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.

Bus Trip 7

a trip into town to get the train to blackburn.

out in the morning, back in the afternoon/evening, hence the different backgrounds of white at the top and the black panel at the bottom...
i got a bit more adventurous with drawing the furniture of the bus this time.[i tried to draw some shop fronts too but failed miserably!] i quite like these.

the journey home was in the rush hour, so was slowed by traffic, blizzardy conditions and a trainee driver. but because the bus was rammed i ended up sat up top, with the windows steamed up and the only view was of the back of many heads for the most part...:-(
the hand belonged to a small girl drawing in the condensation on the window.

Bus Trip 8

i'm still having some inking and printing problems here.
though i think that i'm beginning to resolve these, it's still a bit hit and miss :-(
[and without a press, and doing it by hand, maybe that's unavoidable...]

this is the bus stop on vicar lane where i get off the bus. a bit of a cheat maybe, as i drew the initial sketch after i'd wandered around town for a while, but i wanted to try something a bit different.

there's a couple more prints to do from yesterday, as i made the return journey via two buses, but i've not had time to draw those up yet. i think they'll be similar though - ie no figures, just bus-stops...

spontaneity and design...

I’m constantly battling with - on the one hand - a love of spontaneity and - on the other - my slightly obsessive compulsion to over-design these prints.

One of the inspirations for the project was a talk by Billy Childish at the Greenbelt festival where he talked about abandoning notions of success and failure in his art and instead just treating it as play. Doing it for the process and not the product.
I love that idea, and I’ve struggled to keep it at the heart of this project… I guess I grew up valuing that punk rock ethic of content over style – it’s the spirit of the thing that’s important to me, not the competency of how it’s put together.

i'd take the expressionists over the impressionists every time...


Bus Trip 9

so i've broken a rule with the next two prints - because they were really pretty quick and short journeys, these are smaller than the regulation A5 size. hope that's ok with you :-)

i'm using some different, old lino here. it's harder than the other stuff i've been using, and when you heat it up to cut it smells evocatively of school cloakrooms, somehow...

i'm trying to be a bit less deliberate with the drawing and cutting here, and i kind of like it. i'm using some of the larger blades in the cutting tool to see how that affects things...

Bus Trip 10

number ten!
sort of - it's probably number eleven really, but i kind of got out of sync at number seven [which should have been trips 7 & 8 - out and back - are you keeping up?]

anyway, i like travelling n this bus and getting off here, as somewhere en route it changes and when you get off it's no longer a 13 but a number 3. [does admitting that i like that make me a bit of a saddo? probably...]

Bus trips 11 & 12...

it was half term, so just for something to do, i dragged the boys into town.
i was kind of encouraged that they brought their sketchbooks with them, and maybe a little less enthralled by the mutant zombies that they drew en route.

this prints sees eddie's second appearance in the series, still wearing his peaked woolly hat and hoody combination. he does have other clothes, honest.

i'm trying to get more adventurous with the text in this one. with mixed results, maybe.
i'd quite like to do one sometime that's almost all text.

the printing is improving though - becoming more consistent across the set of 13 each time i'm doing them [some of the early ones look pretty dodgy now, alongside these more recent ones...]

the conversation bits are snippets from things we discussed on the way home, as joe read his bart simpson comic and eddie pondered his 'bounty' bar...

Bus Trips 13 & 14

on this journey the plan was to draw animals, but chimneys took over, somehow.
and on the way back i sat on a seat next to some disgusting and discarded 'chixy chicken' wrappers. i also sat on my phone and rang lloydy by mistake. so time for drawing was a bit limited.
on the bus if you sit towards the rear you get to see the back of a lot of folks' heads. hence the three lads at the bottom there.

i'd just watched a dvd called 'beautiful losers' which i'd recommend if you're into skateboarding or outsider art or engagingly eccentric americans or documentaries and stuff. there was some utterly lovely hand-painted typography on display [a lot of it by margaret kilgallen; her stuff was just brilliant] - very inspiring, and something that i'd like to filter into these prints i think... [this one above is maybe a starting point for that...]

