Research Point – Mark Hearld, Jonathan Ashworth, Chris Pig – Mark Making

This research point suggests that we look at the work of Mark Hearld or Clare Curtis and I have concentrate on Mark Hearld because Clare Curtis seems to me to be very much in the mold of Angie Lewin, whose work I looked at in:

I thought it useful to analysis one specific print and chose ‘Rooster’ which can be seen at:

Firstly, this is a pretty big print, 44 by 60cm, and, I think, a reduction print. He has varied his marks:

  • used different size cutter for the lines in different areas; the roof, the pond, the cloud
  • different lengths and qualities of linear mark in the different areas to suggest different textures and qualities of the surfaces
  •  triangular marks on the legs and feathers
  • scallops on the chest and wings
  • crosshatching on coup and wattles
  • ticks for the grass
  • round marks for the pebbles under the cat

He has also made play of the transition from positive to negative int he plants on the extreme left and right and for the birds in the sky. He has made that transition seem natural. I tried to do this in my first one colour linocut, but I couldn’t make it work.

He has tied together his composition with broad sweeping shapes and created an illusion of depth by altering the scale of the animals.

In places his cutting is deliberately free for instance at the top right corner  and around the leaves on the top left. This adds to the sense of movement in the sky and wind in the vegetation.

All this is wonderfully conceived as a linocut, but there is something which I find dissatisfying about it. I think it is that it feels too much like a pretty picture created to please a mass market, on a tea towel or a birthday card.

My tutor suggested that I look at the work of  Jonathon Ashworth who works in wood etching which is to say the marks are cut into the end grain of a dense, evenly grained piece of wood allowing very fine marks uninfluenced by grain direction.

He uses grey and and black inks in these prints, and then further manipulates these tones with unbelievably precise cutting. These prints have an almost digital feel and the backgrounds are composed of such crisp lines that they look like bar codes. These very hard, knife cut lines contrast with the sweeping curves of the compositional elements and underline the soft, curvy shapes of his figures.

He produces the most amazing precise patterns for fabrics. The machine-like precision is, to my mind, rather uninvolving, but his completely different take on mark making is very interesting.

I wanted to see if I could find someone working in lino who could handle figures as succesfully and use lino for this quality of mark making. This search lead me to Chris Pig.

The Poker Game, linocut, 90x 63cm, Chris Pig (by kind permission of the artist)

‘The Poker Game’, linocut, Chris Pig (by kind permission of the artist), 90 x 63cm

I contacted Chris to ask him if I might use his images, which he has kindly permitted, as well as directing me to other work and other artists.

There are several thing which instantly strike me about this print:

  • subtle tonal range
  • sheer complexity of cutting and mark making
  • the confrontational gaze of the subject
  • the gritty subject matter.

It seems amazing that this could be a linocut until you realise the sheer size. The quantity and precision of work here is immense. More prints can be seen at:

and they have a gritty, witty, provocative feel. He provides a short commentary on each which is often interesting and illuminating; in particular he talks about ‘having a problem with the vicar’s daughter image of printmaking’. Clearly, he feels no need to make pretty pictures. He also says of one print that it took him two weeks to cut the pattern on a dress; I can well believe it.

Some of these prints are based on sketches of people in pubs such as ‘Dyke on the Pull’:

'Dyke on the Pull', linocut, Chris Pig ( by kind permission of the artist) 15 x 12cm

‘Dyke on the Pull’, linocut, Chris Pig ( by kind permission of the artist) 15 x 12cm

I think this is a very clever print. The woman’s figure is thrust to the fore by the dark tones and the face and fabric are beautifully modelled for such a small print. The background is pushed back by the lighter tone but also thrown out of focus by the rougher cutting technique and the cross hatching. The faces in the distance are suggested but still full of character. All the marks are linear but they have been rigorously organised to describe form.

It has been very interesting to look at these contrasting works and think what I can take from them:

  • variety of mark to describe texture
  • direction of liner marks to describe form
  • density and thickness of line to describe tone
  • broken line
  • think about intent/remit, what am I trying to say, or is my purpose decorative, illustrative
  • be prepared to forgo colour in the service of the marks
  • be brave enough to take a life drawing and from it create a linocut
  • be wary of making pretty pictures.

About SteveCussons

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts.
This entry was posted in Mark Making, Part 3 Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints, Printmaking 1, Research Points and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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