Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Contemporary Woodcuts

I spent the Summer Bank Holiday weekend at a printmaking workshop at Gainsborough's House in Sudbury. The three day course, 'Contemporary Woodcuts' led by illustrator and printmaker Mark Hudson, was held in the Print Workshop in the walled garden behind Gainsborough House. Inspired by an introductory talk on Friday evening we arrived on Saturday keen to learn as many techniques as possible.

After "warm-up exercises" making marks on a balsa wood block using only our finger nails (and teeth), we experimented in making marks using nails, hacksaw blades, wire, hammers, in fact anything we had to hand. Then it was on to inking techniques and the use of paper masks on the blocks. We had been asked to bring in a photograph of a landscape, in the afternoon Mark described his technique for interpreting a landscape and distilling it into a two colour print design. This is my design based on the standing stones at Langass Loch on the isle of North Uist in the Hebrides, with Ben Eavel in the distance.

On Sunday we started work on a second, larger design and we experimented with making marks on the blocks using power tools. A bench was set up in the garden and we attacked our wooden blocks with an electric drill fitted with various grinding wheels and wire brushes - great fun! My design is based on a photograph of the seaweed covered rocks on the southern tip of South Uist.

Monday saw everyone in the Print Workshop an hour before the official start of the course - it was a frantic race to get as much work done as possible on both of our designs. Mark threw in lots of extra ideas and possiblilities as he went round to see what we were up to. There was so much to do and we had to start packing up at 3pm!!! The drying racks were crammed full of prints and we eagerly used each others' ink mixes to make one last impression on our prints.

When every last smear of ink had been wiped up and all the tools cleaned and put back in the correct place (under the watchful eye of the fantastic Print Workshop technician Sue Molineux) we laid our favourite prints out on the grass in the shade of the 400 year old mulberry tree, and sat down with a welcome mug of tea to discuss printmaking suppliers and chisel sharpening, and to admire each others work. It was amazing that given the same brief and materials we each created completely different styles of work - which showed just how versatile woodcut printmaking can be. These are my favourite prints from my two designs - very much works in progress, I'm looking forward to working on them over the weeks ahead.


  1. What an interesting way to spend the bank holiday ... I look forward to seeing work you're more pleased with, because your work in progress is impressive ...


  2. Beautiful prints from your workshop, Celia! I love the marks you made with the power tools, and the way those marks interact with the landscape you printed over them. Were you printing on a press?
    How did you like carving wood in comparison to linoleum? And what's the Bank Holiday? :)

  3. The way you document the making of your work is fantastic and the woodcuts you made at the weekend are really lovely. I'm still working on my two but will get them posted on my site soon.

    (I am enjoying the eggs laid by your under-gardeners - delicious!)

  4. What a fabulous time you must have had. It's always good to get away and try something new!

  5. Celia, that looks like a great weekend. The woodcuts are wonderful.

  6. Hi Joanna, Nicisme and Cottage Smallholder,
    I thoroughly enjoyed being able to experiment with some different printmaking techniques.

    Hi Annie,
    Using the power tools was fun and I was impressed by the results. We didn't use a press - all the prints are hand burnished using a combination of baren, various rollers and spoons, we were encouraged to check progress by carefully lifting the paper and adjusting the pressure of burnishing to get the results we wanted. I loved cutting the woodblock and the variety of marks that can be made.
    Bank Holiday - these are the national holiday days, a few weekends a year are extended to 3 days (Sat, Sun plus Bank Holiday Monday). It's a national joke that it usually rains! But this year it has rained all summer except for the Bank Holiday Weekend.

    Hi Lucy,
    Posting things on the blog is like keeping a diary with pictures. I'm looking forward to seeing how your prints develope - the soft painterly technique you achieved using the woodblock was so unusual*.

    *You can see a little coner of Lucy's Alpine ski slope scene in the photo of the prints laid out on the grass.

  7. It looks as if you had great fun at the workshop. I love the photograph of all the prints hanging in the studio.

    Your woodcuts are amazing. I'll look forward to seeing them after they are finished.

  8. These prints are a feast to the eyes!I want to keep going back to look at them.

  9. Celia ......seeing that photo on your posting about your Gainsborough house print workshop course - reminded me of the week I spent there in 2000 ( I think it was then)

    I had had my work selected for a big exhibition which was held at Whitleys Atrium Gallery in Queenway in London. That was in 1999, I was so excited as I had visited this 'Printmakers Council'
    organized exhibition the previous year and had felt sufficiently inspired to consider making a print based installation.
    The piece I made was called "Silent Apocalypse"

    So there I was in the show the following year and to top that sense of satisfaction I found that I was the beneficiary of the Gainsborough Award.
    This was for a printmaking residency at G.H.P.S.

    It was such a lovely place and Caroline W. and her partner were wonderful. I did have a stomach virus for all of the time I was there but enjoyed the place very much and I remember being in the garden there( looking at that photo) which shows the house.

    I met a really nice printmaker there called Angie whose second name I can not remember?. She and her partner were so friendly. I think she was from London originally where I lived at the time.
    Another person who was inspiring was Belinda King.... lovely work and a great person to work with.
    Happy days.........
    Enjoyed looking through your website and blog and particularly like the woodblock you were working on in the GHPS course. I wonder how it turned out in the end if indeed it is finished. I see that you too have a very "able studio assistant" - pussy cat, like myself (well actually I have two of them) - aren't we lucky !!

  10. Kat and Meg - I'll definitely post photos of the finished woodcuts on this blog.

    Hi Ainesse - Gainsborough's house is a perfect place for a print workshop. I'll definitely be going back to use the antique presses. My woodcuts have had to wait while I work on more urgent projects. But maybe that will be good, returning to them with a fresh eye, in the meantime I'm working on them in my mind.


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