After the great time I had at the mixed media workshop at the St Ives School of Painting I could hardly wait for the relief printing workshop the next day with Lee Stevenson, a member of the St Ives Society of Artists. This was held at the Crypt Gallery which as the name suggests is in the basement of the Mariner’s Church. The church has been a gallery for the St Ives Society of Artists since the 1940’s and is located off of Norway Square.
Lee was busy setting up when I arrived and I found a table space with a set of equipment for lino cutting that I had last seen and used when I was at Terriers Middle School back in the 1970's and I got a bit nostalgic. There were about 12 of us in the class and it was a lovely surprise to see a face among them that I knew, Glenys Horn who used to work at the District Council in the team behind me – what a small world! Glenys told me that she and her hubby come to St Ives every year for the Festival fortnight as there is just so much going on.
Lee gave us a demonstration of the types of marks / cuts that can be achieved by the different shaped blades and showed us some finished lino cuts to give us an idea of what can be achieved, when you know what you are doing! Lee explained that he liked to paint his lino with a thin coat of greenhouse whiting to start with so that you can easily see the drawn image that you want to work from. He also reminded us that if we were planning on reproducing a recognisable landmark in our work that we needed to draw this in reverse on the lino as a mirror image of the plate would be printed. Lee demonstrated how we could use a black type of ‘carbon paper’ to transfer our images and we were off back to our tables to have a go.
A lot of the other workshop attendees had come rather better prepared than me and had sketch books with ideas already mapped out. I had decided that I wanted to include my seagull logo as part of my cut, but when faced with the A5 piece of lino I knew that it wouldn’t be enough. After looking through photos on my camera I decided to include the lighthouse at the end of Smeaton’s Pier as well – meaning that I had to think about drawing this backwards.
There wasn’t much time for drawing and I soon found I had done my seagull too big and could only just squeeze it on to the lino. Lee had provided a little heater to warm up the lino as this made cutting much easier. It was quite therapeutic to cut into the lino and see your image appear – but you had to think carefully about which areas you wanted printed (left in relief) and which areas you wanted white (cut out) to make sure that you cut the rights bits out of your image. I must have been holding the cutting stylus not quite right as found that my middle and ring finger rubbed against the cut groves in the lino and I scraped the skin off which was quite sore by the end of the class (why do you never have a plaster in your bag when you need one). If you look closely at the pictures you can see my blood on the finished plate . . .
Lee then showed us how to ink up our lino plate using a water-based ink and how to take a print. He showed us a ‘low tech’ way to print that did not require a press. Lee used a wooden spoon wrapped in a soft cloth to rub over the paper to transfer the ink – something that could easily be achievable at home.
I was just delighted with the finished result – and proud that I managed to not cut off the seagull’s feet and beak! I know the composition and scale aren’t quite right but in the end felt this added a bit of charm to the piece and will definitely be giving this a go again.
The lady on my table advised me that the Oxfam shop in St Ives sells art materials including equipment for lino cutting which was convenient as I had to walk past this shop on my way back to the apartment. I also remembered that my brother Jamie had invested in a set of lino implements that he was planning to use when he had some time off work last year to recover from an operation. Jamie hadn’t used them in the end and I am delighted to say that he has ‘donated’ them to me and they are waiting in my studio in readiness . . . !
You can find out more about the St Ives Society of Artists and the courses that they run clicking on the link below:
You can also see a selection of Lee Stevenson lovely lino cuts and etchings on the link below: