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Mentoring – and what happened next!

I’ve had the privilege of helping quite a few people in need of mentoring. I very rarely advertise that I’m available for this kind of service. It’s usually has come about through people meeting me through Double Elephant or other activities I’m involved in, and there being a realisation that some one-to-one time exploring specific areas of interest is what is needed to kick start the next stage in their personal development.

Of my most recent mentees, two involved a visit to their respective studios to do some practical problem solving Placing Chine Colle tissue. Winter Hedgerow. Collagraph. Lynn Baileywhile also addressing some specific questions relevant to their different stages and interests. As with any mentoring session, time was spent getting to know what the mentee would like to cover in the time available and I made sure that what they were asking was indeed within my skill set before agreeing a time and place. There is such a wide range of things someone could ask from an art mentor. Some things I’m confident that I can help someone with. Other things such as grant applications I would advise talking to someone else. Areas that have been asked of me so far have ranged from exploring your subject matter, finding your personal voice; particular printmaking techniques, especially multi block, chine collè, layering colour and alternatives to etching; advice about equipment, materials and workshop layout; framing, presentation and packaging; selecting for exhibition (curating); help with writing CV & artist statement; using social media to get seen; I’ve helped a couple of people set up their Etsy shops; sometimes it’s more about reminding someone of what they already know and encouraging them to take that next step.

Christina's PressThe two sessions I had in November were special because it involved visits to the artist’s studios where both had recently set up their own etching press. It could be very easy for me to have studio envy because I don’t personally have room for a press – but luckily I am able to make very good use of all the equipment at Double Elephant Print Workshop. One thing that was common to both was the need to explore the range of inks they had, and to grow more familiar with colour mixing. So while they were left with different sets of “homework” to follow up (eg, rearranging workspace, visiting potential galleries, opening a separate facebook page, some drawing exercises etc) they were both tasked to have a go at creating a colour wheel with the printing inks they currently have, explore how they mix together and see if there are any gaps in the range that they have.

Etching ink colour wheel
Etching ink colour wheel

This was actually something I had intended to do myself donkeys years ago – but never got round to it and then as time passes, got sufficiently familiar with the range of inks I use for such an exercise to probably not be necessary. But I thought I really ought to “put my money where me mouth is”. My theory is that if you choose your colours wisely, you only need 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 blues, black white, extender and possibly raw umber and perhaps yellow ochre if you must…. No need for green, get familiar with mixing what you want. No need for burnt sienna, just add a bit of warm red to the raw umber.

Relief ink colour wheel
Relief ink colour wheel

No need for Paynes grey or similar, you can mix it. I accept that if you want a truly vivid turquoise or violet you might resort to purchasing it readymade, but these tend to be more expensive pigments so I haven’t grown accustomed to relying on them and can usually make the colours I want.

The colour wheels I made with the etching ink, relief inks and the screenprint colours were created with the range that I stock at Double Elephant. I mixed the colours methodically 50/50 even when I knew full well that the strength of the blue or the red would easily overwhelm the yellow. This is most clearly seen with the etching inks I’m

Screen ink colour wheel
Screen ink colour wheel

using. Getting to know the particular strengths of the colours you use is invaluable when colour mixing. My advice when colour mixing to achieve an orange or green is to start off with the yellow – the weaker colour, and add merely a tiny bit of the red or blue. In the same way that if you wanted a pale colour you would start off with white (or more usually with my own approach to colour start with extender) then add a tiny bit of colour at a time until the desired result it achieved.

The colours in the centre of the colour wheels are lightened by mixing with white. The sections between these and the full strength colours are lightened with extender – 50/50. The colours at the outer edges are the full strength colour mixed with just a little of the full strength colour directly opposite it on the colour wheel. This is just enough to give you insights about how your range of colours behave – while the potentials for colour mixing is endless…. To give more of insight into how more of the inks available would interact with each other I also created a colour grid where a horizontal strip of each colour was overlaid by a transparent vertical strip of each colour. I very nearly didn’t use the viridian green (because I hate it) but it was available in the cupboard so I threw it in anyway and any-old-where – where it stands out like a sore thumb. (Hmmm, that happens to be just what I think of it).

Colour mixing

And then – if that wasn’t enough – I had a play at creating some greens, purples, and oranges with my preferred limited palette.

Experiments with Etching Ink.Can I encourage everyone creating any type of artwork in colour to have a go with some colour exercises to get to know their own range of colours more fully. I would love to know what you think and if there were any surprises, or insights you would like to share.

Colour Experiments

…And if you are interested in exploring mentoring, please contact me.

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Lynn Bailey

Through my artwork I look to say something about the environment - explore how we interact, use, abuse and collaborate with the natural world around us. This has taken me to increasingly focus on the small ubiquitous and often reviled weeds and bugs that form the foundation and engine-room of ecosystems. I use a wide range of printmaking techniques – both traditional and innovative, often creating complex one off prints. ****** Co-founder and director of Double Elephant Print Workshop since 1997. Originally trained in Conservation of Prints and Drawings 1980 -1982. Studied Fine art at University of Plymouth 1993 -1996.