At the start of 2010 i found myself in need of a challenge, and so i embarked on a project to document every bus trip that i took during the year in the form of a lino print.

I'm an illustrator by trade, but i was so busy illustrating that I wasn't really doing much observational drawing any more. Plus I really fancied getting to grips with a new [ish] skill. And lino printing is a fairly easy thing to set up, at least to begin with...

I decided that each print would be A5, in a limited edition of 13, to celebrate the fact that the route i travel most is the 13/13A. It's a good job I don't live in Headingley and travel on the number 97 all the time...

Now the year is up and all the prints from the project are posted here, in journey order.

Some of the prints are a bit all over the shop if I'm honest. Some aren't even that good. Some are pleasing in places, and one or two make me very, very happy. Several of them have left me feeling utterly exasperated and seriously thinking of jacking the whole thing in.

But I didn't, and here they are. Inspired by Billy Childish, I have resolved not to think of them in terms of success or failures - they just are what they are and I've been trying to learn to do them better and to make something worth looking at...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bus Trip 1

here's the first one. there are obvious things wrong with it [i need to work on the lettering for starters, and the drawings i did on the bus weren't great to be honest, and the printing is a bit ropey, and the composition could have done with more thought and and and...]

but hopefully as i do them there'll be some progression in the drawings and the design, and in the execution of the lino cutting and printing... this was my trip back from the city centre after a weekend away attending greenbelt programming meetings down south...

the guy top left had a chat with some other bloke waiting at the bus stop - i was planning to leave some white space above him so that i could pencil some of that conversation in, but decided against it in the end. the thing bottom left is the sign on top of the bus stop. and in the middle at the bottom there, that's my reflection in the stairwell partition thing.


At art college [a long time ago now] someone had scrawled the motto 'THERE ARE NO RULES' across the wall in our studio space...

I started this project with a few rules to guide me - each print would be A5, and contain the date of the journey, the time i got on the bus and some indication of the length of the journey, images documenting the trip, and the number of the bus.

Pretty soon those rules got abandoned, as i forgot to look at my watch, or write things down, or wanted to do things a different size, or ran out of A5 lino.

i didn't mind though, those rules helped me to get started on the project and gave me some sort of framework for thinking about it, but it soon expanded beyond them.

in the end i sort of agree with the art school graffiti- writer. When it comes to art, any rules that do exist are only there for you to flex against, play with and wilfully disregard if you want to. that's part of the fun of it...

on this one, the text is better, and the layout too.
need to work on the printing - maybe getting a bigger roller would help...

definitely an improvement though :-)

this was a very quick journey - just back from chapel allerton. normally i'd have walked it, but the icy conditions were a bit too treacherous, so i took the easy option. the ipod woman was sat in the mother-and-child seats with her kid in a pushchair. the woman in the white hooded thing was someone i glimpsed from the window - the sketchbook drawing of her is quite pleasing with some nicely drawn lines, but it doesn't really translate well here into simple shapes.

and i fell over whilst trying to draw the bus stop.

Bus Trips 3&4

i probably should've thought of this earlier, but it struck me that one trip into the city centre equals two bus trips - out and back.
so this print is my solution - divided into the two journeys, bus trips 3 & 4.

i took eddie into town to see the wonderful paper cinema. that's eddie top right. to his left is the bus driver who struggled to add up the fare and fixed us with a rather fierce glare as we exited the bus.

the homeward journey was wet, and i drew another, friendlier bus driver [bottom right]
the guy in the middle was a bloke at the bus stop who very politely let us on ahead of him.

i obviously need to be a bit more thorough in my proof-reading before i start cutting the lettering...:-)

i'm also wrestling with the balance between being very precise and tight, and making the lines clean and very 'graphic', and letting the cutters dictate a bit more for a rougher sort of look...

i'm also struggling a bit with the ink and the printing - i'm using water-based stuff and don't have a press, so it's all done with hand-held rollers and the back of a spoon. where there are larger areas of black it's proving really hard to get them dense and solid without losing the definition of the finer lines...

sketchbook drawings and memories

I got this great book for Christmas (thanks Mum and Dad)

In it, a range of creative types discuss their relationship to their sketchbooks, and how and why they use them.
One of the most common things in the book is the idea that when you look back at a drawing in your sketchbook you get a very definite sense of connection back to the time and place where you made the image – the sights, smells and sounds come back as a very vivid memory.

I think that’s true, and I was thinking about that in relation to this project.

If I’m honest, some of the prints that work the best don’t really have much connection back to the journey they relate to. There’s too much gone on between the drawing and the design, too much of a process involved in the distilling down of the drawing into a printable image. Too much change and refining.

Some of the others do have that very tangible connection back for me, but they’re not always the ones that work best as prints…
And then of course there are a few that manage to be both pleasing as prints and also memorably linked to the journey that they were created out of.

Bus Trip 5

this one's got a lot less areas of black in it - partly because this was a daytime journey, and partly because i wanted to get away from some of the problems i was having with over-and-under-inking the lino [this one was much easier to ink and print]

it records a trip to the bowery in headingley to meet with some of the advent exhibition artists.
i'm very pleased with the lettering top and bottom and the bus.
the little images = a couple of blokes i saw in moortown, some workmen chopping trees on the stonegate road, the hand of a very camp bloke in dark denim and a white baseball cap, a woman in wellies and a parka running with a slightly reluctant dog, a tree with interesting bark, a jewish bloke in one of those very distinctive hats, a well-wrapped-up woman with her ticket in her mouth who took ages to sit down, and a guy who got on and proceeded to have a ticket-waving rant at the driver for no obvious reason.

Bus Trip 6

made from drawings done on a trip into town to see 'the lone and level sands', a community play in leeds parish church.

simon hall was there, and gave me a lift home [one less journey to document - ha!]

the text is getting better on these, and i'm not really using a scalpel or knife to cut the lines dead clean now, just the lino tools, which is good i think.

i drew a load of windows this time [i like the architecture in leeds - when you start to look up there are some amazing and very lovely details and designs going on, often in unusual places]
i wanted to sketch some shop fronts too, but the bus was moving to quick and whereas i used to be able to look at something and fix the details in my mind's eye very quickly [drawing them immediately afterwards] i'm out of practice these days and need more time to draw that sort of stuff...

the bus stop was interesting - illuminated inside, with a shadowy figure heralding the bus from the doorway. the guy in the hat was a well-wrapped-up workman in harehills. there's also an asian guy in a cap [again, well protected against the cold] and a youth who hung from the dangling hand-support things, both passengers on the bus.

the bus itself is ok, possibly not as well-executed as the headingley single-decker in no.5 though...

i'm a lot happier with the inking on this one. that's very definitely improving now...

and it was very, very cold.