Bus Trips 15-18

here's a print for 11th march, documenting a trip into town then out to see an exhibition at left bank, before dashing back via chapel allerton to be home in time for joe getting back from school.

i've never been on the 91A before, so that was good. apart from the suspension on the bus, which made for a bumpy ride [difficult for drawing...]
and i quite like the text up top - since watching 'beautiful losers' [twice] on dvd i've been wanting to do some better typography on these prints. i decided to try to keep it simple and chose just one character sketched during each journey to include.

Bus Trips 19-22

this one is made up from four trips into and out of town to meet with gav and do some shopping...

each trip on the print takes up an amount space equivalent in ratio to the time spent on each bus [if that makes sense?]

to be honest, i was a bit uninspired. and i finished a sketchbook and had to buy a crappy notebook in order to have something to draw the journey home on.

see if you can spot where i completely omitted a number.

i really like the roughness of the black letters on this. and the bloke with the glasses next to the pickard sign.
and the guy with the tartan hat too.

shame that the composition's a bit all over the shop :-(

floundering about is good...

As a rule, I’ve tended to find that the work that I’m happiest with (in an artistic sense) is the stuff that I’ve done when I’ve tried something unfamiliar, where the work emerges almost unnoticed as I flounder about trying to get the software, tools or materials to work for me. When I’ve gained some sort of mastery of the techniques, somehow the work doesn’t have the same freshness and vitality. It’s like I’ve controlled all the life out of it. I guess that once I’m in control of the process, I can turn my attention to the product, and the work becomes a bit tame as a result.

Some of these prints suffer from too much control, too much of me trying to achieve a particular effect or an end product. Sometimes I’ve drawn something on a bus already thinking that it’ll make a good print (usually it doesn’t) Some of them are so carefully drawn, planned and cut that they feel a bit dead to me, a bit too fixed and lifeless.
Then again, some of the ones where I just went for it and bashed them out with very little design or thought beforehand, well they can turn out a bit disappointingly too… :-)

In the end there’s little rhyme or reason behind which prints work well and which ones don’t, and that I guess has been one of the joys and the frustrations of the project. Maybe it’s a case of slowly edging towards a better understanding of how to do stuff well rather than making huge strides forwards.

And then I come back to the original intent to get beyond the idea of success and failure and just be comfortable with making stuff and learning… :-)

Bus Trip 23

this one's kind of self-explanatory.
it made sue laugh, which is good, as i like her laugh [imagine a sort of cross between a chuckle and a smirk. a chirk? a smuckle? anyway...]

it was cut without warming the lino [this was quite a pliable block] using just one tool, and not worrying about being too precise.
that said, the lettering was pretty tricky to do.

number 24 was going to have about twice as much lettering on it as this.
i'm having a rethink about that one now :-)

Bus Trip 24

so with this one and the previous print i'd got a bit frustrated with the need to draw every trip.
hence all the writing.

this one was a kind of 100+ word stream of consciousness prose poem thing, but i had to edit it right down to fit on the block.

i'm still learning how to best mix the acrylic/block print medium stuff, and how it works when you apply it [best i think if you can leave it to go a bit tacky before you apply it]
and bits of this don't work too well ["SNAKO" for example]
some of the lines are cut too thin [particularly with the home-mixed ink]
so it's not a particularly artistically appealing piece.

but the black lettering on the blue works a treat, and i also love the bits that don't quite register and you get an accidental drop shadow.

after you've printed the blue colour you re-cut the block for the black and there's a sort of glorious, destructive pleasure when you hack away the blue lettering [eg "Bag in a tree", "Past the fire station"] that you'd so painstakingly carved just a day before :-)

Bus Trip 25

a bloke i drew from the no 97, headingley to the city centre.

i'm getting the hang of this two colour printing now. or improving, at least

at this point i toyed with abandoning the requirement to put all the text on there - the journey times and stuff - thinking that i'd only stick all that stuff on there when it suited the design...

