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Learning from my printmaking mistakes - 'Allotment' print

For this how it's made, I wanted to analyse and critique how I made one of my most colourful linocut prints, 'Allotment'.

This is a three block, 13 colour print, my most ambitious coloured print yet. I learned a lot and had to re-carve two of the blocks because I didn't think them through enough - a mistake I'll break down here that I won't make again I hope.

This design started off it's journey on my iPad - the place I like to plan most of my linocuts out. If you've got an iPad, the software Procreate is fantastic and inexpensive to buy. It allows me to easily test colour combinations and play with layers and plan the cuts I'll make on my lino. Here's how that first digital sketch looked...

Procreate on iPad to design linocut print Allotment vegetable garden Stellabox Designs

As you can see on the right hand side, there were even some beans and courgette designs that didn't make the final print.

If you don't have an iPad, a sketchbook and paints/pencils will work just as well to play around with colours.

The next step was to build my registration board. There's a tutorial explaining step-by-step how to make your own registration board here on my blog, too.

I've nearly got to point now where I have different standard sized registration boards for each print I design (A4/A5/squares large and small) but I built a new one for this block. If you're not familiar with a registration board, it essentially allows your carved lino blocks to sit snuggly inside a simple device so that blocks cannot move and you attached pins and hooks to help your paper fall in the same place for each print.

When you trace and transfer your image into the linocut blocks (I use tracing paper), it's really important to do this in your registration board. What I mean by this is that you want to put the plastic tabs on the back of your tracing paper (flipped over of course) so that when you scribble on the back of the tracing paper to transfer your design, it's falling in exactly the same place for each of the blocks you're using. So you add one blank linocut block, scribble on the back of your tracing paper, lift the block and insert the next blank block and scribble on the back of the tracing paper again.. repeat as necessary until the design is in exactly the same place for each block.

Below are the first two vegetable blocks I carved.

Vegetable garden linocut block Stellabox Designs by Haychley Webb

Vegetable garden linocut block Stellabox Designs by Haychley Webb

If you looked at this blocks in themselves, you probably wouldn't know they were vegetables. That is where I made my big mistake when printing this block. Here's how these two blocks look together on paper.

My thought process behind carving the vegetables like this was to allow a big border of colour around each vegetable. Some parts, the sprouts out of the onions for example, and only around 2mm wide so I initially thought I was doing myself a favour by being generous with these border areas so I had the best chance of them printing in the correct place. Unfortunately, by giving them such wide borders, I had hidden parts of the vegetables and blended the colours in a way that didn't suit the colour scheme of the print.

This is far from how I wanted this print to look after the first two layers. As you can see bottoms of the carrots aren't green, there is no green at all on the tomatoes and the colours are overlapping on the corn;

Vegetable garden Allotment linocut block Norwich Norfolk Stellabox Designs by Haychley Webb

The only way to fix this was by re-carving the first two blocks. This time, I planned to cut the edge of the vegetables as closely as possible and I learned that I need to focus on precision with a multi-coloured block like this and trust that I'd built my registration board correctly. It's always a school day with linocut.

The black block, the key black, lies over the top of these vegetables and gives them their details and outline, as well as the bed and greenhouse/fence details.

Vegetable garden linocut block Norwich, Norfolk  Stellabox Designs by Haychley Webb

Finally after many weeks and corrections, I finished the block. It taught me a lot about trusting the process and about the importance of sitting with an idea and thinking it through fully before beginning to carve it. Here's how the final block looked;

Allotment linocut print Norwich Norfolk Haychley Webb by Stellabox Designs vegetable garden Somerset paper


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