My first project of second year printmaking involves creating prints inspired by the natural landscape. In the post continued below I consider and evaluate my process prior to create a print…
I began the research element of the project by visiting a Packwood House – a National Trust House/Gardens set in the countryside of Warwickshire. I arrived early in the morning and set about doing several quick 15 min sketches.
I chose to focus on a view which allowed me to see some of the buildings of Packwood alongside it’s garden. Packwood is well known for it’s topiary trees/bushes, and I liked the idea of including them in a drawing or print.
I began with a sketch which focused on the back of the house/main buildings with a hint of the garden scenery around it (see photo above). Whilst I liked this view I decided to try and sketch some others. Turning towards the right hand side of the scene was a much broader view of the gardens and some smaller buildings and walls.
I preferred the focal point of the sketch above but wanted to make sure I drew several different perspectives of the scene so moved focal point along to the right to draw the scene below.
I then decided I liked my second viewpoint better and returned to it to do a more detailed 30 min sketch. I tried to capture a sense of the direction of the sun/way the light fell on the buildings and the shadows. I also made some marks for the bricks and tiles, some of the textures of the topiary bushes. I tried to also mark out the darker areas, so for instance the trees in the background seemed darkest, as well as areas of the shrub in the foreground which were in the shade. You can see this in the sketch below:
Now at this point I will admit I was freezing so I didn’t complete a colour study on location. Instead I made a few notes of colours and took a photo to reference when I got home. I then used watercolours to try and capture an accurate sense of the colours of the scene (see photo below).
I tried to capture the variation in colour in the brickwork and amongst the topiary bushes/shrubs. But looking at the watercolour sketch now I can see I didn’t do much to capture the texture of the shrubs or bushes in the foreground. I also think the dark black for the trees in the background is slightly misleading they were probably in reality more blue looking than a solid black.
From this point I felt I had enough to go on to begin a larger drawing or design in preparation for printing. I decided to enlarge the scene by drawing a sketch of it which was around A4 landscape size. I realise now that I probably jumped a little too quickly into scaling up my initial sketch. I may have to go back to my early sketches and use a frame or L-shaped cards to see what different viewpoints or perspectives would look like.
I’ve been inspired recently by a Printmaking Collective called ‘Printenstein’ – it’s made up of a group of 5 women and is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m mentioning them because I was inspired by one of their prints (see below), to create a different sense of framing or the edge of the print in my designs.
I really love the curved corners of the print above by Alexandra Dvornikova – I think it just softens the whole image overall and gives it a playful feel.
So I set about drawing a design with curved or rounded edges rather than straight lines. I also set about painting different colour palettes and using watercolour to paint my design in these alternative colour ideas.
Whilst the first colour palette above seemed to be a more truthful colour representation of what my eyes saw at Packwood house It feels flat and I felt like it lacked warmth. I wanted to try adding warmth to the natural colours so set about trying to get a softer look in the second colour palette below.
I feel like the second colour palette gives a more balanced/warmer feel to the image as a whole which I prefer. I think the blue sky colour helps lift the image making it feel less glum, although truth be told it’s winter and the light does actually on a grey day leave anywhere looking dull.
For my third colour palette I tried something a little different. I used Pro Marker pens over blocks of coloured tissue paper to create the colours. My thought process behind this was to try and mimic or mock up a chine colle style print. I was trying to think of ways to introduce blocks of colour without having to do 6 or 7 individual lino blocks. It occurred to me that I could get the base shade of stone and a underlying shade of green by using tissue paper applied to the print using the chine colle method.
Admittedly the colours are very vibrant and saturated in this colour palette – partly because I didn’t have pastel or lighter colour versions of pens. But I actually quite like the blue of the sky and the darker shade of blue for the shadows.
I was however concerned that the colours in the third palette were too bold so set about drawing a forth colour palette using more muted tones based on the bolder colours.
I tried to mix a balance of warm toned and cool toned colours in the fourth colour palette. I think it probably best represents the natural balance of warmth and coolness in the scene and allows the shadows and highlights to become clearer. But I don’t like the clouds being two toned. I think I need to pick one colour or just white for the clouds to allow the top branches of the trees to be clearer.
One of the things I’m worried about is how to use colour to capture a sense of feel for the place itself. The view I saw in Packwood house was really dominated by the greenery and the contrasting red/orange brick work. So I could simplify the palette to red/green/black. But that loses a sense of the effect of the season on the landscape, despite the warmth of the red brick and vibrancy of the greenery the scene felt cold because of the blue/grey winter light. So I could almost forget the natural colours and go for a colder tonal feel, maybe even a blue/black/white.
I want to do a couple more colour studies and then I’ll decide on how I want to make my print. I will also let this influence whether or not I print using the Chine Colle method. My temptation is not to try that method because it’s trickier but I also know part of the module requires pushing oneself out of natural comfort zones…