Bus Trip 26

this was my first stab at two-colour printing.
the guy pictured was stood outside the building college, bright red hair and a matching orange coat/jacket.
i'd been thinking for a while about trying to use an additional colour, so this was ideal.

using a medium to convert the acrylic colour for the orange layer into ink was not quite as straightforward as i'd hoped [i'm terrible at judging quantities and ratios...!] but i got it about right in the end...

the letters at the top work well, i think [the numbers, less so]
i like the way it doesn't quite register, so you get an orange echo of the black outline.

next time i do a two-colour print i'll try to use the second colour to create highlights and shadows - he's maybe a bit flat here.

Bus Trip 27

i'm really happy with this one - my first stab at three-colour printing.

the blue doesn't quite zing like i'd hoped, and pedants will probably like to point out that those handle things top left should be yellow.
and maybe the star in the text should be grey and the date black.
but overall, it's worked better than i'd hoped it might, and i really enjoyed doing it.


Bus Trip 28

i was on the no4 purple bendy bus for the first time [unless you count a two-min hop-on-hop-off a stop later journey a year or two back]

clearly, the bendy buses were designed by sci-fi fans. right down to the futuristic fonts they've chosen for the signage. the whole furniture of the things scream 'Battlestar Galactica!'.
i kind of like it.

no offence to armley, but it does seem slightly incongruous to be travelling there on a vehicle quite that swish and self-consciously cool...

anyway - i ended up sat facing the exit door which seemed like a bad move for a minute or two, but then this guy came and stood across the doorway right in front of me, and that gave me something to draw....

i tried to get the architecture of the bus in a bit, and that makes for some nice abstract-y shapes.

there's a religious analogy going on in here as well, maybe.

BusTrip 29

the third of four bus trips in one evening [into town, then out to armley, then back again]

on the bendy bus, the seats face in different directions, meaning that you can draw peoples faces and not just the backs of their heads. the downside of this is that they can see you drawing them. so you have to be either very brazen [which i'm no good at] or very surreptitious [which i'm also not very good at, but at least it's less potentially confrontational]
this girl on the bus clocked me straight away though, before i'd even decided to draw her.

i tried hard to be inconspicuous as i sketched, but she knew i was looking at her.
she didn't seem very happy anyway, but i think i made her even less so.
i tried hard not to feel bad about that... couldn't help imagining a back story for her, and wondering what had made her so glum [other than having me staring at her and trying not to make it so obvious]

i like the composition of this pic though. she really was half-glaring at me through the hand rail like that.

somehow the design of it remind me a bit of rennie mackintosh - the shapes and the parallel [ish] verticals on the right [the folds of the bendy joint bit in the middle of the bus]

Bus Trip 30

this one sort of follows on from the bloke stood in front of the exit on the bendy bus [bus trip 28]
she had really great scarlet hair...

Bus Trip 31

and this one is similar to the previous one. i got quite interested in getting the stance right - with the movement of the bus folk stand kind of oddly, balancing themselves against the roll of the vehicle... not sure i've quite captured it here, but they sort of work.

after this one i decided not to draw the backs of folk for a while though - i'd done enough of those sort of poses for the time being...

Bus Trip 32

i'd travelled down to london for a greenbelt festival visual arts planning meeting.

i went on the 'megabus' which was an experience - a bit like going back 25 years to the days when it felt like a real luxury to find a vehicle with any sort of toilet on it.
i guess you get what you pay for.

anyway, as sue pointed out, it's technically a coach, not a bus, so i didn't do any drawing.
[i know, i know. i feel like a fraud. i'm not proud of myself...]

here's the print of my journey back from the train station at the end of the [very long] day.
it's a bloke sat on a wall in harehills as viewed from the bus as we passed.
[for any pedants reading, it was a 13 bus - i forgot to include that on the print]

Bus Trips 33 & 34

bus trips 33 and 34 - into town to meet with matt ward and then lunch at roots and fruits with james c.

all very enjoyable.

i'd gone with a plan for these trips and prints - to draw my reflection in the stairwell screen on both journeys, as i was planning a haircut whilst i was out as well, so it'd give a nice 'before and after' thing. sadly, i was in a bit of a rush, hopped onto the 35 from moortown corner and then realised that has no stairwell.
another lesson learned - don't try to pre-plan these things. or at least don't rely on those plans...
that trip on the 35 was notable for the sub Daily Mail conversation and general Meldrewisms of the old folks sat behind me.

i quite like these. they're not much of a development from no.27, but i think that they sit nicely together, and the text at the bottom is good.
no great registration problems this time either, so i'm getting the hang of the press.
i like the slightly jungle-y feel of the upright poles, they're like hanging vines.
the furniture of buses is actually quite weird when you start to look closely at it...

if the journeys were longer or i could draw quicker or if i felt confident to take photos on the bus then maybe i could add in the passengers... :-)

Bus Trip 35

a first stab at a more composite sort of image using a second colour, and whilst it doesn't quite cohere as an image for me, i think i learnt a lot from it...

