The linocut ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’ is really a step back in time for me on many levels from the design inspirations to my memories of this region. As I’ve spoken about before I love the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney, it has such a rugged beauty & the flora & fauna is integral to the whole region. The Blue Mountains has a strong Art Deco influence in architecture and design & examples of that can found throughout the small villages along the ridges leading all the way to Katoomba & beyond. The area really had its ‘heyday’ in the 1900-1960’s and in particular the 1930’s. This linocut art piece is also grounded in family experiences & an inheritance of sorts.
I guess this artwork had its beginnings with family. Both my family & my husband’s family have been keen visitors to the Blue Mountains for many years. When thinking about the Blue Mountains region I found I had so many stories & photos of that time from my mother-in-law & her family in particular, many of whom still live in the Blue Mountains. From honeymoons to day trips and in fact, it is where my husband & I had our honeymoon. It was also somewhere we took our kids for day trips, holidays & to visit family & friends as well.
The wildflowers of this region are truly spectacular. The waratahs & flannel flowers are two of the iconic Australian wildflowers found here & of course I could not go past the ‘Mountain Devils’ – Lambertia formosa – which I have childhood memories of the seedpods dressed up with tulle on sticks like cupie dolls but there are some more vivid examples of these dolls in this newspaper article! I actually still have a couple of my mother-in-law’s tulle simple versions in an old china cabinet from her ‘nic-nacs’ which I just haven’t been able to part with. So the central panel of this work for me just had to be these three wildflowers.
A lot of research goes into investigating the species of an area, then I always take my own photographs & drawings of each of the species. This helps me to understand the structure of each plant & flower & increases the draftsmanship & design of the piece. There are usually so many I then have plenty to choose for the design.
So a little gallery in of inspirational wildflowers for Blue Mountains Wildflowers.
When my mother in law passed away a few years ago we inherited an old Art Deco style mirror. Looking a little shabby & worse for wear it does however have such an interesting shape. So I started with the mirror’s shape then developed that to create the overall structure of the design. It is then a matter of putting together all the research & developing that into the design. I spend a lot of time drawing, I think it is one of my favourite parts of the process. I have always loved drawing.
I see the linocuts as an extension of that & a way to push my vision & drawing further – the art of creative-art thinking. There is the ‘practical’ aspect of what can actually be carved out of lino but then there is the creative side of shapes & patterns. After I have finished the drawing of the design I then photocopy it several times & start to work on the actual linocut design. I use black felt pens to work on the designs, often photocopying, pasting & then using white out to work on this side of the designing. I guess I am still ‘old school’ in that I love to work with the physicality of paper, pen, pencil & ink but I do sometimes ‘dabble’ with computers & photoshop. I can spend weeks refining the images into exactly what I am happy with in the design & which I am able to produce in the medium.
Then to the carving of the design in lino. I have talked about different type of lino previously but I am pretty settled with the grey Silkcut & even managed to visit their gallery & workshop in Melbourne when I was there last time. I love my new Pfeil linocutting tools as they have made the carving just so much easier reducing the strain on my shoulder. There are actually 12 different blades in my set & I think so far I have only used half of them! Like a painter may use different brushes a Fine Art linocut artist uses their carving tools to create different effect within the surface of the lino. Some use it to create rough textural pieces but mine is a more methodical approach. I see my linocuts as botanical in nature so I try to represent the wildflowers as close to their essence as I can and this includes within the carving to create the images.
An interesting aspect to my work is the ‘uneven’ edges. I do not feel limited by the square or rectangular shapes that lino is usually presented to us from the art shop. I have always sought to move outside these shop bought restrictions. In order to do that I need to carefully cut back the edges. I start by making several strong cuts into the from surface of the lino. I then very carefully split the lino edge I want to remove & fold it towards the hessian back. Then I turn the lino over & cut along the hessian backing with a sharp bladed knife.
Often there can be a rough edge which is not something I want to be on my print. So I carefully remove the rough edges until I have a clean smooth cut. You need to take care especially around pieces with more ‘organic’ lines rather than the straight edges within this particular design.
Then to the printing of the linoblock. I have talked printing previously so here is just a little gallery for ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’
Then the handcolouring. I print with oil-based ink & handcolour with watercolour. I like that I can sue multiple layers & colours within each section to create the overall vibrancy of the wildflowers. You will see on the first ‘handcolour proof’ patches of colour & notes on which colour mixes I used. Although the aim is to paint each one the same you can appreciate that each one is actually individually painted & there are always variations.
