In my last post, I had made studies of these hedgerows plants and combined them into a preparatory drawing on the brink of its journey to be made into a linoprint. The transition from drawing to print proved to be quite a challenge, but one that I enjoyed enormously.
If you haven’t tried it, linoprinting is the most absorbing and consuming activity. Hours can pass by as you carve out your design. It is such a pleasurable and compulsive process that I am always tempting to do “just a little more” as the day comes to a close, but that is when the mistakes can be made, a slip of the hand can irrevocably remove a section and once removed, it cannot be stuck back. So, I have learned to stop before I get tired, down tools and look carefully at the progress made to begin afresh the next day.
This design was certainly the most challenging I have attempted. There were lots of intricate details and new subject matter to negotiate. How could I carve a bee? The legs and antennae are so delicate and in lino it is hard to carve out such tiny features as the lino can easily crumble, ruining the look of the piece.
So I took a different, more cautious approach.
In carving the roses, I decided to have a trial run in the form of a card. I wanted to flowers to have a look of those of the woodblocks in the early English Herbals., in particular John Gerard’s “The Herball” or “General Historie of Plantes”, published in 1597.I wanted them to have a slightly stylised quality. I am trying to take a more imaginative approach to the depiction of the flowers too, trying to capture their “spirit” of the plant and their habit, and not slavishly follow their anatomical detail.
I made two designs, one more like a Tudor rose and the other more botanical. The first attempt didn’t work at all. I carved out the inside of the petals to try to leave just an outline, but it looked clumsy and the design was simply too small to work. So my second attempt reversed the design and I was much happier with it.
I did the same with the bee. As the bee was central to the design, the thought of making a hash of it, and having to begin the carving all over again, was too much and so I made a couple of single bees until I could see what worked.
Each afternoon I carved away while listening to PG Wodehouse’s “Blandlings Castle” and Ruth Rendell, diverse but happy company.
In carving designs with large negative spaces, where there are no raised carved areas, it can show through on the print as it goes through the press, and so I spent extra time smoothing these out and turning the lino round and round checking for any parts that needed refining.
This was a very happy print to make and I decided to call it "Sumer is Icumen in" after a
favourite Medieval song, or round, that celebrates the coming of Summer. You can find it in my website shop and on Etsy.