Saturday, 28 May 2011

street life

violinists underneath Southwark Bridge

I've called today's blog Street Life, but in fact in my latest crop of photos on the run there's not a street to be seen.  They were all taken within the space of twenty minutes on the walk from my office near Southwark Bridge over the river towards St Paul's.  It was 5pm on a Friday evening, and the crowds were out in force enjoying the unusually warm May sunshine.  Naturally, a whole host of vendors and entertainers had come out to join them and make a bob or two: as I walked past the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern and over the Millennium Bridge I couldn't help but be caught up in the festive atmosphere conjured up by the music and the smell of roasting chestnuts.  It was a great start to the weekend!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

masks & memories

Venetian Masks
reduction linocut in black & metallic gold
© Teresa Newham 2011

It's nearly three months now since J & I had our honeymoon in Venice, but the memories are as strong as ever.  Every photo or painting of Venice that I see - anywhere, and by anyone - takes me straight back there.  I understand now what people mean when they say that Venice is magical.  Once seen, never forgotten!  The recent long weekend offered the opportunity for some printmaking; I'd already decided to take a couple of carnival masks as my subject.  Until I visited Venice I'd always found masks rather creepy - those empty eyes - but five days surrounded by them on every street corner must have done the trick, because I was raring to go!! they also had the advantage of being visually graphic, thereby lending themselves effectively to a linocut.  As a starting point, I used one of the honeymoon photographs:

Venetian Masks on display
© Teresa Newham 2011

Then, having chosen two masks I particularly liked, I turned them into a 14 x 18cm black and white image (just to check their suitability).  From that I traced the image onto some paper, adjusted the design and coloured in the drawing with black biro and yellow marker pen, to determine where the colours would go. After last year's efforts at reduction lincocuts, I'd decided that it would be simpler to stick to just a couple of colours.  I traced the drawing onto a prepared A4 sheet of lino, leaving room for a 35mm gully around the edge of the image and a 5mm lino border - which is not inked and does not print - around that at the edge of the lino.   It takes a while to cut the gully out but the result is a much neater and well-aligned print - important if you are using more than one colour. 

basic drawing and first cut
© Teresa Newham 2011

True to form, things went wrong almost immediately, as the image came out on the lino identical to the drawing.  Which meant that the finished linocut print would be the wrong way round!  But as this was a graphic subject it really didn't matter - I'd earlier printed out a reverse image and coloured it in to guide me when I was doing the actual cutting, and I could see that it would work either way.  I gritted my teeth and started to cut the image.  I had another setback when despite my best efforts I couldn't prevent the nostrils of one of the masks from getting cut off;  they would have to go in afterwards.  Ironically I used a different tool for the other mask and managed to keep the nostrils in.   Well, at least I'd found a solution . . . !

first gold print and the inked-up lino block
© Teresa Newham 2011

Now for the best bit - the inky bit.  There's nothing quite like squeezing some lovely gold metallic onto the inking glass and going over it with the roller.   Metallic ink doesn't act in quite the same way as ordinary ink - it's a different consistency and dries faster.  So I had to work quickly to pull my eight prints, using a large roller to get the image to 'take' on the paper, and then burnishing it with the back of an old dessert spoon I begged off my Dad a few months ago for this very purpose.  It worked like a dream and I soon had eight gold-and-white prints laid out on the dining room table.

metallic gold prints & my 'inking glass'
(part of an old photo frame)
© Teresa Newham 2011

Despite all the careful planning, I had to adjust the cutting when it came to making the black plate.  In one or two places there were two areas of the same colour side by side, so I introduced a simple zig-zag pattern onto some of the pieces of fabric which frame each mask (they looked so good when I'd finished that I wished I'd included some more!).  By the time I printed the black plate I was extremely nervous, but also excited.  And glad I hadn't used more colours, as it would have taken longer and I was keen to see what the end result would be!

eight gold-and-black prints, drying
© Teresa Newham 2011

I was thrilled.  I didn't quite manage to integrate all of the cutting so there are one or two odd lines which don't make complete sense, but the overall effect is exactly what I intended.  I didn't even need to add those nostrils in.  And although you can't see it on screen, that gold is fabulous.   Oh, and my next linocut subject?  more masks, of course - I've caught the bug!!