Kingfisher, evening rain.

Updated: 6 days ago

I've seen kingfishers on the river Usk (south Wales). Sometimes even by the Crickhowell bridge but not that often. My experience of the nearby river Wye is that there are/were more on that river, I'm not sure why. One actually took a fish right up close to the canoe I was paddling once, so close I could see it take its prey under the clear water. There is always something special and magic about any sighting of kingfishers, even if it's just a quick flash of turquoise blue.

I tend to work on ideas and keep print designs in my head (there are several filed away right now!;). I know I should be keeping extensive sketch books but I don't seem to have the self discipline. The idea for the kingfisher came from a damp late evening walk along the Usk, up towards Llanganidr, the moon comes up over the hills down the valley toward Abergavenny. The kingfisher was only seen close up for a second (I think he was as startled as I was) but I watched him for a while perched safely further down the bank.

I began with a few sketches before switching to the usual blue acrylic on computer printing paper. Just using blue to design didn't work out this time, so the orange parts of the bird's plumage were worked out separately.

I've tried to use the rain to break up the outline and form of the bird, making it less substantial. Even in this smallish sized print the kingfisher is slightly bigger than life and earlier designs made it too solid. I've printed slightly varied colours and tones either side of the lines of rain that slash the image into sections to create different planes.

On this scan you can see where I have cut up and repasted the different elements of the composition, repositioning them until I'm happy with the result. With the paint and multi layers of paper, the designs cam sometimes become quite thick.

This scan is then printed out on a computer at the correct size and reversed (lino printing reverses the image back to original)ready to transfer to the lino.

I've used the Ternes Burton pins a few times now for registering the paper in the exact place for each of the layers of printing. I must be a bit slow...It has only just occurred to me this time, to use the same system to register the design and graphite paper in exactly the right place, to transfer the areas to be cut away for each layer.

The image is transferred to the lino block from the graphite paper. I now use a fine burnishing tool. It leaves only a slight dent on the design, makes a nice thin line and doesn't need sharpening. The graphite prints on to the lino but sometimes on a complicated bit, or towards the end of the process where the lino has gone quite dark, I go over the drawing with a ball point pen. It's important to remember to wipe over the lino with a little bit of white spirit to remove any graphite and the bit of ball point ink that may transfer later during printing.

This fine and small old Lawrence linocut tool (they don't make them anymore)was perfect for cutting some of these delicate shapes. It takes such a fine edge. like slicing butter! I don't always hold the cutter like this btw, just when the work is this fine and the tool doesn't need much pressure, I wonder if it's a left-hander thing. A lot of the cutting was also made with a knife rather than a gouge, you can get more delicate shapes but you do need to cut both sides of the 'v' separately.

The 5 layers were overprinted until the final image was built up. I work through a range of tones from lightest to dark. I like to take a fairly painterly approach to colour, 'splashing' it about, trying not to be too precious about going over lines. For this print is was nice to play with the colours of the kingfisher and sky reflected in the ripples.

So, although I have stuck to the same colours throughout the edition, there is a bit of variation in the way they were rolled onto the lino. That is shown in the final prints.

The colours and tones are the same across the whole edition. If you look carefully at the ripples you can see where the 3 colours of ink used have been applied slightly different each time.

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