The Leighton Arts Centre is currently showcasing a significant exhibition called 'Impressions!' until September 24, 2017. This show partly recognizes the work of Barbara Leighton, who is renown for her many artistic skills and her legacy as a great teacher. She lived, worked and taught there with her husband and artist, A.C. Leighton from the 1950's.
During the weekend of August 19 & 20, I had the great privilege of continuing those skills and instruct a reduction lino workshop in the very same school house that carries her legacy.
With 6 enthusiastic students from a wide range of professional backgrounds, I set out to introduce the fundamental of mastering basic techniques of this medium. What surprised me right away was that the students had little to no experience of this type of printmaking. One student had only just taken it up two weeks prior. Keep in mind that reduction lino printing is considered an advanced form of practice. They came armed with ideas and a willingness to learn - without experience. I couldn't really have asked for more. But nonetheless, these guys were brave!
Sanding down the lino. This provides smoother surfaces multiple ink layers
One of the challenges as a teacher is translating not only the process, but a particular language, filled with all sorts of new terms, tools - and how to use them. There are procedures and expectations for newcomers to grapple with. I wasn't certain if my approach would bridge the cognitive gap that exists, especially considering a lack of student exposure. But much to my delight and surprise, these guys aced it!
Following some basic housekeeping rules and a word on using tools safely, I talked a little about what makes a good lino image, and how we prepare lino before transferring our drawing. The students were clearly hungry to get going and wasted no time in having their designs ready, drawn and transferred onto the block. But before venturing off and having fun, I provided a registration board to each of them and explained why it's important to have a solid board for ensuring the process is frustration-free when overlapping and aligning colours. The board was something that anyone could make at home. Indeed, the core of this class was that despite the seemingly complex process involved, they could easily create great art like this in the comfort of their own studio, classroom, or even their kitchen.
Using the Sun to warm the lino
I also provided my collection of professional tools, book presses and Print Frog glass baren to give them the choice (and understanding) of different methods of creating their marks and making impressions. Each to their own, they quickly found their own comfort zone within the classroom.
Demonstrating colour mixing (note: Sherry creates a rainbow roll with blue and white)
Photo: Janice Meyers Foreman
Photo: Janice Meyers Foreman
The classroom itself is quite unique. Going back decades, this room had all the hallmarks of history written all over it. Barbara's original work sits on the wall by the door, while other students classwork decorates the walls and shelves everywhere. The large windows provide decent sunlight, and what imperfections there were for 'studio lighting' was made up by nostalgic charm.
Knowing your drawing and where layers of colour are placed, or cut, is a technical challenge that requires some creative thinking and focus. Seeing the finished image before it's completed takes vision, but that skill allows us to know the sequence of colours and make the choices necessary to cut, or reduce, the surface of the lino block. Encouraging a fearless 'try it and see' approach, backed with support and advice was provided at every step of the way. We also made use of some stencils that enabled the students to spot ink particular sections or details without covering the whole block in ink, which is the standard way applying ink on a reduction lino.
The students at work
It was an eye opener for everyone - including this teacher! From knowing next to nothing, to producing a fully rendered reduction lino print - in just two days, is an undeniable achievement for a newbie. I am so proud of this class and grateful to the workshop coordinator, Ariane Larose for facilitating this event. It just proves that despite the seemingly complex nature, or lack of practice, anyone can master reduction lino print making - and it was so much fun too.
Until next time... I leave you with the results.
Lenny's lino team with their results! Photo: Janice Meyers Foreman