Having only worked with lino a couple of times, the first way back when I was a secondary school student, I decided to ‘have a go’ for the Silk Cut Lino Award. Inspiration for the design came from the earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand.
In 2008, I had the privilege and joy of travelling to new Zealand and was particularly drawn to Christchurch. I loved the historical buildings, the architecture, and the ornamentation, the feel of the city. Numerous photos didn’t really do the sights justice, but they were precious reminders, just the same, of a place I felt a deep affinity with. Only later, did I discover that one of my great-grandmothers was born there.
Also having a fascination for gargoyles and grotesques, I had the yearning to capture in printmaking some of the amazing faces I’d snapped in Christchurch – the guardians that had watched so long over that lovely city – which, a mere blink in time later, were quite probably rubble and dust.
Using the photos as reference, many hazy from distance (me on the ground, them way up there), I first made sketches. Wanting them of a more uniform size, needed for fitting onto the block, I scanned the sketches, fiddled in Paint Shop and re-sized. These adjusted images I printed onto A4 tracing papare sheets. Good old carbon paper came in useful for transferring the ‘faces’, while others, the smaller critters, I sketched directly onto the block with grey lead pencil. The dark lines of a Sharpie gave me a good base from which to carve.
The block took quite some time to complete, with numerous rubbings and test prints along the way. Hand pulling a print I was pleased with took a whole lot longer!
In the end, I used a torn-aperture mask to cover the too-regular boundaries of the block, more in keeping, I felt, with the nature of the subject.
Whatever the opinions of the judges of the Award, I’ve produced something from the heart that I’m (mostly) pleased with – I’m a person hard to satisfy when it comes to my own work.
I’ve no idea how many, if any at all, of the guardians of Christchurch remain, but they will always exist in my photos, my prints and in my heart as something precious that when lost, can never really be replaced. Unfortunately, sometimes, all we have left are the memories.