Bus Trip 36

a frustrating one.
i had really high hopes for it too.
there are four colours - sort-of-beige, light blue, indigo and black.
but the indigo's dried very dark - much darker than i'd envisaged.
so you can't really see sue's reflection over the bloke's right shoulder there, which leaves the composition a bit unbalanced.

also i used my new press for the first time* to make this print *, and somehow the registration's gone a bit awry.
that wouldn't necessarily be such a huge problem but when the two colours are so close in tone it can make the text illegible on some of the prints... :-(

plus i'd got impatient and the indigo ink [the penultimate layer] wasn't entirely dry when i did the black lines...

so very few of these prints have actually come out ok. only nine of the 13 are even remotely acceptable.
lots of lessons learned though...
and the highlight on the side of the bloke's head is very, very pleasing :-)

*out of synch again - working my way through a backlog of sketchbook drawings and recorded bus trips so the prints weren't done in the order that i'd made the journeys...

Bus Trip 37

a print of a trip into leeds for a drink and a chat with jay.

it's three different blocks, overprinted, and it's the first time i've tried doing that.
it's by no means perfect,but i quite like the irregular shape of the outline and the way it breaks out of the rectangle. and the colours.
i tried to keep it fairly random [some of the other prints have been a bit 'designed' of late] so until i started printing i had no idea how the various bits would fit together - i cut three different heads to try out, and this was the best of them.

and it was really quite cold, for may...

Bus Trip 38

printing white onto black paper, and with oil-based ink for the first time...

as usual, i'm quite happy with bits of it, less so with others.
and faffing about with turps and the general hassle of cleaning up afterwards was a bit awkward [and stinking up the kitchen with the smell of white spirits made me a bit unpopular with the family...]

Bus Trip 39

here's a view of the back window of the number 13, with the number twelve behind.
just really trying to find a new perspective on a bus ride that's very familiar.

Bus Trip 40

number 40.

it feels like a bit of a milestone in the project...

these were all blokes that i drew whilst waiting at the bus stop...
i deliberately cut this block quickly and without much drafting or designing, and i quite like the way it's turned out.
it has that kind of spontaneous feel about it, i think...

Bus Trip 41

this print makes me very happy.
not all of the prints in this project work so well - steep learning curve and all that - but occasionally one turns out really nicely.

colours, lines, lettering - they all work on this one. it's not perfect, but i'm very, very pleased with it.

[i spent a lot of time early on trying to get clean, flat, solid areas of ink. now i'm getting more interested in the textures you can get and working out how to achieve and manage them...]

Bus Trip 42

following on from those five blokes, five leeds lasses.
i'm really pleased with her with the hair on the left there - it's a good likeness.
and there's a nice line running diagonally up the line of the back of the head of the woman furthest right, along descender on the letter 'y' and through the angle of the number 7 there. that's quite pleasing too, and totally accidental...;-)

Bus Trip 43

i had to go to barnsley and gave meself plenty of time to get into town to get the train.
but the scheduled bus just didn't show, so it all turned into a bit of a mad panic. to commemorate the bus' non-arrival i did this quick experiment in blind embossing [where you don't use ink, but dampen the paper so that the imprint of the block leaves raised areas - it's a nice, subtle 3D sort of effect which can look amazing if you do it well...] this is my first stab at it, and the photo's not great. i used some old lino that my dad gave me - it's really hard, so you get very sharp edges. but it's also quite thin, so there's not a lot of depth to the cut, and having done this one i think the lesson is that the cut needs to be deeper, and/or the recessed areas on the block need to be flat[ter]. maybe i'd have been better constructing the block from cut-out letters glued onto card. so while it's not a huge success, i'll definitely be having another go at some point... *disclaimer for any pedants reading this - it actually might be a "debossing" that i've done here... i'm not entirely sure of the difference, to be honest :-)

Bus Trip 44

in cities, at night, you get this murky, orange half-light from the streetlights.
that's what i was going for here, though i've not quite got it.

i was also trying foe something a bit more graphic and stylised - it works in places, in other bits maybe not so well.

bad drawings, good prints [and vice versa]...

