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
Linocuts, design, drawing & illustrations by Australian Artist – Lynette Weir
These ‘tutorials’ are an insight into the working methods of Australian Artist – Lynette Weir.
All images, tutorial content on this site unless specified otherwise, are copyright to Lynette Weir and cannot be used without permission.
This tutorial site is a compilation of posts I have made to my Studio Diary – Soulsong Art. They are not a definitive way of producing a linocut or drawing. They are simply a guide based around my own working methods.
I have posted the tutorials here in an order that hopefully will make it easier for you to find information about linocuts or drawing.
Although a largely static site I will be posting additional tutorials and updates from time to time.
The linocut tutorials here are based on my own working methods. Artists/printmakers all work differently – some may work in a similar way to myself and others completely different. So the tutorials contained here should be seen within this context and as a guide to working or just as an example how one artist works.
All information is a guide only and is based on Lynette Weir’s own arts practice with Linocuts and Drawing – individuals should take their own due care in working with these and other artistic endeavours and mediums.
I would encourage everyone to take a look at how I work but develop your own style and way of working.
Copyright – Lynette Weir
In describing some of the processes I that go through in designing my linocuts I have not talked a lot about the ‘art-thinking’ processes. This is probably because they are often complex and hard to describe.
FRAMEWORKS FOR ARTWORKS
For this piece and many of my pieces I will often start with the idea of a ‘framework’ – of working within/without of a particular shape – rectangular, square, circle etc. Starting with the framework – drawing up thumbnail sketches of different shapes, sizes, ideas – some people hold their hands up together to create a picture frame to limit their vision and provide a frame to work within for designing the edges of the artwork and what they want in it. It narrows the visual field and helps an artist ‘art-think’ what they are trying to achieve/include within an artwork.
A framework can also be suggested by the actual subject matter. So the first step in working in this way is to consider the subject matter – in this case I look at my extensive file of photographs that I have taken. But for me this process means taking one step back again – it begins with the plant/flower ‘in the flesh’.
SOURCE MATERIAL AND ‘CREATIVE ART-THINKING’
I take the photos I work from, so for me my designing starts with ‘seeing’ and photographing, for me a lifelong interest and passion of seeing and representing through taking photographs and filing and preserving family photographs. So in the case of the above design I look at the plant and take numerous photos (thank goodness for digital it is a lot less expensive these days).
The designing and looking is part of the photographing process for me – I was taught a long time ago about the importance of ‘seeing’ through your lens as you take the photo instead of ‘cropping’ later. Not to say I don’t crop but I try to ‘frame’ the photograph in the lens these days. I consider the shape, size and special features of the flowers, buds, leaves, stalks, overall ‘effect’ of the plant. These can be quite quick and spontaneous images – even at this stage I am considering the artwork and what information I may need from the source plant. If I have time I sketch the plant or do quick sketches of ideas to refer back to. Somehow for me it involves a different ‘vision’ and thinking – that for the process of this tutorial I am calling ‘art-thinking’. It is like I go to another place that is entirely visual and yet pragmatic about collecting all the info I need, or producing the image/design I want. I am often unaware at this stage of much going on outside this little ‘visual world’ – ask my family who now seem to know that taking a good book and ensuring a coffee shop ‘sanctuary’ is nearby to disappear from their ‘weird wife/mother’ who is off in another head space, and often gets quite excited about a particular plant flowering!
PROCESSING TO CREATE ARTWORK AND DESIGNS
Even before I get the photos I need printed I am often already ‘art-thinking’ – processing visual ideas often making a number of quick thumbnail sketches of my ‘art-thinking’, making notes of ideas in my journals or even on a scrap of paper that I later stick int my journal. These can lay around for even years – I have many in sketchbooks and will often flip back through and find these sketches. They are a rich source of inspiration even years later and often I can then flip back to the process of taking the photos and remember the time and what was significant about the image. Sometimes it feels like a ‘visual memory filing cabinet’ and the actual physical photos (catalogued and filed) help provide finer details and trigger more visual memories that I can use.
DESIGN ART – EMBLEMS – BREAKDOWN OF THE PROCESS OF DESIGN
In designing a piece like the DESIGN ART – Emblems – it is quite complex in the amount of visual material I am wanting to include within the overall design. This means it will be overall quite a ‘busy’ design unlike the DESIGN ART Waratah which is a simple single graphic image relying on this for visual impact.
However in creating the overall design for the Emblems I needed to bring some sort of order to the ‘busyness’. I have done this by providing the top central waratah echoed by the Sturt desert pea below. The golden wattle flowers/leaves and kangaroo paw provide framing and visual movement around the design with the Tasmanian gum blossom leaves stabilising the image at the bottom. The other plants of heath (at top either side of waratah), Sturt desert rose on right and Cooktown orchid on left are all pink shaded flowers and seem natural to provide a circular movement around the work.
Whilst drawing all of this into a design I can revise the overall and minor details of the plan as I go along. This includes spending often large amounts of time ‘art-thinking’ visually assessing over and over what I am doing and where I am placing the elements within the design. I stick photocopies of the images on the walls – even in the bedroom so I can look at when I first wake up. Often I do nothing but look at the progress, source material, or framework and do nothing – it is all in this process of creative ‘art-thinking’. This includes the inking in of the design – again it is returning to this visual head space where I don’t like to be interrupted – it is like switching my brain into another space. It can be frustrating when I cannot get into this zone and things just don’t work – best to go and do something different. Equally it can be extremely frustrating to have this background zone sitting there with ideas and not the time to actually get it happening!
‘ART-THINKING’ VS ‘DOING’ OR USING BOTH!
Not everyone understands the process of stepping back and thinking through things – of sorting through ideas, images, assessing, re-assessing and thinking of alternatives and possibilities. Many people are ‘doers’ and impulsive and many artists work this way and create amazing works. I work more spontaneously in the initial stages of thumbnail sketches but then I get tend to move into this more detailed way of working. Funny my house can be disorganised, messy and spontaneous but my artwork processes are often detailed organised and ordered.
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!