An alternative dog portrait – Hounds in Verse

There are lots of amazing dog portrait artists out there and I am always amazed by the incredible variety of ways that you can choose to have your dog rendered as a piece of art, from collage to pencil, oils or charcoal, traditional or modern – the choice is endless.

But I wanted to create something a bit different and even more personal …The result is Hounds in Verse – an illustrated poem that celebrates the wonderful character of each dog and their special relationship with their human.

Each poem is written in rhyming couplets and is completely bespoke and unique to each dog. I create the poems from the wonderful stories that each dog owner shares with me in response to a special questionnaire that they receive when the poem is commissioned.

The poems are intended to be fun, whimsical, touching and humorous and each one is individually hand lettered and illustrated in ink on Japanese Hosho paper.

I feel very privileged to read about the wonderful relationship people have with their dogs and how it manifests itself in their everyday lives and it is enormous fun to recreate this bond as a poem.

Here’s the Hounds in Verse illustrated poem I wrote about my Portuguese Water Dog, Figo.

“A Portuguese name, Figo, we chose,
After a football legend (for those in the know).
And true to his namesake, he loves to play ball,
But the thrill of the chase is the best fun of all.

Squirrel and muntjac are hard to resist,
Dashing off through the woods, silent and swift.
Then, with a tail full of twigs and a coat full of burrs
He returns happy and panting, yet undeterred.

In Cornish coves, but once year,
His sandy paws a souvenir
Of endless beaches and summer days
Spent chasing gulls and jumping waves.

A sensitive boy who hates trouble and strife –
The peacekeeper in our family life.
He runs over, tail wagging, if voices are raised,
The perfect incentive to mend our ways.

When the biscuit tin opens, he’s straight through the door.
Though polite and persistent, we try to ignore
The quick poke of his nose and meaningful stare
That says, “Surely that food is meant to be shared”

He loves to join in the conversation
With an array of amusing vocalisations.
A printmakers dog, in the studio he’ll snooze,
Unaware that he’s an artist’s muse.

When it’s time to unwind at the end of the day,
He kneads his paws on the sofa in a certain way,
& while holding his “Mousey” (well loved and smelly),
He’ll nod off to dreamland, while we watch the telly.”

And here it is in the final pen & ink illustration:

Hounds in Verse Dog Portait

Figo poetic portraitPoetic Dog Portrait Lettering

To commission your own Hounds in Verse dog portrait or to find out more about the process visit The Enlightened Hound’s website.

 

 

 

Land Rover Reduction Linoprint

Being a lover of all things Land Rover and all things Dog I wanted to make a print that celebrated them both. It’s called “Land Rover Life”.

Land Rover Life 11 colour reduction linoprint by Debbie Kendall

I set my self a challenge to create the print as an 11 colour reduction linoprint. If you are a printmaker you will know what I mean by “challenge” (enough said) but if you are not well versed in printmaking techniques (or even if you are) and would like to find out more about how I made this print, then read on…

What is a reduction linoprint?

When creating a print of more than one colour, a printmaker may choose to carve a separate block (or plate)  for each colour or alternatively, they can use the same block for all the colours. This latter method is the reduction (or suicide) method. It is often referred to as the suicide method, not because it is suicidally tricky (though that is true) but because in using the same plate for all the colours, the plate is systematically cut away in increasing amounts as the print progresses and by the end of the print, it is completely destroyed, therefore there is no going back. It also means that no more prints can be made from that block, so once the initial run of prints are editioned, that’s all there will ever be.

Why Land Rovers?

The Land Rover idea was triggered by the announcement in 2016, that the last Land Rover Defender would be rolling off the production line, marking the end of almost 70 years of production of Land Rovers, from the original Series 1 to the Defender – over two million vehicles.

There are very few vehicles that have stood such a test of time and even fewer that have transcended fashion and trends to become an iconic part of British national culture. What I particularly love about the Land Rover is its appeal and relevance to all levels of society and its ability to be right at home wherever it is, be it a farmer’s field, an army base, a mountain pass, a country estate, a suburban town or a royal palace.

