1. 3 Landscape with and without trees


So, a couple of practice sessions. That felt a bit better. Meanwhile there was the fact of my village “landscape”, dirty, dug up, with nearly all the trees cut down. Those that were to be saved- a handful, with a laminated label reading “retain” on them.

These are the photos that inspired this series of prints. A rubber plant grown into a giant tree that is to be “retained”, iron mesh eating into its bark. Kapok flowers, heavy and fleshy, fallen on the road, look like hands, like the workman’s glove. These flowers decompose into a thick brown mush, like a dead animal. A trunk like a claw, clinging on, but it has no “retain”sign. Marks of dog’s paws in the scraped concrete, the marks in the cement the human traces. Rough, careless, like the dropped glove. Well, the whole series is a kind of horror story if you care about nature.



Scratching around


I thought I’d revisit some old techniques, in fact revisited an old collagraph which was still lying around. This was my first collagraph plate, made on corrugated cardboard, as can be seen, and featuring plants and leaves picked up around the roadside in France. It was still in good nick, so I thought I’d add to it, a layer of colour, wet paint rolled on. This changed it from an encyclopedic entry type array of plant life, to a squashed flat, rolled over by trucks view of flattened nature, much more fitting to my landscape here.


Painted collograph 30 X 40 cm



I had a quick go with the school press one day, and ran some real objects through on an inked plate: a piece of bandage, a feather, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Nice ghostly images from where the real objects block the ink, and then the ghost prints of the impressed sheet of perspex. I like the embossing it creates. Need to use better quality paper, and experiment with pressure of the press. What technique is this?? Just monoprint I guess.

Materials: Sakura water-based inks, perspex sheet (A5), cartridge paper

Masked Monoprint Image size A5
Ghost print Image size A5
Ghost print Image size A5
Masked Monoprint Image size A5


Ghost Trees

This is another picture that inspired me in this project- it was taken here, and is photoshopped to heighten the ghostly effect. Well, they are all ghosts now.

Ghost trees Digital photo



A Romantic View of Nature

Another influence on me tends to be poetry. I couldn’t consider nature without referencing the Romantic poets, specially Coleridge, my personal favourite. Once more, I am referencing “Frost at Midnight” and in particular the passage where he talks about the beneficence of nature and how he missed it when he was growing up, as he lived in the city “mid cloisters dim”.

For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.



Trees: collograph

Evoking the romantic ghostly image of trees, this print also required the use of a press. Made from cut strips of a carrier bag with a ribbed texture, plus string, this was meant to evoke a forest of silver birch trees.   Blotches were caused by me rushing and inking too heavily to get into the ridges.

Materials: Sakura water-based inks (students quality), coloured sugar paper, cartridge paper.

Trunks Collograph on coloured paper
Trunks Collograph on coloured paper
Trunks collograph on white paper
Trunks collograph on white paper


Monoprints: Human Traces

I decided to go with monoprinting for this project, and to do it at home, without the press, so I could use oil inks and not worry about drying time or having to rush to let the janitors leave after work.

I started by monoprinting trees, focussing on lines and texture, and liking the smudged effects of ghost prints:

Retain Backdrawing on monoprint 30 X 40 cm


Trunk in barbed wire Monoprint and backdrawing on ghost print 30 X 40 cm




This was an attempt to use text, part of the poem, written backwards: less successful:

the eternal language Masked monoprint and backwriting 30 X 40 cm



This was better, with a cement-like texture:


Aerial roots Masked monoprint and backdrawing 30 X 40 cm


So, what I wanted to do was use the earlier techniques (1.1) of brushing and oil dipped string to create a bark-like texture, which would also echo the cement ridges left by construction. I was also keen on representing the fallen kapok flowers, which I did with inked thread and shapes painted into masked areas:

Kapok on road Detail
Kapok on road detail
Kapok on Road Masked monoprint 30 X 40 cm
Kapok on Road ghost print 30 X 40 cm


All images are 30 X 40 cm.

The thread and the oil made some good effects, although when using tissue, it did leave a very shiny residue.

Abstract: Oil, thread, backdrawing, brushing, rolling, masked monoprint
Thread and oil 30 X 40 cm
Ghost Print 30 X 40 cm


I was starting to bring together ideas of flowers/ hands/ traces/ prints/ print… conceptual links:



I decided to morph the flower into a hand, and to use an actual hand print to create a mask. I was thinking of Tapies’ prints, and of the exhibition I saw a while ago: Rupestres

Antoni Tapies Ma Negra Lithograph



I did this several times, starting with ambiguous hand/ flower/ paw/ claw shapes:

Masked monoprint detail 30 X 40 cm
Masked Monoprint 30 X 40 cm
Masked monoprint 30 X 40 cm


These morphed into realistic hands and flowers, so there were two panels, suggesting both an imprint in cement and growth on a tree. I started using turpentine dropped onto the plate to life the ink off and create vein-like patterns, as well as backdrawn and scratched-off lines.  The masked parts were then printed into by using a ghost print as a template under the perspex printing plate. The Ingres pattern on the paper was effective too.

Masked monoprint
Masked monoprint
Detail of hand and flower monoprint
Hand and Flower Rice paper, oil and turpentine, backdrawing, masking, painting 30 X 40 cm


From this I started to have the idea of adding text. I carved the quotation “mid cloisters dim” in lino. (I liked the palindromic look of this, as well as thinking it fit the context of nature spoiled by human hand). The semi-transparent paper was a help in registering the hand and finger-prints: they were printed onto the plate then lifted off, using a ghost print in reverse as the template.

Imprint Masked monoprint and linocut 30 X 40 cm
Imprint: detail
Hand and Flower: detail
Hand and Flower Monoprint, lino print, with backdrawing 30 x 40 cm
Hand and Flower: detail


This as all getting a bit dark though, with the hand shape losing distinction, even with the backdrawing in a contrasting colour, and so I thought of creating panels. I tried to create the effect of the hand pressing against the surface, as if trying to get out, or trying to stop something. The mesh is a good contrast to the more organic shapes on the right, and i could have created more drama by distorting the mesh to suggest pressure. I was quite pleased with this, apart from the accidentally large blob caused by dripping too much turps. I particularly like the ghost print of the lifted threads.

Mesh and tree: Oil, turpentine and thread, masking and backdrawing 30 X 40 cm
Mesh and Tree: Ghost print


The panel idea was interesting though- getting back to the idea of a “series” of prints, as inspired by Xu Bing’s Series of Repetitions. I liked the idea of three panels, each with a contrasting texture and style- from straight line text layout, to fluid, to linear/ organic. I made an intaglio print with the text of the extract from Frost at Midnight, as above.


Ideas in the sketchbook: to be continued in the next post…

IMG_3490 IMG_3491 IMG_3492 IMG_3493




Author: chrisocaprintingblog

Studying visual arts part-time with the Open College of the Arts

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