighed up the answer properly. This isn't the first time I've been asked this, so today I want to dig a little deeper in the hope that people can understand what's cooking inside my head when I come up with ideas. It's a bit of a journey and has twists and turns to it. So I hope you're sitting comfortably. With any luck it'll have a happy ending too.

Ideas obviously come from my head, but they don't just 'pop' and then, 'bang' - done! They float around, sway and bend, doubts form, new parts are added, sometimes darting off in another direction, before finding themselves again at the start. And they haven't even reached the paper yet! When someone asks the question about how this design or idea came about ...well, that's a different question, and a more interesting one to answer. You could say that this is my favourite lino question! So I simply want to illustrate how my ideas form into prints. That should answer the question of where they come from too. More specifically, it'll tell you what's involved and considerations and influences that shaped them. How long it takes isn't as interesting as what happened along the way. After all, life is a journey not a destination.

The captions that follow the photos below help to tell the answer.

The Leighton Centre print (2016)

The Leighton Centre print. I knew I loved this place from the first time I visited, so it was a naturally inspired choice to want to create a print of this historically significant landmark. I wanted to introduce the museum into an existing idea that I've been working on. With the Tree prints currently underway, I felt this was a natural development for my work. Both the unique surroundings and the location of the Leighton Arts Centre in southern Alberta gave me the origins for the idea.

The start of an idea

Wandering around the LAC (Leighton Arts Centre) property I was able to get a different perspective of the building. Although the trees were my initial focus, the simplicity of lines and architectural features of this period building provided a strong contrast to the composition of my design. Rather than represent LAC from the main car park, I figured this would make a far more interesting viewpoint.

The initial sketches

Back in the studio and keeping things loose, I roughly sketched out various arrangements, focusing on placing the Leighton Arts Centre topmost in the frame of the composition. I played with angles of trees, overlapping branches and use of space for other elements (grass, foliage, plants and rocks, etc.) I like to use tracing paper as it's helpful to see how layers work together. It also allows me to reverse-trace onto the lino block - an imperative procedure in relief block printing.

Details. It's all in the details.

Generally I like the freehand ability to create shapes and texture on my trees and often rely on spontaneous drawing and the creative cutting process to provide it. However on this occasion I took a second trip to the source to 'get to know' and study the trees a little more closely. My original focus was on the building and general composition, but I realized I'd missed important details that would add great interest to the print. I really liked what I found there. (see above). It's hard to replicate certain natural forms like this, so I've used this source material to enrich the design idea. I'm currently deliberating on what colours to use ...but I'll introduce different colours and it's not likely to be like the real thing.

Research and more research
Because the Leighton Centre was built in the early 1900's and consequently a distinguished building, it was imperative that I make my drawing as accurate as possible in order to readily identify with the real thing. Of course, with bushes and trees in front of it I took the liberty of 'cleaning it up a bit'. Examining the building closer I also discovered there are some unique angles in the roof lines where they converge, and the windows have an interesting architectural symmetry too. I also noticed that my early drawings were over-complicated with foreground details (below). It lacked substance in the background too. Coming and going, addressing and re-evaluating the scene is an ongoing process. Right there you can see how the original idea grows.

The draft drawing

Capturing character with colour

So far my ideas and design have largely centered around the line drawing and composition of elements. However, in the background of my minds eye I've been turning over theories on colour palettes used by masters of another era - the distinctive watercolours of W.H. Cooper and A.C. Leighton himself. I also asked myself, 'How do I keep my foreground foliage colour interesting but without dominating the frame?' 'What should stand out more, the building or the trees?' 'Where will the light source come from and how will this effect the building?' All sort of questions need to be answered.

So, how can you answer the question, 'Where do your ideas come from?' The answer, rather strangely, only comes with retrospection. So, I'll tell you the answer when I get there.

Lino Lenny

And then there's the paper and preparation! Being organized is crucial to successful printmaking practice. I start with getting the tools together. Making sure the paper and block are compatibly sized for printing. This is my work table. It's a mess ...but an organized one!

The essential preparation tools

The registration board - ready!

The print block is 15" x 9". Each sheet of paper is two inches wider (11" x 17") (see photo below). The overlap allows a generous margin. After organizing this, I use a large MDF board and create the 'L' shaped buffers for my paper and the lino block. The buffer around the lino block (above) ensures that the block won't shift or move when I rub my burnishing tools over the paper (the paper lies on top once the block is inked up). I've placed red tape on top of my registration edges so that I can easily wipe clean if any ink should find it's way there - and this happens a lot!!

