Reportage: Lino cutting Process movie

In this video I talk about the process I used to make my lino cut/digital prints.


Boxed Derive

All the grooves on the box make cameras queasy when they look at this.

As previously stated, the first part of our Final outcome was to be a boxed set of images. I played with the idea of making my own box, but I’m terrible with my hands, which can be rectified easily enough, but not within this given timeframe. I would hate to spend more time working on the box than the stuff to go in the box, so I bought a box. However unprofessional the contents maybe, at least the container meet certain Standard. It’sA4 sized, and I think my series of prints which are something like and minimalist Gallery display sort of thing, synergise quite well. But hey that’s just my opinion. The title on the box: we drop you anywhere, is a taxi sign I saw during the walk. Keeping with the gallows humour that was integral to the tour itself, it’s almost a message from Jack the Ripper saying I deliver corpses all over the place: I’ll drop you(r corpse) anywhere. It’s the wittiest thing you’ve ever heard isn’t it? I know, I know. However will you continue your life knowing it’s just peaked? Trying to link the tour to the people to the place is no mean feat. At least there is a little bit of wordplay in here. And since we were only allowed to use either letterpress or found fonts, he makes the best of what you can find. Honestly, letter pressing the title would probably cripple me, since nothing stops me in my tracks harder and longer than having too many options.

Final Outcome: Derive Movie

The second final outcome for this project was to create a movie to accompany the boxed sets of six prints the capture the experience of location. When I went on the Jack the Ripper tour, I recorded a great deal of audio. It was incredibly interesting, Firstly that people would pay money to walk around London and it Have some guy’s point at the floor and say this is where jack the ripper killed this person. On top of that, there was a surprising amount of humour, albeit gallows humour, throughout the walk.

In trying to capture the experience of the place, I tried to avoid making Jack the Ripper the Central theme of the video. It’s more about the relationship between the people who are going on the walk and the place itself. There were almost constant police and ambulance sirens being heard in the background. I’m not sure how successful this is, because it’s difficult for me to look at it objectively, but the very least, you can expect to have a chuckle, and I will say, making people laugh is very high on my priority list in life in general, and if my work is making people chuckle, then that is part of my unique selling point and bodes well for my future professional endeavours

Digital Retouching

I added green to the scarf in post production. The fence as well.

As a result of both the medium and my lack of experience with it, My lino cuts were always going to be somewhat crude. At some point I had the idea of taking my lino prints and adding finishing touches to them after-the-fact. Just because the brief says I have to use a certain medium doesn’t mean I have to be held back by my inability to do it justice. To that end, I’ve taken my prints into photo shop to help tell my story in more understandable way. I think this is very much in example of understanding what’s going on in my head but maybe not necessarily representing it purely through the work I’ve created. Which is to say: I know exactly what this is, but who says you do?

I added green to the scarf of the Jack the Ripper tour guide an added certain elements that would’ve been too difficult to render with the lino cutting tools like the chain link fence and one of the pictures. Did I mention this is based on a Jack the Ripper tour I took and the experience of it, the place and the people? I probably should’ve said that earlier shouldn’t I? But that’s the great thing about art: now you know what it is, but you might prefer your version from when you have no idea what it was. Just like Batman, there’s a version for everybody.

Revisiting Lino cutting

My lino printouts with the blocks at the bottom

As I thought I would, I have decided to lino cut my final outcomes. I got myself some sort of cheap set off Amazon and away we go. The set comes with a wonderful hand guard which doubles as a means of securing the linoleum in-place so it doesn’t move while I am cutting it with some very sharp things. Unlike the ink used at the University, which is oil-based, the stuff that came with my set is water-based. The ink tries extremely quickly, which is both a pro and a con. The oil based stuff is better for sharing and reusing the ink, but when it’s just you, your kitchen table and your lino blocks ready to go, water-based is fine.

