Exactly twenty days since I published the last blog, vowing to keep connected with the Bee Creatives and plan in some artistic time for myself, I am pleased to say that I have been pretty productive! Cloudy, wet and windy days are much more likely to encourage me to cosy up indoors, and with all those resources to play with I have no excuse to be creatively idle really. Having experimented with old print blocks I decided to dig out the lino cutting kits that Fiona of Minifi acquired for us back in February so that we could practise the skills that she taught us in her engaging session. Captivated by the colours on local walks through the woods, I had it in my head that I wanted to create my own dramatic woodland scene.

After consulting my print techniques book, I realised that the image I wanted to create might be easier using a stencil. This printing technique lends itself well to those images that rely on lots of negative space to create an outline. Overwhelmed by the thought of how complicated the lino cut might be, I opted to draw and cut out a simple stencil of tree trunks to provide me with a starting point. You need a sharp scalpel and a steady hand, it helps to have a metal ruler too if you are cutting straight lines – sharp blades can cut through some plastics. I couldn’t find my cutting board, but luckily I had a broken picture frame that provided me with the perfect sized surface to cut out on.

The stencil came out well, with only a few minor slips that I think I got away with. Cracking open the art box, I was pleased to see that most of the acrylic paints were in good useable condition, with only one small tube of yellow that had dried out. I pulled out a range of colours to pop in the lino printing kits I had made for a few of the group to use at home, and selected a tube each of black and white for myself. My goal, to produce an collection of tall silver birch trees adorned with golden leaves, meant I needed a strong background to enhance the silvery white of those trunks. I roughly mixed a little black into a generous blob of titanium white and achieved a battleship grey which looked like just the backdrop I was aiming for.

I used a foam decorator’s roller to apply the paint, making sure that I secured the art paper to the back of the stencil with masking tape to avoid it slipping. I find you get a better effect if you don’t overload the roller and layer paint gently instead. I am also quite fond of the idiosyncrasies that occur where bits are missed or come out slightly more grainy in some areas, I think it looks more organic this way – however perfect coverage can be achieved by careful layering too. Leaving the paint to dry a little before peeling off the stencil is a good idea to prevent smudging, but again a little wobbly edge on a tree trunk can make it look that bit more authentic. I also made a few back-up prints.

Once the prints were completely dry, I selected one of them to add more paint effects. I started with adding the black and darker grey marks on the trunks with a fine paintbrush. I found that watering the paint down a little gave the marks a softer edge which made them look more natural. With details, less can definitely give a suggestion of the texture and perspective of objects, so I kept these to a minimum. It is sometimes hard to know when you have added enough, but I always hold back as it is easy to add more when you feel you have completed the piece. A mainly monochrome painting, I was quite excited about adding the golden yellow leaves and providing that all important drama that the scene was currently lacking.

I spent a relaxing Saturday afternoon adding the colour to the backdrop of heavy rain on the bay window eave outside, grateful to be cosy and dry inside. Tuning in to Giles Peterson on the radio provided the ideal soundtrack to an afternoon’s endeavours and time seemed to glide gently by. It was easy to forget about the dreadful news and uncertainties often in my thoughts. I have always felt painting to be one of those absorbing activities in which you can dedicate many fruitful hours, and I was quite happy with what I had produced. I might add a little more detail to it when it’s dry, then again I might not. I might also have other ideas for some of those duplicate prints.

I have been really enjoying exploring the theme of ‘print’ for this month and have been encouraged by the way that old skills have been resurrected and it has led me to develop new ones too. I am really looking forward to seeing how other members of the group have been interpreting the theme, before we move onto a new one to inspire us and keep us connected. Follow the page if you would like to know more.