Monday, 13 August 2012

false start - an Olympian struggle

birdwatch photo
It won't have escaped your notice that for the last two weeks London has been hosting the biggest sporting event on earth.  The London 2012 Olympics pretty much took over our lives; at home we were glued to the TV, at work we had even the most obscure events up on our computer screens.  After the first weekend (who knew that Her Majesty was such an accomplished sky diver?) I realised pretty quickly that I was going to have to take steps to avoid getting square eyeballs.

blank base colours hanging in the studio
I was Doing My Bit for the Olympics by working from home for a few days, so decided to use the time I would have spent commuting for creating some linocut prints, based on some photos I'd taken during the January  RSPB Birdwatch .  I'd already prepared some blank red and blue base colours, and the lino was ready, so I got straight down to printing -  gold, silver and copper metallics on the red and blue;  and just for fun some black prints on a couple of watercolour backgrounds I'd prepared.  I even had time to print up some black and white cards - and all before I started work at 9.30am!

printed metallics
Before long, the study was festooned with drying prints, and I went upstairs to log into work, highly pleased with my output.  It was only when I came down again for a mid-morning cuppa that I realised, with a sinking heart:  there was no contrast, no depth, no light in the dozen red and blue prints I'd made.  I couldn't use them.

bird cards
The cards showed more light, life and contrast than the original prints.  Even the experimental prints with the watercolour backgrounds - where the ink had run slightly because I hadn't dried the lino off properly before printing with a new colour - showed more depth.

experimental watercolour prints
The best thing would be to print black on top of metallic, I decided;  and perhaps I could add depth by leaving part of the background white.  So when work was over for the day, I cut a square template, and a circular mask (think moon, rather than Olympic rings), and printed up my backgrounds from those. A little hint: never, ever change techniques half way through something.  Could I get those templates to fit the bird linocut?  An hour and a half and several wasted sheets of Hosho paper later, I had to admit I couldn't.  Next morning, convinced I'd solved the problem, I started again but still the fit wasn't quite right.  Eventually I abandoned all idea of achieving proper registration and printed them by eye, which has given them what one could politely call a 'lively' appearance.

finally - bird prints!
As for the Olympics, they've been wonderful - successful beyond our wildest dreams.  I wasn't enthusiastic at first;  no events were taking place close by, and I hadn't expected to see much Olympic activity in the area of London I work in.  But from the moment I ran down to the Thames from my office - along with half my team - to see the Olympic torch pass the Globe Theatre, I realised we were in for something special.  And I was right:

Olympic Torch passingThe Globe Theatre
Olympic Mascot near The Tate Modern
flags of all nations along the Thames
Olympic rings in the Thames


  1. I love the bird with the moon, despite all the problems they've come out great! It's all a steep learning curve, LOL. At least you're making prints. Have I made any since our workshop? Nope.

  2. I'm hoping to make a second bird print as a companion piece, and display them together at Open Studios. But I'm not quite sure when I'm going to find the time!!

  3. A real piece of perseverance this and I agree the end result looks really good - the bird looks hauntingly beautiful against that background.