Monday, 30 May 2016

Assignment 2 Submission and Reflection

I've packed off my work for assignment 2:

Below I will reflect on each assignment.

Task 1 (Project 5) Test Cut Lino Prints

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
For this task I believe I demonstrated good technical and visual skills as I produced a range of clear prints with a variety of marks.
Materials - I explored a good range of lino blocks, techniques - I successfully burnished the paper on top of the block and tried stamping, observational skills - n/a, visual awareness - I cut up my block and tried new layouts of marks extending my design and compositional skills.
  • Quality of Outcome
For this criterion my strongest area was application of knowledge, and presentation of work in a coherent manner.
  • Demonstration of Creativity
By cutting up my blocks and exploring stamping with them I believe I demonstrated good creativity, imagination, experimentation, and invention.
  • Context

Task 2 (Project 6) Single Colour Linocut

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
By persevering with the cutting on this block I showed good technical skill in creating a print which represented a clear form with appropriate shadows.
Materials -  I explored a range of papers with good results. 
Techniques - I showed good cutting skill in this detailed design. 
Observational skills - persevering to maintain the form of the object showed good observational skill and visual awareness. 
Design and compositional skills were less successful, I wanted to explore tonal counterpoint but did not achieve this. The composition was not very exciting.
  • Quality of Outcome
The prints were clear with a variety of marks.
The application of knowledge, and presentation of work in a coherent manner was strong, with clear progression in my sketchbook. My conceptualisation of thoughts and communication of ideas was less strong as my original idea of exploring tonal counterpoint was not successful.
  • Demonstration of Creativity
The subject could have been more adventurous. I focused on exploring the medium from a more technical point of view, shadows, contours and marks, therefore this was not so successful in terms of imagination, experimentation, invention, or development of a personal voice,
  • Context
I did some good research into potential themes for this project, however, this was not carried into this or my other single linocuts. I need to apply these ideas to my design more next time, including doing more of this research right at the beginning of the assignment.

Task 3 (Project 7) Multi-block Print

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
 My cutting technique was good, I got clear marks including the perspective on the buildings, the registration was less successful.t I showed strong observational skills and visual awareness, through the use of perspective and devloped my design through several stages showing strong design and compositional skills.
  • Quality of Outcome
The registration could be improved, demonstrating better understanding of the assignment content, and application of knowledge. I presented my work in a coherent manner, with clear development of my idea recorded in my sketchbook and blog, demonstrating discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, and communication of ideas.
  • Demonstration of Creativity
This design was well developed, with substantial variations explored before finalising. I think this paid off in the finished composition which I think was well balanced. Through the range of variations in design layouts I produced I think I demonstrated imagination, experimentation, invention. I am yet to develop a personal voice.
  • Context
In this print I made good connections to the artist Mark Hearld and explored some of his compositional strategies.


In this assignment I have improved my practice significantly by using a sketch book more systematically. I have enjoyed the more detailed exploratory drawing and exploring ideas more deeply. I have started to develop some ideas which can be broader themes for future projects.

Areas to be Developed

 I still have some organisation problems. I did not use my sketchbook pages in order. I wanted to save pages so I could keep all the pages of an idea together which was not successful. I ended up with random gaps and ideas out of sequence. Next time I need to either just use pages in order come what may or find a way of using a sketch book where I can reorganise pages later if necessary. I will ask my tutor for advice on this. I also need to do more research earlier on in the assignment so I can make better connections to it in my artwork.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Multi Block Print

For my multi block print I chose to print a local mosque. I made sketches from several angles:

All of these were drawn from life and are in my small sketch book. I was looking at the contrast of textures between the trees and the geometric shapes of the buildings initially.

I chose a viewpoint and did some more detailed drawings, also in my little sketch book:

Inspired by Mark Hearld and his experimental collages, and his  use of collage to learn about composition and working in layers for printing, I used these in combination with photographs to develop some collages of potential layouts:

In this design I copied the shape of the melody of the call to prayer to create the lines in the sky. I didn't find this very effective, its contours were too narrow. 

This colour example used the same lines in the sky and I developed the sun more. I had wanted to include trees like this but found that the scale did not work. I had just cut my palm tree single colour block and knew how hard it would be to get a suitable texture to make this work as it would involve too much detail. I didn't like the trees like this, they were too crude.

In this example I developed the buildings more. I used perspective to give them a more clear form which I found very successful. I began to cut this design in separate blocks. I used a jig made from plywood for registration and glued the lino to plywood blocks.

I reinforced the use of perspective and shadows by adding texture to the bottom of the buildings. There will be another layer over this, this is to show through subtly.

I added highlights to the domes. I learnt from my shell print the importance of creating these highlights and shadows to show the form of the object.

I wanted to develop this so went back to Mark Hearld. 