The Land Rover’s heritage of exploration and adventure and its “go anywhere, do anything” potential is an irresistible combination, evoking a sense of freedom and derring do. Its tough, rugged, no-nonsense character, combined with its no-frills, meccano-esque nuts and bolts and chunky silhouette -like a child’s drawing, yet perfectly proportioned – is both timeless and distinctive.

Inspired by vintage travel posters of the 1920s and 30s, I wanted to create a print not just about the Land Rover and what it can do, but also a print that depicts what the Land Rover stands for and what it means to its many different owners.

Those of you who know my work, know all about my love of dogs. To me, dogs and Land Rovers are inseparable and it’s no co-incidence that people who own both dogs and Land Rovers often speak of their vehicle and their animals in the same affectionate tones, both being faithful, hard working, characterful, individual and will go anywhere with you!

You may also know that hand lettering is also my “thing” and is a constant feature of my work. The phrase “Live A Life Less Ordinary” stirred up, for me, the best feelings about owning a Land Rover. If you look closely at the finished print, you’ll see that the letters are drawn so they look like they are ‘screwed’ into the print.

How did I get started?

So, the first thing to do was to design the print which involved many pleasant (and some frustrating) hours of research, inspiration and sketching.

land rover sketches

Then the final design had to be transferred on the lino plate – in reverse

land rover linoprint plate

I mix all my colours up by hand using oil based traditional inks, so I spent lots of time perfecting the recipe for the perfect Land Rover green…

land rover print colours

So what could possibly go wrong?

I am trying to get an edition of 50 prints in total. Allowing for errors and time for the plate to build up a nice even layer of ink, I prepare 58 pieces of paper for prints. I must print the colour on all 58 prints before I can move on to the next colour. If I make mistake at any stage I cannot go back and print more, because after that particular colour has been printed, I carve away more of the block for the next colour and it is irreversibly altered.

So here’s an interesting fact… In the making of this print I had to ink the block and put down the paper on the inked block to take a print a total of 580 times (58 prints, each with 10 passes of colour – there were 11 colours in total but I managed to print colours 5 and 6 together)! Each colour took several days of printing and was very physically demanding, because in order to transfer the ink evenly to the paper each print was hand burnished (rubbed by hand on the back of the paper) with various tools for a considerable length of time!

Finally, each time I put the paper down on the inked block to take a print  I had to make sure it was put down in exactly the same place… even a shift of less than half a millimetre would mean that the colours would not be mis-registered and the print would not have good, sharp definition. (Sometimes this can be done deliberately with great effect, but I wanted perfect registration for this print)! To achieve this I built a ‘jig’ and ‘tympan’ based on old printing machines which would (hopefully) hold the block and the paper in the same place each time. Printmakers expect to lose a few prints to mis-registration, errant ink smudges, too much ink, too little ink and a whole host of other possible, unforseen catastrophes! To top it all, one slip of the tool when carving the block could mean the whole edition is ruined! Now you know why it’s called a suicide print! I ended up with an edition of 47 for this print. Not bad!

Here’s how I did it…

The first step to start printing is to carve away all the areas on the plate that I want to remain white and then ink up the plate in the first colour I want to print – a pale blue.

In all the following pictures of the process the carved, inked plate is on the left and the resulting print from that plate is on the right.

stage one printing

Stage 2 is to carve away all the areas I want to remain pale blue (that I have just printed) and to ink up the plate in the next colour – a pale taupe/brown…

printing of second colour

Stage 3 is to carve away all the areas to remain pale taupe/brown and ink up the plate with the third colour – light grey…

printing of 3rd colour

Stage 4 is to carve away all the areas to remain light grey and ink up the plate with the fourth colour – mid brown…

printing of 4th colour

Stage 5 is to carve away all the areas to remain mid-brown and ink up the plate with the fifth and sixth colours – mid grey and orange (I can print both of these together as they are in separate areas of the print and do not touch) …

printing of 5th and 6th colours

Stage 6 is to carve away all the areas to remain mid-grey and orange and ink up the plate with the seventh colour – light olive green…

printing of colour 7

Stage 7 is to carve away all the areas to remain light olive green and ink up the plate with the eighth colour – Land Rover green…

printing colour 8

Stage 8 is to carve away all the areas to remain Land Rover green and ink up the plate with the ninth colour – dark green…

printing colour 9 - dark green

Stage 9 is to carve away all the areas to remain dark green and ink up the plate with the tenth colour – dark grey…

printing colour 10 - dark grey

Stage 10 -the final stage –  is to carve away all the areas to remain dark grey and ink up the plate with the eleventh colour – almost black…