Here is a little video from photos about this whole process of creating Blue Mountains Wildflowers. For those who don’t want to read explanations & learn better through images rather than words, you can now watch it in a little video format.
The centrepiece artwork for an exhibition at the Northern Rivers Art Gallery was a new linocut – Seaside Wildflowers.
Back in February I was approached by the Northern Rivers Art Gallery Director Ingrid Hedgcock, to exhibit alongside an exhibition of the Master Woods Craftsman & his students. For me it came at a time when recently becoming an ’empty nester’ & my shoulder was looking like it was going to recover after surgery & allow me to work – carve – again. It was also when I really need to get my arts practice back on track after a few years of life being too hectic to gain a consistent approach to my work.
I made the decision that I would work on finally completing many works I had been developing over many years as well as creating the centrepiece for the exhibition a work based around the Wildflowers synonymous with Ballina.
I will talk more about the other works in the exhibition in future posts but will start with the Seaside Wildflowers & where it all began.
In the process of creating this work I took some video footage & sill photographs with the idea of creating an education video showing my process from the inspiration through to the completion of the artwork.
I have always loved the seaside – the beach, the rock formations, the sea, the wildlife & of course the Wildflowers or flora. Even though I grew up in Sydney we spent every holidays by the sea at my grandparents in Yamba. Woody Head was another favourite place where my great uncle & Aunt lived, it is a truly beautiful natural place. We also spent a lot of time over where I now live on the ‘plateau’ region behind Ballina with my other grandparents – not that far from the seaside. As kids we would spend many hours going to the beach but also exploring the surrounding landscapes. So I know this region really well.
I start this particular genre of my work with research – some of this is ‘formal’ – flora studies of regions, plant identification lists but also I go & spend some time wherever possible wandering around the region taking photos. I like to see the flora/Wildflowers I am going to be drawing & document that in my own photos. By taking my own photos it also give me the opportunity to explore the process of visualising each wildflower or plant & how & where that might be represented within the initial concept of the artwork exploring different images of the particular plant. I look at things like the structure, colour & overall impression of each.
As I have talked about before, my work starts with ‘flashes’ of ideas scribbled into small sketchbooks, on post it notes or on scraps of paper.
For Seaside Wildflowers it began as a quick sketch on a post it note which I have now stuck into one of my small sketchbooks with additional notes & ideas. For this artwork I have drawn on the flora lists of the region, the council guides for flora in the Ballina Shire, books of flora of the region, my own explorations of the Ballina seaside region, my own photographs of specific species & finally my memories of childhood holidays alongside living in this region for over 20 years.
One of my abiding memories of the flora or Wildflowers of this area is the stunning Pandanus – Pandanus tectorius or Screwpine.
These strong ‘structural’ small trees are integral to my childhood memories & they are such a strong presence along the seaside of this region. The fruit which starts as a small green ‘ball-like’ structure & slowly moves to yellow tones & finally a vibrant orange colour is the aspect most people would recognise. For me the depiction of the pandanus would need to include the fruit. Less obvious for many people are the flowers – many would not be aware of the flowers. So I made the decision to make the ‘wildflower’ front & centre for this piece. The flower starts as cream bracts inside which the flower heads develop but the slowly the whole long spike of flowers emerge with the female flowers ending in long spikes of cream flowers & bracts.
The long strap like leaves emerge in a spiral from a central point & form a cluster on the end of the rather tortuous trunk & limbs. I think the pandanus reflects the very nature of growing by the season it’s tough ‘wildness’ & so it was for me to become the pivotal image for this artwork.
I started with many possible flora species I could incorporate into the piece, more than I could actually use & so this is where after setting out the pandanus I explore the size, structure, colours etc of all the possibilities. I see this is the fine art aspect of developing my Linocuts – this is where my training, skill & inspiration as an artist rather than a craftsperson comes into being. I bring my drawing & compositional skills to this process & it can be both the most frustrating as well as enjoyable part of the developing of my artwork.
Once I finish the detailed drawing I work through further developing this drawing into a form that can be carved in Lino which is my chosen medium for this piece.
For me this involves inking the design into shape & spaces.
I then carve this into Lino to be printed. For me these two further processes again involve choices & changes in the translations from drawing to final artwork.
Once the Lino is finished being carved I then print it in black ink & handcolour with watercolour the final artwork.