He has birds in many of his compositions soaring across the skyline, this creates energy and movement. I tried this out in my design. I photocopied it and then added birds:

I was really pleased with the energy this created. However, I felt I should do a bit more investigation before settling on the design. I drew some birds, from photos, the birds here are all hiding from the sun:

I drew these with promarkers, I like these because they are translucent and I can layer colours with them. This will be very useful for exploring layers. I then created another collage, trying to maintain the energy of Hearld's soaring flocks with birds based on my own drawings:

I traced the birds from my drawings and got more natural, less stylised shapes.  I added this to the sky block and overprinted some of my plain sky blocks as a small reduction detail. I also cut birds from the lower block. I inverted the upper birds when I cut them, an idea inspired by Hearld, and his use of tonal counterpoint. In this print where the birds are printed over dark blue they do not appear inverted, they only appear inverted when they are printed over white in later prints.

In this print I also didn't ink the purple over the bottom half of the block so the lower birds show up more clearly as they are printed against a white background. 

I cut a bit more away from the purple block for the final print as I wanted some white to show through to balance with the birds in the sky, which now appear inverted, however these did not show up well. I had to experiment with colour mixing a lot to get a colour for the bottom section which showed through the texture of the bottom block, although this is not very clear in the photo. I used a lot of extender to make the translucent layer.

What was successful?

In this print the use of perspective, including the underprinting of shadows of the purple on the buildings was successful as it gave the buildings form, making the image make more sense visually. The two colours layered also created depth.

The addition of the birds was also very succesful, creating interest and movement in the composition.

What was not successful?

Registration, as I do not have access to ready mounted cut lino, or a hardware shop that can cut wood really accurately, my blocks were not exactly the same size. It was really hard to transfer the image onto the exact position on the block. I transferred the design with acrylic medium and a photocopy, pasted on, then the paper gently removed. This left some residue on the blocks making it hard to get a completely even print.The wood blocks were also not completely flat making the blocks uneven so I had to burnish some areas really hard to get a good print. Possibly this design would have been more suited to the reduction method. The highlights I added to the lower birds did not show well due to registration problems and this affected the balance.

I should have had some purple in the sky, I think a fourth colour, yellow highlights would also have lifted this.  By adding some purple texture in the sky  I could have explored layering of the purple and blue. Yellow highlights across the design it would have unified it and accented the birds. I realise now how difficult it is to add details like this after cutting has begun, and how well developed the design needs to be before printing starts.

Ideas to be developed:

Next time I do a multi block print I will choose a design like this one by David Salle where the blocks are of completely different images:

First Linocuts

When I signed up to introduction to printmaking, I was most excited about linocut and totally baffled by monoprints. I love the graphic simplicity of artists like Edward Bawden and the early 20th century aesthetic they created with their prints. So, before I had got into the habit of starting a learning log, or a sketchbook I did quite a few test prints. I had a few different kinds of lino so it made sense to try them all.

The first was EZcut. I had a big block and basic speedball cutters. I tried to create as many different textures as possible.

I was really pleased with this, found the block easy to cut and print. However, I did find the block quite stretchy so if I was trying to cut a detailed design it might get distorted.

Next I decided to cut up the block and use it as a stamp to make these prints. When cutting the EZcut it was very stretchy and was hard to get clean edges. I discovered very quickly why the course material specify putting the paper on top of the ink, not stamping with the block, as the transfer of ink is not as good as I couldn't burnish the paper.

 Not deterred by this I cut another couple of small blocks to use as stamps in a more planned print. I took more time and got better transfer of ink and really enjoyed exploring overlapping colours and textures in this simple print.

I took my little flower and cut something a bit bigger next. This was also EZcut. I wanted to cut something more planned so I could see how accurately I could transfer my drawing to the block. The curved lines were harder, and creating lines that overlap was also hard as it required a lot of accuracy. This block is possibly too easy to cut, the cutter glides through and can be hard to control. Despite this my print was quite close to my drawing and I learnt a lot about the process.

 The following 2 blocks are a different kind of lino. The large one was a black rubber block, but it is much harder than the EZcut. I found this harder to cut and print with. The second is another soft rubber block similar to EZcut. I don't know the brand names of these as they are offcuts from school.

This last test block was battleship grey lino. I liked this the best as I was able to get the most accurate and detailed cuts and it made a clear even print. I used this kind of lino for all of the rest of assignment 2.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition

Living in Saudi Arabia, and not being in a city, I have very limited access to art galleries. Recently I saw an exhibition of Arabic calligraphy advertised and thought this would be an interesting opportunity to see some traditional artwork. However, unfortunately it was not hand written calligraphy like I hoped, it was created digitally.

This was titled La Liah Ella Allah, it was not completely clear, I think it means 'There is no Deity Except God'

This was not titled

This was titled 'Names of Allah'

This was titled 'No Refuge Except to Allah'

There was no artist details.

