Neeve Fletcher PRINTMAKING journal

As third year sped past me at a worrying pace and found its way into the timeframe that is Unit X, I was slowly but surely beginning to come into a space of stability and peace in own my practice. Through this process I was simultaneously, through trial and error (and multiple cuts and scars on my fingers), able to develop my love for linocut printmaking. My CP3 essay had allowed me to restructure and reinforce the foundation that my work was created on, while also helping me create a sense of meaning; namely how landscapes such as woodland and forestry can be a focus point in evoking imagination through the act of subconscious recognition and memory.

In short, I wanted to create prints for my unit X project, that I could produce in limited batches that played with this idea and gave a sense of place to the viewer. This would allow me to further research into my interested field of academic study while also find myself as a practical practitioner. I create it for the purpose of a stand alone print, but it can be flexed to work on different media, for example book covers and narrational stories, so throughout this unit I also want to see how I can fit my prints into different types of work to explore my potential reach. Were the end of year degree show to go ahead, I would of exhibited my linocut prints as a collection, fitting under the same theme as discussed earlier.


I think its important to add to those who do not practice in the art of prints the long and time consuming process or making my linocut prints. For me the journey is almost spiritual, creating the fine lines and details which remind me of my past self walking through a forest and taking in its intricacy, while carving, it truly gives me time to self reflect. I want my final prints to show a personal approach to how I reminisce when thinking of the forest, taking inspiration from my childhood memories, and how untapping the subconscious in my work can spark imagination from the viewer and allow them to use their own experience to gain a personal response.

I tried to touch on this in my authorship project with varied success however through peer feedback I early on learnt how complex ideology and research can be hard to communicated and received through the use of illustration and image making without text to aid the art. I understood the hurdle in that feedback however I wanted to move on from the poems, and having enjoyed doing book covers briefly in authorship i thought that might be a good place to start. My peers encouraged me to keep playing around with my work in order to create a world in themselves and this made me experiment on the stand points of what my work could possibly be and what I could achieve.

I started by using and developing from my authorship unit and the prints I did there as a source of inspiration, in particularly where I focused on woodland and forest scenes. My head of course tutor Ian Wadock was helpfully able to send me some of his personal photographs of nature and landscape scenes that I was able to use as reference photos while I was isolated in my student house. From here I began sketching and recreating little thumbnails to help me plan what I wanted to make within my sketchbook, trying out little vignettes to see what composition I liked and what worked.

Due to the facilities I had access to at home, I was limited to A4 and A5 soft cut Lino block as looking online, my preferred larger sized hard cut blocks were expensive and also took a while to deliver online. I didn’t really mind because I quite enjoyed how easy they cut and they didn’t dull my tools as much, I just miss working on bigger scales. I began to create a piece based off my earlier work of my hard cut a3 piece of a forest pathway, I was inspired by the ideology of the forest being used as a tool to represent the subconscious and wanted to create a piece that triggered something reminiscent and nostalgic in the viewer. I think the black and white I use within my work gives the piece a sense of daunting to it, as seen in other earlier printmakers such as William Blake and Arthur Rackhams work, who I studied in CP3 however i'd like to pursue coloured prints down the line if i can get hold of them online to order.

I love the idea of the uncanny element that can be achieved illustrations, the feeling of unease; that there’s more that meets the eye. Subsequently I came across artists who explored this notion, while combining the idea of landscape and memory. For example Peter Doig, Anselm Kiefer and illustrators/ printmakers such as Gustave Dóre and Arthur Rackham.

This got me researching further into printmaking as a method of creating because the majority of artists I looked at created effective prints that stood alone in formulating a response from the reader.

John recommended me to look at at ‘the society of wood engravers’ website as a source of inspiration and I was blown away by the level of detail and commitment these artists would commit to one piece of work. Obviously I didn’t have the time scale they had with my deadlines however it inspired me to keep going in making prints, and to see how detailed I could make my work, time permitted. Other printmakers such as Laura Boswell, Angie Lewin and Tony Ratcliffe have also been a huge source of inspiration to me.

lino in progress

deeper down the rabbit hole

Planning for prints inspired by the edgeland of nature and old photo references

I printed it out as seen here and overall I liked the effect the tree roots had once they printed however I think because of the block like effect that linocut gives its hard to grasp a sense of depth and perspective that I was able to achieve with earlier ink drawings and illustrations and I think in this particular print wasn’t able to achieve it.

I later had a phone call with my tutor John who advised me to not stick to just A4 sizes and to play around more with dimension to give my work a more traditional and organic feel. I easily agreed as I saw It did limit me and gave the work a kind of formality I was trying to avoid.

