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

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 🙂

 

 

 

 

Dog is my Co-Pilot – Reduction Linoprint

I was approached by cool UK company, Pedlars, to do an exclusive print under the title “Dog is my Co-Pilot”. Pedlars sells quirky and original home-wares & gifts, both vintage and new. A love of dogs has always been a central theme of the company.

Dog is my Co-Pilot print

Inspired by pop art propaganda posters with their simple graphics and strong colours, this print is a 3 colour reduction linoprint.

Dog is my CoPilot print close up

A limited edition of 50 A3 prints were produced. Once these are sold there will never be any more printed because the process of making a reduction linoprint destroys the very printing plate that is used to create the prints – this is why it is sometimes called a suicide print!

You can see the finished print on the Pedlars website. If you’d like to find out more about the process of creating this print – read on!

First, the design for the print has to be drawn on to the piece of lino that will become the printing plate. It has to be drawn in reverse so that it is the right way round when it is printed (particularly important if there is any typography!)

Linoprint Plate1

Then, all the areas of the image that will not be printed (i.e. that will remain the colour of the paper used for printing) need to be carefully cut away. This is how my plate looked after this was done.

Linoprint plate2

This plate was then used to print the first of the three colours. The first colour (red in my case) will cover much of the print after the first pass through the press, but in the final print much of the red will be covered up by the printing of subsequent colours.

So, before I got started on the printing, I wanted to check how the three colours I would be using for the print looked when they were printed over/under each other. This would determine the order in which the colours would be printed. If, for example, I found out half way through the printing that the light blue did not cover the red effectively, or made an unwanted third colour (like purple!) it would be too late to go back and start again as the printing plate will have been cut away for the second colour – and once the lino is cut, there’s no going back!

So here are the results of that little experiment…

printmaking colour test

… I use traditional oil based printing inks – they look almost good enough to eat!

Red Ink

Here is the first colour printed.

reduction linoprint first colour

All 50 (plus a few spare) prints are printed in red at once. Then I return to the plate and cut away all the areas that I want to keep as red in the finished print. Here is the plate at this stage….

Linoplate 3

Now I print the next colour – the lighter of the 2 blues. The trickiest part of a reduction linoprint is making sure that the paper goes down on the plate in exactly the same place every time a new colour is printed, to avoid unwanted overlap of colour and keep nice sharp lines (although sometimes mis-registered prints can look really effective too). This is why it is good practice to print more than you hope to end up with in the final edition – because mistakes are bound to be made along the way! Perhaps this is another reason why it is called the suicide print!

Here is the second colour printed….

Reduction Linoprint Second Colour

prints drying

Now all the areas that will remain light blue are cut away from the lino plate… here is the newly cut plate on my press being inked up with the final very dark blue ink.

Printing Press

Ta Daaaa! The final print

Linoprint Dog is my CoPilot

Dog is my CoPilot print detail

A Dog is the Best Medicine

Ta Da! Here is my latest piece of work…

A dog is the best medicine linoprint and collage by debbie kendall

Ask any dog lover and they will tell you how good their dog makes them feel. Whether we are feeling sad, grumpy, irritable or under the weather, somehow dogs have the ability to make us feel better about life.

My dog, Figo, can immediately smooth over any family rift — at the first sign of raised voices he comes rushing over wagging his tail and never fails to get us all smiling again.
I created this print in honour of a dog’s gift to make us feel better, whatever our situation.

But there is something that makes this print really unique — it is printed onto an ephemera collage of vintage, original pharmacy labels from old medicine bottles. These are very collectable and have a wonderful array of old typefaces, both scripts and block letters. They are the lovely, aged, mellow colour of old parchment.

dog inspired linoprint detail on collage by debbie kendall

This is not a pre-printed digitally reproduced background – I make a unique, individual collage of actual, original labels for each print, so each one is different.There will only be 100 of these prints and each are individually signed and numbered on the reverse.

medicine bottle label collage by debbie kendall

The size of the paper (the labels go to the edge) is approx. 300 x 300 mm (11 3/4”) square.I have chosen to make frames for these prints out of reclaimed wood, which echoes the vintage appeal of the labels.

The frames are made from what ever wood I can source and each frame has its own pattern of knots, grain, dinks, scratches, nail heads, rusty staples, wonky edges and aged patina.

