“Monkey King”, 6×6″, plaster cast from linocut, evoking Della Robbia majolica and Meissen’s monkey orchestra, as well as the iconization of animals in contemporary social media.

Photo 1. Linocut and cartoon. Inspiration came from sketching chimpanzees and gorillas from life at Taronga Park Zoo, research into ape behaviour and aspects which are replicated in human behaviour (e.g. hierarchy, violence, gender-based behaviour, etc.), Meissen porcelain figurines of monkeys dressed as court musicians from the 18th century and the tradition in European art of bridging humans and primates, e.g. putting monkeys in human clothes such as ruffs and of painting monkeys, such as the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar.



Photo 2. Plaster cast from linocut. A section of round PVA 6″ tube was used to contain the liquid plaster (Blue Circle (R) Casting Plaster from Boral, http://www.boral.com.au), kept in place on a timber board with terracotta clay. The biggest surprise from the plaster cast was the shift from a square composition to a round one. The tondo form immediately recalled the tin glaze ‘majolica’ pottery tradition in Italy and later on in England. The replacement of a Madonna and Child, typical of Della Robbia, as an object of adoration, with an animal, adored these days in social media, seemed obvious. Because the lino was used to produce prints, a residue of oil-based relief ink and terracotta clay required some radical carving. It’s possible to leave the ink and clay and overpainting creating a less smooth surface. The raised surfaces in my linocut could have been more pronounced (something to keep in mind while carving the lino a lot deeper next time) and no amount of ‘cleaning up’ would remove the pitting caused by the residue of relief ink. Better to create a plaster cast from the plate with no prior printing (or at least printing using water-soluble ink)!

monkey king 2 plaster cast

Photo 3. Carving, gesso and acrylic painting. I carved into the plaster with both metal and wooden pottery tools – the metal for defining edges and the wooden for removing surplus plaster. The moisture in the gesso undercoat and the acrylic paint is sucked up by the plaster. I used a very pale Yellow Ochre and a Cerulean Blue close to Della Robbia blue. Despite being photographed with a single light source, the ‘stepped’ nature of the carving means the blue changes from left to right.

monkey king 2 acrylic first coat

Photo 4. Final acrylic painting. The two colours looked too “flat” so I added a third colour in the crown and coat, giving the outer contour added definition. I knocked back the Yellow Ochre to a lighter tone, getting a bit closer to the Della Robbia look. I carved my initials and date in the reverse and gave the back and sides two coats of white acrylic.

monkey king 2


Linocut: Moon & Mountains

November 26, 2013

Print, 7x15cm.

(1) Derivan block ink (purple) on white cartridge paper;

(3) chine colle gold paper; Derivan black block ink on red Japanese patterned wrapping paper

(3) Derivan purple block ink on 80gsm grey paper, red Canson paper with beige block ink overpainting;

(4) Derivan black block ink on white cartridge paper.

linocut mountains 2linocut mountains 3linocut mountains 4linocut mountains 1

132 works in the catalogue of this year’s students at the Pine Street Creative Art Centre in Chippendale, with a fascinating variety of printmaking techniques in evidence. While I found the prints personally engrossing, I acknowledge the high level of skill shown in the drawing and silver jewellery, with some excellent surface work in the ceramics.

Andy Leigh had works with marvellous constrasts between hard and soft lines, strongly evoking texture as well, in his etchings on aluminium. Juliane Roebel-Hermann submitted a work done by photopolymer entitled Benvenuti a Sydney, with a highly-developed sense of pattern and design. I found Dorota Bora’s work intriguing, balancing both strength and delicacy, with incredibly soft textures. Ashlinn McCarthy had a strong combination of etching on katazome-printed fabric. I wasn’t surprised to see Belquis Youssofzay’s drypoint having been sold and I liked the liquid colour work within deep shade  in Cara Anderson’s reduction linoprint devoted to the Taj Mahal.

I found Laura Cunningham’s Food series quite compelling: exploring delicacy and fragility of closely-studied subject matter, with hard and soft lines and a variety of mark-making in her etchings on aluminium; not surprised to see her Poppies having sold. Naomi Tan exhibits a deep understanding of the etching-on-aluminium medium in her Surrender. I liked the cutout cicada by Sheila Myers (incorporating etching, solarplate and chine colle), particularly that traces of the green printing ink were left behind, effectively linking the cicada with its (brilliantly-worked) environment. Michaela Hauer (linocuts and etching on aluminium) is a talent to watch. It goes without saying that the excellent linocuts of Mike Cook should justly feature so prominently in the exhibition poster and catalogue.


A new product from Derivan for makers of linocuts (and wood block prints)! A new medium and extender, it seems to have great potential for linocuts, especially if you are working in more than colour. I will try to post some pictures to demonstate the different effects.


Q. Printing one colour on top of another and want the background colour to show through?

A. Add the medium to the top colour. The top colour will become translucent, allowing some of the background colour to show through. As we know, you print one colour onto another and the top colour will completely cover the lower one. Not any more! No more adding water to the ink, which only dilutes it by weakening the body of the ink.

 Q. How much medium do I add to the upper colour of ink?

A. Up to three parts medium and seven parts ink. More medium than this 3:7 ratio will make the ink translucent, allowing more of the background colour to show through.

Q. Any “side effects” for the rest of the linocutting experience?

A. Adding medium will increase the ink’s “tackiness”, so make appropriate adjustments when inking up the linocut.

Q. Got paint (Matisse Structure Acrylic, of course) on hand and want to turn it into relief printing block ink, especially to create continuity with an existing Derivan block ink?

A. Add medium to the paint. Adding the medium to the paint turns it into ink!

Q. How much medium do I add to the paint?

A. Six parts medium to four parts acrylic paint is recommended. That is, add lots of medium to give a suitable printing ink body to acrylic paint, to create that buttery block ink texture.