The paper

The paper used for this print is a Japanese archival and acid-free printmaking paper. It's also hand-made and comes with a soft, but rough, edge. If I were to use this as it is I'd be unable to register one colour over another. My paper requires a sharp edge to wedge into place. So, I created a black 'L' edge from stiff card and placed this along the corresponding edges of the Japanese paper. The time required for preparing just the paper and registration block was one whole day. From knowing the size of the block, sizing, cutting and fixing the registration to the board (accurately and in alignment with everything else), to ensuring the paper is wide enough to cover the block (and sit neatly in the registration board) all required due diligence and a fair degree of organization. As you can gather, there's a lot to consider before I begin printing ...plenty of time for contemplating changes to my design ideas! More information about creating a registration board can be found here

Now I can get on with the original task - bringing the idea to life. in my next post I'll show some progress on this. Wish me luck!

Lino Lenny




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August - new print

Creating August was a lot of fun! It took a while before figuring out how to translate that hot-to-cool element in print, while staying true to my influences of early 1900s vintage style colour. But I think I did it!

Let's see what you think...

Here's the story in images that outline the step-by-step colour process.

Layer 1: was actually a roller blend of two colours - pale yellow to crimson red. This set the far distance area where the sunlight is. It doesn't look like much, but at this stage it rarely ever does.

layer 1

Layer 2: this depicts the furthest trees in the distance and the most illuminated trees in the scene. It was a gamble not knowing if they'd be light enough.

layer 2

Layer 3: this is where things start to get interesting. The original drawing outlined the overlapping trees and the 'distance' has been cut around these trees and branches. You'll notice that my palette is beginning to darken a little. But it's still all warm colours at this stage. I've taken a freestyle approach and decided to cut some foliage shapes in the foreground. This provides a little interest and contrast to the overall image. 

Layer 4: the game changer. As the viewer recedes into the trees the air cools and the ambience changes. You can just begin to get a sense of where the print is going at this stage. I found it useful to mentally place myself in this scene to understand the changing temperature, which guided me with colour sense to achieve the necessary effect I was after.

Layer 5
: simply taking a further step back and immersing my mind in this place, I decided that another colour from the cooler spectrum was required to provide more depth to the scene. You can also now see a bolder contrast with the colours used in the foreground foliage. The shadows of the most distant trees also begin to take shape. However deciding on suitable colours for this particular element was another consideration. Was it too cool too soon? Ultimately, I choose to go with it and try and balance any uncertainties with additional colours later.

layer 5

Layer 6
: what a difference a single colour can make. My choice for purple was because it sits between warm and cold colours. It doesn't dominate the foreground either because it shares some of the warmer properties of the distant red hues. Note how I've deliberately left the tree trunks showing some of the underlying blues from the previous colour. There's a bit of ruggedness to this that is unpredictable, but the 'noise' is a welcome addition to these trees, which could otherwise become a bit lifeless. You can also notice that I've been carefully picking away at the ground, allowing previous colour to come through. This really adds to the shadow and highlight effect - but it's largely random and suggestive. It provides a lot of character in its own way.

layer 6

Layer 7
: the immediate foreground was a wash of purple. I wanted to define the shadows of the nearest trees a little more. I normally use black to define some of the lines in my prints. Here it was decided that black would be a step too far. So I used some of the purple ink from the last layer and added some mid-green …and then some ultramarine blue. The result was a darker and cooler tone that actually makes the purple appear lighter. Carefully selecting the areas to print (and subsequently the areas to remove after printing purple) took a couple of attempts, but I think the boldness of the outlines on the foremost trees bring you into the picture.

layer 7

And there you have it! Let me know what you think. Please feel free to leave a comment below

Now available for purchase.

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June - complete!

Well I've finally completed 'June', and typically for lino printing, it's had more than a few twists and turns on it's journey. Here's a brief outline on where we left off from last week and the changes through to the final print.

Colour 8

What was intended to be the last colour turned out to be another fork in the road of this print. While it addressed the need for a warmer colour, the leaves just weren't right - too much brown (purple) for a summer month.

Final colours 9 & 10.

The photo quality here isn't very accurate, but you can see that I've added another green to the line of leaves …and an outline of black allows me to differentiate between the shades of green & blue on the leaves. The brightness of the tree bark accentuates the fine dark line that give character, and the plainness of the background ensures the print is balanced and not too detailed. 


Details - notice how the colours are overlaid on each other, particularly the spots of lighter colour (top image) …those light brown spots are colour #4 of 10. This requires significant registration to ensure the spots are not filled in. 

June will be available for purchasing soon.

What is registration? Check out my

And thanks for visiting! More events coming soon …so please visit again.