The size of the framed print is around 43 cms (17”) square.

reclaimed wood picture frame by debbie kendall  recalimed cedar wood picture frame by debbie kendall
Linoprint and collage in handmade frame by the enlightened hound
Prints come ready to hang and are fitted with crystal clear acrylic glass.
Available unframed or framed from the Enlightened Hound’s Website

Linocut Dogs & Ephemera Collage

Just thought I’d give you a heads up on my latest print making experiments…

I have been playing with some linocut dogs:

linocut printed dogs by debbie kendall of the enlightened hound

It took quite a lot of experimentation to get the fur looking right!

And also I have been making some collages out of my collection of old pharmacy medicine bottle labels…

Pharmacy Label Collage by Debbie Kendall

I love the old handwriting script typefaces – so elegant and a nice contrast to the simple block capitals that are also popular on these old labels.

I will be bringing these two elements together in my next piece of work with some more typography!

 

How to sharpen linocut tools with Arkansas stones

linocut tools & arkansas stones

Traditional Arkansas sharpening stones are natural quarried stones. They are graded by hardness (density) rather than grit and are finer than manmade sharpening stones. They are known as oilstones because you need to use oil when sharpening tools with them. The oil is called honing oil and is usually a light mineral or petroleum based oil. Cooking oil is not recommended. The oil acts as a lubricant and suspends the steel shavings, preventing clogging. I use Wahl oil which is a lubricating and cleaning oil for my dog clippers.

My Arkansas stones have different shaped edges which are useful for the internal edges of the U and V gouges. I use Swiss made Pfeil woodworkers gouges to cut my lino plates.

SHARPENING V GOUGES
Put a couple of drops of honing oil on the oilstone and smear it over the surface with a finger. You just need a thin film of oil between the blade of the gouge and the stone.
V-gouges have 3 areas that need sharpening – the 2 slanted edges and the central gouge, where the slanted sides join.
sharpening a v gouge
Place one of the slanted sides of the V gouge so it lies flat on the stone. Now lift the handle of the gouge up so the angle between the blade and the stone is about 22 degrees. You are aiming to keep the bevelled part of the blade, at the very tip, flat on the stone.
Now gently push the blade along the stone as if you are shaving a very fine slice off the top of the stone. Repeat several times, then turn the V gouge over to sharpen the other side in the same way. A burr will develop in the centre of the gouge where the 2 slanted sides join.
v gouge sharpening

removing the burr in the centre of the v gouge

Now choose the best size v-shaped edge of the Arkansas stone (to match the size of the V gouge) and, with a dab of oil, run the stone’s edge inside the gouge a few times to remove the burr.
SHARPENING U GOUGES
Place the U gouge blade on the oiled stone at a similar angle (22 degrees) as above. Again the aim is to keep the bevelled tip of the blade flat against the stone.
You now have to move the blade of the U gouge in 2 different ways at the same time!
sharpening a u gouge

sharpening a U gouge

First, move the blade of the U gouge up and down the stone in a circular movement (red arrow on picture). If this was all you did then only a small part of the U shaped blade would stay in contact with the stone and get sharpened.

In order to sharpen the whole U shaped profile of the blade you also need to slowly rock the blade from side to side (blue arrows on picture), at the same time as you are going up and down the stone in a circular motion. It sounds like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, once you give it a go! Keep at this until the blade is nice and sharp then use the curved edge of the stone to remove any burrs on the inside edge of the gouge.

sharpening a u shaped gouge

removing the burrs on the inside edge

Finally clean your stones with a little more oil by rubbing it in a circular motion with a rag across the surface of the stone. The small metal particles need to be removed from the stone or else they will clog it up. Then wipe with some clean rag or kitchen paper. Rinse the sone under running water, then dry thoroughly.

I hope this helps keep your tools nice and sharp. Happy cutting.

Perfect Christmas Present for a Dog Lover

Fancy some dog-inspired New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?

My new print in the Enlightened Hound’s Canine Wisdom Series makes a great Christmas gift for any dog lover.

Canine Wisdom print No5

  

The typographic linocuts feature uplifting and quirky ‘dog secrets for happiness’ using authentic 19th century fonts from the American Wild West and Civil War era, to convey each dog mantra in a nostalgic, vintage style.

Each letter is carved by hand into the linoleum printing plates which are then hand printed using traditional linseed oil inks, mixed into a palette inspired by early colonial colours.

Here are the 5 prints in the series pegged up in my garden!

The Enlightened Hound's Canine Wisdom Prints

For more information and to buy prints and greeting cards from the same range visit The Enlightened Hound’s website