… to reveal the final print

printing last colour - black

I hope you found this insight into the process of making a reduction linoprint useful and informative. If you’d like to find out more about me, discover more of my work or buy a print, go to my website

In Memory of a Dog

A good friend recently had to say goodbye to her gorgeous flat coat retriever, River.

It was sudden and shocking news. I wanted to create something uniquely personal for her in River’s memory and also use drawing as an outlet for my thoughts on this sad news. River was a beautiful boy, so handsome and good natured and his love of water really lived up to his namesake.

If you are familiar with my prints, you will know that hand-lettering is my ‘thing’ and as someone who bought one of my prints recently commented, I have to be “both a printmaker and a wordsmith”, so I decided to write a poem about River and combine it with illustration in a vintage style.

Here is my Ode to River, in pen & ink on Japanese Hosho paper…

Tribute to a dog

 

 

Framed tribute to a dog

 

Alternative Ideas for a Printmaking Baren

This is a somewhat lengthy blog entry investigating some ideas for an effective, affordable printmaking baren for hand burnishing prints.

As I was embarking on a somewhat ambitious print – a hand burnished, 11 colour reduction linoprint of around A3 size – I started to investigate the best tools to transfer the ink to the paper. For all 11 colours and an ideal edition of 50 prints this meant that I was going to be hand rubbing the back of the paper at least 550 times, so I wanted the best tool for the job.

I don’t have a wonderful old cast iron relief press, so hand burnishing each colour was the only real option for me. Although I do have an etching press I have had trouble in the past keeping the image correctly registered when using this for a multiple colour relief print, as the roller can push the paper along (even a 0.5mm discrepancy between layers can be a problem).

For those who may be reading this blog who are new to printmaking, the traditional way to hand burnish a print is using a baren. This is a lightweight, hand-held disk which is used to rub the back of the printing paper after it is placed on the inked block, to transfer the ink into the printing paper. I have a cheap Speedball baren but in all honesty, it doesn’t really cut the mustard, as they say!

types of printmaking baren

Speedball baren, large serving spoon and porcelain door knob!

One alternative that I use is the smooth back of a large spoon. Rubbed in circular motions (over the back of the paper on the inked plate) this is a pretty effective tool. Another tool I have used most successfully in the past is a porcelain door knob – nice and smooth and easy to grip. However it was pretty clear to me after burnishing the first colour on the first few prints that I was heading for a repetitive strain injury if the spoon/door knob were going to be my main modus operandi for this project.

I started to investigate different kinds of barens and alternatives to a baren and spent a while looking online at what other print-makers were using. A couple of interesting options caught my eye.

ballbearingbarenThe first was a Japanese ball bearing baren which is made from a plastic disc through which up to 612 stainless steel ball bearings are suspended. The balls rotate freely when in use, which delivers multiple pressure points evently across the disc. Bound in black leather with a strong leather handle, this looks like it would have been the answer to my prayers… except the price – around £200 – rather a lot to invest in something I haven’t actually tried.

power_baren_bottomSome people online have tried making a version of this using drawing pins (metal thumb tacks) pressed into a base, though these would be fixed and not rotate freely as the ball bearings apparently do.

This looks like it might work quite well but not something I was motivated to try.

 

il_570xN.742611256_koh1

 

Another novel kind of baren I came across was made from glass.

It looked easy to grip and I like the idea of using a low friction material like glass. My concern though, with this design, was that the bottom of the baren looks to be completely flat and I wondered about getting enough pressure on thicker papers for efficient transfer of ink.

