Thursday, 4 May 2017

Finding the meaning of "practice" in "arts practice".

This year has been a VERY slow start for me in regards to getting back into my studio and creating NEW work. There's always so much going on in a busy family household and somehow things just... keep... getting... in... the.. way.

So, finally I've made a start. And, as I repeatedly find out, the starting is often the hardest part.

Its so hard to decide where to start when there's so many possible projects to take on and so many ideas roaming in my mind that I want to pursue, and in so many different directions. So, I've just started by focusing on technique, in particular linocut, with a view to raising my skills a notch or two... hopefully. As they say, practice makes perfect!

Lino cut planning by Toni Hartill

I'm currently working on a couple of lino cut projects. In both cases I have quite adventurous ideas although I doubt I have the skills yet to pull them off. Only way to find out is to begin tinkering, testing out if my ideas are possible in practice. Lino cut seems so straight forward... in theory. In practice however, I have so many questions:

  • how do you successfully and accurately transfer your image to the lino? 
  • which pens won't bleed through into your ink when you print?
  • how do you accurately transfer your image to multiple blocks of lino so they will all register when printed?
  • which registration technique will work for me?
  • how do I ensure a clean print every time?
  • how fine can I cut the lino without it being too fragile?
  • do I need to let each layer of ink dry before printing the next layer?
  • which papers are better for printing lino?
  • how can I fine-tune the pressure of the press til its just right?
  • .....

Carving begins.                                                  THartill

Through trial and error, ie. lots of PRACTICE, I've begun to make some headway into answering some of my many questions.When things go wrong I consider it to be the journey I have to travel in order to learn the stuff I need to know to move forward to the next step. If I didn't try these things I couldn't put them behind me and move on. (A lot like life I guess).

The trick is REMEMBERING next time what NOT to do. Ha! so, again through past experience of testing out some processes, making mistakes, putting it aside til another day then thinking hmmm... what did I do last time? you think you'll remember but, in my case I could never remember clearly enough not to make the same mistakes.

Studio Journal - a big cookbook of recipes       THartill

So NOW I keep a Studio Journal - its like a big cookbook of all my trials and tribulations, what worked, more importantly, what didn't, what I plan to try next, what I've learnt, etc...  also its where I keep all my colour swatches and recipes for colour mixing for each project. THIS, in itself, has saved me so much time!

Colour swatch records                                            THartill

I also regularly write notes to myself for future reference. 
If only I remembered to go back and read them!

So if you want my 2c bit of advice: 
keep a Studio Journal, you won't regret it.

So what have I learnt in my recent foray into lino cut?

Cutting a paper mask is a MUST for clean edges!

A paper mask is a MUST.                                            THartill

Take the time to properly set up a registration system that works for you.
I made my own pin and tab system and it worked a treat (and cost me nothing!)

Registration technique.                                 THartill

Paper positioned on registration pins using tabs.                THartill

Constantly print proofs as you go to keep checking your cutting, test colour choices, press settings, that the registration is working or what you need to do to fix it...

Testing layers, registration, colours.            THartill

Be kind to your tools!

RIP dear dremel.

I managed to KILL MY DREMEL! 
I'm gutted! I guess it did do many, many, many hours for me but... still...sob
(My family is quietly celebrating as I, apparently (?!) make such a raquet 
when I'm working on my lino... tsk! such nonsense!) 

So, first task accomplished. 
It hasn't turned out quite as I was anticipating (mainly because I realized I had taken on a much more ambitious goal than I was prepared to put in the time for. I was planning on a couple more layers of colours but.... nah, I've learnt lots and I don't think the print warrants that many more hours that it would require. I'm mooooving on.) 


Lino cut by Toni Hartill

So, right now, in my arts practice, 
PRACTICE is what I need and what I am focusing on. 

And hopefully, if I can manage all the other distractions around me 
I plan to do lots of it.

Thanks for visiting, 
your feedback is always welcome :)


  1. Wonderful idea. I need to do the same, thanks for the inspiration. Also love your beach walk musings, I do the same and would be left behind by the family as I take photos of this and that. I'm constantly have to run to catch up again. You captured some beautiful patterns in the sand and the sea.
    Huriana Collecutt

  2. Hi Huriana! Nice to hear from you! Glad you like my ramblings and musings. Yes, beach walks "with" the family are always interesting aren't they - we must travel a much greater distance in our back tracking and going in circles. Hope you are well and your printmaking is going well. Look forward to seeing you again up in Whangarei sometime. Toni

  3. Great blog post. Fascinated by your registration tabs. Your prints are looking fantastic.

  4. Thanks Lynn! My registration tabs are simply same concept as the pin and tabs you can buy only I made my own pins from sawn off flat-head nails and plexiplate to hold them in situ and the tabs are simply acetate (OHP) tabs with holes drilled, all held in place with "delicate" tape.


I'd love to hear your feedback or comments. Thanks for visiting! Please remember to credit when sharing or using any of my images or information.