Thinking about which avenue to explore in this particular assignment I originally considered exploring human life forms as I have been so often fascinated by the human condition and how people interact with one another, previously having studied sociology and counselling. However another large aspect of my personal identity is my love of animals and wanting to protect them from harm. Being vegan and avoiding personally contributing to any animal suffering is very important to me.
Ultimately though whilst conducting my research prior to this task I was most influenced by artist Kehinde Wiley and his magnificent portraits. Wiley began his work by painting other African American men as a way of exploring and relating to his own identity, celebrating unknown individuals from the streets of various locations across America and the wider world. Considering this I decided I wanted to make a more direct connection to my portrait candidate, something very personal to me, again in a very similar way to how artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami explores her own South African experience. Reflecting in the assignment themes of life more generally my baby niece immediately came to mind. This completely brand new life which has been created during a time in the world where we have seen so much death due to the pandemic. Her existence along with lots of others now dubbed ‘lockdown babies’ are the hope for our society, the shining light through this very dark storm we have all been attempting to sail our way through. Not only this, my life itself has been changed and enriched by my new role as auntie, printing my nieces portrait is a very personal celebration of her life for me.
Her name is Rosa, and printing her portrait just perfectly made sense, I decided I would create a Wiley inspired print of my new baby niece nestled amongst roses and flowers surrounding her just as the flower prints and patterns surround Wiley’s subjects. Her ‘flower wallpaper’ would be completely personalised to her, exploring different roses (inspired by her name) as well as picking out the daisies on her own dress she was wearing when we conducted our staged photoshoot to capture her image. This print would capture the tender young moment in her wonderful life and just as I have finished the print we have actually just received further confirmation that our ‘road map to recovery’ is still on track and within our grasps. The print symbolises life, hope, love optimism and anticipation!
Before I dived into printing the final portrait I wanted to practice the method of reduction lino print and decided to do so on a small scale by just producing the flower pattern on various different types of paper. I didn’t use a jig as such but I measured each size of paper and marked where I needed the print to be in order to be sure each layer lined up perfectly. There was some error in this process but this held me in good stead for when I came to tackle the final piece. I used the flower designs I had already made, and the wallpaper I created digitally to produce the smaller print to practice from.
Here are some examples of some of the experimental wallpaper prints I produced in readiness for the final print. I decided to use a selection of paper I had on hand to play around with different textures and paper thickness. I’m really quite pleased with the results!
Once I had completed this process I then set about finalising the portrait image, I wanted to be sure of the colours I would be using and where to cut on each layer so I understood the process in my mind and avoided any mistakes. I initially used the photograph of Rosa and manipulated the image by highlighting the lights and darks and where I might cut to pick out these features.
I then placed her upon my digitally created wallpaper using the original flower designs I made by researching various roses and daisies.
Finally I painted how I believed the final print may look to check I was happy with the image – my initial pencil and pen drawing was a little lack-lustre so I needed to create the image in bold opaque colour just as I hoped the print would be.
Once satisfied with the final design I expanded it to around A3 in size to produce a larger print and began cutting away at the lino to produce the final images.
From the 19 prints I made I felt as though these three final prints have resulted in the best outcomes (numbers 13,18 and 19). Unfortunately I found about half way through the process the lino I was using seemed to have an uneven surface on the left hand side of the lino, so you may notice that the print isn’t quite as opaque as it is on the left hand side. I’m not sure why this is and I wish I had noticed it sooner so I could have perhaps started over again but as I had already printed so far I felt I had to persevere and continue. I found that the thinner Shoji Japanese paper was more forgiving than the Zerkall Block Printing and Etching Paper with this technical issue, which has resulted in these prints making it to the final three. Looking at the flower print also it feels a little unbalanced with more of the white rambling rose on one side. If I were to repeat the process I think I would tweak the pattern slightly to make it more balanced. Lastly I’m quite happy with the colours on the print, I used a total of 10 layers to produce the print, and I do quite like where for example on the right hadn’t side of the print where it has been slightly more faint the print colour underneath has seeped through and added another dimension. If I were to review the colours used I would perhaps reduce the number of colours to speed up the process as this print took exceptionally longer than I had anticipated and also use a darker shade of blue for the highlights on the dress as they don’t seem to quite marry up properly. Overall though I’m really happy with how the print has turned out, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture Rosa’s face accurately and although it is a quite basic representation I’m happy with how I have executed this.