 

Thinking about the physics and qualities of a baren that will make light(er) work of hand burnishing, I felt that there were 2 main requirements:

  1. A lack of friction between the baren and the paper. In my experience barens with a single large flat area in contact with the paper can be quite abrasive (not ideal when the paper must be burnished many times)
  2. The ability to transfer pressure through a single (or many) point(s) to successfully transfer the ink to the paper. The reason the back of the spoon/my porcelain door knob make a good baren is because the pressure is driven through the small surface area in contact with the paper … but that is also the drawback because that small surface area means a lot of rubbing over an A3 size print! This is why the Japanese ball bearing baren looks like a winner – lots of small areas of pressure combined into one larger area (shame about the price though!)

I was chatting to my teenage son about this dilemma, and the Japanese ball bearing baren,  when he rushed to his room and bought out a string of magnetised ball bearings that had been a Christmas stocking present in his youth…

magnetised ball bearings

This got us both very excited and somehow we had the idea of arranging them in a spiral (like the Japanese ball bearing baren) on some kind of circular holder (which turned out to be a can of tuna – pretty much the right size, made of metal (to attract the magnetised ball bearings) and with a lip around the edge of the can to hold the ball bearing spiral in place!)… this is our creation – the TunaBaren!

TunaBaren TunaBaren

Well I was very excited to try this new idea. It was low friction with many small pressure points and it moved across the paper nice and smoothly. BUT…

tunabarenprint

The above picture shows the paper lifted back to reveal the lino plate after the TunaBaren has been used for a short time. You can see that on the lino and on the paper, where the TunaBaren has been moved around, there are a mass of swirly lines where ink has been transferred from the many points of contact of the ball bearings. Now, if you repeatedly move the TunaBaren around in lots of small rotating motions these do eventually disappear as every part of the paper is burnished, however there was quite a lot of wear and tear on the back of the paper itself too, and this worried me as I have 11 colours to lay down, which means 11 separate burnishings with the TunaBaren! I was concerned that the paper wouldn’t stand up to it.

It made me wonder if this would also happen with the Japanese ball bearing baren and I was thankful I hadn’t taken a £200 risk. If anyone can enlighten me on this, please do so!

So back to the drawing board it was. I needed to think of something that was equally low friction but with a larger surface area in contact with the paper than the small ball bearings. Mindful of the length of this post, I’ll cut to the chase. Inspired by the glass baren I discovered online, I decided to try to create a baren using glass cabochons. If you don’t know already, these are flattish, glass discs with one flat side and one gently rounded (convex) side. After hours of investigating possible ideas some deliberation, I decided to glue an arrangement of cabochons onto a wooden half sphere, as this should be a good size and shape to grip.

barenmaking

I bought three sizes of cabochons – 14mm, 16mm and 25mm – and two sizes of wooden half dome – about 80mm and 100mm and experimented with the best layout of cabochons.

And thus… the CabochonBaren

alternative printmakers baren

 

alternative printmaking baren

THE VERDICT:

The CabochonBaren is better than the Speedball baren, better than the spoon and better than the TunaBaren! “Better” meaning that the ink transfer was decent and the effort required for ink transfer was markedly less. My porcelain door knob still gives the best ink transfer (but for a lot of effort). With just the spoon and doorknob it took 3 days of printing to get 50+ prints for the first colour. Using mainly the glass cabochon barens, with the porcelain door knob when needed in specific areas, I reduced the time taken from 3 to 2 days to print colours subsequent colours.

bareninuse

The wooden half spheres were lovely to hold and I preferred the larger 100mm size. The jury is still out on whether fewer larger cabochons perform better that more smaller cabochons, though if pushed I would say the latter… I managed to fit 26 x 16mm cabochons and 4 x 14mm cabochons onto the flat face of a 100mm wooden half sphere.

For the record, I am using oil based inks on fairly heavyweight (80gsm), textured and very absorbent (unsized) Awagami Hosho paper for my print, but I am also doing some test prints on thin (100gsm) smooth, wove, Conqueror paper. I think the Hosho was always going to be a challenge without a press as it is so absorbent and quite thick (for a Japanese paper). Although I have read about Hosho having a smooth/rough side, it didn’t seem to matter which side I used as regards the uptake of ink and printing result. One thing I did notice was that the CabochonBaren worked like a dream on the thin smooth Conqueror, so I think with a thinner, sized paper I may just have hit on a winner!