The hand colouring is not simply a ‘fill in the spaces’ it involves again skill & training in watercolour as a medium including colour, contrast, tone etc alongside the application of the paint.
I have taken some video footage of the processes which is a quick look at the whole process and it is now on youtube.
Music – ‘The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan’
by Chris Zabriskie
Used with Permission
Designing linocuts or any artwork can be a very individual process depending on many factors including the nature of the artist and the media they work in, the style of work and can even come down to the space/time available.
Many artists work in a highly intuitive and spontaneous manner, particularly in the contemporary arts practice and produce the most wonderful inspirational work.
Other artists spend a long time researching background information, drawing individual aspects of the design or idea, sampling colours and producing smaller works either in total or parts of the final artwork. This method has been a time-honoured tradition so that we have artists workbooks/journals/sketchbooks from great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci – it is through these that we can get a better sense of what the artist was thinking and how they went about producing their artworks.
It is interesting that in art education in high schools now the “journal” or process is an integral part of the curriculum with students needing to show how they came to the end product – their artwork. The NSW HSC requires the use of the “artist journal” as part of the marking and assessment processes.
Copyright – Lynette Weir
I thought I would work through the process I have used to design the Banksia serrata – Old Man Banksia linocut and the process of its development.
Over some time I had been looking at banksias and in particular Banksia serrata in my garden outside my studio window. I have been photographing this plant for a while but also looking at design ideas on small scraps of paper etc. I have used Banksia serrata – Saw Banksia previously for a linocut but this was a very long time ago. I also completed an illustration and after working from the plant and then photographs I did a drawing of one of the Banksia serrata flowers with their lovely serrated leaves. I love the sweep of leaves down and across.
The thought – ‘this might make s nice linocut’ occurred to me so photocopied the drawing, so I inked in the black areas for the design
‘Mmmmmm…a bit lonely by itself and I REALLY like the Banksia serrata seed pods…and there’s those lovely serrated leaves again…’
‘Perhaps I should look at adding to the DESIGNART series‘ with something a bit different – Banksia serrata, seed pod and leaves.
So I started back with my live plant, a dried seed pod, numerous photos, a new template in the DESIGNART range, and a starting point of my one banksia.
…Part 2 coming next…
Copyright – Lynette Weir
After working through design ideas using a number of photocopies cut up and moving them around and then adding them lightly over the template (size/shape of the basic linocut from the DESIGNART series) I settled on the seedpod over to the right of the template and spilling off. It needed something else so after consulting my plant and photos I decided to add a more ‘ragged’ representation of the flower head after it has opened and is starting to head towards fading from its robust bloom into the ‘softer’ and then wilted phase leading to the seedpods. This is the added on drawing I came up with.
I struggled with the ‘joining’ of the original drawing and the new section – especially as I worked not from the original drawing but the b&w design phase. Trying to get the leaves ‘just right’ was frustrating. Here is one of the images from my plant that I used where you can see all those new growth leaves all falling out over each other.
Eventually I have ended up with 2 images that I have been ‘sitting with’ and deciding which one I will use or which combination I may adjust. I will post more when I start carving. I have actually made a decision.
It is a bit like a game of ‘spot the difference’ – note to self : printmakers and artists can be horribly pedantic!
Just wondering as an exercise for those inclined to design – what would you do?
Copyright – Lynette Weir
They say sometimes what goes around comes around.
Or perhaps it should be called in this instance the sometimes ‘obsessive’ nature of artists!!
After spending ages on the original drawing design – inking it up and then deciding to fiddle around with it to make it just that little bit better – I have took it back to the original drawing design!!
Another artist at a workshop I did a few years back said he spent weeks deciding to change the wall colour of his lounge room from a mustard yellow. So after much contemplation, colour charts, mixing etc he repainted the room…and yes it was almost the identical mustard yellow!!
So the design is finished – and yes after a week it is back to the original concept!!
Now for transfer to the lino block, carving, printing and handcolouring – I must admit moving from one process to another actually raises the excitement level. Yes I know a bit boring that at each new step it is seen as ‘exciting’ but I think that is why I like the art processes that I am currently working in and keep coming back to them! I do actually really enjoy each step and it provides interest and hopefully challenge. Even if I sometimes end up back where I started!