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June ...the story so far

June has been an interesting print. One of my favourites that I'd hoped to compete long before now. However, this past month saw a few obstacles getting in the way of progress - and I apologize for the delay.

Rather that provide a script about the latest developments, which would be very short anyway ;), I thought I'd simply illustrate the progress made so far. I'm about two colours away from completion …so thanks for your patience.

So, to recap, these colours are all applied using one block. This method of lino printing is known as lino reduction. As the name suggests, before subsequent colours are laid down on top of previous colours, the surface of the lino is reduced, or cut out, in order to maintain the previous coloured areas applied to prints in the edition.

Colour 1 - aquamarine sky …a hint of 'vintage' to start

Colour 2 - mid lilac/blue sets distance colour and produces a step-up

Colour 3 - some warm earth colour for trees and contrast

Colour 4 - first colour for leaves. Setting a tonal difference against the sky

Colour 5 - contrasting hues to define near and far areas
(a slightly different green from the tree leaves)

Colour 6 - rainbow applied for gradient of light to dark foreground
(this had to be applied twice)

Colour 7 - for foreground areas and gradual tone and contrast

Colour 8 - back to warm colours for tree bark and possibly leaves

Next …a warm purple, then black.  Thanks for visiting!




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June - rainbow colour application

June has been an interesting development.

One of the interesting things about this Tree series lies in capturing slightly different ways of rendering the foreground. June has proven to be no exception. Here I'm going to demonstrate an approach that gets a lot of questions - the rainbow wash. It's actually a very simple and quick way to achieve a slightly complex looking effect.

Now, if you've followed this post you'll recall how I wanted simplicity across the design with colour applications. That's still the rule, but now I need to differentiate the foreground area and give it just a little edge to stand out. It's a breaking point between the near and far elements of the drawing. I decided that applying a wash of light-to-dark colour would help define it. The photo below demonstrate this...

I developed a gradient of colour using a yellow-to-dark green combination. You can see it above, but it doesn't quite 'pop'. The yellow seemed to get absorbed by the previous green ink (even although it was dry). I tried blending various extender compounds to the yellow, but that wasn't helping. I then decided that I'd just push ahead with this result, let that dry and then overprint the edition again with a simple yellow-to-nothing wash. It was double duty to get what I wanted. The photo below illustrates exactly what this this yellow-to-nothing looks like on a roller (brayer).

The photo below demonstrates how this looks once it's applied to the lino.

You can see from the image above how the yellow fades to nothing and I've deliberately avoided the lowest part of the lino. After all, all I'm trying to achieve is to accentuate the brightness of the yellow part of the first yellow-to-green wash. The benefit of the yellow-to-nothing wash is in keeping what I printed earlier, but also getting this strong yellow fade as an overlay. From a drawing and design perspective, it's important to get the top edge of this area to really stand out before fading into a range of greens.

The photo below demonstrates how the inked-up lino and a print from earlier are placed together before making an impression with this yellow colour.

When I lay the print over the inked lino and take a print …here is the result...

The effect is subtle, but this isn't the end of this stage. There is a little bit of unintended texture (mottled effect) of this yellow over the underlying yellow-to-green wash I did earlier. I decided to keep it. One of the beautiful things about hand-crafted art is the unpredictable outcomes. I like this as it helps the thought process and ultimately directs the prints future. There is still a bit of work to do in this area, including some selective cutting away of lino - very small cuttings. At that point it'll start to get very textural and interesting …I hope!

Did you notice how I've printed over parts of the lower trees? This isn't a problem at all …I plan to give those ares some Indian red or burnt umber touches. That'll be applied once the foreground has been cut away. Planning can never be undervalued in lino reduction. The foreground will also include some shadows. I'll decide what that'll look like once the final foreground is complete.

Stay tuned!

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June - colour in progress

June in progress.

Well I've learned that when doing something complex, it pays to take your time. This is especially true for any activity like reduction lino printing, where you can't 'go back' to fix it if you do it wrong. There are some things that can be fixed later - more about that in a moment...

So, with that in mind I've taken the liberty since my last post to really consider the direction of my colour and cuts. There are only really two rules I'm trying tho follow here: one is that the colours should be vintage, in respect of the earliest British map illustrators, WH Cooper and the Group of Seven artists that this series takes its cues from. The other is that the compositions should remain simple by design (but can be complex in execution). At times I've had doubt over the simplicity of what I've been doing. Asking if it's too simple, or if there should be some point of interest somewhere in the picture. I expect the coming and going on details like this is a fate that every artists goes through - for their own personal reasons. I hope it's time well spent with this series.

