Joint Venture: E for Explosion

Andrew Kulman and sarakulmanpaperplay.com join forces

E for Explosion is a collaboration demonstrating husband and wife team work. Andrew produced a series of wood engravings over Summer and asked Sara to design a folder which could contain four small engravings. The theme was explosions, inspired by Vorticist images and Paul Nash’s wood engravings of the Great War. Why explosions? Andrew  suggests that there was irony in taking something almost impossible to depict visually and engraving it in fine lines across small block of Lemon wood. What you achieve is an impression rather than anything that can be called objective.

Sara’s contribution was a series of innovative folders, using the dynamism of shapes and angles to make a visual response in card to the theme of explosion.  What originally started as a folder for four images became a folder for one particular image. The first considerations were centred on materials and colour. Particular weights of card and paper needed to be decided. One of the factors was whether the Silver bullet card cutter could handle the materials?

paper cutting machine

Sara preparing the card on the machine.

So what were the main considerations? Well firstly a project that combined both sets of skills, printmaking and paper engineering, but also a real joint venture that came together as a whole rather than two discrete aspects. Should colour appear in the print, how should it be used on the actual folder, would there need to be words, how large was the folder and how large was the edition?

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The Fine Art of Conversation

The first print I ever saw that I really thought was extra special was ‘The Fine Art of Conversation’ by Paolo di Paolo, it was on the wall of Floor 7 H Block, Leeds Polytechnic. This was back in 1982, it made me think how much conversation I’ve had as a result of this wonderful medium.

Now. when I produce work and demonstrate techniques with students I value the engagement of discourse and fruitful conversation. In many ways this can be when the best communication of ideas takes place..’how did you do that?’…’why does this happen?’..

Education is a conversation, we give knowledge through talking, we explain, we critique and we counsel…this is where we need to appreciate the nuances of language. Its part of what my tutor on the PGCE course refers to as Teaching with Emotional Inteligence.

Andrew Kulman's Studio Workshop

Andrew Kulman’s Studio Workshop

Explosions: an exercise in Print and Paper, Part 3 printing

When it comes to printing, I’m very much from the ‘Kitchen Table School’ of working, no reliance on big presses mentality, the DIY methods that mean you can do printing at any hour of the day, even when most print workshops have closed their doors. Its something I learnt the hard way asa graduating student and have professed to my own own students since.

For those who enjoy the technical details, I’ll use TN Lawrence oil based inks, ( I’ve had white spirit and aquatint dust coursing through my veins since 1982 so I’m sticking to solvent based ink. I use a ticketed sheet of glass for rolling out ink, hand burnish with a wooden burnisher, sometimes aided with a hard rubber roller….and always wear an apron, can’t afford to keep ruining my best clothes. Its amazing how many students pass on the apron only to get ink over their expensive white D&G shirt.

As the wood engraving blocks are relatively small I’m able to ink up and print in a confined space and with minimal fuss, larger work I’ll tend to print in the University work shops, it has its advantages, space for one but also others can see how you work and that you do actually work.

Its interesting that my friend Chris Brown and before him, his friend, Edward Bawden favoured the home DIY approach, what worked/worked for them is good enough for me.

I’m also preferring to use Japanese tissue ( of varied thicknesses. Justin Sanders advised I use Gampi, but I find it too flimsy, gossamer thin) I prefer Shoji or Chinese rice paper.)

Here are two of the four images. Note the one has had colours applied. These are pantone/pro marker additions just to try out colour variations. Im quite keen to use bright primary colours to give a contemporary ‘Pop’ feel to the otherwise earnest subject matter..as a result of this trial, I’m sticking to one colour for the back grounds.

Wood engraving

Wood engraving

B/W Wood engraving

B/W Wood engraving

Explosions: an exercise in Print and Paper, Part 2 engraving

The anticipation that goes alongside cutting a highly polished pristine piece of wood is hard to convey, imagine the first blank page of a sketch book, the virgin weave of canvas yet to be marked…

My friend and Master printer Justin Sanders who works at BC, across two schools lent me sharpened tools, which made so much difference after having used relatively blank implements. The names spitsticker, scarper, multi tool…what on earth do they do, its hard to explain the precise marks as each individual uses the tools in their own way. Many how to books try and explain, they talk of angles, how to handle tools, pressure but these fade into insignificance when you actually start to engrave.

I sometimes refer to the recognised masters of 20thC engraving such as Ravilious, Paul Nash and  John Farleigh, its useful to study their graven marks. In fact Farleigh’s auto biography was called ‘The Graven Image’ and has plenty of useful insights, I particularly admire his book ‘The Black Girl in her search for God’ by George Bernard Shaw, at one time it was possible to find this book but like so many, relatively scarce now.

Advice to novice engravers, try the tools out on a piece of lino first and then move onto wood, lino being softer is more forgiving but does not convey the experience of actual hard wood

.woodblock 2

Two New Wood Engravings

I’m not sure why it’s take so long to  finally pluck up the courage and use the array of razor sharpened tools, incise the polished wood surfaces and print the resultant engravings? I first happened upon the seductive box wood blocks over 30 years ago, in Leeds, my place of study…it was enough to just caress the blocks, knowing that Bewick, Tenniel, Ravilious had  taken the medium of wood engraving to  extraordinary levels  of achievement.

Perhaps it was the ignorance of the tools, maybe the relatively simple Lino cut was closer to my natural cutting ability, who knows ? Finally this year I engraved my first blocks, tentative, over cautious but determined and wholly prepared to accept the slips and misshapes…the first block was a challenge and the result would accompany me to the Double Crown Club Dinner where I was a guest of Christopher Brown, what could be a more fitting  occasion to produce a wood engraving? After all such masters of the medium were esteemed members.

I made the engraving, Sara, my wife produced elegant display folders and we placed them into protective glassine envelopes recently bought in NYC. The reaction at the DCC was positive and John Lawrence, a master of the medium gave me plenty of ample encouragement.

So now I’m showcasing two recent engravings, Tree of a Life and Explosion, both different in approach but representative of my ever growing confidence.

New cuts

Wood engravings