The calligraphy itself is  a reproduction of a handmade process, layered over a digital background. The backgrounds are ethereal in their textures and colours, supporting the sentiment of the words. The lines of the text are active, image 1 contains strong diagonal lines sweeping round to sharp points at the top, this is in strong contrast to the background soft textures, giving the words more impact.

Christian art more often relies on symbolism and imagery to convey its message, which are not allowed in Islam. However, I can see clear connections with this painting and the calligraphy above:

This painting is also ethereal in its background textures, with shimmering light glimmering through hazy cloud-like textures of soft colours. It also uses strong lines in the composition, giving emphasis to the symbolic images of Mary and the Holy Trinity, which are arranged in a bold triangle shape. 

Baroque art, such as the Velázquez painting, reflected 17th century religious tensions;  the Catholic 

Church's desire to reassert itself in the wake of the Protestant Reformation (, 2016), thus this artwork had a politically charged message despite not having any words to express this message.
The difference to me is that I think an image gives you freedom to make your own opinion, despite the fact that the Christian symbolism may be pretty well drilled into those of us who have grown up in Christian countries, including on deep subconscious levels, so that interpretation of the image may not be as free as we like to think. Words can be more definitive and specific, instructions are

given in words and symbols in all cultures. 

After viewing these I did some research into other artist's that use text in their work.

A contemporary artist who uses  calligraphy with a very different effect is Shirin Neshat in her series 

'The calligraphy is Persian poetry about themes such as exile, identity, femininity, and martyrdom...The words that are written on the women's skin demonstrate the literal and symbolic voice of women whose sexuality and individualism have been obliterated in public by the veil.'

The script itself - Being in Arabic it has cultural connotations and, especially to many Western viewers, is connected to Islam.
The content of the words - exile, identity, femininity and martyrdom, all politically charged subjects
Placement - By placing it on parts of the body which are normally covered in Iran it is connected to the veil.
All of these are of course interrelated reinforcing the bold political statement of the work. I am interested in what the impact of these works would be if patterns of lines and shapes were used instead of words to represent the veil. If they were instead lines, bold straight or curved like the script the effect would have some similarities, in mimicking the veil, bold lines making a statement about the veil in one form, delicate lines making a different statement. If those patterns of lines were connected to a culture such as Islamic tessellations what would the impact be then? How significant is the content of the words to the impact of the work?  The words themselves are small making neat lines, difficult to read unless seen up close, they are a symbol as much as their content is significant. In comparison, the decorative calligraphy from the exhibition is more elegant and ornate, representing grace, the meaning of the words is clear. 

Taking this back to printmaking I found a contemporary Australian artist who uses text in linocut, Angela Cavalieri 

Photo taken from Sydney Morning Herald

She created a linocut of words swirling in the air between the mouths that spoke them:

She has also taken the music and lyrics of Monteverdi and created visual representations using the words:

'As I had been using ‘text as image’ in my artwork, I found an affinity with the idea of ‘word painting’ in music, that I discovered while researching Monteverdi. As well as looking at the original poetry that was used to create the madrigal, I also looked at musical scores and listened to recordings. From this I visualised how the scene or sound would look. This was my response to how I imagined the madrigal could be created visually rather than aurally.' ("Ulysses Is Back: And This Time He's Got Pictures")

Being a music teacher I am familiar with Monteverdi madrigals, they are secular rennaissance vocal works, often complex pieces of many independent parts. 

Word painting is creating sounds that mirror the words, a common example is descending passages on the word 'descending'.

In the artwork Ragionando above the text is Italian, as is Cavalieri. She does not live in Italy but proudly explores her Italian heritage through this artwork. The language does not have the same initial impact to a Western viewer as the Persian or Arabic script as it is not instantly recognisable, being a Roman alphabet. Closer investigation reveals the origin of the words. I am interested in the shapes she has chosen to represent the madrigal, I would have interpreted it as being a much more complex structure with more variation in the lines. There is overlapping and twisting of lines, but the four rows of text moving together to me suggests that the music would do the same, which is very much not the case in a Monteverdi Madrigal, unison or homophonic sections are only a small part of the texture, more often the parts move independently in polyphonic movement. The pieces are often through-composed, the circle form to me suggests something that moves around and returns to its origins, a madrigal does not do this. So I wonder if she has taken this interpretation from the meaning of the words. Which brings me back to the artworks examined above by Neshat and the Arabic calligraphy; does using text diminish purely visual (or in this case musical) concepts? By using words does the more subtle symbolism of visual language get drowned out?

References (2016). Baroque Art: Definition, Styles, History. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2016].

"Teachartwiki - Shirin Neshat, Women Of Allah Series". N.p., 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.

"Ulysses Is Back: And This Time He's Got Pictures". N.p., 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.