Monsieur le Roitelet and the Birds

Nearly everything I buy comes from the internet; the village has a couple of food shops, but that's it for anything useful to me; I don't drive and what buses there are, are infrequent, expensive and take a long time to get from A to B. Buying something like good paper, which really needs handling, is a problem.

However, handily, there is a brilliant paper merchant
Paper Resources, literally just down the road from us. So in search of some really nice papers, I popped in to see them. Unlike a lot of paper suppliers, they are more than pleased to sell small amounts to individuals and the choice is fantastic; hence I emerged with a decent amount of gorgeous smooth, specialist papers, for about ten UK pounds, all handpicked by the merchant and myself, with much deliberation, including a wodge of hard-to-find Mohawk paper from the USA. Happiness!

So commenced another round of remembering how to print. Lino printing seems to be a bit of an ugly duckling in the art world - not regarded as sophisticated as etching, more akin to stamping or potato printing. However, there is a bit more to it than that. For a start, to get a really good, smooth print, the ink has to be rolled just so, the paper chosen to go with the ink viscosity and then the actual rolling of the ink onto the lino block is in itself a delicate operation, to get an even surface. I don't want edges on the print, so it mustn't be too thin or too thick.

That up above is a nice vintage Speedball brayer, which I was trying for the first time; I'm going to stick with it from now on as the roller is nice and densely soft, making the ink go into the block better than the harder rollers on my other brayers. I roll the ink out about an hour before using, to let it harden a little and get the right 'tack' - then it is rolled out thinly and again on a tray and then on a glass slab, until it starts making the right kind of light hissing noise. And only then it is carefully rolled onto the block, checking it from every angle to make sure that all areas are covered evenly. I look for a velvety surface like this;

To minimise ink getting where I don't want it, I use a mask while I'm inking up the block. The bed of the proof press I use has also been carefully raised up with various layers of paper and card, to get the depth of impression I want - even slipping a single sheet of newsprint underneath makes a difference.

And then yet another mask, for the actual printing.

The paper is held into place with a bit of tape, but I also like to hold it down lightly with my thumb as I make the first pull across, to stop slippage and misprinting.

I do two 'pulls' - quickly but carefully, not taking the roller off the paper, or it will slip minutely and give a double, blurred impression. It's a single, smooth movement and often goes wrong for me, with the first practise pulls. Here we go, with the first - the impression showing through.

And after the second pull. Now you can really see the deep indentation. Taking care to remove the paper so that you don't smudge anything, you peel the print from the block...

Breath a sigh of relief, as this time it came out well.

A now familiar sight in our little front room-cum-print-studio. Much has been discarded over the three hours of work and out of this lot, only a handful were deemed good enough to put in my shop.

Printed on the gorgeously smooth Mohawk Superfine heavy ivory paper, there are 14 copies of this printing of 'Monsieur le Roitelet and the Birds' for sale here at a princely £5.25/$8.

I'm really pleased to have managed that many, as it's a vast improvement on my other print runs and I think I'm getting back into the swing of it at last, after an 18 year break. Less bodge, more hurrahs.

If you are in or near Oxford, Simon of
Paper Resources is going to be selling similar packs of paper at the Fine Press Book Fair on the weekend of 5/6 November at Oxford Brookes University, details here. I may well be going myself, to look up some old friends and seeing what's new.

(PS - There is a reason why my little man is called Monsieur le Roitelet, but I'll let you Google that one yourselves).


Jill said...

That will be where I'm going wrong with my lino prints then - I'm in too much of a hurry :)
Your prints look terrific.

Twiglet said...

Is there no end to your talents!! Its a long time since I did any lino prints but it is good fun isn't it. x Jo

tut-tut said...

I love seeing your documentation of the process. Makes me want to get down to business!

Martina said...

I love this!!! now off to google Monsieur le Roitelet:)

janet said...

I love these posts!!

janet xox

ted and bunny said...

like Janet above, I love these posts too- watching the artist at work.
Thanks for taking the time to photo each step, hope it didn't interrupt your mojo

Tonia said...

The prints look wonderful and lino-cuts are definitely as valid an art form as etching!
Oh but I found we have a letter press here at work, so I may be here more often than I already am, trying to get to grips with something I've been hankering after for ages!

Trailshome said...

How wonderful to see the care with which you produce your beautiful prints. I particularly love the loose graceful lines, compared with the tight control you use to make the right result. Thanks so much for sharing the process with us. As always, it's a joy to peek into your creative life.

frayedattheedge said...

Gorgeous!! The little hare is on the wall where I am sitting typing this - he has settled in quite happily!
ps - I'm very sorry abour not liking cats (they just give me shivers!!)

Nancy said...

I love doing prints. When I had to stop going to my printmakin gclass (it really was like open studio for advanced printers) I switched to lino prints because they are easier to handle at home and my small little press could handle them. I love yours and if I get this job I'm waiting to hear may go into your etsy shop and snag one. You do such marvelous work. I just love your blog.

thefrabjousversipel said...

Your prints are lovely! I haven't done these in ages and you are making me want to go hunting for my brayer. There is simply too much inspiration out there in the world!

Lrc said...

I love seeing the process...maybe I'll do some printing some day. I did Japanese watercolor printing in art school which was fun but tedious and what you are doing looks fun! Of course it isn't all fun though. I have some images that would look good printing maybe and perhaps I'll check into it. It is good to have art work that is more monetarily accessible...

Jeri Landers said...

Ah, there is nothing so pleasing as stepping into an art store and going through the papers. We are fortunate to have an excellent supplier about 45 minutes away.
I haven't done any printing like this since my high school art class, I remember liking it a lot! I love all your little prints hanging across the room like tidy shirts on a clothesline.

Rachael Rabbit said...

When I was little I was quite insistent that the internet would never work - I just couldn't see how anyone would want to spend lots of time scrolling through lots of pages and information ... oh how wrong was I ... I now also buy everything on line - included groceries ... just with the little ones it means that going to a store can be fun rather than a chore ... I honestly don't know what I would do without my trusty internet sites to rely on. Wonderful prints - you really are a wonder.

alan.98 said...

I think those prints drying look as if it is Christmas and all your friends have sent you the same card.

Is that hand roller really from Speedball? I bought one exactly like it from Adana nearly 30 years ago and it is still usable.

Et enfin, est-ce que la femme de M. Roitelet s'appelle Jenny?

Jackie said...

I really love lino print but am a bit stuck in how I did it 30 years ago at college. Are there newer easier 'linos' available these days? Oh for the time to do some christmas cards. I really enjoyed watching this process.