I guess everything starts with observations & sketches. I don’t usually have any particular studio piece in mind when I go out sketching & indeed many of the sketching opportunities aren’t deliberately thought out beforehand; they just happen.
The inspiration for my latest Kitchen Litho is a case in point. The sketches for this were done a while ago, when I was still living in Kent. They are of a Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata). This lovely specimen had come to rest on an old reed & appeared to be sunning itself. I scribbled a few sketches & managed a colour study, which I must admit to touching-up once I was back in the studio!
I knew I wanted to do something with these sketches, but I just wasn’t sure what. It can take a long time before I can envision what a sketch might metamorphose into; and yes, the gestation period does vary hugely.
Printmaking can make me look at a sketch in a totally different way; I see & break down the composition into layers. I imagine each plate & try to visualise a possible outcome. These sketches just screamed Kitchen Litho at me.
For me this form of lithography is so unpredictable, possibly due more to do with my lack of experience than the process itself. But I think it is true to say that you never quite know exactly how a plate might look until you print it. Some of my very unpromising Kitchen Litho plates have printed with some very pleasing results. It is possible to vary the slightest thing, be it paper or ink or even the material used to create the initial drawing & have vastly different outcomes.
So in my head I create these imaginings of how I would like each plate to be & how many colours I will need to print. I then come up with a working design and create colour templates in coloured pencil. It’s laughable really, because it all goes out the window once I start actually printing. Colours & designs are changed or modified which really is half the fun.
I then have to question if all the planning is worth it. I suppose it isn’t wrong to have ambitious ideas & that it is more important to be flexible & just be willing to completely change or adapt what I’m doing. Sometimes the challenges are worth pursuing. Oil paint for me is an absolute devil to print with even when I thicken it with magnesium carbonate. But some of the textural effects that I can achieve with this make it worth the anguish.
The plates for my Kitchen Litho of a Great Spotted Woodpecker were certainly difficult to produce reliable prints from with oils. I had very few colour prints to show for a great deal of hard work, but the textural effects made up for it in my eyes.
I just hope that the process of Kitchen Litho will come to be better known & respected. With that view I very bravely entered my ‘Dragonfly’ into the first ever International Kitchen Litho Competition, in order to help promote this art form. It has been wonderful to see all the brilliant entries, many far more superior to my efforts & such a source of inspiration. I think what I would like to do next is combine both Kitchen Litho & linocut in a piece. Time to look through my sketchbooks I think.