Sometimes the format of this project hasn’t helped me create really good work.

Not every journey has yielded great ideas and drawings and in an ideal world I’d probably not have made prints of many [most?] of the images that I have over the past 13 or 14 months… the flip side of this is of course that the requirement to make silk purses out of the sow’s ears of my sketchbook work has resulted in some really pleasing prints [and bits of prints]...
And I’ve learnt a lot from that I think (just don’t ask me to explain exactly what it is that I’ve learnt there - it’s about refining your instincts I think, or something nebulous like that…)

Also, I’ve a load of drawings which, for varying reasons didn’t yet make it into print form, but which I hope to be able to cut in lino sometime soon…

Bus Trip 45

this print emerged from a very simple drawing of a woman on a busy bus into the city.
it's an image that's probably a lot more 'worked' than some of the others - i drew and redrew and refined the original sketch quite a bit to get it to this stage, and i think that paid off.
the white highlight on her face is especially pleasing...

Bus Trip 46

like it says, i just completely forgot to draw...

Bus Trip 47

a while back i came across an interview with billy childish where he talks about the theory of 'ruckenfigur' - compositions in which the viewer sees the figure from behind and is invited to share in the view that the subject sees.
it's relevant to a lot of these bus prints as i've inevitably ended up drawing that back of my fellow passenger's heads quite a bit.

that said, i've shied away from showing much that's going on outside the bus, probably because there's not a huge amount of dramatic landscape to draw between here and the city centre; often it's dark out when i'm travelling; also because the scenery flies past a bit quick to draw clearly; plus sometimes the windows are so steamed up and/or grimy that you can't see much through them anyway...

so this was an attempt to do something a little bit ruckenfigur-y. and i quite like it.

Bus Trip 48

this is the bus stop on brackenwood green, just round the corner from where we live, and where i spent a frustrating half hour in anticipation of a bus to take me into town en route to a gig...

some of the details may not be entirely accurate - this image is compiled from about four or five separate drawings made while i was waiting there...

Bus Trip 49

from a trip out to see the handsome family at the HPPH with my mate simon hall - a quick bus ride from town out up the burley road when i very nearly forgot to draw.
this old-ish guy with the pony tail and the novel was very friendly, letting me on ahead of him. this is the second attempt i made at this print. it was a tricky one to get right, and in the end i decided to just get it done and not worry too much about it; treat it as a bit of a 'loosener' to get me back in the swing of printing again [as i'd been distracted by the day job for a while and the printing had been effectively shelved for a month or two]

i've got pretty good at writing and lettering backwards during this project. ideally, you check the drawn block in a mirror before cutting it to make sure that you've reversed everything properly. i didn't do that here, and as a result the first print revealed that the 'd' in 'lady's' was a 'b' and i had to butcher the block a bit to resolve the typo...

Bus Trip 50

this one was a bit tricky as my drawing at the time was a bit uninspired and i was in a flat-out rush to buy camping supplies in readiness for an imminent festival weekend - feeling very unprepared and a bit all-over the shop and not really in the best place mentally with the whole project. as a result my sketchbook didn't yield a fantastic crop of drawings to work from on that particular morning...
it turned out ok though i think.
i like the way that the check pattern repeats across the two figures' clothes.

crispness and imperfection...

Part way through the project I treated myself to a well-illustrated book about printmaking and in it there’s a picture of a lino-cut of the Tate Modern. It’s a beautifully-made print, with several well-chosen colours; very, very carefully cut and faultlessly printed. It’s as crisp and clean as a screenprint.

