Printmaking 2: Assignment 1 – ‘Birmingham Custard Factory’

For this assignment I began by doing some observational drawings and watercolour sketches of parts of Coventry. I did one sketch from a local art gallery, The Herbert, overlooking an area of the city (see images below):



View from The Herbert 1.








View from The Herbert 2.








Over the course of part 1 I’d done a fair amount of observational drawings in and around Coventry Centre so I felt like a change of location for inspiration might be helpful. I spent the day in Birmingham to do some sketches of different urban locations to see if any of these might inspire a series of prints.

My drawings are in my sketchbook but I also took some photographs as references for the way the scene looked at that time of day.

Photograph of Birmingham City Centre seen from Waterstones book store 1.










Photograph of Birmingham City Centre seen from Waterstones book store 2.










I visited one area just away from the centre, a street of shops/businesses know as ‘The Custard Factory’. This is where birds Custard used to make their products. I spent some time sketching and photographing this unique little area of Birmingham. I found that it was interesting enough to consider pursuing it as an idea for a series of prints.

Birmingham ‘Custard Factory’ area, photo 1.









Birmingham ‘Custard Factory’ area, photo 2.









I wanted to keep the same view of the area as the linking factor but add variation into the prints by printing in a series of different colour palettes. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to revisit the location and do observational drawings of the scene at different times of day or in different lights etc. I tried to research some other print-makers colour palette’s as inspiration for my own colour ideas, this also is in my sketchbook.

Watercolour sketch of colour variation 1.








Watercolour sketch of colour variation 2.








The printing process was fairly complex, I had three different coloured blocks to print for each colourway. I had chosen three different colourways, so this meant a fair amount of printing needed to take place.

Block one yellow colour layer ready for printing.








Block two blue layer ready for printing.








I worked with Schminke Water-Based Inks to try and ensure a quicker drying time between the different coloured layers. I think that whilst this did speed the process up I actually prefer the final print quality of Caligo Oil based relief inks. The oil based ink tends to apply more evenly and cleanly to the paper.

Prints in progress!









I’m writing this awhile after completing the work so I think and after having had the tutor review. If I’m honest with myself I’m not 100% convinced of the composition of the final image, my tutor pointed out as an example that the pond wasn’t too effective and I agree it lacks enough detail and the white areas seem a little odd. I will also agree that the perspective of the buildings is a bit off, this is something I could see already but didn’t know how to rectify or adjust for myself.

In some ways I’m disappointed with the outcome of this assignment. I much prefer the prints I made for project 1 both in terms of subject matter (they were of Packwood House) and in terms of the colours I printed with. I’m not sure whether I just need to revisit the subject and sort out the colour schemes/plan more thoroughly or whether I should just pick a different subject to draw from altogether.

I think the linocut print that was most successful was the blue and yellow coloured ‘night time’ view of the Birmingham Custard Factory. The grey and red is in my view the least successful and I think my lack of planning for that colour combination shows in the end result. It doesn’t really demonstrate any particular time of day or atmosphere, I think it just looks confused!

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