The Summer Exhibition 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts
both were selected but only one was hung.
Photo credit: Phil Sayer
As the print is quite dark, I framed it in a charcoal-coloured stained moulding, glazed with low-reflectance glass. Above is the lucky print waiting to be hung.
This picture shows me pulling a print of Wells Cathedral on a Rochat press.
Before finalising the image, I made 30 working proofs trying different inks, papers, colours and techniques.
Eventually, I chose a tinted chine collé laid over a Wells-made ‘Somerset’ paper. The chine collé is a conservation-grade paper made by hand in Japan.
The print is on show in Gallery VII at the RA (no. 1070) until 12 Augustand can also be found in their online catalogue.
The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts
In past blogs, I have shown examples of various forms of etching. In this one, I’ll talk about a completely different form of printmaking – lithography. Of all the printing techniques, lithography comes closest to painting in the marks that can be made.
Etching is an intaglio technique where the image is recessed into a plate. In lithography, the image is drawn onto a prepared flat surface with a greasy material and depends on the incompatibility of water and this grease. The greasy marks of the drawing can be made with crayons, special inks and diluted washes of grease-based materials applied with a nib or brush.
A stone can also be etched with acid, engraved or photo-sensitised.
Bavaria has the finest quality of fine-grained limestone in the world and it was here that Alois Sennefelder discovered the process of lithography in 1793. His experiments showed that by chemically treating the greasy marks of a drawing made on the stone, they could be made to accept printing ink while the areas with no drawing would, if dampened with water, stay ink-free.
The stones are usually about 3–4 inches thick, and therefore extremely heavy. The first stage of preparation is to remove any existing image on the stone by grinding it away with grit, and then polishing the whole surface with water of Ayr (a very hard stone) to remove any scratches. Next, the artist, choosing a size of grit suitable for the delicacy of the image, grains the surface of the stone with carborundum grit. The stone is then prepared for drawing by treating it with acetic acid. The image is drawn directly onto the stone, then treated with a mixture of gum arabic and nitric acid; and then left overnight to ‘cure’.
After several more operations, a non-setting ink is rolled onto the stone and proofed up to five times onto newsprint to achieve full strength of the image. If no alterations or adjustments are necessary, the stone is treated again with the gum-acid mixture and, after a further hour, the edition may be printed. Hand-made paper is carefully placed over the stone and above this, you place a make-ready of newsprint – to ensure an even surface. The stone, with paper in place, is wound through the special lithographic press and then the resulting print is hung up to dry.
Once the printing of the edition is complete, the image will be erased from the stone by grinding it away, and thus the stone can be re-used over and over. All this grinding is done by hand, using a heavy steel device called a levigator and lots of water. It’s a very physical and messy business.
The technique was very popular in the nineteenth century for producing posters. Much of Toulouse Lautrec’s work was produced using this technique. It was normal to use several colours for these posters, each one requiring a separate stone. They were always printed by specialist workshops.
The more recent availability of pre-textured zinc and aluminium plates widens the scope of the technique and also allows for printing on a normal etching press. Printing from these plates uses similar techniques to printing from stone but is less arduous. The plates can be re-used up to five times before re-graining by a specialist becomes necessary. Together with the stones, each surface offers the artist its own advantages and limitations.
I have shown examples of lithographs taken from stones, from zinc, and also from aluminium plates. Sometimes, I have added to the print: by drawing with charcoal or pastel; by monoprinting over the lithograph from a separate sheet; or by adding watercolour. There is also an example of a lithograph printed on chine collé.
The stone of St. David‘s Cathedral was drawn with lithographic crayons in varying degrees of hardness and with lithographic ink applied with a dip pen.
The lightning in the print of Torcello shows an example of a mark made by engraving into the stone. You couldn’t make this mark on a lithographic plate.
S. Giorgio Maggiore is a two-plate lithograph. The Blue plate was drawn/painted with tusche mixed with distilled water.
As you can gather, preparing and printing a lithograph takes time and physical effort but it does produce results, which are different to intaglio.
Here are two sides of Hastings: the fishing community at Rock-a-Nore and the trippers on the sands.
Dawn is printed from a steel plateand uses the techniques of soft ground, aquatint, spit-bite, scraping, burnishing and dry-point.
As you can see, it went through several transformations, most notably at State 5 when there were five separate stoppings-out. After each stopping-out, the plateis placed back in the acid for a predetermined time. The time for each biting is differentand the effect is cumulative. You can also see the effect of different wiping of the same state in images 3, 3a and 3b.
