Ink on paper, 24 x 30 cm.
For my next solarplate etching, I’ve enlarged my drawings before processing them onto the plate. (In the previous etching, the drawings were slightly reduced.)
The original drawings were about 6 x 4 inches. On the plate, they are about 8 x 5.5 inches (A5). I etched them onto a single A4 plate, and then printed it.
Then I cut the plate, and printed them separately.
Room 511, Ambos Mundos Hotel, Havana. The room where Hemingway wrote “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. Solarplate etching, approx A5.
Havana backstreets. Solarplate etching, approx A5.
Again, it’s exciting to see how well the solarplate picks up every mark and nuance of the drawn line and watercolour washes, particularly at this larger size.
Because I had nothing better to do last week, I went on a course at the Ink Spot Press in Brighton to learn solarplate (photopolymer) etching.
Unlike tradition etching, photopolymer etching uses no acid, no wax, and no sticky smelly stopout varnish; produces no fumes and no dust; and doesn’t turn your hands yellow. In short, it’s safe.
The plate is etched by projecting ultraviolet light through a transparency of your design onto a polymer-coated aluminium plate. The light hardens the exposed polymer; you wash the plate in water, removing the soft parts, and revealing the etched lines. You then print the plate in exactly the same way as a traditionally etched plate.
Photopolymer etching seems to be promoted primarily as a means of creating etchings from photos, so my first plate was based on one of my photos.
House on the Paseo del Prado, Havana.
Solarplate etching on paper, approx A4.
I chose this photo from my trip to Cuba because I wanted to see how much detail the etching method would pickup. Compare it with the original photo:
Almost every detail!
Then I printed the plate in different colours.
This last one shows one of the problems with solarplate etching: if you cut the plate to size by using a Stanley knife, the polymer coating can split from the plate at the corners, leaving a gap into which ink creeps, and then spills out when you print.
More pictures later.
Finished! I’ve printed the final and darkest colour onto both versions of the “Havana” print, and the image at last comes into focus.
I haven’t checked the prints thoroughly yet, but there’s about six good prints of “Blue Havana”, and about eight of “Havana Gold”.
On with the next print…
I made a proof of the linocut in black ink, on the white background that I printed the other day, and decided that it still wasn’t working.
So I’ve made two new decisions: the print will be in colour, and it will be a reduction print (that is, there will be several layers printed on top of each other).
But one decision I can’t make is which colour.
The dominant part of this image is the shadows. Warm sunshine on white buildings creates blue shadows… But will blue still be too cold? Would a warm yellow/orange/brown be better?
Solution: Print half the edition in blue, and half the edition in brown.
As this is now going to be a reduction print, there will be more colours on top of this. Back to the cutting board to cut the next stage.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do with this linocut. I like the way the block has been cut, but don’t like the black-on-white…
…I’ve just realised that I haven’t mentioned what the subject of this print is. It’s based on a sketch (and some supporting photos) made from the roof terrace of the Ambos Mundos hotel in Havana, Cuba. It’s the hotel where Ernest Hemingway stayed back in the the 1930s, and has a great view across the rooftops of the city.
But the black-ink-on-white-paper of the linocut is too stark to get the feeling of Caribbean heat. So I’ve decided to go back a step: I’m changing the background of the print. I got another block of lino the same size, and then printed the flat block in warm white. (White plus a tiny amount of warm yellow.)
Here’s a picture of some white ink printed onto white paper!
This will be the background on which I will print the block that has been already cut. It should make the highlights warmer, and soften the contrast with the black ink.
For more sketches from Cuba, see my website.
So here’s the block that I have been working on for the last week. It’s all inked and ready to go through the press.
Hold your breath as it goes through the press…
It’s always a bit of shock when you take the first proof off the press, and see the image the right way round, after all that time staring at the reversed image.
But I like what I see. The clutter of buildings in the top right corner is working (there’s a nice play of white against black against white). The foreground right corner perhaps has too much detail, and the left side needs more definition.
But it’s going in the right direction. Back to the cutting board to complete the details.
I’ve spend about eight hours cutting this block. Every mark affects the next mark. In a linocut, the mark is either there or not there. To define a black shape, it must be surrounded by white (so you cut that bit out); but then to define that white shape, the next area must be black. The very first cut on the block decides the entire image.
I’ve done as much to this stage as I think I can; it’s time to take the first proof.