Copyright – Lynette Weir
This is a design based around waratahs…we have 2 quite large local plants which flower really well each spring/summer. One is a roadside planting – mind you the people who live there wondered what this odd person was doing drawing and photographing the waratah – had to explain myself yet again! One of the funniest things was doing a similar thing outside a local farm with the farmer coming to check out what I was doing – “just drawing and photographing the scotch thistles (a weed here!), do you mind if I pick some them from your property?” was greeted with laughter indicating their great amusement at this weird fascination with a weed! She walked away shaking her head…
In designing a larger piece like this I thought I’d give a little insight into the beginnings of the process.
It started with a scrappy little sketch on the back of the only piece of paper I could dig out of the bottom of my handbag one day. I had an idea and just had to get the basics down on paper. Progressing on from there I have been researching, photographing, drawing up and developing different aspects of the original sketch.
This is the original drawing I did based on my research of waratahs, photographs and originals thumbnail concept that involved ideas such as the use of patternwork with leaves and waratah stigma/style, black and white sections vs colour…
I then photocopied this original drawing and using black permanent markers ‘ink’ in the design as a template for carving. It is at this ‘inking in’ stage that I may also adjust the design and use of black vs white areas. I often re-photocopy, cut up sections, glue on extra areas on or use liquid paper to white out areas. Eventually when I am happy with the final design I will photocopy the design one last time and this becomes the final template I use and transfer to the linoblock for carving.
Above is the final blocked in B&W design.
Another tool in designing process can be the computer – you can scan in parts and using photoshop (or something similar) move bits around and try out ideas. An example of this is the use of photoshop to get an idea of the colour tonal values in this new ‘Waratahs’ design. Basically the central waratah will be deep rich colour and the outside leaves will be pale washes of colour – I think they would be paler than here and not this particular green (basically hate both the greens in this photoshopped version but as I said they are only about the tonal values)! The ‘background’ central flower is black and white patternwork essentially. Although the colours I’ve used in the colour image shown here are really nothing like how it will look – the idea of the deep red/green tone and the pale tones helps me in looking at adjustments I may consider or make in the design. Another method is to photocopy a number of copies – even different sizes and cut them up and work with them to experiment with the design.
I try to take some time ‘thinking’ about the designs – though as in the case of this design sometimes I leave or get deadlines that make this hard which can be frustrating. Whilst watching the Rolf Harris portrait series on the ABC I noted there was made mention by the artists of the ‘thinking time’ in working on artworks. Not too long on this one though as I need to get carving the lino as soon as possible…
Copyright – Lynette Weir
All artists will work differently but following is the process is the one I usually use in designing my linoprints.
Basically the process that I use in designing new linoprints involves a lot of pre-designing ‘thinking’. I take all my own source photos so the first step involves taking many photos of the subject in all its different aspects. With a busy life I have little time to spend ‘on-site’ and usually I have family following or waiting nearby. (“Are you finished yet mum?”)
In the past ‘pre-digital’ times all this photography has meant lots of money on film processing and printing (I have a rather large collection of filed photographs) but with digital I have the luxury of saving the images to disk and printing as I need them.
The next step is the ‘thinking’ and looking at the images I could possibly use – doing some small sketches of individual plants. I sometimes grow specific plants or buy them to work from also. I then may do a series of small quick and usually ‘scrappy’ sketches of compositional ideas with written notes…
I then set about translating these ideas into a design – as with in the case of the NZ Wildflower design – I look at a selection of possible wildflowers/plants I could use and lightly sketch these up into the basic format/design layout. I then make a detailed drawing of the design. In this process the overall design layout and which wildflowers/plants I end up using may completely change or change position. I’ll assess not only what I consider the importance of each flower/foliage within the overall design concept but also their individual shape, size and colour and their effects on the overall design.
The final drawn design for the NZ Wildflower design looks like this…
I’ll spend some more time thinking… adjusting… and assessing… the overall concept and drawing….
I then photocopy this pencil drawing – at this point I may also change the overall size (larger or smaller) – again this is part of the overall processing and thinking about the development of the final design. I then ink in the black areas of the design on the photocopy. I use this process for a number of reasons – it gives me time to think about the overall design and make adjustments as I go but mostly it means I have a black and white ‘template’ to use to carve the lino. I notoriously used to cut the wrong areas – particularly with the more intricate work and I now find that I rarely have this problem. So the final design phase ends up looking like this…..
Then more thinking… changing… and assessing…I’ll ‘live’ with this design for a while….
Finally I’ll transfer my final design image in reverse onto the lino and start carving.