Exercising my 3rd, 4th and 5th colours on June has been valuable lesson in patience. There are errors and some mis-registration. That's OK as I'm going to demonstrate that these are technical challenges that can be remedied with subsequent layers of colour.

Defining the leaves.

I picked the mustard/ochre colour for the foreground because it was in the mid-territory for complementing the greens that follow and the purple/lilac hills in the distance. Although it looks very strong here …it'll be mainly the tree body that has this colour only (and maybe a few spikes of grass here and there too, we'll see).

Thinking about the leaves. The actual colours here are slightly darker than I'd anticipated, but after some consideration I decided that dark leaves are the norm in Summer. Darker colours will be placed on this layer and the intention is to have a rich fusion of green, blue and purples.

The next cut involved cutting away of the parts of the green leaves I'd just printed. What stays and what goes? It's always a serious consideration after every printed colour. Note the small chips at the top end of the trees where they trunk meets the leaves. This should make way for some interesting textures later.

Colour 5.

Focusing on the mid-foreground I decided I needed another mid green. Perhaps a shade lighter than the one used for the leaves. But it looks exactly the same here, doesn't it? Well, another thing to consider is the properties of ink when they dry. Sometimes, like in this instance, it darkens. The inks are hand mixed. Oftentimes there are more than three or four colours blended to achieve one specific colour - as in this example. A closer inspection shows that it's not quite identical to the first green, which was mixed using a different concentration of colours. Although this close similarity in hue wasn't intended, the small change will add to the overall richness of the leaves once it's completed. I remind myself that patience is a friend during these times. I'll just have to be more selective when I next cut the leaves. I'll try and balance the following colour (maybe even introduce brighter greens) in a way that will highlight each of all the greens used once it's completed. You can see the nice detail taking shape on the trees. I'll add some reddish colours later. This will help complement the mustard/ochre colour that dominates the design at this point.

If you've inspected this example closely, you may have noticed some slight mis-registration going on. Full marks if you did! Take a closer look at the bottom right corner. You may notice a small slither of bright blue running up  the edge of the print. Apparently I'd accidentally sliced this part of the lino after I'd printed my blue (and only on 6 of them!) There's also the mustard/ochre running along the ridge of the green layer just printed. These small hiccups are never intentional. I've spoken about the importance of tight registration in the past (and there's a "How to…" tab if you're interested in learning about registration of colours). But it's important to remember that this is a hand crafted process, so some errors are considered normal in the process of things. With that said, I will show you some crafted tips and tricks for overcoming and fixing these unintended 'mistakes' in later discussions.

As always, if you have any comments of questions, leave a comment or drop me an email.


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On the table...

I'm taking part in a few events at the moment. Pictured below is the letter 'V' in progress. This is part of an Alphabet Print exercise that brings linocutters - professionals and amateurs - together. Members are asked to submit one letter rendered in lino. The finished letter is simply scanned and emailed to the organizer, who will assemble an Alphabet poster for all to print locally if they wish.

'V' on the block and ready for it's first 'rainbow' inking.

Also coming up is an International Print Exchange …still brewing some ideas …but likely a Prairie scene - stay tuned!

Not lino printing - but using similar skills - the Print It Yourself Festival - with a 4' x 8' woodblock print created with a steamroller on September 25 …that should be fun. Photos below show the work in progress over the past two weekends at the Alberta Printmakers Society workshop in Calgary. More details to follow.

Below: Nicole Fernandez taking proofs of the 4' x 8' woodblock. 

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New Work - June

June is now in progress.

Having pushed the boundaries a little with lovely purples and lime green in 'May' I decided to take a step back and change the course I was on slightly. I love doing these summer months in lino …the colour palette gives so much opportunity to think again about where I'm taking this series.

I'd sketched several different scenarios, each time adding more ideas and interpreting the various shapes and forms of my compositions. From sweeping wide valleys with rivers to open prairies with fields of gold, there seemed to be no end to what I wanted. This process inevitably led me to over doing the detail by trying to fill in as many interesting parts to the design. Because of this I took a big step back and re-examined the earliest designs from October and December. It is alway important to get back to the roots of this project and keep on track.

My plan was to evoke simple seasonal emotions through use of shapes and colours. It was agreed that this was still the right way forward. Taking notes to guide me, I made some adjustments to the drawing on the lino block. Noting that trees are the focus and the landscapes are backdrops to these scenes, I refocused where I was going and I stripped down my drawings.

