Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Saturday 27 May 2017

Lino no-no (aka That time I decided to use oil-based printing inks for the first time)

If you have noticed a dearth of lino-related posts, it’s because I had a huge creative surge and then… nothing. I think I experienced a bit of ‘creative burn-out’ after going non-stop lino loopy for the last few weeks. I even took my lino stuff on holiday with me in the hopes that I’d get a chance to do it but on the evenings I did get some time, I chose to spend it staring at the amazing view (Scotland, I love you), drinking a lot of cups of tea and talking to Mr VP about the amazing view. Oh and trying to photograph buzzards. But yeah, not much on the lino front.

I tried the other day to draw something I’ve been trying to draw for ages, except I just couldn’t get the proportions right. Knowing I needed to get the drawing right to be able to print it, and after a lot of effing and jeffing, I gave up in frustration. It was starting to get me down, as I am not a natural artist so I have been flippin amazed quite chuffed with what I’ve been able to achieve so far. So I decided to go back to what I knew, to show myself that I *could* still draw something. So I took inspiration from nature – the root of pretty much everything I do – and doodled some flowers, leaves, a bleeding heart plant and a snail. I continued until I had filled the lino ‘page’ and then I cut it out. It was one of the fiddliest plates I’ve done but felt so good to be doing something creative again.

A while ago, I got some new inks but hadn’t had the chance to use them. They’re water-washable oil-based relief inks by Cranfield/Caligo and they’re what Professionals use (ha!). I thought as Toddler VP had gone down quite early I’d have the time to sit down and have a bit of a dabble printing before I had to go to bed, so I set off. The results were amazing. It’s totally different in feel and look to the water-based inks I’ve used before; the results are crisp, it has just the right amount of transfer and tack and I really liked using it.

So having done my first proofs (and seeing where I needed to do some revision cuts,) I realised it was approaching 10pm and time for bed. So I took the inking plate and roller upstairs to the bathroom to be washed (as the inks contain chemicals I don’t particularly want in the kitchen). According to the manufacturer, it’s a case of wash off with detergent and warm water. Well, I did that and nothing happened, except covering everything in a layer of thick black oily goop. My gloved hands were covered, the inking plate was worse than before and the roller looked like it had taken a dip at La Brea. Ack! Trying not to make any noise because there was a sleeping Toddler VP in the next room, I roused Mr VP’s attention and urged him to Google something FAST. He found the PDF explaining the cleaning procedure and mentioned using a brush. We didn’t have brushes, but we did have a sponge scourer so I gave one of those a try. Finally, after getting myself into a muck sweat, it started to come off. Enough to allow me to put it away and call it a night. Obviously Professionals have a proper sink and the right cleaners and brushes and aren’t trying to do it at 11pm next to a sleeping child’s bedroom. Ha!  I’m not sure my inking roller will ever be the same (then again after the other night I’m not sure I will be either)!

However, as for the results, I think it’s one of my favourite pieces yet. Full of the things in nature I love the most. Most of all, it might not be what I had intended to do but it gave me a bit of faith back that I could do something. And most of all I really enjoyed doing it. Except the cleaning up bit…

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Sunflower garden

One of my most recent lino pieces was this garden scene. It shows some development in the way I’m approaching things now – paying more attention to light and dark. I also decided to try watercolouring one of the prints to see what it’d be like. It’s interesting. I’m not sure I’ll go down that road for each print, as I’d quite like to start overprinting using multiple plates per print to build up the image. But I was surprised how much the watercolouring changed the feel of the print. There’s a lot of power in black and white too, and I still prefer that starkness I think.

Sunday 23 April 2017

The stave church proof (and other linocuts)

Can you tell that I really enjoy lino printing!? I haven’t been quite as prolific this week but I have managed to do a few small(er) cuts as well as my Norwegian stave church, which I found in a book on pine trees and instantly fell in love with! It has taken me most of a week to do the drawing and sizing of it as well as the cutting (those fish-scale roofs are amazing, but so fiddly!). It’s still not finished, but it’s getting there. It’s my biggest and most ambitious print to date. I LOVE it! I am also rather fond of my lighthouse (modelled loosely on St Mary’s at Whitley Bay). And my acorn. And my carrot. Oh and my first attempt at lettering. Nothing special – my kerning is all out and it’s on a scrap bit of softcut – but I enjoyed it and now I have got the system for doing it worked out, I will be trying some more (nemophilist, by the way, is someone with a love of forests or woodlands, a ‘haunter of woods’).

I caved and treated myself to three Pfeil tools: to a linocutter what Festool tools are to a carpenter. They slice through lino like a hot knife through butter and make the entire process so much easier and less deadly to your fingers. I definitely recommend them if you’re looking to get into lino cutting. I’m still having issues with ink, though the last lot of prints came out better than any before, so it’s likely my technique that’s improving rather than anything to do with the ink! I have also tried the Versafine ink by Tsukineko, which I like a lot, and would probably use for paper/thin card prints. What are you up to craft-wise?

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Hands and flowers and carrots

Following hot on the heels of my seagull, I spent a couple of hours over the bank holiday weekend playing with smaller, more fiddly stamps. It was lovely having a bit of creative energy again and I could tell I was using bits of my brain that I hadn’t for a while.  I started out with a hand and a supposed-to-be-cherry blossom before moving on to a feather, another hand, an ash leaf and a funky carrot. I’m quite pleased with the results! Plus seven stamps over three days is pretty good going :)

I’m certainly finding it a challenge to master the art of tight corners while cutting the lino (my tools are not high-end, and some need sharpening) so I’ll keep on trying to improve that.  I am also having some difficulties with the ink; it’s the right stuff (water-based high-tack EssDee printing ink) but I think something’s going wrong between the amount of ink, the rolling and the paper it’s being printed onto. I seem to get better results using thinner paper and ink pads (like you’d use for card making) rather than the proper ink. It’s obviously something I’m doing wrong and which will get better with practise!

Sunday 16 April 2017

Adventures in lineoleum

It has been years since I picked up pencil, notebook, blank lino and an eraser and set to work. Years. But it was so good and just as much fun as I remembered it being. I fired up iTunes (how enjoyable is it to just press shuffle and listen away?!) and got to work. This exercise was of course punctuated by the cries of our teething toddler whose molars are just coming through; but after drawing out my picture, I got reacquainted with the smell of lino (it’s delicious and linseedy) and the different lino cutting tool blades. I remembered vaguely that tilting a No. 2 blade to one side will ‘shave’ an area whereas the tip will take a deep, wide u-shaped cut if used with any force.

I love lino printing, I really do. I might not be any good at it, but I love doing it. I think printing and print-making is nothing short of magic. It’s not black and white; while you remove bits and keep others to create an image, even the bits you take away leave lines that can – depending on how much you take or leave – be seen in the resulting print. It has more motion and life than a simple drawing. And everyone can do it; it’s not expensive – you can start carving erasers, or even potatoes :)

By the time I was finished and had done 3 proofs – two pencil rubbings and one ink-pad ‘print’ – it was 12:05am. The latest I’ve been up for a good long time!  I looked down at myself and realised I was covered in bits. I got up first thing this morning and finished tweaking here and there until I was happy with the level of detail.  The result? Well, I think it’s my best to date :)

(Some of the) Music that has been played while printing: