Technically the print was fairly straightforward. The process was a five stage reduction linocut which was then overprinted with transparent screen inks.
In making the lino reduction, I used blends of colour rolled on the slab (I hate the term “Rainbow Roll”!) from top to bottom; and also a little spot colour on the otter’s head.
TIP: For small areas of spot colour I use little cheap soft rubber rollers, which are actually sold for rolling wallpaper edges flat.
This print was also to be part of a couple of demonstrations I was to give, where I wanted to use the XCut Xpress to print the lino (see several previous blog posts). So I made it the maximum size I could fit on the extended XCut base board – about 40 x 15 cms. I also used a set of three Ternes Burton registration tabs and pins (also previously talked about on here). Once again these made sure all 20 sheets were exactly in register.
Pic below shows the working out of the fourth tonal reduction and the three TB tabs on the proof.
A mother's eyes denounce me
With a dawn-light glint
Brighter than the river's shimmer.
'I know you' they say
And a single pipe-note melts her cubs
To flow away from me forever.
Early one late winter/very early spring morning I was walking a regular route of ours along a stretch of the river Annan – just a few miles away from our home and studio in SW Scotland. It’s a favourite short walk, as the estate bailiff keeps the paths well maintained for the many fishermen who come from all over the UK and Europe to fish the Annan for salmon, seatrout and grayling.
Also fishing that morning were two well grown otter cubs. As I came to a gap in the riverside trees, there they both were. Slipping and sliding in graceful short feeding dives into a relatively shallow stretch of the cold, shining river. Seemingly oblivious to me standing on the bank, not fifteen yards away, every few seconds or so, one or both would pop up, give a few, clearly most enjoyable crunchy chews on the small crustacean, or whatever it was they had found; and then slip, in wet curves, back under the black fast water in search of another.
It was only after a few minutes of silent watching that I noticed, among the dark tree reflections over the salmon pool on the opposite bank, another pair of eyes appear and examine me with such a hard, glinting focus, my own eyes were drawn, over thirty yards, right to them. It was surely the mother of the hungry cubs, and she was not so trusting. Twice – then three times, over the course of my silent and still quarter of an hour of watching she appeared. Each time fixing my gaze - like a fierce headmistress who knows it was you, but is waiting for the confession. The twins fed on, apparently unaware.
Then, audible even to my blighted ears, above the ripple and trickle of the river, she gave a single sharp short musical pipe note. More than a squeak and yet not quite a whistle, yet clearly a command of warning.
And, as if a film of the scene had been roughly edited, suddenly all three were gone. I saw not one dark shape swim away in the clear two feet of water. No black shining shapes climbed the bank. They had all, like dissolving sugar, become again part of the river from which they were made.
And so, the following morning, I revisited the site. Not expecting to see them again of course, but to photograph - for reference for the print I already had in my head - the reflections of the trees where herself had been.
And think about what she looked like.
And come up with an image.
And some words.
Not something I do often, but having two or three colour proofs which varied slightly from the main edition, I decided to cut them down and remount them on some more Somerset paper, to make a three EV's