Printmaking 2: Assignment 3 Chiaroscuro

I began this assignment with setting up a simple still life. I tried to incorporate the elements asked for by the assignment, such as some form of drapery, dramatic lighting but in a way which was a bit more modern than the typical arrangements of renaissance Chiaroscuro pieces.

Below are some photographs of the still life arrangement from different angles:

Still Life from further away.












Closer angle of still life.









Landscape framing of still life.









Portrait framing of still life.











I found using a frame helped me to consider the perspective and cropping of the still life when it came to creating a compositional sketch. I did three observational sketches (which you can see in my large sketchbook). I felt that a closer more tightly cropped view of the still life was better for the chiaroscuro method. I did like the arrangement of glass bottles at the top of the still life, particularly because of the way the light interacted with them but felt this made the image look very busy overall.

In my sketchbook I worked from my chosen observational drawing to create a colour study in blue tones of a potential print. I felt that the composition was balanced enough, and the tonal group worked well enough to begin breaking down my image into individual layered blocks.

I decided to work with three coloured blocks rather than the 4 used in the previous project. This was largely due to feeling that the tonal range was more stark or clear across three colours rather than four. It was also due in part to some study I did into artist Neil Bousfield.

I mentioned Neil Bousfield’s prints in a research post but it’s worth me saying here that I found his approach to tonal or chiaroscuro prints refreshing. I was inspired particularly by his series ‘Portfolio of Objects 2013’ (see an example from the series below).

‘Fork Knife Spoon’ Wood Engraving by Neil Bousfield









His work influenced how I approached my still life arrangement – I wanted to include some everyday items, kitchen utensil’s etc alongside more personally pleasing objects like the dried flowers and owl print jar. I also found inspiration in his approach to texture or mark making in his prints. I felt this gave another dimension to the prints so when it came to carving the block I made sure to add some cross hatching and line details which I would normally avoid.

In my sketchbook I carried out some reflective analysis of the artist proof stage of my prints – working from a blue toned series of prints. Once I was satisfied that the printing blocks were in a good state for printing I set about doing a series of four blue toned print. I tried three different papers, a Fabriano book printing paper (very lightweight), Japanese Simili paper in cream and thicker textured paper.

Mid – tone lino block for blue print.









Blue Still Life Print 1/4.









Blue Still Life Print 2/4.









Blue Still Life Print 3/4.









Blue Still Life Print 4/4.









I think I learnt from the mistakes I made from the previous project, by using mostly thinner papers for these prints. I felt the print quality was much clearer, crisper using these papers than the thicker one.

Inspired again by Bousfield’s print series I wanted to try working with a similar colour scheme to one of his pieces. So my second series of prints were of a red/orange tonal group. I am surprised to say I actually prefer the red/orange colour group to the blue prints. Perhaps I’m just drawn to a slightly warmer looking image, the blue tone I think makes the arrangement look more serious and I think perhaps drains some of the notion of the objects being familiar or appealing to me.

Prints in progress.









Red/Orange Still Life Print 1/4.









Red/Orange Still Life Print 2/4.









Red/Orange Still Life Print 3/4.









Red/Orange Still Life Print 4/4.









On reflection I think there’s a few elements which were successful in these prints. I think the tonal values were clear and crisp and that was an achievement. I also think compositionally the image works well, it’s balanced and different areas are highlighted across the piece with the contrast of light to dark tone segments. I’m happy too with the effect adding more textural marks has had on the piece overall, it feels more dynamic and less flat than previous works.

In terms of improvements – I think some more variation/experimentation with different tonal groups could be interesting, even printing on different coloured papers. I do also wonder if there needed to be more finer details from the darkest toned layer just to help define and clarify some of the items in the print, for example some of the kitchen utensils in the pot merge into one because of there being no defined lines around each one.

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