There’s something gratifying about leaning into work to focus on the subtle hand movements you’re making and of course to make sure you don’t screw them up. As I was getting a feel for the tools I was using, I was able to think more about what I could do for future projects. Lino cutting is a lot like drawing with a knife. You also have to think and terms of negatives, since the stuff you are cutting away with the knife is actually the whitespace, not the actual shapes of your Image.

Having to get a feel for how much ink to put on the linoleum, how slowly to peel back the paper after it’s been applied to the printing block, which kind tall to use for which the area, all of these things require personal experience, trial and error and in the long run, will become second nature. These are the things about learning craft that make it enjoyable. Until an entire batch is destroyed and all you have to show for your pains Is a sad, sad face. But that’s why you measure twice and cut once, right?

Stop motion and Screen printing

Acetate covered with some colouring pencils and a sugar paper silhouette. This was to test how different materials would handle the screen printing process. Alas, it remains unused.

Students were invited to create a small set out of a cardboard box and do some sort of stop motion animation. Unfortunately, the time allotted and the breadth of activities students were expected to undertake in one day was too exhaustive to finish during that time. One of my problems with the derive brief has constantly been this notion that I’m missing the point. Were constantly shown stuff that encourages a certain type of thinking, but sometimes it’s not clear if the processes were being shown and the way they’ve been used all supposed to directly influence our final outcomes or if they are supposed to show us potential options and nothing more.

The creation of a set in a box, as I understand it, is not a mandatory part of the brief, but on several occasions, we were shown things that made it seem like it might be. I’m constantly outside of my comfort zone as part of my university course, but I have to draw the line stop frame animation. I put together is set, rather badly, I might add, ran out of time and elected is to spend my time doing other things. The ratio of work put in to work put out is just too extreme for me when it comes to animation. If you’re going to do it you have to go all in, and that must be underpinned with a passion and a drive. Thanks but no thanks.

I’ll talk about my abortive screen printing workshop here as well. We spent the day trying to find new ways to screen print, but it’s a long, involved process. I ran out of time before I could prepare a screen and use it. For me, screen printing juxtaposes with Lino cutting in that one of them I can do my leisure in my own home, and one of them requires facilities. Arguably all I need is the actual screen printing screen, and I could then print on my proverbial kitchen table as well, but I feel like screen printing was developed for mass production and isn’t an inappropriate medium for producing just one copy of something.

I think a key part of being a professional is about knowing what tools to use and when it is appropriate. I have every intention of making and selling T-shirts some way somehow, but I think, until I start doing that, screen printing is something I’m not going to commit to. I was rather hoping of a final year student that I could start enhancing my strengths instead of continuing to jump into the deep end both feet first. Still, you can learn a lot about what you do like by what you don’t, so it’s all useful in the long run.


A rough mock up of my final design

Letterpress caries a lot of the same arguments for and against it that lino cutting does. It is the analogue counterpart to the Digital which is industry-standard. I am not particularly fond of typography, but I do find that working with real physical letters and having to arrange them on a plate at 1:1 scale for printing is a far more satisfactory endeavour than sitting at a computer going down a list of fonts only to just end up using Helvetica.

Kim, the letterpress technician, was astonishingly succinct with good advice and excellent feedback for the students. I’m sure it helped that the physical restrictions of the letterpress room meant that only a handful of students could be in the room at any given time. Letterpress is 100% about minutia, which I normally despise. I’m definitely a broad strokes kind of guy, but letterpress is about arranging these pieces of wood or metal into certain positions. To ignore the minutia is to miss the entire point.

Another reason I enjoyed the session so much is it’s because it’s one of the few times alright actually develops my work through the process of iterations, which I actually think it’s super important. Sometimes, you have a idea in your head and you do and it works. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just try and do lots of small variations, making sure, of course, that they are quick and easy to test. Kim also worked proofing into the production method, a case of measure twice cut once.

This workshop was a good example of how doing something you wouldn’t normally like in the presence of people who are passionate about it can lead to you to change your mind. As much as this was about the technicalities of letterpress, it was also and insights into the value of working with certain people.

