A little bit about the making of the Heliconia Collection

Posted by Lou Lauwerys on

You could say the process of making this collection started as soon as I arrived in Singapore as I've been quietly eyeing up these beauties while I worked on other things.
The parrot flowers are ubiquitous here. It's easy to walk past them every day but I've always been drawn to the pattern of the leaves combined with the pop of the flowers. They really do make up the texture of so many everyday scenes around Singapore. If you wander through the Botanic Gardens you get treated to a stunning variety, some structures seem to defy gravity. Playful shapes point every which way.
I always have a vision in mind but ultimately producing the work is very process driven. So once I start I often go on a journey I wasn't expecting. This collection took a couple of months to make – from sketching and carving the multiple blocks required for each piece, to waiting for the final ink to dry and editioning each.
A corner of my studio space and the tools I use. Lino cutting tools – a mixture of V and U gouges in different sizes for carving into the block. I use both rubber and traditonal linoleum blocks. Carving and printing with each is a slightly different experience. I have a number of brayers (rollers) for rolling ink onto the blocks and top left are bamboo and glass barens for applying pressure by rubbing to transfer the ink onto the paper.
I use Cranfield Caligo Safe Wash relief inks and mix my own palette of colours. These are easily cleaned up with water and soap, so no need for any solvents.

After the geometry and straight lines of the Palm Collection, it was freeing to create flowing curves and movement for these pieces. I use a lot of tracing paper to draw and redraw compositions.
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process
At an early stage in the carving I printed test proofs onto tracing paper. This helps me work out the layers and I also use these as a registration guide later on (ensuring I line up the blocks correctly when printing each layer.)

For the Botanic Garden blockprints I carved five blocks to create the five layers of colour. I really wanted the colour of the heliconias to pop so I printed the yellow first.  The next block of pale grey worked as a mask to form the shape of the flower. The final three layers provided the surrounding foliage. I printed the fourth (darker lavender) and fifth (grey leaves) at the same time.
(Inking up the blocks is one of the steps I always forget to photograph - so please excuse the blurry video still.)

The leaves of the heliconia plants are really striking to me and in fact add to the joy of seeing the flower itself pop out against this background. For the Sunlight and Moonlight pieces, I wanted to capture the idea of the light falling on the leaves.
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process

The first and second blocks were used to print the colour of the flowers and then their outlines (as in the Botanic Garden pieces). The purpose of the third block was to print white ink where the light would fall. The fourth block overprinted all the detail of the leaves and the white highlights peaked through. This created the idea of the light in Sunlight and Moonlight.
I used a much cooler palette of colours for Moonlight.
For the Hang On A Minute and Away We Go pieces I wanted to make the heilconias the heroes and did away with the leaves. I used traditional linoleum blocks. Carving these is a slightly different experience and allows for even more control over the details. Its also a lot more satisfying to clear large areas as I had to do for these pieces.
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process
Lou Lauwerys heliconia blockprinting process

I wanted to have a lot of fun with colour and texture. I printed the background first with just the outline of the heliconia shape carved. This flash of white from the paper acted as a highlight once the second layer went down and gave the shapes more definition.

Each of these pieces is one of a kind. Ink coverage and texture is different each time. These unique qualities are part of the joy of prinitmaking for me.

I hope you've enjoyed this deep dive into the process.

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