There is nothing more soothing than a float down the river! For a few years, my mother's day tradition was to stick my two young kids in a red canoe rented from the Grand Experiences and enjoy a few hours of family time floating from Glen Morris to Paris.
I had the chance to paint a spot along the river during the "Brant Colours" Plein Air event a few years ago and used that painting as inspiration for this "The Grand River" original print. This spot in the river is where "Whitemans Creek" flows into "The Grand River" on the banks of "Five Oaks" in Brant County.
Always starting with a pencil sketch to plan things out, I will often take a photo of the sketch and manipulate it on the iPad. After working in Graphic Design for 15 years I find programs like Procreate an amazing bridge between drawing and editing a sketch digitally to help explore ideas and colour options.
Once settled on a plan I transfer the pattern onto the plate to create the key block or black layer of the print. This involves burnishing a pencil drawing face down on the plate to transfer the graphite to the block, creating a mirror image of your initial drawing. With printmaking, your plate is a mirror image of the final piece. I find this transfer method works well especially if the print involves any copy.
This particular print uses vinyl flooring as a printmaking plate. I picked up a roll of this flooring from a local flooring store. It is a little thinner than I would like but it is easy to carve and holds nice detail in the edges. I have experimented with various substrates including artist-grade linoleum of different kinds and have yet to settle on a favourite. Once the graphite is transferred to the plate I like to put a thin layer watered down acrylic paint on the plate. I usually use cerulean blue because that colour makes me smile. This not only protects my graphite transfer from smudging but makes it easier to see more clearly the areas and detail I have carved out of the plate. Using V-gouge tools I carve into the plate to remove the areas of white. Once the black plate was carved I ran a test print and made edits removing any areas that were not carved away deep enough and were picking up unwanted ink residue.
Once the black plate was carved I started to work on the two other plates that were required for this print. There is a light blue that goes down first to add shading to the inside of the canoe, for the water and the sky. The next block is cut in two and inked with red and a darker green for the trees. It fits together like a puzzle and runs through the press before the black plate. For registration, I printed the black plate on newsprint, then copied it onto another piece of newsprint - running it through the press while the ink was still wet. This gave me a reverse print of the final..... Printmaking is a bit of a mental game of forward and reverse... I hope I am making sense. That reverse image of the plate is put under a sheet of acetate to protect it from the inked plates being lined up to register the plates. I taped the final sheet to the print bed and would lift the paper and change out the plate with each colour.
There are a few things with this print that I am really pleased with. I love the way the blue colour from the first plate shows through the red ink in the nose of the canoe. There is a lovely layering effect happening that adds texture and depth to the colours. The weight of the reflection and swirls of the water are also notable features that help ground the imagery with flow and whimsy.
Printmaking is a very strategic and planned art form. I am constantly reminding myself to keep it loose and let the medium shine through.
There is a patriotic nature to this print that I love. It speaks of Canada to me. The flow and freedom of the river. The bold colour of the red canoe. The paddle with the ever so significant maple leaf. A print that should be found in every home that backs onto the magnificent Grand River.
Utilizing this artwork for a t-shirt design was always in the back of mind while creating this art. I often create imagery myself when I have exhausted efforts to find something I am looking for but simply cannot find. I designed this T-shirt to wear on my own excursions down the river. My favourite feature is art on the back. I isolated the iconic paddle showcasing the maple leaf nicely. I intend to wear it proudly to represent Canada, my love for the Outdoors and paddling the river.
I created a quick video with shows the printing process on the etching press. Click here to watch me working much faster than I can actually work ....
If you are interested in purchasing this Print check my website to see if there are any still available as it was run in a limited edition.
T-shirts are available on my site as well in a couple of colour options.
I would love to hear what you thought of my process. If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them. Feel free to send me a message and let me know what you think of my work.