Really, the main reason for this landscape print was that it took me ages to carve the tree for a previous print (Sleeping Dragon) and it seemed a shame to not use it again for a perhaps more ‘conventional’ image. So, I re-carved the tree, added it to a new foreground and used another block of Lino for a fairly generic background that isn’t based on anything in reality but that appealed to me. However, when I inked up and printed the background, I was quite taken with how serene it looked, to the point where I wasn’t sure whether I should put the tree on or not. In the end, I left half the prints with no tree and printed up the others with a tree. There are also a number of different background colours too. I am intending to make both available in my Etsy shop later this week.
Orkney 1 – The Ring of Brodgar
The week before Christmas 2021, we visited Orkney. It was a last minute decision, but to a place I’ve wanted to go for many years; I have always wanted to see the majestic Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stennes, amongst many other ancient and magical sites that I’ve read about for so long. It certainly didn’t disappoint and we picked the perfect week – not too cold, no rain to speak of and very few other visitors. I imagine that during the Summer months it gets pretty crowded, but for us it was ideal. I knew I would get some photographs from which I would be able to make some good prints, but what I didn’t account for was a visit to The Vintage Paper Company in Stromness, where I bought some superb, 1957 Whatman paper. It was thrilling to chat to the owner, a person so passionate about paper, and to look at some of what they have there – sheets of paper from 1785 and even from the 1600s!
This print of The Ring of Brodgar is on the 1957 paper which is such a joy to use and takes the ink so well. It’s a two block print and it’s come out pretty much as I anticipated, hopefully capturing some of the atmosphere we experienced. We were there for the Winter Solstice and found ourselves alone.
Hard Man, Lover
Sometimes I know where the inspiration for an image comes from, and sometimes I have absolutely no idea. This is one of the ones that I have no idea about. It could be something I heard someone say, something I’ve read, something I’ve seen – I just don’t know. I did once write a song called “Fifteen Feet” (to be found on the ‘Music’ page of this site) that has a chorus with the lines, “Well it’s knuckles that say Love, and a heart that’s full of hate” so perhaps it was remembering that which sparked off the idea. Either way, I quite like it. It’s a nice change to do a simple, one colour print. It’s also available in my Etsy shop.
New Lino Cutting Tool
After ripping my fingers to shreds, using a tenon saw on a recent image (see previous post) I decided to try and make a more accurate and safe tool with which to achieve the effect I was after. Shown here is the result; a strip cut off the aforementioned tenon saw, glued into the handle of a size 10 paint brush. I have also done the same thing using a size 6 brush – they both work really well!
There is a tree, in the car park at Sitwell Infant School, Rotherham, which has a root system that has started growing out of the ground, and looks just like a dragon, curled around the base of the trunk. On the many occasions when I have been waiting to pick my little boy up from school, I have studied the shapes and eventually, felt the need to draw it with a view to creating an image. I remembered a few years ago when I visited Malham Cove in Yorkshire, and took a photograph of the tree on top of the cove (the tree that almost everyone with a camera will take a picture of!) which sits on the limestone pavements. The dragon needed a better tree than the one in the car park, so the images were combined to make the one shown here. More out of idleness than anything else I guess, I didn’t want to carve all the limestone rocks and crevices so tried using the teeth of a tenon saw to scrape fine lines leading towards the focal point ie. the dragon. This worked pretty well (if a little inaccurate) apart from slicing my fingers to ribbons by holding the blade of the saw! (see next post) The image seen here, fits nicely into an A4 frame – a bit bigger than is unusual for me.
You Can Just…
Whilst researching old steel workers and coal miners in South Yorkshire, and particularly Rotherham, I came across some footage of workers at Parkgate Iron and Steel Company, Rotherham from 1901. The footage shows children and adults smiling and playing up for the camera, some dancing, some apparently fighting and just generally looking quite happy, if puzzled, about the cameras actually being there. The blurb that accompanies the film talks about the smiling faces but, it says, some people were angry and some even fighting. However, the two men ‘fighting’ are obviously laughing and the young man who flicks a V sign at the camera is clearly not angry but is full of devilment, and probably doing it for a dare. This is the moment I screen-captured for this print; in my opinion, typical, down-to-earth Northern humour.
It did start me wondering, have there always been those in society, either really or metaphorically flicking a V sign, whilst everyone else follows the general pattern of behaviour? When Stonehenge was being built, or the pyramids being constructed, was there always at least one man who stood back and, sticking two fingers up, said, “Fuck off! What are you doing that for?” Are those people the artists?
If God Invented Owt Better…
For many years now, I have kept a little book in which I note down anything I hear people say or anything I might read that either amuse me or that I just want to remember. Quite obviously (I hope!) based on “Absinthe” by Edward Degas, the idea for this image came to me as we were setting our gear up on the stage for a gig at Maltby Catholic WMC a couple of years ago. The concert chairman climbed into his little box at the side of the stage, took the first sup of his pint of bitter (beer), smacked his lips and said, “If God invented owt better, he hid it.” He undoubtedly said this every night but it amused me and the phrase had to go into my book. There was a later conversation across the room when he asked if a lady had any plasters in her bag as he had cut his finger. She answered that she hadn’t, so he asked what he was going to do. Her answer also had to go into my book – “Tha’ll have to bleed to death won’t tha’!” It was all very light-hearted and full of laughter, typical Northern humour.
Sheffield – My Home Town
Back when I was at university studying art, I based a series of prints on Park Hill Flats, in my hometown of Sheffield. Many considered them to be an eye-sore but I always loved the lines and angles and especially how the new mixed with the old – quite a common feature of the architecture in the city at the time. I took many photographs, this being one that I never actually used at the time. The current government has an obvious disdain for the North of Britain, and clearly don’t care or really know anything about the region in which I live, the pandemic heightening this utter disregard. I have always been a reasonably proud Yorkshireman but never quite as much as I am now – angered and saddened by the aforementioned lack of thought about anywhere north of Watford. I am made in Sheffield.
These were the background layer but I think I actually prefer them in some ways to the finished image with all the detail.
If you’d asked me to draw a picture of Bacchus (Roman god of wine and pleasure – originally of fertility) I’m not sure what it would have come out like, but this face is taken directly from a knotty lump on a tree in Clifton Park, Rotherham, that just shouted out “Face!” at me! I quickly drew it, cut and printed it, only then realising that it was exactly how I imagine the god Bacchus to look – bucolic, laughing and with an ever-so-slightly manic look in his eyes. I usually try my very best to not have the surrounding background ‘chatter’ or ‘noise’ in a print, but on this occasion felt it somehow added to the laughter emanating from his face.
A one-off print for a very special little girl’s third birthday. She is already skating and loves being on the ice. The colour has been chosen specifically as it has a link to her name – other colours are available!