John described my earlier sketchbook illustrations as if they were floating on the page and a piece of work in their own right, looking back I agreed as the work didn’t stick to the edges and create a sense of place through the lack of limitation sticking to a rectangle piece would bring. With the limitations in my home space in how I could print and the lack of resources available to me, I’m overall happy with the result the print came out as and It gives me hope in creating future prints and they not turning out patchy without being in a print studio.

Forgotten Forest 2020
During this time I tried to get in touch with other printmakers who had any tips and advice they could give me, not many people got back to me however in these difficult times I am grateful for the support I received from graduates I have got in touch with.

So from here I took a second to retrospect, and see what works well within my linocut and what doesn’t so much from having collated so far a reasonable amount of work. I came to the conclusion that what I enjoyed more then anything was the detailing and the patterns within my work, being able to zoom in and appreciate the detailing rather then the bigger picture itself. So as little side project I created small detailed prints of the detailing from larger landscape pieces to see what worked well etc, I like the effect it gave in the end and wanted to continue with it as a side project. The circle frames gave the pieces coherence and concept.

Textual Concepts

In light of previous experimenting and peer feedback of previous work, I want to continue down the muddy footpath that I was beginning to head down, continuing to focus on creating work that was orientated around the pattern of nature and the detailing I could create within the pieces. Not only this, I wanted to create work in an almost spiritually, as a reflection of the landscape that I grew up in order to emit a personal response. This was in hope that I could then take a step back, and reflect on my work, recover meaning in-between its branches in order to reach a higher level of understanding. It was artist Rene Magritte who said we see the world as being outside ourselves even though it is only a mental representation of what we experience on the inside. (Magritte, R., 1985.) Its this ideology, which I studied further in my cp3 essay that I want to reflect in my work.

With this in mind I began playing around with different textures and patterns used within nature as a tool to create a print. As being inspired by textile prints and the act of repetition, I wanted the the imagery of tree branches and play around with different effects I could get while also being mindful of the concept coming through clear enough. I began sketching out different ideas, wanting to reach a black and white two tone effect that I think would work effectively as a print, and when I was happy with the outcome I carved it into my lino block. Understanding the idea of a ‘sense of place’ within my work is what I want to convey. The forest formats as a tool for the reader to explore and get lost within it usual dense entanglement, formulating the purposeful ideology of refuge while collectively his dark and often purposefully ambiguous setting offers readers a sense of ‘subconscious recognition that we can oftentimes be considering unsettling and frightful’ (Addison, C., 2007). I took about this print wanting the piece to speak for itself and become work in its own right.

Tree Branches 2020
Tree Studies and thumbnails

From here I wanted to make another linocut print that had a panoramic element to it, and played with the idea of a sense of place. I wanted to able to allow the piece to encapture the viewer, in order to allow a personal response to be made. So with that in mind I created a linocut heavily influenced by texture and using my memory of childhood landscapes in my head, a open space of the hills surrounding my house, with dead trees breaking up the landscape, playing on the ideology many people can grow inspiration from - the tree of life.

Tree of life 2020

After making and practicing my linocut I slowly started to gain a realisation on what I was creating, and putting my work into 3 subsections. The first was horizon, creating landscape pieces that show a direct scene of an environment in its own right, pieces that can be used as establishing shots. The second avenue I was exploring experimenting with pattern and using nature and foliage as a way to making patterns that could be translated as a piece of work in their own right. Finally I was also creating prints that explored close up foliage and detailing. I think its important to clarify the different pathways my work and what they are leading towards in order not cause myself the headache and confusion. Fitting into these themes allowed myself to plan ahead and work around submissions and self directed projects I created myself. This routed off my cp3 essay as I began to gain a further understanding into how the use of forests in illustration is used to aid fictional narrative, while also conveying subtextual themes deeper than what meets the eye, in turn allowing readers to create their own personal response. I consider this research valuable to my own practice as I am interested in how an area, particularly the forest, can show memories from its past through subtle changes in its environment, while also conveying a sense of place.

Planning, carving and printing

In my next print I wanted to emphasise a more close up shot as I wanted to play around with close up grass and the textures you get from above, as a sort of close up piece from the work I made previously. I wanted to include a snake to break up the grass and give the piece some element of movement. I found it hard to split up the print as I had two tones to work with and ran out of linocut to add more layers. I want to experiment with colour anyway so I plan to use hand colouring after I print 10 prints. Overall I was satisfied with the prints created overall however because I used ink to colour in the print due to limited resources, the colours ended up coming out uneven. In hindsight I would in the future like to layer up linoprints in different colours to achieve depth and variance.