Lino Cutting

My linocut santa corn flakes box. Wait what?

Students were introduced to Lino cutting as part of the derive project. Since the final outcomes had to be either lino cut or screen printed, this was very useful. I have a strong bias towards digital because I’m so reluctant to use materials where a mistake is permanent and you have to write off the costs involved. Lino cutting is about using woodwork tools to shave areas away from a piece of thin linoleum to create your own printing block. If your hand slips, you’re stuck with the results.

The flip side is that excellence is less easy to dismiss. Digital artists are easy to dismiss because as the apocryphal saying goes “all you have to do is push a button and the computer does it for you.” Lino cutting is something of a craft, and someone who is good at it can be said to be something of an artisan. A 13-year-old who can put together slick YouTube videos or photo shop illustrations is hardly going to be lauded the same way that 13-year-old would be if they had achieved a certain level of mastery with lino cutting. We all bring our biases with us, after all.

The romanticism of the craft isn’t lost on me. I didn’t really understand the process when it came to bringing imagery suitable to turn into linocut print, but the flexibility of the processes, the modest price points of the materials, and the fact that I can literally do this on my kitchen table and therefore use this going forward after graduation make it quite likely I will visit the medium again.

Reportage: life drawing

Liverpool street station

Our first task was to go to either Liverpool Street tube station or Fournier Street and to do some Life drawing. As I said in my first post on the new project, drawing people is very central to my core practice, but I found myself more interested in the patterns I was coming across, as irony would have it. Nevertheless, I did do some life drawing as I walked down Brick Lane, and stopped in cafe.

I very much enjoy quick sketches, but it’s incredibly difficult to do justice to anything that is moving at the speed people were going past me as they went about their business. Life drawing is definitely something you need to do regularly or you start to forget how to do it efficiently. It’s also maybe not the smartest idea to stare at people while making marks in a little book as they pass you by. You can tell I’m a Londoner can’t you?

Reporter: New Brief: Derive

One of Mr Bingo’s postcards from his Hate Mail book. I like it, but have no idea what it’s relevance is to our brief, which it is incorporated into…

A complaint I heard several times from several students during the Southampton project was this: ‘Why are we bothering with Southampton when we’re in London?!? This is one of the capital cities of the world!’ Well, be careful what you wish for…

The second term means a new brief, and this one is set in London. Representing the ‘Reporter’ half of our ‘Author/Reporter’ studio, our new brief sees us dealing with psychogeography, anthropological documentation and who knows what else.  We are tasked with recording the experience of being in a place and turning it into some sort of visual package which communicates said experience to someone else.

There was talk of the theory of the derive by Guy Debord and the Mass Observation movement of the 1930s. We can also expect another slew of workshops ranging from letterpress to laser cutting.

Once the brief was discussed, we were given our first task: to go to Brick Lane, around the corner, and record our experience. We were encouraged to think about all the senses, not just sight.

Brick Lane in all its glory…

In a bizarre twist, I found myself more interested in the ground than in my usual illustrative mainstay: people. I found that the floor and the different brickwork, cracks and all the rest created patterns that I could imagine abstractified and turned into framed art. Kind of minimalist in style. I show examples of what I mean in this video. You’ll have to weather me talking about Black Dynamite and Harvey Birdman first, but really, what a first-world problem!

The irony isn’t lost on me that the one time I step out of my comfort zone of my own volition is the one time it conflicts with the brief. From what I understand from the research materials being offered, this project is about capturing what people do now, for future reference. No detail is too small. The way people drink their coffee, how they wear their (skinny) jeans, the always looking at the phone thing. It’s the sort of thing Martin Parr would home in on.

There’s a lot going on here and I don’t imagine many students are going to grasp the depth or scale of our potential undertakings anymore than I do. I think it will be just as likely to create something bold and interesting as well as something turgid and pointless. There’s going to be a lot of second guessing going forward, I suspect…