It’s impressive, and for a while I beat myself up a bit about how un-crisp and fault-filled my printing was. After a bit though, I learned to love the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that emerge as you make each print. I spent some time messing about with the textures, deliberately trying to see what would happen when you layer slightly imperfect areas of colour up in a print.

I can’t say that I’m always happy with the quality of my prints – the mixing-up of the coloured inks in particular seems to be a very imprecise science and can make it difficult to always get the result you want. But this project has provided me with a good place to play around and explore the possibilities…

Bus Trip 51

bus trip 51 - a little eight-page fold-up comic with an image on each page.
it was a pain to print, as i pre-cut and folded the paper and had to ink and layout eight separate blocks for each comic.
the colours and layouts may differ to the one in these snaps...

pencils vs. pens

It took me a long time to get my head around the relative and differing qualities of pencil drawings and block prints. A stupidly long time, if I’m honest.

My sketchbooks filled up with scribbly pencil drawings, which I was then trying to convert into lino. But the lines and the [relatively] subtly grey-shaded spaces translated pretty clumsily at times – I was a long way through the project before I started trying to think about the drawing process in terms of shapes, and positive/negative spaces.
Some of the less well-made prints I think suffer because of this.
Using a pen as opposed to a pencil for the sketchbook drawings helped a lot, as it got me away from describing things with lines of graduated grey graphite and into looking at solid black areas a bit more…

Bus Trip 52

this print documents people that i sketched on a trip into town to meet with ric stott, cheryl lawrie and her aussie team just after the greenbelt festival.

the composition is maybe not the best here - i was trying not to get too precise and controlled and just let the thing come together and that didn't work so well.
but the colour is ok, and it's getting back to the sort of composite images of people sketched that i was doing earlier in the project...

Bus Trip 53

though it's not the final journey that i made, this is the final print that i made in the project - 'proper' work got in the way and i ended up with a backlog of trips to document on a couple of occasions...

there's not a huge amount to say about it - it's just seven people observed out and about from a bus on a relatively balmy night...
like a lot of these prints, it's a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts.
the guy in the checked shirt lets it down i think... the pattern doesn't sit so well with the more solid areas of black in the rest of the print.
also, the line between the smoking girl and the texting bloke beneath isn't as clear as i'd have liked.

more lessons learned...

Bus Trip 54

from a trip into town with jonah to get a train to barnsley. i was a bit migraine-addled, which was why i wasn't driving. joe drew the pics for me as i couldn't focus on the page too well, and this is basically an enlarged version of the sketch he made of a kid on a bike outside the shops opposite eddie's school.

he can really draw, can joe :-)

Bus Trip 55

so this is a bit of a weird one, and probably needs some explanation...

firstly, i lost the details in a sketchbook somewhere, so i couldn't find the timings to include on the print :-(

but it was a trip into town with jonah to buy boots, and i was pretty uninspired with the whole project at the time - the journey and the route and the bus itself all seemed a bit dull and over-familiar. and i was having this conversation with joe about what the worst disaster might befall us on that trip - i was thinking crazy-amazing disaster movies, hence this image.
and jonah's [very much] worst-case-scenario for the trip was that dennis wise might get on and come sit next to us...

thankfully, the journey was very uneventful.
[it didn't actually happen. honest. there were no actual alien squid. or meetings with short, unpleasant ex-footballers]

so this print is made up of two separate blocks - one in two colours to create the green layer and then a block for the black over the top...
i cocked up with the lettering a bit, so that's not come out quite how i'd have liked it.
and there are some lessons to be learnt about positioning the black layer if/when i try this again...

so i'm not overly chuffed with how it's turned out, in all honesty. but then part of the project is to show everything, the good and the bad, and to learn from both...

Bus Trip 56

a print that documents a trip home from town with our jonah - we been out buying football boots for his academy trial at barnsley fc* and this is from the journey back home.

i was very pleased with the print until i took one down from the drying line to pencil in the details under the image - that's when i spotted a black line that i'd erroneously left in.
[even though nobody else seems to notice it, i do, and it really bugs me]

i should have spotted it, it's a very frustrating mistake to have made, but the lesson to be learned is to spend a little more time and care examining the image each time i print a new layer... :-(

*it went very well, and he got in.