Land Rover Life
The idea for a Land Rover print was triggered by the announcement in 2016, that the last Land Rover Defender would be rolling off the production line, marking the end of almost 70 years of production of Land Rovers, from the original Series 1 to the Defender - over two million vehicles.
There are very few vehicles that have stood such a test of time and even fewer that have transcended fashion and trends to become an iconic part of British national culture. What I particularly love about the Land Rover is its appeal and relevance to all levels of society and its ability to be right at home wherever it is, be it a farmer's field, an army base, a mountain pass, a country estate, a suburban town or a royal palace.
The Land Rover's heritage of exploration and adventure and its "go anywhere, do anything" potential is an irresistible combination, evoking a sense of freedom and derring do. Its tough, rugged, no-nonsense character, combined with its no-frills, meccano-esque nuts and bolts and chunky silhouette -like a child's drawing, yet perfectly proportioned - is both timeless and distinctive.
Inspired by vintage travel posters of the 1920s and 30s, I wanted to create a print not just about the Land Rover and what it can do, but also a print that depicts what the Land Rover stands for and what it means to its many different owners.
Those of you who know my work, know all about my love of dogs. To me, dogs and Land Rovers are inseparable and it's no co-incidence that people who own both dogs and Land Rovers often speak of their vehicle and their animals in the same affectionate tones, both being faithful, hard working, characterful, individual and will go anywhere with you!
You may also know that hand lettering is also my "thing" and is a constant feature of my work. The phrase "Live A Life Less Ordinary" stirred up, for me, the best feelings about owning a Land Rover. If you look closely at the finished print, you'll see that the letters are drawn so they look like they are 'screwed' into the print.
I spent a lot of time researching the old series 1 and 2 Land Rovers and finding out what they mean to their owners. I decided the phrase "Live a Life Less Ordinary" best summed up how people felt about the joy of owning a Land Rover (apart from the fact there's always something that needs to be fixed!)
I made lots of mini sketches as to how the print might look, placing the Land Rover in different positions and trying out alternative landscapes and experimenting with how the lettering might look.
Once I was happy with the design I drew it out in detail and scanned it into Photoshop so I could play around with different colours. The next task was to transfer the design onto the linoleum plate ready to be carved. I traced the design using Tracedown paper and then went over the design with a Sharpie pen. The design has to be transferred onto the lino in reverse so that it is the right way round when it is printed.
What is a reduction print?
When creating a print of more than one colour, a printmaker may choose to carve a separate block (or plate) for each colour or alternatively, they can use the same block for all the colours. This latter method is the reduction (or suicide) method. It is often referred to as the suicide method, not because it is suicidally tricky (though that is true) but because in using the same plate for all the colours, the plate is systematically cut away in increasing amounts as the print progresses and by the end of the print, it is completely destroyed, therefore there is no going back. It also means that no more prints can be made from that block, so once the initial run of prints are editioned, that's all there will ever be.
Inking the plate
I mix all my colours up by hand using oil based traditional inks, so I spent lots of time perfecting the recipe for the perfect Land Rover green...
Printing the plate
I wanted to get an edition of 50 prints in total. Allowing for errors and time for the plate to build up a nice even layer of ink, I prepared 58 pieces of paper for prints.
Each colour must be printed on all 58 prints before I can move on to the next colour. If I make mistake at any stage I cannot go back and print more, because after that particular colour has been printed, I carve away more of the block for the next colour and it is irreversibly altered.
In the making of this print I had to ink the block and put down the paper on the inked block to take a print a total of 580 times (58 prints, each with 10 passes of colour - there were 11 colours in total but I managed to print colours 5 and 6 together)! Each colour took several days of printing and was very physically demanding, because in order to transfer the ink evenly to the paper each print was hand burnished (rubbed by hand on the back of the paper) with various tools for a considerable length of time!
Finally, each time I put the paper down on the inked block to take a print I had to make sure it was put down in exactly the same place... even a shift of less than half a millimetre would mean that the colours would not be mis-registered and the print would not have good, sharp definition. (Sometimes this can be done deliberately with great effect, but I wanted perfect registration for this print)! To achieve this I built a 'jig' and 'tympan' based on old printing machines which would (hopefully) hold the block and the paper in the same place each time. Printmakers expect to lose a few prints to mis-registration, errant ink smudges, too much ink, too little ink and a whole host of other possible, unforseen catastrophes! To top it all, one slip of the tool when carving the block could mean the whole edition is ruined! Now you know why it's called a suicide print!
I ended up with an edition of 47 for this print. Not bad!
Step by Step...
In each picture below, the inked lino printing plate is on the left and the resulting print is on the right.
Step 1: The first step to start printing is to carve away all the areas on the plate that I want to keep as the colour of the paper and then ink up the plate in the first colour I want to print - a pale blue.
Step 2: On the plate I carved away all the areas I want to remain pale blue (the colour that I have printed in Step 1) and inked up the plate in the next colour - a pale taupe/brown...
Step 3: I carved away all the areas I wanted to remain pale taupe/brown (from Step 2) and inked up the plate with the third colour - light grey...
Step 4: I carved away all the areas to remain light grey and inked up the plate with the fourth colour - mid brown...
Step 5: I carved away all the areas to remain mid-brown and inked up the plate with the fifth and sixth colours - mid grey and orange (I can print both of these together as they are in separate areas of the print and do not touch) ...
Step 6: I carved away all the areas to remain mid-grey and orange and inked up the plate with the seventh colour - light olive green...
Step 7: I carved away all the areas to remain light olive green and inked up the plate with the eighth colour - Land Rover green...
Step 8: I carved away all the areas to remain Land Rover green and inked up the plate with the ninth colour - dark green...
Step 9: I carved away all the areas to remain dark green and inked up the plate with the tenth colour - dark grey...
Step 10: The final stage - I carved away all the areas to remain dark grey and inked up the plate with the eleventh colour - almost black...
... to reveal the final print
I hope you found this insight into the process of making a reduction linoprint useful and informative.
The original linoprint is now sold out however a fine art print is now available to buy.