Snake in the Grass, 2020

I wanted to keep drawing throughout this unit on the side to keep myself motivated with new ideas and inspiration, especially since i've based a lot of my prints off of past studies as a from of reference and after drawing these weeds from my student garden, it got me inspired to focus on prints that illustrated close up patterns and played around using close up leaves and fauna as patterns and designs.

more designs and sketches focusing on fauna and textures, 2020

It was at this point some of my ink colours that I ordered online arrived to my student house and I wanted to experiment with different colours and what I could achieve, as up until now I was experimenting frugally with the leftover cheap inks I had from authorship. On the side of this I was researching into new and different printmakers who shared an interest of using nature as their primary inspiration.

Personal copy of Pressing Matters issue 05, studying screen printer Marco Lawrence and Linocut artist Kat Flint.
Colour experimentation 2020

were the print rooms accessible I would of loved to of spent time in there to create ink colours and collate them in pots to save in order to have consistent colours throughout my work and to be able to work to a particular palette. After uni it is my goal to invest in different inks and pots in order to have a labelled bookcase of particular shades and colours i could use time and time again for certain editions and prints I could create.

Using the bottom of candles as a circle stencil I cut two circles into soft cut lino and sketched in the lino different floral patterns that I found through past live drawing trips to parks, taking inspiration from reference photos and past prints. I wanted to see what different prints I could achieve and what different marks looked effective. On one print I carved the pattern into the lino as though the carved line was the print and with the other I wanted to invert it, to see what different effects I could achieve and if I preferred one over the other. I gave both Linos a similar dotted frame and I overall loved the effect this gave. It reminded me almost of old fashioned ceramic mosaics and the way the plants and patterns fitted together looked almost lifelike and nostalgic to me.
Exploring pattern in linocut 2020
Colour Experimentation
Pattern and colour explored- possible logo design? 2020

From here I wanted to use the pattern prints I just created to incorporate into a landscape scene so I can use individual studies of different fauna to orchestrate a piece of print, while at the same time seeing if I could work my prints into different forms of media. I ended up using the two little pieces of soft cut lino that I had left to create a set of two prints that relate to each other.

From this I started designing different linocut book covers that I thought would fit a nicely together as a collection and doing that I got a chance to try different colours while still having the forest and a sense of place the forefront of what I wanted to create. I really enjoyed the overall result of this project I set myself and it gave me insight into what I was creating and the potential that was to be gained from it. However I think moving on from this, I enjoy my work most when it doesn’t fit to a particular narrative or objective, when I make it more abstract and it fulfils a sense of place or environment to the viewer, and moving forward my overall goal in printmaking I’m finding is simply to sell prints as a printmaker for what they are, to gain commissions for various projects, rather then to meet deadlines of the book industry.

Book cover designs
Using past prints to experiment with different book covers

I had a couple of people reach out to me and ask to sell my prints printed onto the back of shirts. After trialing it I realised the block element of my work combined with its detailing, worked rather well on textiles and on clothing. So as a side project I decided to photoshop some of my designs onto clothes as a possible avenue to venture down and research after graduation as I had a few people already interested in buying them anyway.

Mock up clothes prints (modelled by me)
My prints

In conclusion, I am overall happy with what i've created in Unit X and what i've managed to achieve with the facilities i've had available to me. Without the printmaking room at university, limited personal funds and living at my student home, I feel like I have been able to make good progress in my practice as a printmaker. These prints have given me the foundation for initialising, adding to a portfolio in order to attract a audience, and learning about how I will establish myself as a print seller after I graduate. Using nature, more specifically forestry, the ideology that the forest is used as a place of 'error, terror and refuge' (A. Addison 2009) and similar themes that drove the research in my cp3 essay forward, has allowed my work to evolve fluently, yet still keep in its consistency. I will continue to create lino prints after university as my practice, in particularly larger hardcut lino, that will continue following the same themes I have explored within this project, in order to hopefully sell them in edition pieces, at events such as print fairs and also on my website. Exploring avenues such as book covers and shirt designing has extended my initial scope as a printmaker and has also given me the academic confidence to pursue a MA in a couple years time after initialising myself as a practitioner first.

It has been an absolute pleasure studying Illustration with animation and I hope to see everyone again soon. X

Also check out my portfolio site: neevefletcher.cargo.site

Website: www.neevefletcher23.wixsite.com/website

Instagram: @neevefletcher

Created By
neeve fletcher