I would love to hear from other printmakers on their experience with various barens. Do get in touch🙂

 

 

 

 

Yorkshire Terrier Print

The diminutive Yorkie is the 21st breed in my Dog Tag series of prints.

Yorkshire Terrier print unframed

Bred in England as an expert exterminator of vermin in 19th Century mills, mines and factories, this feisty terrier was also a handy pocket sized hunter’s companion, with enough guts to flush out badgers and foxes from their dens.

Yorkshire Terrier print -hand lettered detail

Originally known as the Broken Haired Scotch or Toy Terrier the Yorkies were re-named after a reporter at a show was heard to exclaim that the breed had much improved since it had been in Yorkshire!

It was not long before this tiny and devoted breed made the transition from its working class roots to high society, when it caught the attention of Victorian well-to-do ladies, for whom it became a playful companion and pampered pet.

Yorkshire Terrier print in reclaimed wood frame

Keen of eye and sharp of tongue, what the Yorkie lacks in size it certainly makes up for in spirit. Sprightly and self-important, with a silky steel blue and golden coat, the Yorkshire Terrier remains a terrier at heart.

The print is available framed or unframed from The Enlightened Hound

 

A Dog is the Best Medicine Linoprint/Collage

People sometimes ask me which of my prints is my favourite and I have to answer ‘The Dog is the Best Medicine’. It came about after I discovered a stack of yellowed vintage medicine bottle labels at a fair and I offered the stallholder a price for whole lot, not knowing what on earth I was going to do with them.

I spend days sorting them, seperating them out and even resorted to baking stuck together piles of them in a low oven to try and unstick them! I then placed each type in different cello bag (yes, anal, I know) and then I waited for inspiration to strike.

ephemera

I can’t remember if it was a revelation or some kind of thought process but “A Dog is the Best Medicine” was born.

I thought I’d share with you how the prints are created. Each one is an individual collage of old medicine bottle labels. I don’t use the same layout of labels for all the prints… I just randomly pick them up and stick them on (although I have to watch I don’t stick myself into a corner, in which no label will fit).

medicine bottle label collage old pharmacy bottle labels

vintage bottle labels collage

I leave the completed collages to dry under some heavy books. Then the words and dog are printed individually onto each one. I carved the words and dog into lino to use as a plate on my etching press.

I mix the inks up by hand and roll them onto the lino plate which is then passed through my press with the collage in a kind of sandwich.

lino print dog lino printing plate

printmaking ink a dog is the best medicine print

The prints are then left to dry, signed and numbered. I hope to have enough labels to make around 100 prints but I’m not sure they’re going to stretch that far.

a dog is the best medicine print

framed dog print

I know that some have been bought as gifts for dog-loving vets and doctors. What a lovely idea!

Sniff one out while you can at The Enlightened Hound

The 12 Dogs of Christmas Card

I have been meaning to do a Christmas card for ages and then I usually leave it too late… but this year I’ve managed to get organised and have been busy illustrating and lettering to create ‘The 12 Dogs of Christmas”

12 dogs of christmas

It is a doggy twist on the cumulative song ‘The 12 days of Christmas’, dating from 1780!

dog christmas card christmas card for dog lovers

I have been reading lots of heart breaking stories on social media recently about unwanted and neglected dogs and the wonderful work so many people do to help them – from the large well known charities to devoted people who work many hours on a shoestring to rescue these poor animals.

So I am donating half the profits from the sale of these cards to a worthy doggy cause. I have asked my newsletter subscribers and Facebook followers for any recommendations of people or companies who make an outstanding contribution to dog rescue… please feel free to comment with any suggestions on this post too. I will post an update after Christmas on where the donation has gone.

christmas card illustrations illustrations of dogs

rescue dog illustration hand drawn dogs

The Christmas cards are printed in the UK on thick textured card and come with a festive red envelope.

They can be purchased in packs of 10 for £10, plus P&P from The Enlightened Hound