The lino block drawing

You can see from the drawing on the block above that with the middle-froreground, I had originally planned to have a band of trees flowing down the hillside. After some thought I decided that this may complicate the design. If I manage to mix my colours correctly and if they are applied in just the right manner, then there is no need for complicated detail anywhere in the design. Future photos will illustrate this point much clearer.

Colours 1 & 2

I used the shapes of cloud in the far distance to centre the focus of the drawing. This was a nice addition, which I had not used before, but it suits summer scenes. I then printed the first colour in a light blue with a tinge of turquoise. I'm going back to the original influences I had for this series - influences from renown painter William Heaton Cooper, early British map illustrators and the Canadian Group of Seven who were all artists from around the same early 20th century period. Their colours were so vibrant.

The second layer of colour sets the sky apart and allows the viewers to start seeing the design take shape (between the trees). The use of the second colour once again uses vintage hues for the distant hill and it starts to distinguish the form of trees against the sky.

So far so good. More will be posted as this print takes shape. 


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A Year in Trees - May

May - a work in progress

Lately I've been thinking hard about how to change the course of this collection to include some of the more colourful and summery months.

Usually when starting a design, I don't normally make a plan for a specific month. Each print evolves through it's own process of design followed by colour selection. Somewhere between the middle and end of a print's design/process, the image dictates the month it's going to be. This approach has served this series fairly well since it's inception.

For this print, I took the idea of a dying summer, or a sunrise or sunset, signalling the end of those warm mornings/evenings and the oncoming of Fall and cooler weather. The design was quite straightforward - a view out of the woods to the bright, almost blinding sunshine, casting shadows of trees and the gentle fall of lightness to darkness in the process.

After some thought, I decided that this idea lacked a certain depth or 'story'. While a story isn't essential to the beauty of a print, there were enough prints in this series like that. This was not a setback or an obstacle, or even something gone wrong. It was simply too plain in its lino representation. I generally like to continue to discover what's possible behind the flatness of the lino. My ideas and designs often change course by themselves, simply through the unexpected outcome of a particular colour against another, or perhaps as in this case, some last-minute inspired thought taking hold. It's a bit of an ah-ha! moment. Lot's of ah-ha's in this case. Following a desired path from a concept to a completed piece is great and definitely has it's own merits. But sometimes I like that freedom to write your own rules and wander along a different, unplanned path as you go …much like in painting. Lino printing is a journey of discovery just like many other art forms. If nothing else, it demonstrates to myself that I'm still paying attention and giving thought to what I'm doing.

A small window of space on the horizon soon lead to the idea of featuring a silhouette of trees as a small point of interest in the design. From this point on I realized that including this would pretty much extinguish any useful 'blaze of sunshine' entering the forest. But it was too nice a feature to turn back on. So the sky became blue and the time frame for this piece moved from morning/evening to mid afternoon. A new process of thought at the start of each new colour was soon set in motion. Here is how it developed from there...

Step 1
A simple line drawing allows for design changes and new ideas.
The small group of trees in the background was inserted to fill the gap under the leaning branches and leaves.

Step 2
After carefully cutting the blue sky area away - including small gaps through the leaves (this will compare nicely once the darker colours are printed), it was time to have a careful think about the next step.

Note that the drawn lines denoting the tree trunk shadows are merely guidelines as the actual texture will come from cutting and layering colours in the steps ahead.

Step 3/4

Before the colours become too dark in the foreground, it was important to consider how the layers of colour in the background would contrast (colour fades as it recedes in the distance). After printing I decided that this was a good enough pale shade of blue to provide the effect I wanted.

After placing two light blue colours, I decided that the mid-ground needed either a field of yellow or green or orange. I settled on the lime green colour mainly due to its high contrasting values (by this time I knew I was going to be using deep blues and purples in the foreground).

You can see from the photo above that I've been quite selective in picking away at the surface of the curved mid-foreground. I want the effect of light to be gradual and fairly well mixed with colour. From experience I know that this approach leaves a very unique pattern of colours and cuts that defines lino printing.

Now an opportunity came to add some more detail to the foreground. This realization came from a general feeling that I was absolutely going to use deep and dark hues. It was something that I hadn't used in any of the other prints of this series so far. It allowed me a new layer to play with - an indication of 'things', represented by shapes of shadows. A few scattered stones, then some tufts of grass (and their shadows) was enough to break up the plainness of the foreground design.

Step 5

The Purples...

This is where I'm at now. Two more colour layers to go. I'm cutting very organically at the tree bark. I enjoy this part of the process. Playing with cutting and representing my trees in unlikely colour combinations gives a gratification that I can't seem to get from paint or any other medium. Now I need to decide if a deeper purple or perhaps prussian blue-mix will work best. Decisions, decisions….




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