There is much scraping-out on this plate, which is a difficult job because steel is much harder than zinc. Steel, however, is better for colours, especially yellows, which, when wiped on zinc platesoften take on a greenish hue.
In State 7, I have experimented with colour. These prints are monoprints (sometimes referred to as V.E. or varied edition), that is, they are variations printed from the same matrix: each one is unique.
I used a different technique to the à la poupée that I showed you in Spanish Journey: Part IV: Ronda and Madrid. Here the dark ink is wiped into the intaglio and the lighter colour, which may be modified to alter its consistency or viscosity, is applied over the plate with a roller. Thus, when printed, the dark ink is the top layer.
I was particularly attracted by the foremost boat, RX55. Clinker-built boats have such graceful lines and, in the round, are beautifully crafted sculpture.
There is no harbour at Hastings and the fishing boats are pulled up onto the beach by a big tractor. Boats are registered at the nearby port of Rye, hence the RX numbers on their prow.
The Duskplate is intaglio gravurewiped in a blue/black blend to give an impression of the sea at dusk.
A father and his children sit on the shingle, with the Hastings Pier in the background. He appears to be telling a tale to his daughter, while his son, who has heard all the tales before, looks away and dreams of what he will do when he grows up. Old Tales, Young Dreams.
I was fascinated by the silhouette of the Pier seen against the sparkling light on the sea, and engaged by the domestic scene in the foreground.
I took a few days out from my Spanish commission to visit the town of Ronda, famous for its bullring and for the Puente Nuevo. The temperature here in Augustexceeds 40°Cduring the middle of the day, so I worked in the morning and in the late afternoon when it was cooler.
Some artists have a motif which they find so fascinating that they return to it again and again. In my case (and that of David Bomberg before me), it is the ‘new’ bridge at Ronda. Built from 1751–1793 by Juan Antonio Díaz Machuca to a design by José Martín de Aldehuela, it is the most recent of the three bridges which cross the river Guadalevín. The earlier ones were built further upstream where the river is not as wide, as only smaller spans were possible at the times of their construction. The building at the top of the gorge is the Parador, which I have simplified for effect.
I have already shown you some prints of the dramatic gorge in my first blog. Here are some more images showing different approaches to the same motif:
One way of adding colour to prints is to apply individual coloursto a single plate surface with small inking tools called ‘dollies’. The technique is known as à la poupée ( French for ‘ with a doll’). As you can imagine, it is a delicate operation and takes time. I used this method in the colour intaglio prints shown in the Gallery.
This watercolour was exhibited at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.
The ‘Morning’ version was also shown at The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and at the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolourin their Contemporary Watercolours Exhibition.
See the Gallery, for more of Ronda: intaglio prints, some touched with pastel; and a Lithograph.
The prints of the bullfight and of the Sherry bar in Madrid are from a later trip but I’ve included them in this Spanish blog.
Sol y Sombrawas drawn from a photo in the Tauromachy Museum– the bullfightingmuseum at the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda. This was printed from two plates (another way of adding colour) and is a varied edition.
La Venencia is also a two-colour edition. The actual venencia from which this unspoilt Madrid tapas bar gets its name can be seen hanging behind the bar to the left of the picture
When I moved from Sanlúcar to Jerez, I made sure that I had an air-conditioned room. Result, bliss!
August is the end of the season for the sherry makers, the harvest is in and it is just too hot to work.Jane C. Ward was kind enough to invite me to their end-of-year party at Lustau. After swirling the amber nectar round the glass, the professionals always throw a little onto the floor. I never discovered the origin nor reason for this habit. I think it might be superstitious, like, for example, throwing salt over the shoulder.
Historically, there is quite a lot of British influence in the sherry houses. Sr Beltrán Domecq WilliamsGonzález gave me a tasting of the entire Domecq range. Sadly, Domecq has been taken over but Sr Domecq is now President of the Consejo Regulador of Jerez. Domecq and González Byass also took me to their vineyards, where I made a couple of pastel sketches.
Before I made this visit to Spain, I was not a fan of sherry. When I returned, I definitely was! If you are prepared not to follow fashion and choose carefully, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised by the variety and the quality of this undervalued wine.
My trip to the sherry region was a commission fromTheWine Society, whose current list contains examples from each of these producers – Domecq is now listed as Osborne.
I have included some prints of other parts of Spain:
A triptych of Arcos, a hill town. This is a two-colour varied edition (sometimes called a monoprint) where each print is unique.
The Aficionado(a portrait of a guest at Lustau’s party) is a soft-ground etching in a two-colour edition.
Fixing the Cask is a portrait of a tonelero working in one of Lustau’s bodegas